Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. — Genesis 2:3
Today marks Simchat Torah, which literally means “rejoicing in the Torah.” As we celebrate the completion of the annual Torah readings, we immediately begin the new year of Torah readings. Because this is a non-working holiday, today’s devotion was prepared in advance for you.
We begin our new year of readings with the Torah portion, Bereishit, meaning “in the beginning,” from Genesis 1:1—6:8, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 42:5—21.
This week’s Torah portion begins with the story of creation. At the end of six days, God looked at all that He had created and declared that it was good. Next, God rested on the seventh day. The Bible records it this way: “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
In the original Hebrew, however, the verse is a bit more difficult to understand. Literally translated it reads: “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work which God had created for it to continue to make.”
What exactly does that mean?
The Jewish sages explain that when God created the world, it was only the beginning. God created humans so that together, they could continue to create the world and mold it into a perfect place. This is what the verse means in Hebrew by “the work which God created for it to continue to make.” God laid the foundation. He created everything necessary to continue the job. However, it’s up to us to finish the work as partners with God.
Earlier, when man was created, God declared, “Let us make mankind in our image . . . ” (Genesis 1:26). Who was God talking to? The sages explain that God was talking to all humanity. It’s as if God were saying, “Let us create humans together. Let us work together to create this wondrous being called a human and develop all of the latent potential which I have placed within him or her.”
Every day we have a mission and a partner with whom to accomplish it. Our mission is to make ourselves and the world a better place in any way that we can. Our partner is God.
The premier book of Jewish Law begins with instructions as to how to go through our days. It begins, “Wake like a lion!” The sages explain: “A person must wake the dawn.” We need to begin our days with enthusiasm. The dawn shouldn’t wake us up; rather, we should wake up the dawn with enthusiasm to start our day.
The word enthusiasm comes from two Greek words— en Theos — which mean “in God.” When a person feels that he or she is with God, that person is motivated and inspired. This is how we need to begin every day – with the knowledge that we are with God, as His partner, accomplishing a most important mission.
Ultimately, it’s not so important when we get up in the morning, but how we wake up. We need to start each day with the kind of passion, enthusiasm, and determination that can chase away the darkness of the night and bring the morning light.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President