Desert Island Texts: Second verse of Bereishit
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Desert Island Texts: Second verse of Bereishit

Desert Island Texts
Desert Island Texts

If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?

This week Catherine Lyons of Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community selects: the second verse of Bereishit

Desert Island Texts
Desert Island Texts

Every Simchat Torah, I am transfixed, not by the first verse of Bereishit, but by the second. My imagination runs wild. Customarily, we think of God’s first creative act as ‘Let there be light’. Before that, ‘the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the wind of God swept over the waters’.

Tohu vavohu: the earth was all wibbly wobbly, soft and yielding.

Bland in its primeval state, it is readily absorbent, marinating in rabbinic flavours which, like family recipes, are closely defended and argued about. What was this primeval stuff that preceded Yom Echad, the First Day ever? Translations are freighted with polemic. I recoil from the commonly found ‘chaos and waste’.

The Tohu-vaVohu-Earth is brimming with possibility and promise.

Tehom: darkness was on the face of the Deep. Can you hear the silence stretching across the pitch-black ocean?

Listen carefully, as the breath of God ruffles the surface of the water, brooding our world into being.

Primeval Tehom: as close as Torah ever gets to the very Source. Tehom separates, to make sky. Tehom withdraws, to make land. Later it returns and floods the world. Later still, it liberates escaping slaves and drowns their overlords. That great surge of fathomless water is for Avivah Zornberg the Murmuring Deep, the Biblical Unconscious.

Deep calls to Deep, says the Psalmist. Ancient cosmologies proclaimed a god who conquered the primeval water and fashioned our world through mythic struggle. Atop an arid mountain, our earliest glimmerings of the Eternal One grew from ancient awe. But before the Beginning – our Beginning – the Eternal One made Tehom.

Tehom takes us beyond Bereishit. Dive in deep.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments