Bereshit 5782: Freewill from Forbidden Fruit

Who wouldn’t want to eat a fruit that makes them smarter? In Chapter 2 of Genesis, God places Adam in the Garden of Eden and invites the first people to taste any fruit in the garden, except for the fruit of one tree: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Why not? A disturbing…

Rebounding from Crisis with Strength: Bereshit 5781

Like millions of American children in the 1970s, I tuned in weekly to ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The opening sequence showed skiers gracefully racing down a mountain, and then spectacularly wiping out while the narrator promised viewers “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Something tragic and true was contained in this…

Equals in Eden: Bereshit 5779

There is much to celebrate in the Torah’s first description not only of humanity but of gender. In Genesis 1:27-28 God creates the first person(s), male and female, in the divine image, and blesses them with the gifts of fertility and dominion. There may be a hint of non-binary gender here; there is more than…

Bereshit 5777: Only One Immortality at a Time

You know what demands keen knowledge? Naming things. The ability to observe and identify one’s environment is no small task, and yet Adam is capable of naming every animal, even before eating from the tree of knowledge. The Torah seems intent on clarifying that it was not knowledge in general that God sought to keep…

Shmini Atzeret/ Bereshit 5775: A Time to Laugh, a Time to Mourn

The celebration of two days of Yom Tov here in the diaspora is a decidedly mixed blessing. On the one hand, extending the holidays gives us more time to examine their meaning and to internalize their message. On the other hand, it can often feel like too much of a good thing, especially by Shmini…

Bereshit 5774: The Painful State of Responsibility

One afternoon during Sukkot we took a walk on a country road near the farm where we were staying. Chatting away, we barely noticed it–a brown snake winding across the dirt road in front of us. It was a little snake, not particularly frightening looking, so we took a closer look. I saw that it was…