This week, we began the annual Torah reading cycle anew, with parshat Bereishit: “In the beginning…” We read how at the beginning of Creation:
מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם
The spirit of God
hovered over the face of the waters.
We also practiced the middah: Be a source of calm.
This week, we also observed the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day honours and acknowledges the experience of Indigenous peoples of Canada and their mistreatment by those who came to live on their land.
We wore orange shirts, which have become a symbol of that which was taken away from Indigenous peoples. Their land, where they lived in harmony with nature, was taken away; their language, which was prohibited at school, was taken away; sometimes, their children were taken away and sent to distant residential schools, where they were separated for long periods of time from their parents. As Jewish people, we can empathize with some of these historical experiences, as we too have at times experienced such tragedies.
We can also find commonality with Indigenous peoples in our shared teachings about Creation. This week’s parshah teaches us that God created the earth—the water, land, plants, stars, moon, sky, animals—and entrusted it to us as a gift to steward.
וַיִּקַּח ה’ אֱלֹהִים
And the LORD God took
and put [them] into the garden of Eden
to tend it and to protect it (2:15)
Indigenous peoples also have stories about how the world was created. Today, it is often Indigenous peoples who remind us of the importance of caring for and protecting the land.
This week, as we read parshat Bereishit, let us stand in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of Canada—in our shared values of community, identity, culture, and language; and in our shared concern for the world that has been created.