Parsha : bereishit

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Rav Yosef Salant: Fill the World, but Stay Out of the Hidden Domain

The pasuk [verse] teaches, "And G-d Blessed them and said to them 'Be fruitful and multiply, fill the world, and conquer it'" [Bereshis 1:28]. This is the Mitzvah to have children, to populate the world. I saw an interpretation, perhaps homiletic, of the word 'Kivshua' - 'and conquer it' - from Rav Yosef Salant in his Be'er Yosef. Rav Yosef Salant points out that we find the root of this word, "KiVSHua," in a different context.

The Talmud says [Berochos 10a] that King Chizkiyah did not want to have more children. He grew very ill, and the prophet came and told him "You will die in this world, and will not live in the world to come" [Isaiah 38:1].

Isaiah chastised Chizkiyahu and asked why he did not want to have more children. The King responded that it was not because he felt that children are a burden; rather he saw prophetically that his descendants would be genuinely wicked. He wished to have no part in bringing such descendants into the world. That is why he stopped having children.

The Talmud says that the prophet told King Chizkiyah, "What business of yours is it to go into the Hidden matters (KaVSHi) of G-d? You must do what you are told. Stop making calculations based on the world of that which is hidden (KiVuSHim)."

The truth of the matter is that there is an historical precedent to this philosophy of not having children. It did not start with Chizkiyahu. Our Sages tell us that Amram the Levite left his wife, because he didn't want to bring children into the world to be thrown into the Nile by Pharaoh. His daughter Miriam had to tell him that this was not the proper practice and that he should return to his wife - who then gave birth to Moshe, who led the Jewish people out of Egypt.

Amram again thought, "Why bring children into the world?" However, such issues are the "Kavshi d'Rachmana" (the Hidden Domain of G-d) which we have no right to enter. This, says the Be'er Yosef, is the meaning of the words in our Parsha -- "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the world, v'KiVSHuha." Don't try to enter the secret world. You do what you have to do!

The Medrash says in the name of Rav Berachya, that this issue also bothered G-d when He created Man. G-d knew that He was creating righteous people but that He was also creating people from whom wicked people would descend. G-d said, "I will hide my face from them." It is as if G-d is saying, "I will create man and I won't look (at the future) -- whatever will be, will be."

Just as G-d created human beings and gave them the gift of free choice, knowing that it would not always turn out that people would be righteous, so too mankind has to emulate this practice as well. In the domain of being fruitful and multiplying, we can not always make calculations -- "Is this the right time?" "Is this the right place?" We have to do what we are told to do.

We see people today, in our generation, who were born in Shanghai while their parents were running away from Hitler [May his name be blotted out]. They were trapped in China. They did not know where their next meal would come from. Their past was destroyed, their future uncertain. But a Jew goes on and brings the next generation into the world.

Don't go into the world of the Hidden (Kivshu-ha); a person must do that which is incumbent upon him or her. The job of a Jew is to keep the commandments without calculations. G-d says, "Do it!" That makes it right.

Netziv: The 'Unlucky One' (Lo Zacha) Is the One With The Docile Wife

The pasuk says, "It is not good for man to be alone, I will make for him a help-mate, opposite him" [Bereishis 2:18].

We are all familiar with the Rash"i on this pasuk. Rash"i asks, "Which is it? Is the woman supposed to be a 'help-mate' or is she supposed to be one who stands 'opposite' - in opposition - to her husband?" Rash"i answers, "If a person has the merit to marry the right woman, she will be a help-mate, if not she becomes his adversary."

The Netziv, at the Sheva Brochos of his own granddaughter (who married Rav Chaim Soloveitchik), gave his own insight (virtually the inverse of Rashi's interpretation) into this same dilemma.

The pasuk in Mishlei states, "For the way of all man, is correct in his eyes..." [Proverbs 21:2]. Every person thinks the way he does things is correct. A person cannot see his own faults and weaknesses. We are our own biggest friends, but on the other hand we are blind when it comes to judging whether we do right or wrong.

