Welcome to the new cycle of reading. Simchat Torah is concluded and we greet, this Shabbat, the renewal of the Torah cycle as we approach Genesis and the first portion, “B’reisheet”. Books and books have been written on this one portion. Creation through the first murder and the ethical challenge of Cain and Abel. The portion contains so many issues and points of discussion. It also contains the first question, raised by God, to Adam and Eve. The Garden of Eden myth is central to this portion and within that tale , we are confronted with, what may be THE question of existence: “ayekah”–where are you?
Genesis 3 is, I suggest, the greatest chapter of Torah. It introduces us to a reality that becomes even more present as we Boomers age. The chapter reminds us that we will die. The reality of mortality! And in the midst of the story, is that question “where are you”? Let us consider that this is the question for us. We really try to answer it throughout our life, often unaware that we are doing it. However as we grow and mature, we realize that our time is finite and, in many ways and on many levels, we begin to consider where we are and who we are and what our life means.
“Where are you?” is the existential question of Torah. Implicit in the question is the question of what do you wish your life to mean? “Ayekah”, as I mention in classes, speaks to the “why” questions of life–the only questions that really matter–and the questions we spend a life time trying to answer: why was I born?, why must I die? Why am I here–for what purpose is my existence?
Torah asks this question, “ayekah”? It asks it right after creation and the story of Cain and Abel. It asks it then because the realities of life and death and the juxtaposition of creation and murder are symbolic of the challenges of life. “Ayekah?” How we choose to answer it is who we are and will be.
Rabbi Richard Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.