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Parashat Beresheit – Mevarekhim Hahodesh
October 18, 2014 – 24 Tishrei 5775
God creates the universe out of chaos, separating light from darkness and land from water; producing plants of all kinds; establishing the sun, moon and stars; placing winged creatures in the air and swimming creatures in the sea; and making land animals, including a male and female human being. The process takes six days, each of which God blesses, saying that the creations are good. God rests on the seventh day, sanctifying it as the Sabbath.
A parallel account of the creation of humankind follows, introducing us to Adam and Eve, who are placed in the Garden of Eden and commanded to rule over the animals. They are forbidden to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. But a serpent convinces Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge, and she influences Ad- am to do the same. As punishment, God banishes them from the garden, requiring them to work the land for food and promising pain during childbirth.
Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, each offer a sacrifice to God. When God chooses Abel’s sacrifice only, Cain’s anger causes him to kill his brother. God forces Cain to live the rest of his life as a nomad.
Ten generations of humanity are catalogued. By the end of the last generation, humanity’s corruption is so pervasive that God looks to one man, Noah, to salvage the world.
Parashat Noah – Rosh Hodesh Heshvan
October 25, 2014 – 1 Heshvan 5775
Noah, God’s last hope for humanity, is commanded to build an ark in which to carry his family and two of every animal on earth. Forty days of rain ensue, with Noah and crew safely on board. Noah later sends a raven and then a dove to find signs of the reappearance of land. Once the Ark has run aground, God displays a rainbow as a sign of the cov- enant, promising that the world will not be destroyed by flooding again. God then reveals several basic rules for all of humanity to follow.
In later years, Noah plants a vineyard, and one day becomes intoxicated and strips out of his clothing. His son Ham discovers this and tells his brothers Shem and Yafet; the latter two cover up their father. When Noah awakens and finds out what happened, he curses Ham and his descendants while blessing his other sons and their families.
Later, a group of people attempt to build a tower to reach the sky, in an effort to stay together. God foils this attempt by giving each person a different language to speak, thus confounding the project. Ten more generations come and go, culminating in our introduction to Abram.