Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary
Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-count of Sefer HaChinuch AND Rambam's Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva comes.
[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha p'tucha or s'tuma respectively. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p'sukim in the parsha.
Kohen - First Aliya - 34 p'sukim - 1:1-2:3
This Aliya contains the first account of Creation.
[P>1:1 (5)] The first parsha contains the "summary" statement of Creation (or the first phase of Creation - see further) and the account of Day One.
SDT: Baal HaTurim points out that the Gimatriya of B'REISHIT BARA is 1116, as is the numeric value of the phrase: B'ROSH HASHANA NIV'RA - on RH it (the world) was created. Furthermore, the letters of B'reishit rearrange to spell ALEF B'TISHREI, the first of the month of Tishrei (or B'ALEF TISHREI - on the first of Tishrei - same thing), "confirming" the opinion that the world was created in Tishrei (R. Eliezer), rather than in Nissan, as the other opinion holds (R. Yehoshua). If we could prove things with Gimatriyas and anagrams, then R. Eliezer would ìwinî the dispute, but as is, the dispute as to when the world was created remains a dispute - and halachically, it leans towards Nissan.
ìIn the beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth. And the Earth...î
Did that happen on day 1 of Creation? Or is something before Day 1 being described?
Here is one possible answer. The first two p'sukim of B'reishit describe the totally, exclusively Divine aspect of Creation of Something from Nothing - YEISH MEI'AYIN. Before ìB'reishitî, perhaps nothing existed - except G-d. With the Divine Command of B'reishit, everything that now exists came into existence for the first time. All matter, all energy, thoughts, concepts, time - everything (sort of like a BIG BANG!). According to this point of view, SHAMAYIM and ARETZ mean everything in the universe.
The first form that all of Creation had was TOHU VAVOHU, chaos. That's the second pasuk. And, this stage of Creation occurred BEFORE Day One. Not on the first day - before Day One. And not a day before, not an instant before nor an eon before. It is pointless speculation to attempt to give a timeframe for the first two p'sukim, because TIME has meaning only in the context of the ordered world that began to take shape on Day 1. No wonder we are not supposed to concern ourselves with what had happened before the world was created!
ìAnd G-d said: Let there be light...î
Thus begins the Torah's description of Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. And what happened on those days? G-d put everything in order, distinguished one thing from another. It was creation of Something from Something. YEISH MI'YEISH. Forming, shaping. The kind of Creation that we emulate in our lives.
And how long was one of these days of Creation? Maybe they each were a thousand years long. Or an eon. Or maybe they each were 24 hours long. Either that Torah talks "our language" or not. Take your pick. Either way fits.
Shabbat B'reishit is a time of rediscovery and re-creation. Just like on Pesach and Shavuot when we read of the events of Egyptian slavery and the Exodus on the one and the events of Matan Torah on the other, and we try to put ourselves into the events, to make them fresh, as if today we came out of Egypt, as if the Torah were given today, so too should we enthusiastically read and hear the description of Creation and put ourselves into the position of discovering G-d through the world and nature that He brought into existence for us. Don't just see things as "once upon a time..." - get excited, because G-d ìrenews with His Goodness, every day and always, the Acts of B'reishitî.
Without going into detail, here is a breakdown of the first Aliya for your consideration.
2 p'sukim, as mentioned above, for the first phase of creation. Notwithstanding the argument above that broke these two p'sukim off of the description of the first day (so to speak), they are part of the first PARSHA, together with the creation of Light, etc.
3 p'sukim for Day 1, the creation of light, the separation of light and darkness, and their being identified as day and night. One KI TOV. The day is called YOM ECHAD (cardinal number) rather than RISHON (ordinal number), because RISHON has meaning only if there is a SHENI, which there wasn't yet.
[P>1:6 (3)] The next parsha is for the Second Day of Creation. The creation of the Heavens and the separation of the Upper and Lower waters. (Some say that angels and various forces were created on the 2nd day too.)
[P>1:9 (5)] The next parsha contains the Third day of Creation which consists of two ìsectionsî - First, two p'sukim for the ìgathering of the lower watersî into different areas and the formation of dry land. And the ìnamingî of Land and Seas. KI TOV. And then the Divine command to the Land to spring forth with vegetation. 3 p'sukim with another KI TOV introduce us to the Plant Kingdom.
[P>1:14 (6)] Next we find the account of Creation on the fourth day. The Sun, Moon and stars (and other ìheavenly bodies)î are placed in their appointed positions and orbits. KI TOV.
[P>1:20 (4)] Next comes the Fifth Day, with its account of Animal Kingdom, part one. Swarming insects, fish, birds. KI TOV. And P'RU URVU.
[P>1:24 (8)] Next comes the largest parsha yet, with the formation of Animal Kingdom, part two. Land animals (most mammals). ìCreepy thingsî probably includes most reptiles as well.
