Torah Weekly

For the week ending 6 October 2018 / 27 Tishri 5779

Parshat Bereishet

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
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Overview

In the beginning, G-d creates the entire universe, including time itself, out of nothingness. This process of creation continues for six days. On the seventh day, G-d rests, bringing into existence the spiritual universe of Shabbos, which returns to us every seven days. Adam and Chava - the Human pair - are placed in the Garden of Eden. Chava is enticed by the serpent to eat from the forbidden fruit of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil," and in turn gives the fruit to Adam. By absorbing "sin," Adam and Chava render themselves incapable of remaining in the spiritual paradise of Eden and are banished. Death and hard work (both physical and spiritual) now enter the world, together with pain in childbirth. Now begins the struggle to correct the sin of Adam and Chava, which will be the main subject of world history. Cain and Hevel, the first two children of Adam and Chava, bring offerings to G-d. Hevel gives the finest of his flock, and his offering is accepted, but Cain gives inferior produce and his offering is rejected. In the ensuing quarrel, Cain kills Hevel and is condemned to wander the earth. The Torah traces the genealogy of the other children of Adam and Chava, and the descendants of Cain until the birth of Noach. After the death of Sheis, Mankind descends into evil, and G-d decides that He will blot out man in a flood which will deluge the world. However, one man, Noach, finds favor with G-d.

Insights

The Other Side of Cable Street

“Bereishet (In the beginning)…” (1:1)

I well remember my grandfather describing the Battle of Cable Street. On Sunday 4th October, 1936, the fascist “Black Shirts” of Sir Oswald Mosley proclaimed that they would march through London’s predominantly East End to demonstrate their power. “The Jewish boys,” reminisced by grandfather, took up the slogan, “They shall not pass!” and pass they did not. Trucks were overturned. Roadblocks were set up to prevent the march from taking place. An estimated 20,000 demonstrators turned out, and were met by around 6,000 police (including mounted police), who attempted to clear the road to permit the march of 2,000–3,000 fascists to proceed.

The demonstrators fought back with sticks, rocks, chair legs and other improvised weapons. Rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots were thrown at the police by women in houses along the street. About 150 demonstrators were arrested. Others escaped with the help of fellow demonstrators. Around 175 people were injured, including police, women and children.

Many of the arrested demonstrators reported harsh treatment at the hands of the police.

“History” rhymes with “irony.” My grandfather would be speechless at recent events in England. His beloved Left, under its thinly veiled anti-Semitic leader, is marching to the same tune as Mosely. And, unlike Mosley, who was always on the lunatic fringe of the Conservatives, Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour party.

“In the beginning…” Our Sages understand the word for “In the beginning…” — Bereishet — to contain at least several ideas. The word can be understood as a hint to “bishvil reishit — “on account of reishit”—that the world was created for something called reishit. Reishit has several connotations. One of them is the Jewish People, who are called reishit, as it says in writings of the Prophet Yirmiyahu (2:3), “reshit tevuato” — “the first of His produce.”

G-d created everything with its opposite. There is another reishit, an “anti-reishit” — Amalek, the archenemy of the Jewish People. He is also called reishit (Bamidbar 24:) — Amalek is the first of the nations in the queue to try to destroy the Jewish People after we became a nation at Mount Sinai.

Amalek takes many guises, and thus his indictment of the Jewish People is almost infinitely elastic: To the Right, we have been the filthy poor; to the Left, the filthy rich. We are both Capitalist pigs and rootless cosmopolitans or Communists. Virtually the only thing that this anti-Semite can agree on is that world would be an infinitely better place without the Jew. Much of the world is prepared to take active steps to effect this, and the rest would be quite happy if they succeed.

So let us not be surprised that Jew-hatred has surfaced in the UK from the other side of Cable Street. Jews and Jew-hatred are coded into the matrix of this world from the very first word of the Torah.

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