A Playlist: Parashat Bereshit


Parashat Bereshit
Genesis 1:1-6:8

A Playlist of Light and Dark 

Since I will be away for this coming Shabbat, when we are scheduled to read the first portion of the Torah – B’reshitIn the Beginning, I would like to share this playlist of musical selections that I feel are connected to some of the themes of this rich Torah portion.

Our Torah portion begins with Light as the very beginning of all existence. But it concludes with a dark depiction of human corruption and depravity. Yet, it offers a tiny glimmer of light by ending with God’s taking pleasure is seeing that there is still one decent, just human being alive, Noah (- the subject of next week’s reading). So, I share some musical selections that touch on the themes of light and dark:

Of course, it is impossible to ignore the monumental musical “midrash” on the Genesis theme composed by Josef Haydn – The Creation. You can find many wonderful versions on the web. Here is just one example:

I wish merely to single out a couple of gems from this work. Here is the astounding way that Haydn deals with the creation of light itself:

“And there was light!” –

And, as I have written before, Haydn wrote absolutely captivating music that expressed the joy and amazement of the first humans. Adam and Eve, as they awaken to the world and to each other, and are dazzled and hypnotized by God’s creation. All is “so wonderful” as they echo each other, again and again:

“By Thee with bliss,
O bounteous Lord
The heav’n and earth are filled [stored]
This world, so great, so wonderful
Thy mighty Hand has framed”

You can hear gorgeous renditions of this duet here –

or here –

This next selection is a moving song about light and the passage of time, and, hence, the creation of memory, composed by Naomi Shemer, one of Israel’s greatest songwriters.“Or – Light!” – Here is a link to the lyrics in Hebrew and English –

It is performed here by another Israeli icon of music, and the classic interpreter of this song – Shoshana Damari –

Our prayerbook celebrates light and creation in the morning prayers. Here is an Andalusan rendition of the prayer “El Adon” from Shabbat morning, praising God for creating all the luminaries in heaven (p. 108 in our Shabbat Sim Shalom prayerbook):

And here is a melody from the Ashkenazi tradition –

We also declare that in God’s goodness, Creation is renewed every day. This is a cantorial rendition of the blessing praising God for the creation of light and asking that God “shine a new light on Zion” (in our Sim Shalom siddur at the bottom of page 110)

The beauty of Creation is tragically contaminated by human evil. The first murder is recorded soon after we begin to live in the world, the murder of Abel by his brother, Cain. Here is Randy Newman’s dark song about human depravity and neediness, starting with that mythic murder, sung by the composer in his inimitable low-key manner –

And here is a terrific rendition by Etta James –

The possibility of an alternative to human failure is represented by Noah, at the end of the Torah portion. He represents our possibility for change and new beginnings. Thus, he offers us the possibility of hope. So, to end this playlist I choose an Israeli classic – “You and I will change the world – we will start from the beginning” – this rendition is with a beautiful accompaniment of Israeli sign language.


I hope you will find some of these offerings enjoyable and/or provocative.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi David Greenstein

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Photo: “explosion-pop-big-bang-background” by geralt via pixabay

Thank you to John Lasiter for suggesting the title and selecting an image for this Torah Sparks – Rabbi Greenstein


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Rabbi David Greenstein

Rabbi David Greenstein

Rabbi David Greenstein arrived at Shomrei Emunah in August 2009 with a rich, broad and deep background as a rabbi, cantor, artist, scholar, and teacher. Being Shomrei’s rabbi, he says, allows him to draw on all of these passions, as well as his lifelong commitment to building Jewish communities.
Rabbi David Greenstein

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One thought on “A Playlist: Parashat Bereshit

  1. What a lovely sermon in song! But acharon acharon chaviv – loved the signed Arik Einstein Ani V’ata best.

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