Beraysheet By Rabbi David Hartley Mark


Bereshit (בראשית)
Torah: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8
Haftarah Ashkenazim: Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10
Haftarah Sephardim: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21


Scene: The Post-Edenic World. We see a humble Cabin built of clay and wattles, the dwelling-place of our First Parents, Adam and Eve. The door opens, and Eve enters, carrying the toddler Abel. She looks up at the Heavens, and addresses the silent Deity.

Eve: Thank you, Lord God, for creating me second, on the Sixth and Final Day of Your Creation. The Man whom You have given me is headstrong, often to the point of muddleheadedness—he would lead us, but to what end? Still, I do love him, for trying. He insists on being in charge, whether we are naming animals or struggling to raise the two men-children with whom You have blessed us.

I will tell you freely, Lord: since our eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, our lives have grown more difficult. I do miss those halcyon days when we lived like children in Your Garden, eating of fruits we did not grow, splashing in Your river, and basking in Your sun. Still, I do value our free will. And our World beyond the fences of Eden is great, and green, and open. I pray that we will be worthy to tenant it for You.

Adam: Before You brought me the Woman, Lord, I was lonely; there now, I admit it. True, my life was lazy and fun, and there was little to do; I lay around all day, nibbling fruit and trying to gnaw at the various grains You provided, but fruit by itself is a cloying diet, indeed.

Did the Woman tempt me, as the Serpent tempted her? Perhaps, but this results from being human, I realize now. We used to chat often, You, Lord, and I, but You have faded from my view. I must understand this new arrangement: You are God, we are mortal, and I will have to get used to it. Never mind; it’s time to go and tend the crops….

Eve: Husband! Before you go out to our fields, can you not help me with the boys? Cain wants to come along with you. He admires you; you are his model. Baby Abel will stay behind; he is my pet, my mama’s boy, and I do love him. Abel keeps chasing after the goats and sheep—do you like what I named them? I just chose the names ‘goats’ and ‘sheep’ out of my mind. Abel keeps pretending that he can shepherd them about, using a long stick. The silly beasts don’t mind him; they seem to take after him. But Cain is his father’s boy, and will plow and dig and till the soil, as you do.

Adam: Well, let Cain come along. Just be sure to give him a hat and shirt, against the springtime heat. With the serpent’s curse, came a change in weather. We must adapt, my sweetest Eve.

Eve: It does give me a—warm feeling, when you call me that. Have we discovered love?

Adam: Companionship more, I would call it—a sort of shared—obligation, to one another. Yes. That’s it (Looking around). Have you seen my shovel?

Eve (upset): How do you manage to always say the wrong thing, when I do so much to try and bring us closer? Oh, you make me so angry, so sad—

Adam (ever the Rationalist):

Woman! The lot of man is endless labor. To plow the earth will be my burden.

To raise our children is your function. Everyone to their work; it is our God’s will,

And, since you brought on us Creator’s Curse, I would hesitate to call emotions into our couplehood.

I for God, and you for God in me, and all will go according to God’s plan.

(He shoulders his shovel, and goes out whistling, leaving her seething.)



I cannot, will not, must not, subdue my selfhood,

To any petty lordling’s willful arbitration;

Did I disobey God? Perhaps; but we’re not robots,

And free will planted in our minds by our Creator

Is something real, and a feeling true and earnest,

Which I manifested—not you, foolish creature!

As I create new life, so I created

New lives for us, which, though more difficult,

Will, in the end, prove richer and more fruitful

Than ever your Lord God’s original Eden.


(She exits; enter the Serpent, crawling on his belly, but looking self-satisfied at having accomplished his purpose. In the Jewish interpretation, of course, it is merely a serpent.)

The Serpent:

Now all awaits. Now here begins the Struggle

Between our Original Parents and their descendants’ obligations

Subduing Earth, and Sea, and Sky—but, more!

Subduing both their passions

To serve one another,

Love one another,

And the image

Of God in him,

Of God in her,

And, eventually—

God in all Humanity.

Did I do well, Lord God?

Did I carry out Your will?

O tell me!

The Lord:

I cannot tell: indeed, I must be silent

‘Til Time will riddle out My intertwining:

God’s will, free male- and female-will, and Fate.

Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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