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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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GENESIS — 1:3 said

In the beginning, there was the word.  Words create worlds.  According to the Jewish mystics, good words create good worlds; evil words create evil worlds.  Words have power: creative power and destructive power.  Words can hurt or heal.  They can form or deform a relationship.  They can be a barrier or a window.  They can endear or abuse. … As Proverbs 18:21 says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” On this verse in Proverbs the Talmud Arakhin 15b comments: “One who wants life can find it through the tongue; one who desires death can find it through the tongue.”  HTBAJ 193

GENESIS — 1:26 image

[In the view of Jewish thinkers], that which we have in common with G-d is that which makes us human. By determining in what sense we have been created in the divine image, we can discern the characteristic that both makes us most like G-d and that reveals the essence of our humanity.  From this perspective, love is understood as the attraction of “like to like,” i.e., two loving partners are drawn toward each other because of a shared essential quality.  Hence, love of G-d stems from the desire of the divinely implanted part of us – from the quintessentially human feature of our existence that we bear and share with G-d—to attain communion with the divine.  HTBAJ 30-1

GENESIS — 1:27 image

According to Scripture, the human being is created in the image of G-d. Genesis 1:26. Postbiblical Jewish religious literature takes this to mean that one should imitate the ways of G-d, that one should act in a godly manner, for example, “as G-d is merciful and compassionate, so should human beings be merciful and compassionate.”  Sifre on Deuteronomy, Finkelstein, ed. “Ekev” para. 49, p. 114.  As G-d is creative, so too should human beings be creative.  As G-d is an artist, so too should human beings be artists.  G-d’s most superlative artwork is the human being.  It is the human task to complete G-d’s unfinished artistic masterpiece-the human person.  Ethics is a way in which one creates life as a work of art.  HTBAJ xiv

GENESIS — 1:27 image

For Maimonides (following Aristotle), the intellect is the quality that makes one truly human.  The intellect is the human feature that we share with the divine.  As Maimonides wrote, “It is on account of this intellectual apprehension that it is said of man [this verse].  Guide of the Perplexed, Pines, Book I, ch. 1, p. 22. Complete love of G-d, attained by means of intellectual self-development, represents the acme of human existence according to Maimonides.  … For Maimonides, intellectual apprehension of G-d is the epitome of love of G-d.  The greater the apprehension, the more intense the love.  HTBAJ 34

GENESIS — 1:27 male/female

Procreation is a requirement of Jewish law. To deny procreation is to deny creation.  Celibacy affirms the limitations of the body, the status quo.  Procreation assumes that no body is complete or whole. To realize our bodily nature, a complementary other is needed. See, e.g. Yevamot 63a, “A man who has no wife is no proper man for it is said, [this verse].  Adam equals the human.  Only when male and female are united are they called Adam.”  HTBAJ 154

GENESIS — 1:31 very good

Through the performance of sacred deeds, the body, which is good by nature, become holy by action.  For many of the Jewish mystics, this is especially evident in sexual behavior … Physical desire is a prerequisite for spiritual attainment, for creating life as a work of art.  One who is devoid of passion disenfranchises oneself from both the physical and spiritual life. … for the Jewish mystics the procreative act is the paradigm for the ultimate religious experience: communion with G-d.  HTBAJ 156

GENESIS — 2:7 living

[Targum Onkeles [this verse] translates “living being” as “a speaking being.”]  What Jack London said about writing is equally applicable to speaking: Pretend each word you use costs a thousand dollars.  It was the abuse rather than the use of speech that often advised silence.  As Orhot Zaddikim observes, “Humans were created with two eyes, two ears, and two nostrils, but only with one mouth because one should speak less.”  HTBAJ 195

GENESIS — 2:24 flesh

The parent’s obligation to circumcise a son, to redeem him, and to teach him Torah, relates to the parent’s duty to ensure the perpetuation of tradition and to have the child initiated into the Jewish community.  In so doing, the child’s history mates with his destiny.  Teaching the child Torah aims not only at helping to ensure the continuation of tradition, but it attempts to assure an intellectually, morally, and spiritually developed person.  The parent’s obligation to have the child wed, to teach him a craft, and to teach him practical citizenship, relates to the parent’s duty to permit the child to become an independent citizen of society.  A crucial step toward the child’s independence is his or her becoming independent from the parent.  Marriage is considered a critical step in a person’s independence from his or her parent.  With marriage, the child’s primary relationship and source of identify is as a spouse rather than as a child. [Nahmanides on this verse].  HTBAJ 180

GENESIS — 3:7 perceived

And they interpreted this as follows: When the hands write a scroll of the Torah in purity, they are honored and praiseworthy. When they do something improper, they are loathsome.  So it is with the sex organs of Adam and Eve.  Prior to their sinning, it was one way, but after they sinned, quite different.  As in every organ, there is that which is laudatory when the man performs what is good, so there is offensiveness when man does evil.  So it was with the first man concerning the sex organs.  Accordingly, it follow that G-d’s ways are just, holy and pure.  All that is ugly results from man’s activities.  Iggeret haKodesh—The Holy Letter.  HTBAJ 158-9

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