Retelling Genesis: Why?
I was raised in an extremely secular Jewish environment. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that my bar mitzvah was the first and last time my family entered a synagogue – so, at thirteen, it was no surprise that I felt like I was going through a ritual without any real foundation behind it.
As my immediate family became more and more secular, my Great Grandparents may have been the last synagogue goers in the family. We knew we were Jewish, but what did that mean? Growing up, I became aware that with every new generation, we were losing more and more of our traditions and our stories.
Perhaps because of my own disengaged experience, when our kids were in Hebrew school and required to go to services, I promised them that I would never drop them at the door and leave.
I began going to Saturday morning services with our children. As I sat through the service, I began reading the Torah for the first time as an adult–often continuing to read beyond the weekly portion, once that part of the service had ended and the congregation moved on to prayers and announcements.
Each reading left me with a thousand questions and the Rabbi at our synagogue was very patient each week as I asked about specific passages and sections. I often had to preface my question with an explanation that I was “not on the same page as everyone else” and he was always accommodating and thoughtful in his answers.
I soon began attending a weekly Torah study class with him, which I continue to this day; I started this book after one of the first classes.
I’ve been sitting on these stories for over a decade. Every time I go back to the original text, I discover new things and then draft another revision.
We are meant to wrestle with these stories–and I hope what I have written will inspire others to go back and read the original narratives, question, and engage.
Barry Louis Polisar