Simchat Torah comes this week and with it on Shabbat the Torah cycle begins anew with the reading of Parashat B’reishit (Genesis 1-6:8).

This first parashah of the year is so rich, so multi-layered, so provocative in symbolism, metaphor, and myth about the nature of origins, God’s purpose for us humans, and the nature of the human being that it is always an exciting challenge to choose a theme for a D’var Torah. I am working on something now about the meaning of the snake (nachash) in the Garden of Eden, and will post that later in the week.

In the meantime, Natan Zach, one of Israel’s greatest poets, offers this provocative poem about God’s first intentions when contemplating creation. Born in Berlin in 1930, Zach was taken to Palestine by his family in 1935. He fought in the War of Independence and is regarded today as one of Israel’s greatest citizens. He is not alone among Israel’s poets. What other country in the world lifts its poets to the exalted status of greatness as does Israel? None!

“When God first said Let there be light/ He meant it would not be dark for Him./ In that moment He didn’t think about the sky,/ but the trees already were filling with water,/ the birds receiving air and body./ Then the first wind touched God’s eyes/ and He saw it in all His glory/ and thought It is good. He didn’t think then/ about people, people in their multitude,/ but they already were standing apart from the fig leaves,/ unraveling in their hearts/ a scheme about pain./ When God first thought of night/ He didn’t think about sleep./ So be it, God said, I will be happy./ But they were multitudes.”

Translated from the Hebrew by Peter Everwine and Shulamit Yasny-Starman, Modern Poems on the Bible – an Anthology, Edited with an Introduction by David Curzon, 1994, pages 31-32

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