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Bereshit Sermon

This week’s portion begins the Torah. It is filled with many different stories. There is the creation of the world and of Adam and Eve, and then of course their eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and finally the first murder, that of Cain killing Abel.

There are many interesting questions about this portion. Here is just one.  Why does the Torah begin with the Hebrew letter bet? This may not be your question or even mine, but it is one of the rabbis. One would think that our most important book would begin with an alef. Why would the Torah begin with the second letter of alphabet?

The rabbis ask and answer: “Why was the world created with the letter bet? Just as the bet is closed on three sides and open only in front, so you are not permitted to investigate what is above the heavens, and what is below the deep, what is before the six days of creation and what is to happen after the world’s existence. You are permitted to explore only from the time the world was created and thereafter, namely the world we live in.” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:10)

The bet is open. The alef is silent. The bet is open to possibilities, to the future, to the world we live in. We must be forever open to the possibilities that surround us, to the potential that stands before us. We must be open to discovery and even open to change.

All of this is signified in a single letter. The alef in contrast stands silent. The bet is open to the world. That as well must be our posture. We must remain awed by creation. We must remain forever open to the world’s inspiration.

According to the Torah the world was created in six days. Often we question the accuracy of such words. How can the world be created in a mere six days? Sure some say a day was a million years. But science teaches wisdom contrary to the Torah’s literal words.

Then again there are days when the world appears as if it was created in a single moment. There are moments when its awesomeness moves us to song and prayer. That is what we must remain open to. Rather than becoming bogged down by the scientific details or questions such as “Did it really happen this way?” we must remain open to its relevancy. We must remain as open as that first bet. The world is open to discovery. It is waiting to be revealed. All that remains is for us to be as open as the single, beginning letter of the Torah.

It is a simple message, but a mighty task.