This week's portion of Bereshit is the first portion in the Book of Genesis - the first book of the Five Books of Moses and begins the annual cycle of Torah reading. Bereshit is the Hebrew word for "the beginning", and recounts the story of creation. By connecting to the story of creation and Day One we are able to once again return to a state of Oneness and Unity which existed prior to any type of separation and division between people and things. Bereshit is the seed portion of the Torah. The same way that an apple seed contains within it the entire tree, Bereshit contains the wisdom and energy of the entire Torah. By having the annual Torah cycle placed on top of the linear timeline of our lives, we have the opportunity to change and grow spiritually every year following the high holidays and period of self reflection and repentance. Our ability to reconnect to the seed level and a state of perfected unity every year, with the new Torah cycle and Bereshit, provides us with hope and certainty that we can always come back and reestablish a connection with G-d - our highest state of consciousness. The Kabbalists say that if we truly understood and connected to the unity and love in the first sentence of Bereshit and Genesis, that we would have no need to read any further. The root of the word Bereshit is "rosh" which means head and further supports our connection to the beginning. By connecting to the reading of Bereshit with positive consciousness, we can set the stage for our entire year.
The word Bereshit is the first word of the portion and begins with a large Hebrew letter "Bet". As a larger than normal first letter of the Torah, it signifies great energy and importance. The sages say that the world was created with the Hebrew letters and that each letter came before G-d to plead their case as to why they should be chosen for the job. When "Bet" had its turn, it said it should be chosen because it was also the letter that begins the Aramaic word "Bracha" which means blessing. It is through our exercise of free will, acting proactively and connecting to our highest selves that we are able to obtain blessings in our lives. Blessings are the positive effects which we receive through planting good seeds and by sharing with others. The process and consciousness to bring blessings into the world provides a foundation for living a happy life. Interestingly, the letter Bet can be viewed as three Hebrew letter Vavs (top, bottom, back) - each Vav having a numerical value of 6, thus totaling 18. This is the same numerical value for the word "chai" meaning life. The Torah is often considered the rulebook for life and enters the world through the letter Bet. The letter Bet also has an opening from left-to-right and is closed in the back. This hints to us that when we begin the new Torah cycle with the letter Bet and reconnect to the unity of G-d, we should always look forward to a new year filled with opportunity and an opening for growth - never looking back to dwell upon our prior actions.
Following the description of the 7 Days of Creation, the portion continues with the story of Adam and Eve. We read about the "original sin" whereby Adam and Eve eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the only tree in the Garden of Eden which G-d has expressly forbidden them from touching. As a result, G-d curses woman (Eve) with the pains of childbearing, curses the serpent who encouraged the sin to slither on its belly for eternity, and curses man (Adam) with the need to toil with hard labor in order to eat. This well known story is found in the first portion of the Torah in order to set the stage for humanity's ability to exercise free will and reap either blessings or curses from our choices. The lesson here is very clear. The desire and temptation to eat forbidden fruit in various aspects of our lives is always present. The forbidden fruit can be manifested as unhealthy food, drugs, a bad relationship, an un-fulfilling job or any opportunity that is short-lived without long-term value or continuity. We have the free will to choose the easy, short term pleasure from eating from the Tree of Knowledge or we can exercise restriction and instead take an alternate path to eat from the Tree of Life and access this higher state of consciousness. The story is not meant to make us fear G-d, but rather it is to empower us and show us how we can become like G-d by making the right decisions in life, which are often difficult and not always immediately gratifying. We should ask ourselves, when presented with opportunities, if our choice will lead us to Tree of Knowledge or Tree of Life consciousness and a state of blessing and continuity.