Jeffrey Levine
Blogger, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist

Bereishit – Lessons from Covid19 and Eternity

So, here we are. Starting over again. A New Year and a new cycle of the Torah Reading.

Although Pandemics and Death have been a recurring part of civilization for the history of mankind. Our generation thought we are immune to this. So, why is Covid19 such a game-changer?

Covid19 is personal. It is global. It is a global phenomenon for a connected global World. Previous Pandemics like SARs did not affect everyone. Cancer does not affect everyone.

With Covid19. Our Lives are restricted. Our Basic Individual Freedom and Religious Freedom is restricted.

So, when we look at Bereishit and after Sukkot where we have hopefully contemplated Living in a Fragile World. Let us ponder on the nature of this world. Let us ponder on the duality of the world. And what is our role or purpose?

God created heaven and earth

 Bereishit – because of the beginning, God created heaven and earth.

There are two beginnings – There is a physical and there is the Spiritual. Body and Soul.

In the Physical world, we toil for Livelihood, we are creative and chase after Money, Respect, and more.

Our Spiritual sides are ignored. So, If Covid19 has a message it could be – Slow down, reflect, make a spiritual plan, and look at how we can make ourselves, our world a better place.

We, fortunately, have a resource of guidance in the Torah and the great teachers over the centuries.  We are also blessed to live in 2 Worlds already – Weekday and Shabbat.

During the Week we are creative and on Shabbat, we reflect and relax.

We have Day and Night. During the Day we are creative and at Night we recharge our Batteries.

So, the big question is what do we do when we are creative?

Are we active in making ourselves, our family, our world a kinder, better place?

The world today is in turmoil. After Centuries of Evil, Colonialism, Slavery, exploitation of Resources leading with the abuse of power leading to a damage to both moral and ecological balance.

So what can we do about this? We need to look for physical solutions to repair our worlds. We need to change the way we do things to improve both the physical and the spiritual.

Luckily, I am not the first and only person to think like this. There is a growing worldwide Movement for Business to adopt – ESG. ESG implies that Business (and People) must consider the Environment, Social, and Governance when doing Business. No longer is the objective of doing business, making a Livelihood is not a self-interest adventure. We need to have to carry out affairs with the sensitivity to others including Staff and Customers

See my previous blog .. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/tikkun-olam-and-corporate-social-responsibility/ where I elaborate on some on this.

So, for me the there is an alignment of ESG, Judaism, being a mensch. Our challenge which is highlighted by Covid19 is that we are in this together and our actions can impact others both in a negative way and positive way.

Today, we are in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution, with Ai, Big data, machine learning, Digitisation, and Fintech changing the way the world operates. Just like we saw the rise of Cars replace Horses, the effect will be no less dramatic. And that is why I have coined the phrase

Where Innovation meets ESG

This is both a personal and worldwide challenge. and that is my inspiration for starting CFO-Israel.

Innovation must be used for the good. Business must also be carried out for the benefit of the Environment, and People.

And Israel who are leaders in Innovation must also lead the way in ESG.

On a Personal level – let’s apply the Principles of ESG to making us a better person and kal ve chomer (as a consequence) the world a better place.

Just like the spread of Covid19 affects both our neighbour and the people of the world at large, let’s pray and hope that we spread the message of love and concern for family and people in the world at large.

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I am sharing some insights from previous articles which I hope will give inspiration for reflection and the Gift of this Life and Shabbat.

The featured Video in Hebrew from a Concert in 1975 in Israel by Reb Shlomo Carlebach highlights some teachings reflecting the beauty of Life and Shabbat through Music which is the gateway to the soul.

Bereishit – why did God create the World?

On reflection when looking at the question of why did God create the world, many people maybe ask – Did God create the world? I think the easiest way to answer this is. If a building requires an architect and design, how much so our wonderful world.

How do you translate Bereishit? In the beginning or because of the beginning

A beginning is pure. There is nothing purer than going into a forest, a nature walk with big lakes which shows how the world was before man tried to change it.  When we want to clear our heads , meditate or relax we look to go back to nature. Back to the beginning.

