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“Messy,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

October 21, 2022 | 26 Tishrei 5783

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

If the purpose of creation was to make order out of chaos, why does it feel like there is still so much chaos?

Before God initiated the formation of the world, the universe had no form. Darkness covered the deep and the shapeless spirit of the Divine swept over the water. (Gen. 1:1-2) Some might call the situation an uncontrollable mess, a primordial unpredictability. But, God spoke the world into being. Let there be light. And there was not only light but also equilibrium.

Formed words began to shape the formless world.

Each day brought stability: darkness and light; water above and water below, dry land differentiated from the gathered waters, plants, birds, animals, and ultimately humanity. God said, Let us make a human being in our image, after our likeness…God created the human being; male and female God created them. (Gen 1:26-27)

And then God used words for blessing for humans and the world they inhabited. If God could employ words to create a world, then humans, created in the divine image, must have a similar capacity.

It was a great beginning, but it did not last.

Words also brought deceit and the sly misinterpretation of God’s instructions about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God commanded: Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die. (Gen 2:16-17) The snake challenged these words and wondered what was really behind the injunction. Was God just trying to prevent Eve and Adam from knowing as much as divine beings who do know good and bad? The fruit from that tree delighted Eve so much that she ate and gave some to Adam. Many words were exchanged between the human beings and God. But Adam and Eve used their power of language not to take responsibility. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the snake.

Their behavior concerned God. If the human beings, having consumed from the tree and as a result knew good and bad, they could stretch out their hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. (3:22) God banished them from the protected existence and stability of the Garden of Eden.

So these beings, created in the image of God, blessed with words and the knowledge of good and bad, would have to make their way in this newly created universe. They would also possess enormous power with their words to have the potential to throw the world off balance.

Chaos could ensue but so could order. Every human being has that choice, the sacred potential to create goodness by what we say and do. God started the process to transform chaos into order but now it rests with us. What will we do with our words?

Shabbat Shalom!

  • If you are in town, come join us for outdoor Qabbalat Shabbat with plenty of singing, learning, praying, thinking, and some treats to eat and drink. If you’re unable to join onsite, please join on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or stream on our website. Let’s celebrate together.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathers online at 5:00 p.m.
  • A delightful Torah Study begins at 9:00 a.m. onsite! We begin with a short service and Torah reading and then jump into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation online interactively, access Zoom. You can also watch on Temple Israel’s website or Facebook page.
  • Gather online for Havdalah at 8:00 p.m. Our weekly Havdalah ritual is a lay-led experience. Stop by, say hello, catch up from the week, and say goodbye to Shabbat together. Join on Zoom.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher