Happy 5781 to you all! I had an amazing High Holy Day season, just finishing with Sukkot and Simcha Torah and I trust that you and your family had a wonderful season as well.
So, better late than never, this past week we started all over. We have rewound the scroll and found ourselves back at the book of Genesis and in the very first Torah portion, Bereishit. It is where we learn of the creation of the universe, the creation of Adam and Eve, the serpent in the garden and a great deal else. All of this amazing stuff happens in this very first part of the bible.
This year I am going to take you through the commentaries of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book Covenant and Conversation and it is going to be amazing. We start with – Rabbi Sacks points out that the Rabbis say man was created last for a purpose. They say that if man is worthy then he was created last because he is the best, the highest, creation. But if he is not worthy, they say, that God could just say that even the lowly gnat was created before you.
What a great way to put things into perspective. We are very familiar with the idea of “what is man that you are mindful of us.” But we also need to remember that human beings are the height of God’s creation, even above the angels. In English sometimes it is translated as just below the angels but it is really just a little lower than God. And why are we the height of God’s creation? Because we have free will, we have freedom.
Rabbi Sacks points out in his commentary on this portion that before Galileo and the church parted ways, there was an idea of religious humanism. Unthinkable to us today because today humanism is secular and essentially anti-religious. But there was a time when people believed that religion, art and science all walked together, The central idea of religious humanism, which is different in Judaism and Messianic Judaism than it is in Christianity, is that there is tremendous positive potential in human beings. In Christianity original sin tells us that humans are only evil and steeped in sin.
From the positive point of view, we are the only creatures created to be also creative. We are the crown jewels of the creator’s creation and we have the freedom to use this creativity for good or bad. A few months ago I talked about Alfred Nobel and his invention of TNT, dynamite, which could be used for destructive purposes, for killing, but was invented for entirely different reasons.
We are familiar with the phrase from old cartoons “if this falls into the wrong hands”. This is also true of our freedom. Rabbi Sacks points out that the Torah is a book of rules, regulations, laws and instructions on how to live. And he refers to Maimonides who says that without laws we have no freedom because if we all just did as God said all the time we would be as the angels, holy robots. Because we have free will, we are given these laws and instructions, we need them. Without free will we would just live without choice. So this is the whole point, we have the freedom to do the wrong thing, to sin. But we also have the freedom to do great good in the world.
I think you would agree that right now it is imperative that we are doing tikkun olam, that we are repairing this world that is so in need of repair. And we are so in need of the Prince of Peace. This brings me to a resource I want to recommend to you, Rabbi Shapira’s book the Besorah or the gospel according to Covid 19. It has grown so much that a second volume will be coming out in early 2021, he had to stop! Go to goodnewscovid19.net to order this wonderful book which will reveal to you God’s purpose for bringing this pandemic to the world.
Shalom and Kol Tuv
We are back in action with Kosher Pastor and the courses are still price bundled. For our Yeshiva course which will take you several years, go to shuvu.tv. And coming at the end of October, a new class of Torah teachers being ordained in yeshivat shuvu. Exciting times.