Parshat Bereshit: Let there be light!

“In the beginning [bereshit]” (Genesis 1:1) invites us to wonder about what motivated God to make His Creation. What would have been His “reasons”? Why the Master of the universe wanted to create everything that exists? When we ask these questions, we certainly are in awe looking at the stars, the sunset, and all around us. We realize that goodness is the purpose, because “God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good” (1:31).

Let’s be aware that this goodness is always good, in the present tense. Our sages say that the purpose of creation was for the sake of man so that he can recognize the goodness of God in it. In this sense, we realize that creation is indeed an act of God’s love, therefore the cause and reason of creation is love and its purpose is love.

This is why we say here in this blog that love is the cause and the effect. We are here because of God’s love, and if everything is created and sustained by Him, this awareness is the foundation of our identity as God’s creatures. We are born and cared for since we open our eyes for the first time, and this love that keeps us alive is the true essence that we have to recognize as the one and only real connection with our Creator.

How do we recognize Him? How do we get to know Him? There is a clear distinction between what He calls light, “and God saw that the Light was good” (1:3) and darkness. Mystic sages teach that the first day of God’s Creation was “day One” (1:5) because all contained in Creation is one with Him, for it emanates from Him and sustained by Him.

This does not mean or imply a definition or conception of the Creator because He is beyond comprehension. But we humans are able to understand that, although He is not His creation, as its creator, He controls it and directs it. Hence, we understand oneness as the encompassing divine will in His creation.

After day one, the next five days are the times in which creation was set in order (what contemporary agnostics call “intelligent design”), preceding the creation of man. This order starts with the separation of light and darkness, which our mystic sages call the revealed and concealed aspects of the oneness we just mentioned.

We learn from the Torah that the light is good, and our sages conclude that it is hidden for the wicked and is the reward for the righteous. This makes sense in the ethical context of Judaism. From this we learn that for those who pursue goodness, light is their reward.

Then what is the light that we should pursue it? Our Creator says that it is good, “and God separated between the light and the darkness” (1:3). Darkness is where the Creator conceals the light in order for us to have free will. We deduct from this that everything is illuminated, but a part of it is hidden as darkness so we can tell one from the other.

This is the divinely set scenario for us in the Garden of Eden where Adam in his wisdom chose to embrace the light as his natural state and reality.

Living in the light, as the fully revealed God’s love in His creation, means living in God’s ways and attributes in total harmony with the Him, as we realize that love is destined to be the cause and the effect of every thought, emotion, feeling, passion and instinct.

Love is the great motivator who leads us to reveal God’s love where and when He is concealed. The purpose of love is love as the purpose of light is to enlighten. What could be able to question such purpose and break the harmony of man as the creature destined to live for the cause and the effect of love?

The answer is a change of approach as a change of reality. What kind of change could challenge the harmony of living in love’s ways and attributes? The kind of change that only free will can validate as real. But how can we consider real something different from the light, love and truth that created us and sustain us every moment? This happens when we consider real the darkness and the illusions that come from it.

That was the choice made by Eve after being seduced by the serpent, and the choice made by Adam when he ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The scenario also changed, and ever since we have to discern between good and evil. This is entire purpose of the Torah and the ethics of Judaism.

The purpose of God’s creation is “Let there be Light!”, and it is also our individual and collective mission “to be the Light for the nations”, and enlighten others.

Mystic sages explain that the serpent in the Garden of Eden and Pharaoh of Egypt both represent ego, which tells us that we can become gods and that there is no greater god than us.

How can we become gods? When love is not present, this task becomes not only harder but a curse that empowers the most negative traits and emotions, such as envy and jealousy.

“(…) and Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.” (4:8)

Cain and Abel used to make offerings to the Master of the universe. The offerings to God that come from the negative aspects of consciousness are not acceptable to Him simply because He does not dwell with anything different from His ways and attributes.

