We start again this Shabbat at the beginning with Bereshit. The universe is created out of nothingness by God. “The earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water.” God creates light and dark, sky and earth, water and land, humans and all of the plants, animals insects, birds and others creatures of our planet, six days and Shabbat. The preciousness and chaos of the complex universe that God makes comes forth from separations, distinctions , enumerations and accountings. In our biosystems, and particularly our humanity, there is great diversity.
Rabbi Shai Held of Mechon Hadar writes, “among other things, then, the biblical creation story is like a hymn to biodiversity, which is seen as unambiguously good in its own right. For the Torah, then, creation is precious in its own right.”
This story is not about dominion over the earth but our being accountable for stewardship of all that God created. Rabbi Held continues, “the meaning of ‘but the earth He gave over to humanity’ is that the human being is God’s steward (pakid) over the earth and everything that is on it, and she must act according to God’s word.”
We are caretakers of our land; of our farms and our food systems. Bereshit can inspire each of us to take account of our individual and communal responsibilities about our food choices and their impacts. How are the workers treated who sow and reap our food? Are the animals treated humanely? Are the crops (and workers) exposed to pesticides? Do we conserve precious water when we grow food? Where is our food grown? How can our food choices enable us to be better stewards of God’s creation?
There’s a separation, too, in our food system. Some of us have access to local, organic, fresh produce while millions of other Americans (nearly 50 million) are hungry at some point during the year.
This is the challenge for humans. As Rabbi Held remarked, “We are created in the image of God and are thus mandated to rule over creation; this is a call to exercise power in the way Tanakh imagines the ideal ruler would, “in obedience to the reign of God and for the sake of all the other creatures whom [our] power affects.”
While there are so many challenges for humans to address in our US food system, there are great things happening. There are many wonderful organizations and individuals who are being good stewards of the land by expanding access to sustainable food systems to all, not just a few.
I am traveling to Italy to attend Salone del Gusto, the international Slow Food Conference in Turin, Italy, that begins next week. There, thousands of food activists, food purveyors, farmers, vintners, chefs and foodies from around the globe, will gather for a conference to eat, cook, learn, discuss and build better food systems in their respective countries.
“Saturday” in Italian is the same as Shabbat. “And without the Torah, and the Shabbat of Jewish tradition, there would be no Sabbath.That indeed is why the word for “Saturday” in Italian is sabato– because the Sabbath, introduced into Italy in Roman days by the Jews, began on the Jewish Sabbath and not on the Christian Sunday that subsequently evolved from it.”
Shabbat—part of God’s creation—is a separation from our regular lives. It’s a day not only for us to rest but to let God rest by stopping our actions. This Shabbat, from the simple beginnings of creation to the complicated, beautiful universe we live in, there’s much to bless and protect.
In creating this recipe, I was inspired by water. It’s essential for survival and nourishment. Looking out at the misty Pacific Ocean on a cool day, I see kelp beds floating, dolphins cresting, birds plucking fish and feel the sticky, salty, heavy air. Am I witnessing a moment of creation anew?
This soup recipe is a basic miso stock. You are invited to create your own soup by adding a variety of fresh chopped vegetables, symbols of life and the fruits of the earth.
Bereshit soup for one
2 tbsp miso paste (read instructions because amount may vary based on type of miso)
1 ½ cup water
Suggested chopped additions:
- Wash thorough and chop all additions.
- Boil water.
- Once boiled, pour into bowl over miso paste and stir. Add chopped vegetable additions.