And yet, we cannot always trust an outsider. We don't always know if that person has our best interests at heart. How does one get around this dilemma? Who loves me enough that I can be confident that this person will have my best interests at heart, but on the other hand is, at the same time a different person, who can maintain an objective opinion? The Netziv said that to alleviate this problem, G-d created separate genders - G-d created women distinct from men, and He created the institution of marriage.

It is the woman -- one's wife, who loves her husband as he loves himself, and yet has the advantage of objectivity. She has the advantage that she can stand back and tell her husband "What you are doing is not right." That is the wonderful quality of marriage.

This is the interpretation of "a help-mate, opposite him." The way she becomes the help-mate that G-d had in mind, the way she fulfills her destiny as a help-mate is by being the "K'negdo," by being "opposite" every once in a while, and telling her husband "No Way!" Otherwise, how is a person to know if what he does is right or wrong? If every man thinks that he is correct in his own eyes [Mishlei ibid.], who will ever tell him when he is in fact wrong?

Therefore, the Netziv said, the woman who stands opposite her husband, at times, telling him that he is wrong, becomes his biggest help-mate. Unfortunately, if a person marries a woman who is a 'Yes- Woman,' a docile and servile wife who never takes it upon herself to show her husband where he is wrong, that is a situation of "Lo Zacha" -- he was not lucky.

This is what the Netziv told his granddaughter, when she married Rav Chaim Soloveitchik.

C). PARSHA PARABLES (Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky)


What began as a good-will gesture turned terribly sour. Worse, it spurred the first murder in history. It could have been avoided if only...

The Torah tells us of Cain's innovation. He had all the fruit of the world before him and decided to offer his thanks to the Creator, albeit from his cheapest produce -- flax. Cain's brother Hevel (Abel) imitated his brother, by offering a sacrifice, too, but he did it in much grander form. He offered the finest, fattest of his herd. Hevel's offer was accepted and Cain's was not. And Cain was reasonably upset.

Hashem appears to Cain and asks him, "Why is your face downtrodden and why are you upset?" Hashem then explains that the choice of good and bad is up to every individual, and that person can make good for himself or find himself on the threshold of sin. Simple as all that. (Genesis 4:6-7)

Many commentaries are bothered by what seems to be another in a litany of questions that G-d knows the answers to. Obviously, Cain was upset for the apparent rejection of his offering. Why does Hashem seem to rub it in?

The story is told of a construction worker who opened his lunch pail, unwrapped his sandwich and made a sour face. "Peanut Butter!" he would mutter, "I hate peanut butter!" This went on for about two weeks: every day he would take out his sandwich and with the same intensity mutter under his breath. "I hate peanut butter sandwiches!"

Finally, one of his co-workers got sick and tired of his constant complaining.

"Listen here," said the man. "If you hate peanut butter that much why don't you just tell your wife not to make you any more peanut butter sandwiches? It's as simple as that."

The hapless worker sighed. "It's not that simple. You see, my wife does not pack the sandwiches for me. I make them myself."

When Hashem asks Cain, "why are you dejected?" it is not a question directed only at Cain. Hashem knew what caused the dejection. He was not waiting to hear a review of the events that transpired. Instead Hashem was asking a question for the ages. He asked a question to all of us who experience the ramifications of our own moral misdoing. Hashem asked a haunting question to all whose own hands bring about their own misfortunes. Then they mutter and mope as if the world has caused their misfortunes. "Why are you upset, towards whom are you upset?" asks G-d.

"Is it not the case that if you would better yourself you could withstand the moral failings and their ramifications? Is it not true that if we don't act properly, eventually, we will be thrust at the door of sin?"

Success and failure of all things spiritual is dependent on our own efforts and actions. Of course Hashem knew what prompted Cain's dejection. But there was no reason for Cain to be upset. There was no one but himself at whom to be upset. All Cain had to do was correct his misdoing. Dejection does not accomplish that. Correction does.

