27 October 2016
This week, we start at the beginning of all beginnings – parashat B’reisheet. We tend to think of Genesis as the book in which God creates lots of “things”, including heaven, earth, water, plants, living creatures and more. But the bulk of Genesis has to do with human relationships. Consider these words: “God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.” The philosopher Martin Buber, who wrote extensively about relationships, states, “In the beginning was relation. Not just God who longed to be, but God who longed to be with.” According to Buber, the way to be holy – as God is holy – is to create holiness in our earthly relationships.
But the relationships in Genesis did not come with a warning label. We quickly learn of the problems between Adam and Eve (the very first “he said/she said”) and very serious problems – to the point of murder – between their children, Cain and Abel. What a way to start!
For us, these oft-repeated Biblical stories resonate as familiar and perhaps even quaint. But the message is powerful. If we are God’s partners in creation – and the work of creation is never really complete – then it is through relationships that we continually build the world around us. Not only must we relate positively to others, we are indeed responsible for one another. And in this context, we can never naively ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”