We begin, again, at the beginning. Yet the very first word in Torah, Bereishit, points at something deeper about the notion of beginnings.
Students of Hebrew grammar know something is not quite right about the traditional translation “In the beginning” for the word Bereishit. I won’t go into the complexity here about why this is an incorrect translation. We’ll save that for Torah study and extended discussion!
Part of the hidden meaning of this grammatical oddity is that we begin not so much at THE Beginning, a single epic moment, but perhaps “A Beginning,” or “The Beginning OF something.” The two words that follow give additional clues: Bara Elohim, God created. So all together: Bereishit Bara Elohim.
I invite you to play with the array of possible translations by changing “The to A” or adding “of.” Consider adding punctuation (since it is absent in Torah) to bring out nuance in meaning.
For example how does the comma allow something completely different to emerge in these two translations:
In a Beginning, God created… (meaning in a particular beginning, suggesting there were other beginnings before this beginning that God created…).
In a Beginning God created (meaning God created a beginning, or God created the very notion of beginnings).
Whew! Esoteric stuff. Lots to think about. As always, I invite you to consider how any of the philosophical and theological ponderings that emerge from Torah verses are relevant to our lives. What does the concept of “beginning” mean for YOU, right now? How can the nuances in Torah provide meaning and help transform our lives in ways that are positive and nourishing?
Consider one additional possibility of an interpretive translation of this first verse of Torah by Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser:
"B'reishit bara Elohim." In the beginning of the beginning that is always beginning, God created the creation that is still.
May this new beginning of the Torah cycle bring wisdom and insight and fortify us for the journey ahead.