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Parasha Bereisheet: Overcoming Self-Imposed Curses

BEREISHEET (In the Beginning)

Genesis 1:1–6:8;  Isaiah 42:5–43:10;  Revelation 22:6–21

In the traditional Jewish system of reading through the Torah, the annual reading cycle ended earlier this week on the holiday of Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah).  We now begin the yearly cycle again with Genesis (Bereisheet), which means in the beginning.

This beautiful weekly custom reminds us that our study of the Word of God never comes to a conclusion but is an ongoing cycle.

Week to week and year to year, reading the Word of God should never seem old to us, and every time we open it, Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) can impart fresh insight as we prayerfully consider familiar passages.

genesis 1:1, in the beginning,

Where Is Yeshua (Jesus) in Creation?

“In the beginning God [Elohim] created [barah] the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

While El is the singular form of God, the im ending of Elohim indicates plurality.

This doesn’t mean that there are many Gods creating the earth, but it does indicate that the nature of God involves a plurality as well as unity.

One reason we know this is because even though Elohim is plural, the Hebrew verb barah (created) is singular.

If more than one person was involved in the act of creation, the verb would be plural — baroo and not barah.

Carpenter, Nazareth Village recreation

Carpenter at a Nazareth Village recreation in Israel

However, in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22, the identity of this one person is clearly a plurality of some kind:

“Let us make man [Adam] in our image, after our likeness.”  (Genesis 1:26)

“The man has now become like one of us.”  (Genesis 3:22)

Who is in the “us“?

In the first verses of Genesis, we see God (Elohim) as Creator, and the Spirit (Ruach) of God is hovering (breathing) over the waters.

But Where is Yeshua (Jesus)?

The Apostle John tells us that Yeshua was not only “with God” but He accomplished His craftsmanship work as the Word of God itself:

“In the beginning [Bereisheet] was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made, that was made…  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”  (John 1:1-3, 14)

Yeshua knew exactly what to create and how to design everything because He is “the exact imprint of God’s nature,” and “He upholds the universe by the word of His power.”  (Hebrews 1:3)

Now those are powerful words!

The good news is that we are created in the image of Yeshua who is one in Elohim, so the words we speak have power, too.  The bad news is that we often abuse that power.

We seem to instinctively know that when we speak dark, destructive words, we may bring into existence the very thing we hate or fear.

“For the thing which I fear comes on me; That which I am afraid of comes to me.” (Job 3:25)

So, why do so many Believers not speak forth the light of God’s truth in order to bring forth His light into their lives?

Woman overlooking Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem

Let There Be Light, Truth, and Freedom!

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  (Genesis 1:3)

Because we are made in the image of Elohim, our words have power.

When we align our speech with God’s Word, we bring light into our lives and those around us.

On the other hand, speaking darkness and evil toward ourselves or others is a form of a curse.

But God gives us a way to break the curse and free us from this sin.

“If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples,”  Yeshua said.  “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Man earnestly prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall.

If we truly abide in the Word of Yeshua, who is God Himself, then we will naturally speak forth the light of God.  Only His light will free us from the darkness of our self-imposed curses.

In this week’s parasha, we see the tragic consequences of living in that darkness and God’s plan for redemption dramatically demonstrated in the lives of Cain and Abel.

The Consequences of Self-Imposed Curses

When God declares one thing and we declare another, that’s a self-imposed curse.  But God in His great mercy gives us a way to break that curse, just as He did with Cain.

Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve and a farmer, made a decision to offer a sacrifice to God from his field.  His brother Abel, a shepherd, offered an animal sacrifice.

God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s.

Cain is resentful that Abel's offering is accepted

Cain resents Abel’s offering being accepted (Providence Lithograph Bible Card)

Resentment, bitterness, and jealousy toward the acceptance that God gave Abel festered in Cain’s heart.  However, in God’s great love toward His creation, He gave Cain the opportunity to think differently about the situation:

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”      (Genesis 4:6-7)

Although God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, He gave Cain real hope that next time, he would be accepted if he changed his thinking and behavior.

For instance, Cain could have said, “I’m sorry, Lord, for not offering to you what you require.  Next time, I will ask my brother Abel to help me choose a sacrifice and teach me how to offer it to you.”

Cain could have mastered his shortcoming with God by humbly acknowledging his failing and taking steps to follow God’s instructions.  That would have been true teshuvah (turning back, repenting), something God has always desired of each of us, as He told the Israelites before being taken captive:

“I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD.  Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.”  (Ezekiel 18:30)

Cain Leads Abel to Death, by James Tissot

Cain Leads Abel to Death, by James Tissot

Instead of following God’s directions, Cain chose to let his shortcoming master him; the anger and jealousy festering in his heart transformed into a plot of revenge and self-sabotage.

Cain killed the very person he most wanted to become — a man in good standing with God.

Although God allowed Cain to marry, have children, and live a long life, he would have to toil hard to harvest the ground for food (verses 12–13), and maybe he would live with a lifelong guilt of killing his brother.

Unfortunately, Cain’s sin didn’t stop with him.  Five generations later, a man wounded Cain’s descendant Lamech, and Lamech killed him without remorse (Genesis 4:24).

Lamech’s son, Tubal-Cain became a man who made “all kinds of bronze and iron tools,”  which some scholars believe were used as weapons of war (verse 22).

However, another man named Lamech (a descendant of Adam and Eve’s other son Seth) would have a son named Noah, who would obey God and save mankind from being totally destroyed.  But we will leave that for next week’s parasha reading.

Woman overlooking Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem

Haftarah: The Consequences of Praising God!

In the prophetic reading for this Shabbat, we discover the consequences for using our words as God created us to use them — to praise Him and only Him!

Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,  you islands, and all who live in them.

Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice.

Let the people of Sela sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops.

Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim His praise in the islands.”  (Isaiah 42:10-12)

Praising God with our words can lead to God stepping in to give us victory.  It can also open our spiritual eyes so that God’s light guides our path brighter than before, or perhaps for the first time, as He says in the next verses:

“The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior He will stir up His zeal;  with a shout He will raise the battle cry and will triumph over His enemies…

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;  I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.”  (verses 13, 16)

Orthodox Jews take a stroll in the park.

At the end of time, Israel’s eyes will be opened and their high vocation as God’s witnesses will be fulfilled.

“‘But you are My witnesses, O Israel!’ says the Lord.  ‘You are My servant. You have been chosen to know Me, believe in Me, and understand that I alone am God.  There is no other God — there never has been, and there never will be.'”  (Isaiah 43:10)

And we know that one day, Jew and Gentile will walk together in the Light of the Lamb in the glorious New Jerusalem that awaits all those who come to know Messiah Yeshua as Savior and Lord:

“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”   (Revelation 21:23)

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