A person in this world has the ability to teach and inspire both himself as well as others. He can spread the faith that he holds dear. But his action can also spread more than faith. A person is the master of his own moral fate as well. And that type of fate, like a peanut butter sandwich, he can spread as well!

D). P’SHUTO SHEL MIKRA (Rabbi Yitz Etshalom)




Since we are beginning a new cycle of learning, back to the "beginning", it seems appropriate to introduce this shiur with a short statement about the perspective of this series of shiurim and their place within the constellation of Torah study.

In the first story of Man's creation (see below), God declares: "Let us (?) make Man in our (?) Image" (B'resheet 1:26). Besides the theological problems raised by the use of the plural (for instance, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Tanakh generated in the Alexandrian community in the first century BCE, renders this in the singular due to the significant problems raised by "our Image"; see also Rashi ibid; note also the fascinating comment of Ramban here), there is a more "anthropological" issue here - what does it mean to be created in the Image of God? Indeed, not only in Chapter 1, but again at the beginning of the "begats" (Chapter 5), the Torah declares that God created Man in His Image. How do we understand this description?

Rashi explains that "image" here refers to the ability to reason. Rav Soloveitchik z"l expands on this theme, building on the context of creation, and defines Man's "Divine Image" as the creative spark; that uniquely human ability to enter an environment, whether intellectual or social, and to devise an innovative way to overcome obstacles which prevent that environment from flourishing. In the intellectual arena, this means the innovative mode of thought known, in circles of Torah study, as "Hiddush". A Hiddush is an explanation which resolves contradictions in the text, which clarifies the conceptual background of various sides of a dispute - in short, a Hiddush is "digging well below the surface" of study in order to unearth the principle which drives the idea of that particular text. The difficulty inherent in any Hiddush is that there is, ultimately, no way to be certain if the Hiddush is "valid"; the ring of truth may be a hollow one, resonating only in the ears of the innovator.

It is our hope that the Hiddushim shared in this shiur, week after week, will resonate with our readership and that they will clarify more than they confound.


Following the Torah's recounting - how long did Creation take? When (in that sequence) was Man created? When were the animals created? Where does the creation of Woman fit within this matrix?

Although most people would give singular answers to each of these questions (Creation took six or seven days, depending if you reckon Shabbat; Man was created on the sixth day; the animals were created just before that; Woman was created from Man's rib [sic]), the reality of the Torah's narrative is far more complex.

Not only are there two different stories of Creation (the first story continues from 1:1 until the middle of 2:4; the second continues from there); but, from a purely text-driven read of the information, the accounts are contradictory! In the first story, creation takes six or seven days, Man is created as a complete (single male-female) being at the apex of Creation. In the second story, Creation takes one day, Man is created as a lonely being at the beginning of the process. Woman is formed from Man - and is his "completion" - at the end of this "Creation process". Among the most pronounced differences between the two stories is the Name for God; in the first story, God is exclusively referred to as the generic "Elohim"; whereas in the second story, He is consistently called "Hashem (YHVH) Elohim".

These differences are among the stronger "arguments" marshalled by the school of "Bible Criticism", which, for the past 300 years, has been at the forefront of secular (and non-Orthodox) study of Tanakh. This school of thought (which is really many different schools, each with its own variation) maintains that the Torah is not the unified Word of Hashem; rather they see it as a patchwork of narratives, legal texts and prophecy/poetry, each produced by a different community of priests and scholars during the 10th-6th centuries BCE, which were woven into the Torah as we know it - sometime around the era of Ezra's leadership (5th c. BCE).

The Bible critics maintain that each of these communities had a different "version" of Creation, a different Name for God etc. - thus explaining the many apparent discrepancies and stylistic variations within the text.

