Revisions: a Yom Kippur D'var Torah

Popular writing wisdom tells us to write from lived experience; "write what you know." Even when attempting to describe the Supernatural, or  one ancestor, our own life experiences will naturally play a part in our understanding.  So yes, this  D'var Torah will be about our ancestor Avram, who would become Avraham, and about God, but in some ways it is informed by MY lived experience as an artisan and as a mother.


B'reishit Rabbah, a midrashic commentary on Genesis, maintains that many worlds were created and destroyed before ours. One of the commentators, Rabbi Abahu, suggested that the "tohu va-vohu," the mess of mixed-up stuff that would become the earth, and the waters over which darkness hovered (Genesis 1:2) were the leftover and repurposed raw materials of failed worlds.*


This idea of many worlds having been created before ours was the genesis (pun intended) for a fantasy/ science fiction story entitled "Final Version"  by John Morressy, in which Adam and Eve own their decision to eat the forbidden fruit, standing up to God and daring to argue with the Creator: much like Avram would do, many, many years later. As an artisan and as a parent, I can relate to that idea! Often, a finished work has taken multiple attempts to get it to the point where I can say that it is my best: often combining and recombining beads and wire, either to my design, or seeing where it naturally wants to go. As with parenting, an artist has to know when the work is complete, or when it is time to set it aside and look at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes, all that can be done is to completely repurpose the material and start anew( with a work of art) or back off and give it time (with a child).


The artistic, creative impulse within God is referred to as "Yotzer", Creator, and Oseh v'reyshit, the Maker of Creation. During the High Holy Days, these titles are combined in the Great Aleinu prayer: the one which takes place during the section of liturgy known as "Malchuyot" or Sovereignty. "Yotzer B'reyshit"/ The Artist of the Creation, is  the new name which we give to the Monarch, due to all the artistic revisions made to the Creation. I wonder how "God,The Artist" felt after each revision, from the first couple, to the Great Flood, to the Tower of Babel, when God had to start over in order to preserve. I imagine this Great Artist deliberately confusing the folk who were attempting to build the Tower of Babel, scattering people and languages like so many crystals, etched cabochons and multi-faceted glass beads, while hiding the wire that might be used to wrap them all together. (For their own good, of course: they might not know how to use such power wisely, once obtained: just ask J. Robert Oppenheimer!)


Let's revisit Noah, who after all, merited a chapter in Genesis and an entirely new Creation with himself and his family as the focal point of the work.Eventually, and we can predict this by now, God's handiwork had become so flawed, that God had to smash  the artwork, but preserve the concept and  the best raw material: Noah and company, plus all those animals. Even Noah was only repurposed material: he was good in his time, "righteous in his generation", but that isn't saying much. He did exactly as God told him, to preserve his own family and the lives of those animals, but did he ever think to argue with God, as our ancestor Avram did? Of course, Avram knew that his nephew, Lot, and family lived in Sodom and Gomorrah, but he probably didn't know how many were in the clan by then or what kind of people they had become. But, just as Avram stood up to his earthly parent Terach, the idol-maker, Avram had the chutzpah to challenge God, winning a concession from his heavenly Parent that, if even ten righteous inhabitants could be found, God would spare the cities. By challenging the Creator, Avram proved himself worthy of becoming Isaac and Ishmael's father, as well as the father of the three best known faiths on Earth.


As an artisan and a parent, this process of trying and failing seems familiar: the work or the child that I agonize over and worry about is often the one that eventually overcomes its own problems, or at least, tells me  when it's time to stop working on it!  I may have to nudge it into shape a bit, or listen to when my child or artwork tells me to stop nudging and trust that all will be, if not as I had originally intended, OK. But if and when they ask ,as WE ALL ask of our Heavenly Parent during this season of New Beginnings, I will be there.

So with this understanding as an artisan, a parent, and a child, I offer this prayer,
"Dear God, Heavenly Parent, Artist of Creation, we, Your work, Your children, have come home to visit. We still love You, and oh, how we need You! As Your child, our ancestor Avraham said, remember that we are " ah-far vah-ei-fer " dust and ash", and forgive us.***
To see more writings about the creative process and about nature, please visit my website: 
*B'reyshit ch.18, v. 27
** See Rabbi Paul Kipnes' commentary on Genesis in Union for Reform Judaism and hear his spoken word poetry on that subject by copying this link and pasting it into your search: 
*** Yael Fischman, September 4, 2023

1 comment

  • It is said that a work is already there. We must expose it. The divine will help me as He sees fit. I never know what 2 do…. only what I want. Hence, prayer becomes necessary.

    Felice Perlson

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