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The Chernobyler's opening words

The Chernobyler's commentary on Genesis begins with a riff on the very first word of the Torah, בראשית / bereshit (usually translated as "In the beginning...") He writes:

It was through the Torah, called "The beginning of God's way" (Prov. 8:22), that God created the world; all things were created by means of Torah.

The thicket of references and allusions in the Hebrew is like poetry. I keep trying to expound on it here, and my words run away from me. Maybe the thing to draw out of this first sentence is the idea that God created the world with, in, and through Torah.The word for world, alma (that's Aramaic; the Hebrew analogue is ha'olam), has resonances both spatial and temporal. With and through Torah, the Holy Blessed One created spacetime. Torah is the fabric of creation.

Since the power of the Creator remains in the creature, Torah is to be found in all things and throughout all the worlds.

כח הפועל בנפעל / Co'akh ha'poal b'nifal is a beautiful phrase. Rabbi Art Green renders it as "the power of the Creator remains in the creature;" in class this morning we rendered it as "the power of the maker is in the made." But what does that really mean? That an afterimage of God's power ripples through creation, even to the present moment. That we too have the capacity to create worlds with our actions and our speech. That our DNA is a reflection of God's DNA, in some metaphysical sense, and we carry forth in our very bodies that which was given in the beginning.

So too in the case of man, as Scripture says: "This is the Torah, a man..." (Numbers 19:14), as will be explained.

In context, the quote from Numbers means something very different. ("This is the Torah [of what to do when] a man [dies in a tent...]") But the Chernobyler takes these three words, זאת התורה אדם / zot hatorah adam, and by re-placing them he changes their meaning. This kind of use of prooftexts is an art form: a patchwork, a collage, a remix. He grabs snippets of sourcetext and spins them in new directions, like a musician recontextualizing lyrics from one song by mashing them with music from another (or writing a new song around them.)

And since God and Torah are one, the life of God is present in all things. "You give life to them all." (Nehemiah 9:6)

Torah and the Blessed Holy One are one. It's a gorgeous assertion: that the essence of Torah, deeper and wider than any written material we can imagine, is the essence of God. And if creation came into being with and through Torah, then that essence of God pervades and permeates creation. What enlivens all beings, all reality, is that spark of God which is the truest Torah.

The first four lines of the text Me'or Eynayim by the author who has come to be known as The Me'or Eynayim (Rabbi Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl), ladies and gentlemen -- italicized translations from Rabbi Art Green's translation, which I highly recommend. Reb Nahum was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, and one of the first disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch; he was in on the ground floor of Hasidut, and this text is an open door to those early days. I'm excited to enter it, and to see what I find there which will inform my own practice and understanding.

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