This week we begin reading the Torah again from the beginning, starting with the two famous creation stories in Genesis 1 – 3. We call this first Torah portion in the Bible after its first word: Bereshit. (It’s pronounced buh-ray-SHEET.)
That’s right, two stories. They aren’t long. For this exercise, go read them both. One begins at Genesis 1:1, and the other starts at Genesis 2:4. Take notes as you read, just a quick list of what happens in each. Then compare the two lists for the two stories.
See anything interesting? These are two different stories! They contradict each other in many ways. We are often conditioned by Sunday school classes to “blend” the two stories to avoid seeing the differences, but I encourage you to look for those differences.
Now ask yourself: why are there two stories that contradict each other? (Please, I would love to hear your answers in the comments!)
OK, now I am going to be a pushy teacher and instead of leaving you with your own delightful thoughts about that question, I’m going to offer you an idea of my own about it. If you’d rather not, by all means, just stop reading at the little line below.
My theory: those two conflicting stories are there as a clue that we were never intended to read these stories as history. They aren’t “what really happened” – they can’t be, they contradict.
What they are is a collection of basic ideas about the world, a Jewish worldview:
- The world is not chaos, there is an underlying Unity of some kind.
- Human beings are constructed to live in relationship with one other.
- Human beings do not “own” creation.
- Life is not easy.
- … and many more.
I imagine you can distill other ideas from these stories, ideas about the world and our place in it. I hope you’ll share those ideas in the comments.