For a myriad of reasons both in the areas of creed and scholarship, we absolutely reject this "Documentary Hypothesis". Our belief is that the entire Torah was given by God to Mosheh (ignoring for a moment the problem of the last 8 verses) and that the authorship is not only singular, it is exclusively Divine. These two statements of belief - whether or not they can be reasonably demonstrated (and there is much literature, both medieval and contemporary, coming down on both sides of this question) - are two of the 13 principles enumerated by the Rambam.

Because both intellectual honesty and religious tenet prevent us from positing that the Divine Author presents inconsistent information, how can we explain the "multiple versions" - and apparent contradictions within the text?


From the perspective of tradition there are several ways to resolve these apparent contradictions. Most of them can be categorized into one of two basic approaches.


Fundamentally (no pun intended), we could try to "meld" the stories together. Rashi adopts this approach; for instance, in his commentary on the first verse in the Torah, Rashi notes that the first version of Creation uses the name "Elohim" for God - denoting strict justice (a court of law is also called Elohim - see Sh'mot 21:6), whereas the second version includes both the name "YHVH" and "Elohim" - indicating that although God's original intention was to create a world that would operate according to strict justice, He saw that that world could not last, so He integrated compassion (indicated by "YHVH" - see Sh'mot 34:6) into the process.

[We will temporarily suspend discussion of the theological difficulties raised by claiming that God "changed His mind"].

The Gemara in Ketubot (8a) takes a similar approach to the two versions of the creation of Woman - "originally God intended to create them as one being, but in the end He created them as separate individuals".

There are many examples of this approach, which is a distinct thread of exegesis in Rabbinic and medieval commentary. The upshot of this approach is that each version tells "part of the story" - and the "alternate version" completes the picture.

This approach has been adopted by some contemporary authors who attempt to "reconcile" science and Torah (why this attempt may not be necessary and may, indeed, be misleading and harmful, will be addressed in the shiur on Parashat Noach). The thinking goes as follows: Since each version provides only "part" of the information, it stands to reason that we may "synthesize" the versions together in various ways - including those which appear compatible with modern scientific theories about the origin of the universe, age of the earth and origin of the species.

In any case, this approach is both well-known and ubiquitously applied throughout Rabbinic exegesis regarding the Creation story (stories).

For purposes of our discussion, we will introduce another approach, which has its roots in Rabbinic literature and which was adopted by several Rishonim and more recent commentators, including Rabbi Yosef Dov haLevi Soloveitchik zt"l.


Both the problem - and the various solutions proposed by the proponents of the first approach - are predicated on an understanding of the role of the Torah which is not the only valid one.


A brief segue on the nature of "Truth" is in order here:

There are statements which fall under the category of "Mathematical Truth"; for instance, that 7 times 9 equals 63 is not only an uncontested statement; it is also the only acceptable one. In other words, 7 times 9 MUST equal 63; if it equals anything else, something is wrong with the computation. Mathematical Truth is not only consistent, it is also exclusive.

If we maintain that the Torah is speaking the language of "Mathematical Truth", we have no recourse but to satisfy the two sides of the contradiction and either demonstrate that there is no contradiction at all - or to "weave" the information together (as demonstrated above).

There is, however, another type of statement which does not admit to "Mathematical Truth"; we will refer to it as "Ontological Truth" - (the reality about living, growing and dynamic beings). For instance, whereas it would be accurate to say that a certain boy loves to play baseball - that does not tell the full story of the boy. He is also afraid of spiders, excited about his upcoming trip to Washington and has great aptitude in science. Whereas 7 times 9 cannot equal anything but 63, the boy can simultaneously be a baseball fan, a science whiz and arachnaphobic.

