While there are many appropriate themes with which the Torah could have begun (Abraham, Mt. Sinai, etc.), it begins instead with a day-by-day description of the creation of the world, commencing with the creation of heaven and earth on Day One and concluding with the creation of humankind on Day Six.
In fact, the description of creation is lengthened by extensive repetition, as much of the action is first declared by God and then described as it happens. For instance: “And God said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth’ And it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:11-12).
Why the repetition?
“When God created the first human, Heshowed him all the trees in the Garden of Eden..and said to him, ‘See My handiwork, how beautiful and choice they are… be careful not to ruin and destroy my world, for if you do, there is no one to repair it’” (Midrash Rabba – Ecclesiastes 7:13). God began the Torah with a thorough description of creation to indicate not only the work that went into the world’s creation, but the love and care as well.
Alas, it was not until the late twentieth century that a significant portion of humanity took the time to take stock of how carelessly humanity was performing its job as the earth’s guardian.
As people around the world today observe Earth Day (April 22), the opening chapter of the Book of Genesis is an excellent reminder that we must view every part of this world as a precious gift to be fervently treasured and protected.
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