Parshat Bereshit

Bereshit opens with the powerful description of the creation of the world in six days, closing with Hashem’s resting from the creation process on the seventh day, which we have taken for the opening verses of our Friday night kiddush. The third verse of the kiddush, notes Hashem’s blessing, “Then Hashem blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating, that Hashem in creating had made.”

I am a little puzzled here by the Hertz translation, of the closing words, “Asher bara elokim la’asot.” The Art Scroll translates probably more correctly, “which Hashem created to make.”  The last word in hebrew, “la’asot” implies to make in the present, rather than had made in the past tense. The Hertz translation does make sense, referring to the creation that Hashem had just performed, but that is not what the Torah is telling us, it is indicating something much more profound. One explanation is that this hints at the continuous process of creation, as Ibn Ezra explains that Hashem gave us the power to procreate. The Ramban suggests that Hashem had created all that was needed for the world to exist on the first six days, everything we make, put together and create, is in reality based on what Hashem had formed in those six days.

The Ktav Sofer notes that the expression “la’asot” comes again in Shemot in the kiddush we say on Shabbat morning, “la’asot hashabbat” which is translated as observing Shabbat. Keeping Shabbat is a an active not a passive demand, in fact I can often hear the memory of my father’s voice (it is his yohzeit this week) saying “it is time to make Shabbos!”or “haven’t you made Shabbos yet?” The women, in particular, do make Shabbat by the positive action of lighting the candles. The Ktav Sofer explains that in our lives we plan and build things for a purpose and Hashem built the world with Shabbat and the Torah as the purpose. Note than in the Ten commandments Hashem commands us “Keep Shabbat, six days you should work.” Shabbat is mentioned first despite that we view it as the close of the week.

Rashi brings a fascinating and completely different idea from the Midrash. “Rav Benaya says that every day Hashem created three objects, but on the sixth day he created six objects, and all that Hashem had planned to make on the seventh day, he brought forward and created on the sixth day.” Looking closely at the text of day six of the creation, we can see that after the creation of the animals, there is a pause “and Hashem said it was good” and only then Hashem created man. The implication here is that had Hashem created man on the seventh day he would have been a perfect being. However, Hashem decided to create man incomplete, with doubts and weaknesses. Man has the potential to take responsibility and create, and as we read soon after man often made mistakes.

Referring to what we said earlier, Hashem built the world with a purpose, and here the suggestion is that his aim was to have a partnership with mankind. Hashem appears, in a sense, to be on a learning curve, and his creation of man, with freedom of choice, often made mistakes. All the way through Bereshit, Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah’s generation and even our forefathers, the Torah does not hide their shortcomings. Hashem demands all the time we continue to be a partner in his world and he gave us the Shabbat to stop our busy lives, rest and reflect on the world around us.

Well these days, some of us have too much time to reflect, but nevertheless there always seem to be the last-minute run around before shabbat. Our children used to say, it was like the film El Al made about the preparations before the flight and how it got more pressured as the dead line for takeoff drew near. Now, with the days growing shorter, and the winter approaching, Friday seems very short and it is amazing how Hashem got so much done on Friday before Shabbat.

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