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  • Illustration of a young Jewish girl and her mother lighting the Sabbath candles. In Jewish tradition the Sabbath is a weekly day of rest and time of worship. The Sabbath candles are lit on Friday nights, 18 minutes before sunset, to welcome in the Jewish Sabbath. Lighting the candles is a rabbinically mandated law and traditionally done by the woman of the household. After lighting the candles, the woman waves her hands over them, covers her eyes, and recites a blessing. February 17, 2017. Photo by Mendy Hechtman/Flash90
Teachings

Serving the Eternal One in the midst of this world

editor - 19 January 2017

By Chief Rabbi of The Netherlands, Binyomin Jacobs.. Very soon, the first book of the Torah, Genesis, will be finished during synagogue services on Shabbat in every synagogue in the world. “Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” Not a happy ending! All the while there’s a rule in the Jewish Tradition that the weekly Torah reading should always end with a positive message or a joyful happening. And so we must conclude that placing Joseph’s body in a coffin is hiding a positive thought. “The first book of the Torah teaches us: simply serve the Eternal One with both feet on the ground.”

And since we are talking about rules, there is a general rule with respect to our holy writings. When I get on the train in Amersfoort and I get off the train in Nijkerk, it means that while I was still in Amersfoort I had Nijkerk already in mind as my destination. This destination became visible in Nijkerk, because I got off the train. That’s how a good speech is supposed to be put together.

It starts off with a short summary of the whole speech. But the essence doesn’t become clear until the end of the speech, if the listener hasn’t fallen asleep yet. And what is true for a speech, applies to a book as well: the title is like the shortest summary of the overall content. But the whole content of the book becomes visible and clear at the end, the moral of the story!

Genesis begins with the words: “In the beginning G’d created the heavens and the earth.” Why G’d created the heavens and the earth, we will never be able to comprehend as limited people. But we do know what the Eternal One desires of us, because he has given us a Torah full of instructions. In other words: G’d has created a world so that we, His creation, will serve Him in that world.

These days, we see many people escape in spirituality. There are Kabbala courses (Jewish mysticism) for beginners and they are expecting an increase in interest. In my opinion, we are talking about people who study mathematics while they can’t even count yet….

In the beginning G’d created the heavens and the earth. The first thing that is required of us, is to just serve the Eternal One on this earth. But maybe I can start to float after the beginning? Especially when I was allowed to learn and feel so much depth in the whole book of Genesis. And yet Genesis ends, the temporary final station of the first journey, with the lesson that Joseph was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

The first objective that every man should pursue in the midst of this world full of pitfalls and harmful temptations, is to serve the Eternal One right here in this place. Spirituality and ecstasy can be quite nice, but the first book of the Torah teaches us: simply serve the Eternal One with both feet on the ground!