Parashat B’reishit-- Genesis 1:1-6:8
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Questions for Young Children

• Why do you think God creates day and night first?
• What’s God’s last creation? Do you ever save “the best for last?” (In Hebrew we say aharon aharon haviv).
• Have you ever wondered how the world began?
• How does Shabbat fit into the world?

Questions for Older Children

• Where are the dinosaurs in this account of creation? If this account and the account of Adam and Eve’s creation doesn’t mesh with science, should we skip it?
• How do you know from both accounts of Creation that God considers human beings to be his most special creation?
• Why would God want people spread out all over the world speaking different languages. (Chapter 6)

Questions for Teens and Adults

• Read Genesis 6:5-6. It didn’t take God long to feel bad about his Creation. Does that mean God was also imperfect?
• What’s the design flaw in humankind? Could the flaw also be considered positive?
• What lessons are embedded in the story of Cain and Abel? What’s the meaning of God’s response to Cain when he’s disappointed that his sacrifice has not been accepted?
• Why is wandering a punishment? Are there other instances in the Torah of wandering as punishment? Do you see the “wandering Jew” throughout history as punishment? survival mechanism? a fallacy?

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This new section features centerpiece ideas you can adopt or adapt.
1. Create a fruit centerpiece or fruit bowl.
                Discuss what’s a fruit? The budding botanists will enjoy talking why tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. are fruits and not vegetables.
                Discuss the wonder of creating a seed bearing plant, seed bearing trees as well as people who have the ability to re-create.
2. Populate the center of your table with dinosaurs.
                Discuss science versus religion and the purpose of stories of origin.
                What messages do the two different creation stories convey that supersede the lack of scientific accuracy?

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Parashat B’reishit is perhaps the most well known of all the parshiyot. It includes the two stories of creation and the story of Cain and Abel and concludes with a genealogy featuring remarkable ages and God limiting man’s years on earth to 120. It's a rich parasha with many questions addressed and many questions raised. In my study group last week we spent over an hour discussing that it means to be created in the image of God. You, too, may want to focus your discussion on just one topic.
This Shabbat it seems appropriate to eat a vegetarian Shabbat dinner. If you read the first chapter of B’reishit carefully, you’ll see that God did not offer the first humans a menu that included meat or chicken. The animals, too, were all herbivores (1:30). Vegetarianism was the ideal. In next week’s parasha God changes up the available menu and makes the concession to humans to allow meat eating. B’reishit describes the first Shabbat and it is this section that we chant for Kiddush on all our Shabbatot. I  selected a recipe adaptable to any Shabbat. According to my guests, it’s “very good.”

Find the food connection...
.הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת-כָּל-עֵשֶׂב זֹרֵעַ זֶרַע אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, וְאֶת-כָּל-הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ פְרִי-עֵץ, זֹרֵעַ זָרַע: לָכֶם יִהְיֶה, לְאָכְלָה

God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food.” --Genesis 1:29

The Side Dish
Should I begin anew? This is never a question when considering whether or not to reread the Torah. Each year we hit “refresh” and begin the cycle again at the beginning, b’reishit. My question was whether or not I should prepare a second cycle of web pages for Tasting Torah.

I wondered if people read the web pages, if there’s been a change or an ah-ha moment for anyone. Fnding even one person who appreciated the web page makes it worthwhile for me. (My deliberation somewhat reminded me of Parashat Vayeira). Thanks to those of you who have let me know that you appreciate a recipe or a comment. It spurs me on and your feedback was the impetus for delving back into the text and the kitchen.

As you might guess, it’s time consuming to construct a web page. I haven’t clocked the hours it takes to research, write, cook, and photograph but the hardest part of all is remembering to take a photo and creating a photo that highlights the food or ingredients and not my hand or the shadows of the camera. For me this is time well spent. It has made me a more thoughtful and enthusiastic listener each week when we read Torah or when the rabbis offer a d’var Torah. My life is enriched by Torah not just on Shabbat but each time I ponder the parasha.

I’ve become a more adventurous cook trying new combinations and looking for short cuts that make cooking Shabbat meals easier for busy people. Tasting Torah grew out of my own need to streamline Shabbat dinners when I was working. The most difficult part of preparing the meal for me was deciding what to cook. Now that I’ve retired, I can spend time thinking about the “what” and hope I can help other working people to move from “what will I make?” to “who should I invite?” or "what topics could we discuss?"

We chant, “The heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array” each Shabbat. We’re never finished celebrating Shabbat, creating new experiences, and learning Torah.

 

 

 

 

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A Dash of Visual Midrash
Jo Milgrom pioneered the idea of visual midrash. She creates her own visual midrashim and teaches others how artists interpret Biblical text through their own creations. As you may know, this parasha has been the subject of interpretation for artists throughout the centuries. Most people are familiar with Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine chapel, but if you visit the Tali website, (http://www.talivirtualmidrash.org.il/search-results/) , you’ll see the wealth of material for this parasha. The painting that struck me was Chagall’s Homage to Apollonaire. The website describes the 1912 painting in this way: “Adam and Eve, joined at the hip but sharing a single pair of legs stand within the circle of the earth, which becomes a clock.”
For an overview of the art of creation that includes an explanation of Chagall’s interpretation of the creation of human beings see http://www.talivirtualmidrash.org.il/?article=a-day-in-the-life-of-eve-and-adam-in-a-garden-called-paradise

A Dash of Anthropomorphism
This parasha features a host of adjectives and verbs that describe God in human terms. God creates, plants, speaks, converses with human beings, sees, assesses, even feels sadness. The Torah has to use human words to speak about God because our human language is limited. Connect all the anthropomorphism to the phrase God created human beings in God’s image and one begins to develop a “picture” of God. It’s not a physical photo but a character study of who God is rather than what God looks like. It’s not a big leap then to understand b’tzelem elohim implies that human beings have the potential to share some of God’s characteristics—creativity, sensitivity to the nuances of the world, pleasure and regret.

A Dash of Bibliography
Beth Kissileff has compiled an anthology of articles by formidable scholars entitled Reading Genesis. Beginnings. I encourage you to tackle some of the articles. An article by Beth’s father, Dr. Henry Kissileff,  “The Apple and Eve: A Neuropsychological Interpretation,” should tempt you to scan the book. If it’s not part of your local library’s collection, request it.

A Dash of Hebrew
One of the most mysterious descriptions of the Torah is Genesis 1:2--


וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם
“..a wind from God sweeping over the waters” (JPS 1962 translation)
“...and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters” (JPS, 1917 translation)


The root of the Hebrew word m’rahef, sweeping or hovering, is now used in Israel as a noun. Rahefet means hovercraft or hydrofoil. It’s another example of how Biblical Hebrew serves as the basis for new modern Hebrew words. Try reversing the process and imagining God’s wind or spirit as a hovercraft or hydrofoil over the waters.

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Any Shabbat, Any Fruit Torte
Pareve
8 generous servings


Ingredients   rsz apple cake copy
• 1 cup sugar
• ½ cup margarine (or butter)
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup flour
• ½ tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• Select one of these fruits (fresh or frozen) or concoct your own combination
            1 pint blueberries
            24 halves of Italian plums
            sliced apples
            sliced peaches
• Lemon juice
• Cinnamon and sugar

Directions

1. Cream margarine and sugar.
2. Incorporate the eggs.
3. Add the dry ingredients and beat until smooth.
4. Place batter in a 9” spring form pan.
5. Cover the entire surface with fruit.
6. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice and cinnamon and sugar.

Bake @ 350º 1 hr. Serve warm topped with whipped cream or ice cream (for a dairy meal).

 

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