Fifth day creatures and sixth day creatures do not necessarily divide along modern biology's taxonomic guidelines. For example, dolphins and bears are both mammals (and NFL teams), but aquatic mammals were (probably) created on the fifth day. The bat, although a mammal, (probably) preceded the mouse by a day. What about flightless birds? And mammals that spend much time in the water, but do come onto land at times? Good questions (not necessarily practical ones, but...). One KI TOV.
Then comes the formation of human beings, first as a single being both male and female and then separated into two different beings, male and female (but with some ìcrossingî of characteristics). P'RU URVU [1,A212 1:28]. Which will combine them once again (in a sense). TOV ME'OD. THE sixth day. YOM HASHISHI.
[P>2:1 (3)] This relatively long first Aliya concludes with the 3-pasuk parsha introducing us to Shabbat B'reishit, the day that G-d blessed and sanctified because He ìrestedî from Creation. We say this parsha in the Friday night Amida, right after the Friday night Amida, and at the Friday night table as the first part of Kiddush. This should tell us how important it is that we learn well (as best as we can) the Torah's account of Creation.
And that's without going into detail.
Levi - Second Aliya - 16 p'sukim - 2:4-19
[P>2:4 (37)] Now we have a restatement of Creation, focusing on Gan Eden, the formation of Adam, Adam's dominance over Nature, and his first prohibition - eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.
"It is not good that man shall be alone" is explained in different ways, including that only G-d is singular. Man needs to know that as great as he can become, as much as he can accomplish, he is not a god.
All creatures were brought before Adam as "candidates" for partner- to-Adam. None was found suitable, but Adam named them all (as people have done throughout the ages).
In the first account of Creation, Man was the final act of Creation, but not so much the purpose and focus of creation. In this second account, Man is presented as the focus of creation.
We must see things both ways in order to maintain a healthy perspective on this world, our role in it, and our responsibilities towards it and all elements of nature.
To paraphrase a famous saying: A person should write the following on two pieces of paper, fold each one, and put one in his left pocket and one in his right pocket. One should say: A mosquito was created before I was. The other should say: For me the whole world was created.
Shlishi - Third Aliya - 27 p'sukim - 2:20-3:21
The Torah's wording implies that Adam was first created as a combined male-female being, then (still on Day Six) he was physically separated as Adam and Chava, with the command and challenge of recombining spiritually, emotionally, and physically - "and they shall become one flesh".
Next the Torah tells us cryptically of the episodes of the Serpent's enticement of Chava, the eating from the Tree, the punishments for the Serpent, Chava, and finally, Adam.
The sin(s) of Adam and Chava are not just personal sins, but more significantly, they help us define and understand (some of) human nature.
[S>3:16 (1)] This 1-pasuk parsha consists of G-d's "punishment" (call it "redefining") of Chava (woman- kind).
[S>3:17 (5)] And this parsha consists of Adam's "punishment" (same other possibility) and G-d's act of Chesed, in clothing the naked. This act is one of the many pointed to in our challenge to emulate the qualities of G-d.
It is interesting to note that the "story" parts of Shlishi and most of R'vi'i are part of one large parsha, but G-d's statements to Adam and Chava, and His kindness to them are slightly isolated in the form of two parshiyot S'tumot, thus calling specific attention to them and the lessons we learn from them.
R'VI'I - Fourth Aliya - 21 p'sukim - 3:22-4:18
[p>3:22 (3)] This Aliya begins with the expulsion from Gan Eden, which is also seen as a metaphor for a re-definition of the role of humans in this world and of their (our) relationship with G-d.
[S>4:1 (26)] The Torah continues with the "births" of Kayin and Hevel and Kayin's killing of Hevel following the attempt of each to make an offering before G-d.
Kayin's response to G-d's query as to where Hevel was, echoes in our collective Jewish Experience through all the generations: HASHOMEIR ACHI ANOCHI? Am I my brother's keeper? Kayin said it to shirk his responsibility for his brother. We are constantly challenged to be the kind of human and Jew who knows very well that we ARE responsible for each other.
Kayin's punishment and fate is presented, as is his lineage.
It is possible that Kayin sired different species of humanoids. This is how some want to explain the evidence of the existence of pre- historic man. Kayin's whole line was destroyed in the Flood. (Almost, that is. See below)
Chamishi - Fifth Aliya - 8 p'sukim - 4:19-26
This portion contains the story of Lemech, the great-great-great-grand- son of Kayin and his accidental killer. Lemech's two wives were Ada and Tzila.
The Torah mentions more descendants of Kayin and their roles as the "firsts" in various fields of human activity. Yaval (son of Lemech and Ada) was the ìfirstî tent-dwelling animal raiser. His brother Yuval was a musician. Tuval-Kayin (son of Tzila) worked with iron and copper. His sister was Na'ama.
