Sedra of the week: Bereshit
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Sedra of the week: Bereshit

Rabbi Naftali Schiff looks ahead to this week's Torah portion

The elation of Simchat Torah propels us to throw ourselves into beginning a new cycle of the Torah, which  provides us with an opportunity to delve deeper into familiar stories and themes.

As Jews, we embrace questions on the Torah and its commentaries; they draw our attention to subtleties and nuances that reveal new layers of understanding and lessons for life.

When we make Kiddush on Friday night, we read three-and-a-half verses from Bereshit describing the conclusion of the six days of creation and the first Shabbat. These verses conclude asher bara Elokim laasot,  God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because He abstained from all His work “which God created to make”. The word laasot, “to make”, appears not to add anything to the verse.

The word also appears in Kiddush on Shabbat morning, laasot et haShabbat, “to make the Shabbat”.

One idea behind this is what we get from Shabbat, and by extension any Jewish experience, will be directly affected by what we invest into it. Shabbat is provided as a weekly opportunity, but we still need to make it happen.

The Mishnah makes a remarkable statement. Just as Adam was created as an individual, so each person is obliged to proclaim “The whole world was created just for me!”

At face value, this seems like the most selfish, hedonistic, almost un-Jewish statement ever!

Some commentators explain that the word laasot refers to us. Seeing the world as created “just for me”, means I am obligated to to continue and even complete the act of creation, as it won’t happen by itself.

Rabbi Naftali Schiff is chief executive of Jewish Futures Trust

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