As many commentators have pointed out (e.g. see S'forno's introduction to B'resheet, Shadal's introduction to his commentary on the Torah; note also Rashi's second comment on B'resheet), the goal of the Torah is not to present "Mathematical Truths" in the realms of biology, mathematics or "the origin of Man"; rather the Torah is geared to teaching us basic principles of faith, shaping proper attitudes towards the world around us, towards God and fellow humans. In addition - and most critically, the Torah's aim is to build a holy nation that will ultimately teach the basic truths and ethics of the Torah (note D'varim 4:6) to the entire world.

That being the case, we may certainly understand the various versions of creation as relating to different aspects of the world and of Man - and, notably, of Man's relationship with both the world around him and with the Creator.

We can then look at each story not as a "mathematical statement" which is either true or false - and is vulnerable to contradiction from another, equally valid source (such as the next chapter!); rather, we look at each version as a series of "ontological statements", geared to teaching us signficant and focal perspectives about who we are and how we should act.


We may find a clue into the "dual" nature of the Creation narrative via a careful look at the point where the two stories "meet" - immediately after the Shabbat narrative (2:1-3):

These are the products of the heaven and earth when they were created, On the day when YHVH God made the earth and the heaven

Note that the first half of this verse is a perfect conclusion to the "first version"; it utilizes the common "Eleh" (these...) concluding formula. Note also that just as the first story began with the creation of "Shamayim va'Aretz" - (Heaven and earth); this half-verse seems to conclude that creation.

The second half begins a new "story" - or another perspective of the same story. "On the day when YHVH God made the EARTH and HEAVEN". Note that the order is reversed - this is a deliberate move on the part of the text to shift the emphasis and the perspective of the story.

Now let's see what the two stories are - which two perspectives of Creation are being presented here.

[Much of this material based on the "Adam I & Adam II" theory of Rav Soloveitchik zt"l - the interested reader is directed to his opus: The Lonely Man of Faith].


The first version is, indeed, the story of the creation of the heaven and the earth - in other words, it is the story of the creation of the world from a Divine perspective. It begins with the Heavens, presenting an orderly world structured in an hierarchical manner in which every manner of life has its place (note the refrain of "according to its species" in the third, fifth and sixth days). Man is created as the final, crowning touch of this glorious labor - and is formed "in God's image" in order to be His "agent", as it were, on earth: "...fill the earth and subdue it, having dominion over the fish of the sea..." (1:28). Man is complete, Man is a master over his world and Man needs for nothing. Man here is also not commanded - God blesses him with fertility, but there is no direct relationship between Man and God in this version.

This is truly the story of the world; an orderly world created by God in which Man can be His partner, His agent - but not His "servant". The Name for God which denotes compassion - YHVH - is totally missing from this account, since there is no need for Divine compassion where there is no Divine command and no Divine worship.


There is another side to the story - the story of "the earth and the heavens" - the story from the perspective of Man (God is still "telling" the story - but from Man's point of view).

From the human perspective, everything created serves a human purpose; even the animals can serve as Man's companions (and thus are "created" after him) - but Man is not nearly as complete as the "detached" view would have it. Man is lonely, Man seeks out God as he seeks out meaning in this world of alienation and discord. This is a world where nothing grows because "there is no man to work the land" (2:5). God forms Man and then, around him and for his sake, creates a beautiful world of orchards and rivers. Immediately, the most crucial point in their relationship is realized - God commands Man! Man is no longer lonely, on one level, because he is in relationship with God. From a different perspetive, however, he is lonely - because there is no one with whom to share this new life. Unlike the first - "detached" - story, in which everything is assessed as "good" (and, ultimately, "very good"), the first "non-good" thing is introduced - loneliness (2:18). As we follow "Adam II" through his bouts with temptation, guilt, cowardice, etc., we learn more about who he is - and who we are.

The Torah is not telling us two conflicting versions about creation; rather, we are seeing two sides of the same coin. The world is, indeed, an orderly place of hierarchical systems, where Man is the ultimate creature; yet, the world is also a place where Man feels alien and distant, seeking out companionship and meaning in his relationships with fellow humans, with a mate, and with God.


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