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The Legacy of the Tree of All Knowledge

One Yom Kippur, a rabbi was warning his congregation about the fragility of life, and that everyone in the congregation will someday die. ... That is the great lesson and gift of this week’s parashah, B’reishit with its iconic tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

D'var Torah By: 
An Honest Person in the Garden?
Davar Acher By: 
Alden Solovy

It is a fearful thing, to love what death can touch … ” (Mishkan T’filah [NY: CCAR, 2007] p. 594). This poem by Chaim Stern is one of the “go-to” readings before Mourner’s Kaddish at my congregation. With that single line, I can be lost in thought. As Rabbi Dan Moskovitz discusses in his commentary about Parashat B'reishit, death creates an urgency for living. 

Did God Create a World Before This One?

Is it possible that there were other worlds in existence before this one? Some of the Rabbis say yes!

D'var Torah By: 
With Another Quarter
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Billy Dreskin

“What's our Divine purpose then? To live, love, and learn. To repair brokenness and grow in goodness. To continually redefine what it means to live b'tzelem Elohim, ‘in God's image.’”

With these words, Rabbi Kipnes concludes his stirring, lyrical commentary on B’reishit, opening our eyes to the many avenues for interpreting and understanding our Torah’s story of Creation. Most importantly, he connects our own journeys—our own B’reishit moments—to the possibility of new beginnings.

Eden Defines the Truth About Responsibility

In B’reishit, God tells Adam he may eat the fruit of any tree but the tree of knowledge. But when Eve offers him the fruit, he eats it and then blames Eve for the transgression. Is Adam’s evasion acceptable?

D'var Torah By: 
Celebrating Lilith, Adam’s First Wife
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Marci N. Bellows

Our Sages desperately wanted to read the Torah as one continuous narrative. Yet, even from the very beginning of our sacred text, this proved to be difficult. Genesis chapters 1 and 2 present a bit of a conundrum: how could man and woman be created twice? These Rabbis solved the problem by deciding that the man, Adam, was the same in both Creation stories, but that there was another wife before Eve. This woman they called Lilith, and she stood in stark contrast to the subservient, submissive Eve.

The Gift of God's First Creation

The more complicated our lives become, the more difficult it is to count our blessings. At times, we may become overwhelmed by feelings of anger, loneliness, frustration, despair, or sorrow. We may be wracked by physical pain or unable to free ourselves from serious bouts of depression. As in this week's Torah portion, B'reishit, darkness precedes light and chaos precedes order. Metaphorically, we may have so much on our plates that we can't decide what to do first and when we do, may frequently lose focus. Sometimes I begin my day by saying to myself: "I have so much to do, I wish today were 48 instead of 24 hours." Consequently, I rush to accomplish as much as I can, often feeling harried and dissatisfied, not fully able to enjoy moments for which in hindsight, I wasn't fully present. When we begin the cycle of Torah readings each year, however, I am reminded that God's first creative act, even before God brought the sky and earth into being, was to create light. Darkness already existed on the face of "chaotic waters" (Genesis 1:2). Yet as God's spirit glided over it, God created light, choosing not to inject the light into the darkness, but rather to create it as a distinct entity which God proclaims to be good (1:3).

D'var Torah By: 
Defining the Boundaries of the First Day
Davar Acher By: 
David E. Levy

A few years ago at my in-law's congregation, I sat in the pew pondering the art and architecture that surrounded me. I've been inspired to do this more often, due to a great podcast called 99% invisible, whose core premise is uncovering "... all the thought that goes into the things we don't think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world." 

On the walls of the synagogue are seven murals, each listing a day of Creation. What intrigued me was that unlike the Torah text for every other day of Creation, the text for the first day where "God divided the light from the darkness" doesn't say "the first day." (see Genesis 1:4-5). Many translations of the Bible do say "the first day," however, the Hebrew tells a different story. The Hebrew text says yom echad literally "day one," not yom rishon the Hebrew phrase for "Sunday" and the "first day." Why the discrepancy? For every other day of Creation it follows the ordinal numbers second, third, and so on, until we get to the seventh day, which is just called Shabbat. But on the first day we see the cardinal number: why?

How to Read the Bible: Art as a Higher Manifestation of Nature

In the past few years, a number of discoveries in outer space have made headlines including disturbances of motion in the orbit of the small, distant planet

D'var Torah By: 
The Need for Both Science and Religion
Davar Acher By: 
Micah D. Greenstein

Albert Einstein, the religious scientist who believed in reason, said it best: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." Militant atheists seek to discredit an

Is It True? Not Yet

Our biblical story of creation is stirring, and poetic, but is it true?

D'var Torah By: 
How Can We Celebrate the Birthday of the World?
Davar Acher By: 
Barbara Binder Kadden

Just a few weeks ago, we observed Rosh HaShanah, traditionally considered the birthday of the world.


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