The fall holidays are over and once again we start a new cycle of Torah readings, back at the beginning of Genesis. The creation story, as told in Genesis 1, is full of beautiful, mythic and poetic language. God is presented as an omnipotent being who speaks the universe into being, composing a world of perfect order in which those things created in the first three days (light, sky, dry ground/plants) are matched with those created in the second set of three days (sun/moon/stars, sea animals/birds, land animals/humans). The symmetry of the story is then crowned with Shabbat, a unique day of being, built into the very order of the cosmos.

There are many significant aspects of this story, but the one I find most compelling is that this is one in which human existence has meaning and purpose. In contrast to other Ancient Near Eastern mythology, human beings are not created as servants of the gods, or by accident or afterthought. Rather, we are each formed “in the image of God,” deserving of dignity and respect, capable of reflection and moral action. This understanding of what it means to be human is at the very heart of Judaism. Although our tradition has not always lived up to this ideal, it was founded on the belief that every human life is of equal value, as profoundly radical an idea now as in the ancient world. We can be proud of contributing this concept to the world even as we continue to strive to make it a reality.

— Rabbi Drorah Setel