The book of Bereshith is completed in this week’s Torah reading. The story
of the emergence of first one person and then an entire family as being
the spearhead of monotheistic belief in a pagan world is an exciting but
At so many turns in the events described in the Torah the idea of
monotheism and the few who championed its cause could have died at birth.
Yet somehow the idea and the people advancing it survived and grew until,
over the ages, it became the defining idea in the major religions of
Truth somehow survived, unable to be crushed by the great and mighty
forces always aligned against it. Our patriarch Yaakov tells the Pharaoh
that “my years are relatively few and very difficult ones.” But Yaakov is
not only speaking for himself in this statement. He speaks for the Jewish
people as a whole in all of its generations and ages. And he also speaks
for all those in the world who still value truth over falseness, accuracy
over populism, reality over current political correctness and imposed
The Midrash taught us that the seal of God, so to speak, is truth. The
book of Bereshith begins with truth inscribed in its opening words, the
last letter of these first three words of the Torah spelling the Hebrew
word emet – truth. Falseness requires publicity, media, excuses and
greater falsehoods to cover and justify the original untruth.
In Yiddish there is a phrase that says: “The best lie is the truth.” Truth
needs no follow-up. It stands on its own for all eternity.
Jefferson in the American Declaration of Independence stated that truths
are self-evident. If we merely contemplate, even on a superficial level,
the events as described in the book of Bereshith, we must stand back in
awe to realize the power of truth and the tenacity of individuals who
pursue it and live by it.
How easy and understandable it would have been for any of our patriarchs
and matriarchs to have become disappointed and disillusioned by the events
of their lives. Yet their ultimate faith, that truth will survive and
triumph, dominates the entire narrative of this first book of the Torah.
Bereshith sets the pattern for everything that will follow.
All of the Torah is a search for and vindication of truth. God’s
revelation at Sinai was an aid in this quest for truth, otherwise so many
people could not have arrived at that moment of truth all together. But
falseness, human nature, greed and apathy continually whittle away at the
idea of truth as the centerpiece of human endeavor.
The rabbis taught us that the acts of the patriarchs, which are the main
story of the book of Bereshith, guide us for all later generations. This
Shabat we will all rise and say “chazak” – be strong - at the conclusion
of the Torah reading. The never ending pursuit of truth requires strength
of purpose and will. May we really have the strength of purpose and belief
to “be strong.”
Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com