The big question is – Why did God create the world? For whom did God create the world?

Our teachings say that God created the world because of Israel, because Abraham reached the level that he knew God on the level of beginnings. Based on the teachings of the Slominer Rebbe.

We begin with our souls.  Acquiring knowledge takes time and effort.

Just like we pollute our world, we also pollute our mind with all kinds of wrong thoughts.

We need to go back to that beginning. We need to go back to the truth.

I know we just did Teshuva. But it only takes one day, one thought for us to pollute ourselves.

For me, waking up is like a beginning. Our bodies are recharged. We have an opportunity to be creative, to start again.

As Dr Moshe Rothkop relates:

“Mazal Tov. We made it through Yomim Noraim to live in the Succah and rejoice and dance with our Torah our Eitz Chaim.

Now Hashem in his infinite love and mercy gives us Bereishit, new beginnings. The world was created with Reishis, the power to begin again, the power of Teshuva. How far is a rasha from a tzaddik? ויהי ערב ויהי בוקר יום אחד. Erev is darkness , when I do everything wrong, a rasha. Boker, I’m connected to the light, I do everything right. How long does it take to go from being a rasha to being a tzaddik? One day. Just one moment. Because Hashem created us so that deep inside we all want to be a tzaddik Have the greatest year, bsurot Tovot, nachas, parnassa tova, healthy health, meaningful relationships, doing good things lishma, even not lishma, just do it.

A gezunte vinter”

Paraphrased from Reb Shlomo teachings on Bereishis–

Let us go back and relook at the translation of the word Bereishit – because of the beginning, God created heaven and earth.

There are two beginnings – earth I.e we need to have humility. You also need heaven – you have to have something high about yourself. You need to have a positive self-esteem.

This is I believe is our challenge – to be both humble and to have a positive self esteem.

It is the same during our daily lives – we have the weekdays – earth and we have Shabbat – heaven.

In fact, what words do we use to sanctify Shabbat when we make Kiddush? We start with the words God made heaven and earth. Every Shabbat is a beginning. A chance to renew ourselves.

If somebody asks – Why be Jewish? Why was the world created? I would like to think that God gave the Jewish people 2 gifts – The Torah and the Land of Israel as way of a mission.

On a simple level, to be a guide, a shining light to the world, spread goodness and kindness to all mankind.

The same is true on a personal. But, we can go further. Our beautiful world and specifically Shabbat is a gift.

Shabbat is a gift. It is time to reflect on our mission in the world. A time to separate earth – the mundane, daily grind, and elevate ourselves with heaven – Holiness.

So, I want to wish you a Shabbat Shalom. A Shabbat where we can elevate ourselves above the mundane. For this reason only, it is enough to be Jewish, to thank God for creating me and the world.

Further Readings

The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Genesis

The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach provides a glimpse into the unusual way in which the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach received and transmitted Torah. It also aids the reader in bridging “Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach the great composer/singer” and “Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach the great scholar/teacher.” Those who sing his songs, but do not learn his Torah, only sing half a song. When Reb Shlomo speaks of Abraham and Sara, you are sure he is speaking about his own grandparents. When delving into the lives of Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel and Leah, it is as if he is speaking of his own parents.

The teachings in this book of commentary are not just meant to be read – they are intended to be enjoyed and experienced as “holy music.” Ultimately, they are intended as a lesson in living a “holy life.” Wherever Reb Shlomo traveled in the world, he brought several suitcases of holy books with him. This book makes Reb Shlomo’s teachings accessible to help us carry on our journey through life.

https://www.souldoctorstories.com/single-post/2019/10/25/parshat-bereishit-welcome-to-the-beginning

Bereishit: Putting the Power of Renewal into the Creation

About the Author
Jeffrey is a Blogger, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist (we can only dream) living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather has five kids and four grandchildren. Jeffrey provides freelance CFO and Accounting services through www.persofi.com He is looking to spread the message of Ahavat Yisrael and Jewish Unity through the music and stories through www.souldoctorstories.com and blogging.
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