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.