Back to the Garden

“And now, back to our regularly scheduled program…” The month of Tishrei, which began with the soul-searching of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and ended with the joyous celebrations of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, is about to end, allowing us to settle back into a comfortable routine.

We also return to the beginning of the annual Torah reading cycle, reading the Creation stories with fresh eyes and ears. Yes, stories. Genesis 1:1-2:3 is in many respects, the “Cliff Notes” version, while the expanded story that begins with 2:4 goes back and adds detail.

In the first Creation story, humans are created last, in the final hours before God stopped creating and rested – Shabbat. The second Creation story begins with the creation of adam, the first human, who was then placed in the garden that God planted. According to the text of 2:7-8, God formed the adam from the dust of the earth, and blew nishmat hayim, the “breath of life,” into his nostrils. Then, a garden was created, and adam was placed there to care for it.

What does this say about humanity? First or last, we humans were created in the Divine image and filled with the Divine breath of life. We were put here for a purpose by El Adon, the Author of all creation, as we sing on Shabbat morning. Elohim created us and placed us on earth for a purpose. Perhaps God was lonely, or perhaps God wanted a partner in continuing the creation of the universe that was about to be–or already had been–created. Either way, we’re here, and it’s our task to care for the world we’ve been given, the physical world and the human world.

Being created b’tzelem Elohim doesn’t mean we physically resemble God, or vice versa, it means we emulate God by responding to our world in a godly way; visiting the sick and lonely, comforting the bereaved, caring for the environment, and preserving health and life.

Each of us was created to be in relation both with God and each other. As we enter into the first “regular” Shabbat of 5781, may we be mindful of our role in helping to make the world, Gan Eden on earth, a better place. Shabbat Shalom.

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