Shabbat Breishit - The Sabbath of Genesis

October 5, 2018

Every Shabbat is special . . . but this Shabbat is especially special. As you know, we read from the Torah every Shabbat in the synagogue – it’s a cycle that takes the entire year, with one portion at a time starting with the first few chapters of the Torah in the Book of Genesis (“Brieshit” in Hebrew). It’s on this Sabbath, Shabbat Breishit, that the cycle begins. On this Shabbat that we begin to re-read the whole cycle of weekly Torah portions with the first chapters of the Book of Breishit. The beginning of the Bible: the grandeur of the Creation, the wonder garden of Eden, the innocence of Adam and Eve, the drama of Cain and Able – it’s all there. The first love, the first evil, the first farming, the first clothing, the first religion, the first nomadic wandering, the first curiosity, the first anger, and even the first musician – Genesis is a compendium of firsts. For that reason, in the Medieval Jewish Kehilah (Community), this Shabbat really was the beginning of the administrative year. Officers began their roles as officers in the community. The community “secretary” (the central Jewish community administrator in Medieval Jewish communities) began his work. Even illuminated Machzorim (one or two volume prayerbooks/calendars that included all the year’s prayers and rituals) began with Shabbat Breishit … not with Rosh Hashanah as you might imagine. In fact . . . the first holiday mentioned in these medieval machzorim is Chanukkah – Not Rosh HaShanah as you might imagine. This Shabbat is a Shabbat of beginnings.