Bereshit begins with an alternate version of the Creation story from that which we read in Year One of the triennial cycle.

In this version, the world already exists, but there are no plants because there is no rain.  God causes water to well from the ground and water the soil.   Then he creates Adam from dust and places him in the Land of Pleasure, Eden.  God causes the Tree of Life to grow, and the Tree of the Knowing of Good and Evil.  God warns Adam not to eat from the second one.  God then makes the animals and the birds and tells Adam to name them all.  But Adam has no companion so God causes him to fall into a deep sleep and fashions Eve from his rib.  (Some translations say from his side.)

In comes the snake!  If you eat from the Tree of the Knowing of Good and Evil, the snake tells Eve, “you will become like gods.”  This sounds good to Eve so she eats an apple and gives Adam a bite.  The eyes of the pair are opened, and, realizing they are naked, they quickly make themselves fig leaf loincloths.

So God is walking in the garden, and Adam and Eve hide.  “Where are you,” says God.  Well, Adam blames Eve for eating the forbidden fruit.  Eve blames the snake.  God punishes the snake by making it crawl on its belly, in the dust.  God punishes Eve by telling her she will suffer pain when she bears children.  And Eve becomes “the mother of all the living.”

God tells Adam that he will have to earn his bread by working the soil, “by the sweat of your brow.”    Then God makes Adam and Eve coats made of skins.

Since God does not want Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Life and thus live forever, he kicks them out of the garden of Eden and sets winged sphinxes to guard the Tree of Life.

Next in the parsha come Cain and Abel.  Cain is a farmer and gives part of his crop to God.  Abel is a shepherd and gives God his firstborn sheep. 

God only likes Abel’s gift.  Needless to say, Cain is upset.  In anger, he kills his brother!

“What have you done!” cries God.  “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!”

God punishes Cain by making him a wander.  Cain is really sorry.  “My villainy is too great to be endured!”  God sets a sign on Cain’s forehead so people won’t kill him and off Cain goes.

Food for Thought

Why doesn’t God want Adam and Eve to live forever?

Eve gives Adam a bite from the apple