When the offerings come from the highest levels of every aspect of consciousness, meaning from our complete awareness of God’s love, we become one with Him. That is one of the main differences between Judaism and other religions that condone evil and destructive behavior based on the belief that evil is forgivable and redeemable.

In Judaism, evil is understood only as a reference that allows our free will to choose goodness as a commanded obligation.

Bereshit is clearly divided in four sections which are God’s creation, the sin in the Garden of Eden, the story of Abel and Cain, and the rise of idolatry before the Flood.

Ego’s rule after the episode of the tree of knowledge of good and evil corrupted humankind down to the point that the Creator was completely ignored and rejected as the one who sustains everything. Bereshit is the most complex of all portions of the Torah because God and His creation are beyond human comprehension.

We just have to pay attention to the key words and principles presented in the narrative of the Torah such as heavens and earth, light, darkness, Shabbat, man and woman, paradise, sin, guilt, abandonment, jealousy, murder, repentance, and idolatry.

Heavens and earth are clearly two levels of consciousness. The one that connects us with the Creator, and the one that connects us with the material world. The upper waters and the lower waters represent the spiritual thoughts and material thoughts which we must harmonize always letting heavens as the higher thoughts (our connection to God) lead our material existence.

Light is God’s love that pervades all His creation, and our mission is to be and reveal the light concealed in the darkness. This means that from an eventual negative situation we must do the best in our reach to turn it into a positive one.

We have to be aware that completion implies satisfaction and fulfillment, which carry a deserved reward, the Shabbat, “Last in deed, but first in thought.” (Lecha Dodi).

Man and woman are not separate entities spiritually because they were created originally as one. The separation as complementary physical bodies means that both are meant to be together and united.

“(…) and they shall become one flesh.” (2:24)

This concept really implies unity because unity is the purpose and nature of God’s creation.

Paradise is from where we came and it is where we must return, and we do it by returning to love as the material manifestation of God’s love, and as our true essence and identity. As some people say “sin is its own punishment”, let’s be aware that sin is also our choice.

We learn by experience, by trial and error, true or false, etc., and we should know better after so many centuries living in darkness. Instead of blaming others and resent about the overwhelming negativity we have to bear every day in the world, we must start individually to redirect our lives in love’s ways and attributes.

Instead of feeling that we have been “abandoned” by our Creator, let’s think about how far we have separated ourselves from Him. If we have feelings of lack and coveting takes over, let’s return to love as our one and only wealth. Let’s be happy with our lot which is precisely our relationship with God’s love.

When we are attuned with love as our essence and identity, we are aware of being God’s image and likeness, and murder is unthinkable because it means denying God’s essence in others.

If we transgress against God’s love and our fellow man, we still can return to Him after we compensate those who we may have harmed. And finally, the more we are aware of God’s love as our Creator and our essence, the more we are able to discern between love’s ways and attributes and ego’s fantasies and illusions, which are the idols that separate us from love.

Let’s create a new beginning with the good light that love is. Let’s create each day with this love, and live here and now in the paradise that love is.

This is what was meant to be and still is. We “create” our own reality based on the illusions and fantasies of the material world, either be glamour, prestige, control, power, pride, lust, fame, etc. Whatever “ego trip” one engages into, that will be his/her reality, kingdom or domain, where negative thoughts and emotions replace love’s ways and attributes.

We ended up “expelled” from paradise but it was really us who kicked ourselves out, after choosing ego’s fantasies by following the serpent’s words. How can we return to paradise? We return when we choose back to live in love’s ways and attributes.

This is how we redeem ourselves, and how we atone for our negative choices and decisions. In this process of discerning between light and darkness, truth and illusion, we have to get acquainted with all our levels of consciousness.

We were created as a unity. “(…) male and female He created them” (1:27, 5:2)

Hence we have to know what both are in all levels which encompass intellect, mind, thoughts, emotions, feelings, senses, passions and instincts. When we allow love to fill and guide all these dimensions, we will be in harmony with our Creator and His love.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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