Here we are at the beginning of a new Torah Reading cycle. We celebrated Simchat Torah last Tuesday evening, and I hope you all got a new appreciation for the Torah. The Torah portion for today is B’reisheet, and in Hebrew means “in the beginning”.
The English name Genesis comes from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Genesis means “origins”. Therefore, the Greek name for the first book of the Bible means “The Book of Origins.”
Genesis describes the origins of everything. It begins with the origins of the universe, focuses on the origins of man, and then explores the origins of the nation of Israel.
As we study the first reading from the book of Genesis, we will learn a great deal about God, but even more about ourselves. After all, this is the story of our origins. When properly understood, the story of our origin helps us find our destination.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
“In the beginning,” is talking about the beginning of what we know as our universe. God has always existed because He is outside of time and space. We cannot really even begin to understand all the dimensions of God because He is multidimensional.
Can I give you a simple show and tell object lesson that perhaps will give you a better understanding of what I was describing as the multidimensional aspect of God? I’m holding in my hand a cube. You can see it and feel it. It has substance, and weight. If I throw it at you and hit you in the head you would definitely know it. You can see it now in three dimensions.
But if I turn it like this. You would see only a square. But the cube is still there, you just can’t see it all.
If I hold it like this, all you see is a line. But the cube is still there, you just can’t see it all.
If I hold it like this, all you can see is a single point in space. The cube is still there, you just can’t see all of it.
This, of course, begs the question… If a line is 1D, then what is the point?
(0D, The 4D Cube is called the Tesseract.)
God is all that and more because he exists outside time and space. He has always existed. There is a Jewish concept called Tsimtsum, which comes from the fringe study of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism and magic that originated in the Middle Ages,. It explains proposes that God is so encompassing of everything that He had to voluntarily reduce His existence a tiny bit so that He would have room for the universe that He created. This is an important concept because it raises the question of free will vs. predetermination. In contracting His presence from the cosmos, God leaves room for human beings to express their faith and independence. But His infinitesimal departure also opens the space for human beings to sin and to give in to temptation. This metaphysical contraction of God leaves the world broken, with the responsibility of mankind to repair the broken space. As Messianic Jews, we know that this theory is dismally flawed because we know we need the Messiah, but the idea of ADONAI contracting Himself to make room for humanity is interesting.
NOW, I would really like to delve into the fact that the earth was tohu and bohu. Without form and void or chaos and waste.
The first phrase of verse two sounds like this.
וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ
Genesis 1:2 Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the surface of the water.
The word translated “was” is the Hebrew word hayah. It is also translated as “became”, so that we could say the earth became without form and void. God didn’t create a world of chaos and waste. He is not the God of chaos. He doesn’t create junk. Keep that in mind as we go on.
So what we see here is a world that was a total mess. Nothing was as it was created. But I want you to look at the last phrase in the verse. The Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the surface of the water. The Spirit of God was looking at the chaos that was the earth and things started to happen.
When the Spirit of God shows up there is no room for chaos or disorder. From this point on we start to see the creation as we know it today.
The word for hover used in verse two is “rachefet”. The only other place where this verb is used is in Deuteronomy 32:11, where it describes a mother bird beating her wings over her little ones, encouraging them to fly.
Unlike the Babylonian myth of creation, in which the chaos is an enemy to be conquered, this formless mess is to be loved and fostered into being. One of the earliest Jewish commentaries on this text, dating from New Testament times, interpreted it this way: “A spirit of love before the Lord was blowing (hovering) over the face of the waters.” This holy wind is not a part of the chaos, it is God’s motherly love conveying the promise of life, order, and beauty to what was of itself a mess. Because God’s spirit was hovering over it, chaos became promise.
Yeshua used this same imagery to describe his love for Jerusalem.
Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
He was lamenting the future of Jerusalem because he knew what the future held and the desolation that was to come. He longed for them to be saved because we know that God is not willing for anyone to be lost but that all would come to repentance.
While discussing my thoughts on this drash, my daughter, Cynthia, related that when she thinks of the Spirit of God hovering over the earth she sees a new husband hovering over his precious bride. I think that is a great example of what Yeshua was saying. A husband should be there to protect his wife, see to her needs and support her in the difficulties that she may face.
Rav Shaul, the Apostle Paul charged husbands in his letter to the congregation at Ephesus.
(Ephesians 5:25-33) Husbands, love your wives just as Messiah also loved His community and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, having cleansed her by immersion in the word. Messiah did this so that He might present to Himself His glorious community—not having stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but in order that she might be holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it—just as Messiah also does His community, because we are members of His body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is great—but I am talking about Messiah and His community. In any case, let each of you love his own wife as himself, and let the wife respect her husband.
What a beautiful picture of the Spirit of God hovering over us.
And so we recognize the relevance of this image for our own lives. At times we feel like our lives are a mess. There is no light, and we are floating about like a cork lost at sea. We try to fight it, to no avail. We try to flee, but there is no exit. What do we do? We lift up our petition to the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to hover over our mess, to embrace it lovingly and prepare it for the light of God’s word. If any of our chaotic depths surface, we then turn them over to the Lord.
As the powerful but wordless Spirit of God prepared for God’s cosmic word, the Holy Spirit lovingly prepares our chaos for the word that will give shape and meaning to what made no sense before.
Remember that God is not the author of confusion and chaos. He didn’t create junk when He created you. Yes our lives oftentimes fall apart. We get sick. We fail God, we fail our friends and families. And we even fail ourselves. But Spirit of God is hovering over our chaotic lives and is there to bring order and beauty from our messy past. Bring your problems to the Lord and He will hear you. And when you bring your problems to Him leave them with Him. Don’t pack them back up and carry them home with you.