Rashi (quoting B'reishit Rabba) says that she was the wife of No'ach. What is significant about that is that Kayin's line was not completely severed by the Flood. Although we refer to all of mankind as Bnei No'ach, who descended from Adam through Sheit, on the mother's side there is Na'ama and before her, Kayin.
This portion also contains Lemech's lament for having killed Kayin. (Rashi adds that Lemech also killed his son Tuval-Kayin (accidentally, in his grief), because he (TK) directed the blind Lemech's hands with bow and arrow to kill what he thought was an animal, and turned out to be Kayin.
By the way, in case your Chumash does not have the same Aliya breakdown as is presented here, don't worry. There are different versions.
Shishi - Sixth Aliya - 24 p'sukim - 5:1-24
The lineage from Adam through Sheit (Seth) to No'ach (into the next Aliya) is set down, with the age of the father at the birth of the son, and each person's age at his death. These numbers help us construct the first part of our timeline. Although many sons and daughters are born to this list of patriarchs of the world, only one representative of each generation is named. Some say that only the named individual had the longevity that is recorded; the "average man and woman in the street" lived much shorter lives. Others say that the lifespan of the human was generally much longer before the Flood.
[S>5:1 (5)] This is the Book of the Chronicles of Mankind... Adam and Chava were created. Adam was 130 years old when Sheit was born. He lived another 800 years after Sheit was born, during which time he fathered many sons and daughters. He lived 930 years and then he died.
The wording seems strange, but is repeated with each generation.
[S>5:6 (3)] Sheit was 105 when Enosh was born. He lived another 807 years for a total of 912. Sons and daughters. And he died.
[S>5:9 (3)] Enosh, 90, Keinan + 815 = 905...
[S>5:12 (3)] Keinan, 70, Mahala- l'eil, + 840 = 910...
[S>5:15 (3)] Mahalal'eil, 65, Yered, + 830 = 895...
[S>5:18 (3)] Yered, 162, Cha- noch, + 800 = 962... (Yered is the Avis, K2, Buzz Aldrin... of longevity.)
[S>5:21 (4)] Chanoch, 65, M'tushe- lach, + 300 = 365...
Shishi concludes with mention of Chanoch, who was taken from this world (possibly not by death) at the relatively young age of 365.
Adam HaRishon was alive when the named members of the following 8 generations were born: Sheit, Enosh, Keinan, Mahalal'eil, Yered, Chanoch, Metushelach, Lemech. Only No'ach was born after Adam died.
Sh'VII - Seventh Aliya - 16 p'sukim - 5:25-6:8
[S>5:25 (3)] M'tushelach, 187, Lemech, + 782 = 969, the oldest age recorded in the Tanach. According to Tradition, he died immediately prior to the Flood, which was held up for 7 days of mourning for him.
[S>5:28 (4)] Lemech 182, a son. He named him No'ach (note the different wording for the birth of No'ach)... + 595 = 777.
[S>5:32 (5)] No'ach, 500 (note how much older than previous generations), Sheim, Cham, Yefet.
The Torah now describes the deterioration of society...
[P>6:5 (4)] and G-d's "regret" for having created Man, His decision to destroy the world (almost). No'ach alone found favor in G-d's eyes. Stay tuned for the continuation, next week.
SDT: B'reishit 6:5 - "And G-d saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
RAK RA KOL HAYOM - The Sofei Teivot (final letters) of this phrase from the pasuk spell AMALEK; The root of all evil. Attributed to Imrei Shefer quoted in EVEN BOCHEIN
This last 4-pasuk parsha is reread for the Maftir.
Haftara - 31 p'sukim - Yeshayahu - 42:5-43:10
From its opening words describing G-d as the Creator of Heaven and Earth, we see parallels in the prophets wording and that of Parshat B'reishit.
Rabbi Jacobson z"l in his "A Haftara Companion", points out that in B'reishit, the word BARA is past tense - created. In the haftara, the word is BOREI, creates, implying an ongoing process and supervision of the world. This is an important concept that is rejected by those who "admit" that G-d created the world a long time ago, set it in motion, and then has nothing more to do with it. This is definitely not a Jewish concept. We proclaim in Shacharit that G-d is M'CHADEISH B'CHOL YOM TAMID, MAASEI V'REISHIT, He renews (UVTUVO, and with Goodness), every day and always, the acts of Creation.
There are many other key words that are found in both sedra and haftara.
The sedra introduces us to the very first song - that of Lemech. The haftara tells us of a SHIR CHADASH, a new song of the future. The sedra tells of the beginning of time and the corrup- tion of subsequent generations. The haftara prophesies of the "end of days" (perhaps), when Israel's scattered exiles will be gathered and returned and even other nations will join in the New Song.