The other day I was closing my garage and I noticed the most amazing dandelion growing right out of the cracks in between the driveway and the foundation of my house. I know on some level this is not a desirable thing. It indicates water seepage and will ultimately crack the cement further.
But isn't that amazing!? A tiny green weed is stronger than the solid rock that holds up my house. Halleluyah!
These days I have been drawing tremendous inspiration from the fierce weeds bursting forth all over my back alley; tearing up driveways with sheer abandon and sprinkling the pavement playground with lush growth. These volunteer plants are testimony to the power of creation.
This week the Torah begins again at the very beginning.
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃
When God began to create the skies and the earth--
וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃
The earth being tohu va'vohu, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God hovering over the water--
It seems in the beginning, the earth bared some resemblance to right now - tohu va'vohu. There are thousands of years of debate about how to translate this mysterious alliteration. Unformed and void. Astonishment and desolation. An empty howling waste to follow worthless things.
One mystical text, Sefer Yetzirah, suggests the words mean that God made nothingness into somethingness. And more so defines tohu as "a green line" and Vohu as "slimy stones." A green line and slimy stones. That looks a lot like my driveway these days, full of weeds and wet rocks.
And this is hopeful because what comes next in the Torah is light.
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר׃
And the Holy One said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
Out of an abyss of chaos, came light. Out of nothingness, came something. Out of rock, against the odds, with the help of light, grows vibrant detoxifying medicinal plants.
Let us be light.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.