Rabbi Yael Levy
 Torah Study for the Soul:
1 BA Bereshit
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Journeying with the Soul


Join rabbis, cantors and leaders across the country and across denominations in -

Journeying with the Torah:

Week by Week, Season by Season, Moment to Moment

Torah study and practice 

with Rabbi Yael Levy


I will walk in the presence of the One in the Lands of Life.  Psalm 116:9

 Welcome to a Torah journey through time.


Each week we will listen into the Torah portion to discern teachings that can guide our intentions, practices, and actions.  Honoring Torah as a "Tree of Life" we will explore how it leads us through the seasons offering insights and questions that can help us live with fuller awareness and compassion. 


We hope you will join us.

Cost for the year:  $240 



Shabbat bereshit: Beginnings.  Our creation myth.


Light spilled out of darkness.

Waters rose and were gathered.

Land appeared and vegetation came forth. 

Orbs of light glowed in the expanse of sky.

Living beings emerged and started to crawl, to swim, to fly.

And then from the adamah, from the dust of the earth-adam was formed, a clay vessel sculpted out of dirt and stone.  The eternal blew into this vessel neshmat hayim the breath of life-and humankind came to be.

And here we are -- Nefesh hayah, earth and spirit-living souls. 


The first people adam and havah (whose names mean earth and life) were placed in a magnificent world -a garden of perfection where all they needed to live sprung forth without effort.   It was a world in which streams of connection flowed freely.  And in this world adam and havah were filled with consciousness, responsibility and the freedom to make choices.


And adam and havah, earth and life, the first humans chose choose to eat from ha'aytz daat tov v'ra, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


They chose to leave the innocence and the protection, of the garden.  They choose to live with eyes open, to behold tov v'rah - good and  bad - to open themselves to paradox and contradictions. They chose to experience life and also to behold death.


Eating from ha'aytz daat tov v'ra, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree of paradox and contradiction, adam and havah became aware that the world they were a part of was a place of impermanence.  


They now knew that in life creation would spring forth, it would flower and then it would fade  They discovered they would live, they would love, they would work, they would struggle, they  would dream, they would flourish and they would die. 


The world of human existence, they saw, was beautiful and filled with abundant overflowing blessings and it was also permeated by contradiction and laced with pain.


Much of their life they realized would unfold within a mystery they could never fully understand or control.


And this knowledge, this realization, made them afraid.  This awareness that good and evil, joy and sadness, life and death existed together in life terrified them.

So they clothed themselves-they covered themselves for protection and they hid.


Then the spirit of God, the spirit of the mystery, the spirit of the Eternal, blew through the garden.  It blew until it formed a question.  The very first question ever put to human beings.  The very first question ever to be voiced rose from the depths of creation:  Ayekah, Where are you?


When adam and havah heard this question they hid.


And the voice continued to go forth: Ayekah: where are you?


When adam and havah were able to answer they said,

"We heard your voice.  We knew you were with us in the garden but we were afraid.  

We were afraid because we were naked.  We were ashamed because we were vulnerable.  We were overwhelmed because we saw life and death and so we hid."


Ayekah -- Where are you? The first question asked to the first human beings.

The first question is the eternal question.  It exists in all moments.

Ayekah -- Where are you?


Who at times does not want to hide? 

Who at times does not feel afraid, ashamed, vulnerable? 

Who at times does not feel overwhelmed by the complexities, paradoxes and challenges of life?


Our creation myth acknowledges wanting to hide is a natural human tendency. Our creation myth reminds us that hiding is at times a reasonable and expected response to the challenges of life.  But the tradition doesn't stop here. The Torah calls us to reach for a different practice-it urges us to hear the call ayekah, and cultivate the capacity to respond:  Hineni - Here I am.

Hineni, Here I am present in this very moment. 

Hineni, Here I am open to what ever the moment asks of me. 

Here I am willing to be in whatever is true.

Here I am with whatever I am holding, whatever is on my heart and mind. 

Hineni, Here I am.


This week of bereshit we will listen into the question ayekah, and practice responding hineni.  We will notice what calls forth our capacity to be present and what stories, habits and fears encourages us to hide.  The practice is to notice this all with non-judgmental awareness, to notice it with a gentleness that invites us to be where ever we are. 

Practice Drash


What follows is one practice to do all week as well as teachings and questions to reflect upon each day.


Practice for the weeksitting with the question ayekah.  Responding hineni.


We are invited to make a commitment to take time to sit each day.


To encourage and strengthen any practice it is helpful when possible to do the practice around the same time each day. It is also helpful to make a time commitment we can fulfill. 


Find a time and place to sit and decide to practice for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes.  Begin by noticing what arises even by asking yourself this question about how much time you are going to spend.  Practice right at the beginning responding to your self with compassion.


Each day:

Sit and let your attention be drawn to your breath.  After a few moments hear the call ayekah, Where are you? come with each breath.  Bring the question into your body. 

Feel the question upon your heart, in your belly, see it before your eyes.   Then begin responding hineni, here I am.  Feel the hineni on your heart, in your belly, before your eyes. Feel the hineni in your breath. Let hineni travel with the breath, becoming your mantra, repeating it again and again, hineni, here I am. As our attention wanders, (as we know it will), gently bring yourself back to the moment by saying hineni, here I am.  At the close of the sit give thanks for this time you spent returning to the present moment and with gentleness and love ask your self to be as present as you can to the unfolding of the day.

Teachings for Each Day Remez

With each of these daily teachings you are encouraged to write about your experiences and insights in a journal and, or to share reflections with a hevruta - a partner.


Tradition teaches that the first word of the Torah, "bereshit," carries within it guidance for our entrance into the year.  Each Hebrew letter in bereshit represents a word that is meant to focus our attention and inspire our awareness and presence.  Over the first six weeks of the year we are invited to bring this word and its attributes into our practice.


The first letter of bereshit -beit--calls forth the word, bitachon-trust.


Bitachon is the cultivation of trust in the mysterious unfolding of life.  It is the practice of believing we have the capacity to meet whatever we encounter well.  Bitachon is an experience of security and strength.  It helps us know we are capable of responding to the challenges, blessings and paradoxes of life with spaciousness and honesty.  


In the cultivation of bitachon we notice the stories and habits of our minds that create fear and anxiety.  We notice these stories with compassion and do our best not to follow them.  In the cultivation of bitachon we draw our attention to what encourages our trust.  We remember and call forth experiences and people that have inspired us to feel strong and clear and have guided us in trusting ourselves and others.  Trust is a practice we return to explore again and again.  


We practice bitachon to create a foundation upon which we can stand, face into the gifts and challenges of life, and say hineni, here I am.

Daily Practice Instructions for this Week Sod


Click here for teachings, practices and questions for each day of this week of bitachon, of trust and presence.