Parshat Bereshit: Genesis: 1:1-6:8; Isaiah 42:5-43:10.
We’ve turned to, literally, the beginning. The beginning of Torah with the Book of Genesis and the beginning of our world with the story of Creation.
Following the story of Creation, we continue to read about Adam and Eve — their lives in the garden of Eden, eating from the Tree of Knowledge and their punishments. The stories continue as we learn about Cain and Abel, Adam’s family tree and, finally, the plot is developed for Noah’s ark.
Just as we have done for thousands of years, we read these same stories again, knowing that because of life’s experiences and new developments, we will glean something new.
That is precisely what happened this year. Because, just a couple weeks ago, it was announced that a group of scientists, who have been working for decades, finally discovered a way to create the world in the exact same manner God did — through words and speech.
At a recent press conference, they announced, “We can create living forms the same way God did and we will demonstrate it for you now.”
With that, one of the scientists put on a pair of safety goggles and gloves. He picked up a spade of dirt and dropped it into a dish. All of a sudden, a booming voice from the heavens came down and said, “Uh, uh, uhhh. Get your own dirt!”
Well, I guess we’re not there yet. We haven’t mastered the actual ability to create through speech as God did in the verses of these chapters.
Or, maybe we have, for here is what I witnessed at a local grocery story. The cashier was clearly having a rough day. Her body language was screaming out, “I can’t wait until this shift is over.” The woman in front of me must have noticed the same thing and set out to change that. She pointed to the cashier’s name tag and asked, “How do you pronounce your name?” The cashier answered, and the woman responded, “What a beautiful name!”
Everyone in line saw the immediate impact — the cashier smiled; her eyes opened wider, and she stood taller. She even picked up the pace of scanning items. It amazed me the power that just a few words could have — “What a beautiful name!” Four simple words; and yet they were enough to create a new feeling for our cashier to brighten her day.
Like God in this week’s portion and the woman in front of me at the store demonstrate, our words have the power to create.
Words have the ability to lift others up and do good, or they can cause pain. They can help us heal or they can tear us apart.
My hope in this new year is that we all strive to use our words to create good. That we use them to lift each other up. And that through our words, we help bring a little more peace into our world.
Rabbi Daniel A. Schwartz is a rabbi at Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield.