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Parashat B’reishit

October 18, 2006

By Linda Shriner-Cahn

The holidays have come and gone, and we begin anew, back at the beginning, with an opportunity to come to the Torah with fresh eyes, ready to wrestle new meaning and deeper understandings from the text.

Rabbi Marc Gellman wrote a midrash for children that provides us with the opportunity to do just that. . . .

This midrash on creation begins with God, the Angels, and rocks and waters. Out of this stuff, this mess ‘ this tohu vavohu ‘ creation begins.

As creation begins, the separation of waters, the Angels ask, ‘Is it finished?’ and God responds, ‘Not yet.’

Throughout the process, step-by-step, the Angels ask, ‘Is it finished,’ and God responds, ‘Not yet.’

Finally, yes, finally, God creates man and woman, God is ready to rest and asks man and woman to finish the process of creation. However, man and woman find this process daunting. After all, they do not know what God has planned. They do not feel worthy.

They are told that they are capable and that God will partner with them to finish the world.

Not understanding what it means to be a partner, God explains that a partner is someone with whom you work on something you cannot do alone. Partnership implies mutual responsibility because your partner is depending on you. We will still be partners on the days that each thinks the other is not doing enough. Even on those days we cannot give up trying to finish, or, should I say, ‘perfecting the world.’ So, they agree to be partners.

Once more, the Angels ask God, ‘Is the world finished yet?’ and God answers, “Ask my partners.’

In this midrash, we are asked to question what it means to partner with God. Creation is an ongoing process. It does not end on the sixth day of creation.

Given that the act of creation is like a ball being rolled off a cliff, except that there is no end in sight ‘ this makes it a process that continues through the ages. Our presence in the world matters, as it is our role to make sure that this process unfolds in a constructive, not destructive way. There is no ‘closure’ or completion in this process of creation, making it a struggle that is messy, unjust, confusing and, at times, totally incomprehensible. But it is this very struggle that makes us human.

Does the belief that we are partners with God make us responsible for all that is wrong with the world? This is too much. It is overwhelming. After all, God is all powerful. We are no more than a grain of sand. What use is any of it, how can each of us make a

As we heard just a few weeks ago, although God may not be immediately accessible as God was to our forefathers and foremothers and to Moses, the Torah is ‘ it is not in ‘heaven nor is it across the sea, it is here with us.’ It is our guide ‘ our manual ‘ on how to complete the ongoing act of creation. So, maybe God no longer speaks to us directly, but, if we look carefully with our eyes and with our hearts, we can see the hand of the Divine in the world around us.

What do we do? How do we embody this responsibility? We need not do everything, as it is not possible to do everything, but we should do that thing that will make the world better in a way that each of us uniquely qualified to do. We all have our unique gifts and talents, and it is our obligation to use those gifts. The gifts that we have been given are not merely for our own use, rather they are the manifestation of the partnership that we have with the Divine, and it is our job to activate

Whether it is visiting the sick, comforting the mourner, or opening a dialogue with those with whom one does not usually communicate, we each can continue the process in the way we know best. We are not here only for ourselves. The day is short, the list is long. Although this is not an equal partnership, the work is there to be started. As we learn in Pirkei Avot (2:16), our obligation is to begin the work, not to complete it.