Parsha : bereishit

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Sefer "toldot adam" commences five perakim into Bereishit. It reinforces its identity as an independent unit by starting again with man's creation. The preceding four perakim then "predate" the natural history of man and can be divided into two units - creation of shamayim va-aretz (1:1- 2:3) and toldot shamayim va-aretz (2:4-4:26). The parallel between the opening pasuk of each unit highlights the relationship between the two:

"Bereishit BARA elokim "Eileh toldot HA-SHAMAYIM


HA-ARETZ(1:1) "


The creation narrative lays the foundation for man and his belief in God while the second unit - "the history of shamayim and aretz" depicts Adam, Chava, Kayin, and Hevel in a pre-historic world (Gan Eden in perakim 2-3). Shamayim va- aretz could have remained Gan Eden; the mistakes made by pre- historic man, despite God's preemptive forewarning (of Adam and later of Kayin), give rise to the world as we know it - one that includes toil, animosity, and suffering.


Perakim 2-4 can be divided into two units: 1) Perakim 2-3 tell of man's placement in Gan Eden and the events that led to his eventual expulsion; 2) Perek 4 turns to the second generation and describes Kayin's struggle to outshine his brother which in the long run leads to his demise and that of his line.

A) The Gan Eden Narrative - Perakim 2-3

1) Man and Woman in Gan Eden - Perek 2

The first part of perek 2 depicts man's creation and placement in Gan Eden. Pesukim 5-6 describe the creation of the world in anticipation of man, pasuk 7 describes his creation, and pesukim 8-17 describe his placement in Gan Eden. Interestingly the Torah describes this placement twice (pesukim 8,15). The two descriptions stress the two aspects of man's existence in Gan Eden (and in general): pesukim 8-14 present man as the beneficiary of a self-sufficient environment watered by a natural river[2]; pesukim 15-17, on the other hand, stress man's responsibilities - "le-ovda u- le'shomra" and to avoid the fruits of the eitz ha-da'at.[3]

The second part of the perek depicts the creation of man's "ezer kenegdo." Although God realized the need for the ezer immediately (pasuk 18), only after man's independent recognition (pesukim 19-21) did God execute the split (pasuk 22). Adam realized the need for the ezer while naming the other animals and their mates; thus immediately after the split he names her "isha" through a song. The perek concludes with Adam's re-unification with his "bone of his bones" and "flesh of his flesh." His hope of achieving oneness is juxtaposed with the description of the "two" unabashedly "arumim" (naked).

2) Crime and Punishment - Perek 3

The description of the two as arumim not only climaxes their establishment in Gan Eden, but acts also as a transition to perek 3 in which we meet the snake who is described as the most "arum" (here meaning sly) of all the animals. The crafty snake will find the nakedly simplistic couple defenseless prey.

The first part of perek 3 describes the sin. Pesukim 1-5 describe how the "isha" is convinced by the snake and pasuk 6 adds the involvement of her "ishah" (husband). Pasuk 7 depicts the two re-examining their nakedness. The guile of the snake has poisoned them.

The second part of the perek presents God's reaction which includes the cross-examination (pesukim 8-13), curses (pesukim 14-21), and expulsion (pesukim 22-4). The two perakim together form a chiastic structure:

A - Man's Placement in Gan Eden (2:5-17)

B - The Creation of his Ezer Kenegdo (2:18-25)

B - The Sin through the Ezer Kenegdo (3:1-7)

A - Man's Expulsion from Gan Eden (3:8-24)

Each aspect of the last unit (3:8-24) contrasts the first. God's cross-examination refers back to his warning - "Ha-min ha-eitz asher tzivitikha levilti akhol mimenu akhalta?" (3:11 refers back to 2:17.)

The curses, too, contrast the world presented earlier. The snake who was the most wily of the animals (3:1) now is the most cursed (3:14), the congeniality between man and animal that was the catalyst to sin is replaced with animosity (3:15), and the balanced oneness between man and woman that allowed for man's inclusion in sin is replaced with marital imbalance (3:16).

In contrast to the curses directed to the snake and woman which address the relationships between animals, of humans with animals, and of man with woman, the curses to man concern the relationship between man and his ecosystem - "Arura ha- adama ba'avurekha - be-itzavon tokhalena kol yemei chayekha."

The world is created for man and reflects him. Before the sin it functions self-sufficiently on his behalf; afterwards it requires his investment of time and energy. Man has earned intelligence which he will now need. Simple man found life simple; intelligent man now finds the world more complex than he himself.

The parallelism between the curses of the last unit and the first unit are most evident in the curses directed to man. Before the sin all vegetation, such as "eisev hasadeh," anticipated man's arrival so that it could grow on his behalf (2:5); now "kotz ve-dardar tatzmiach lakh, ve-akhalta et EISEV HASADEH" (3:18) - thorns and thistles will now discolor the harvest. Before the sin the land was watered by a natural mist; now "be-zeiat apekha tokhal lechem" - it will be watered through the sweat of man's toil.

Man's sins affect the world created on his behalf; his sins determined "toldot shamayim va-aretz" from the world's very inception and forward. Although the Gan Eden narrative deals with man's disobedience of God as the basis for ecological change, the Midrash attributes significance to man's direct treatment of the environment:

"After God created Adam he showed him all of Gan Eden and told him -'See how beautiful my creation is; all of it is for you. Be careful not to destroy it, for no one will fix what you damage.'" (Kohelet Rabbah 9)

The curses climax by stressing man's worthlessness - "be- zeiat apekha tokhal lechem ad shuvkha el ha-adama ki mimena lukachta - ki afar ata ve-el afar tashuv" (3:19). The insult couched in this portrayal can only be appreciated by contrasting it with the description of man's creation found at the beginning of perek 2:

"Vayitzer elokim et ha-adam afar min ha-adama, vayipach be-apav nishmat chayim, vayehi ha-adam le-nefesh chaya" (2:7).

Man's potential greatness lies in the fact that he consists not only of dirt, but of a God-infused life-source (soul). In response to man's sin, God emphasizes dirt as man's core component.[4]

Man's discovery of da'at brought the curses and the need to deal with a new reality. God fashions clothes for humans now sensitive to their nudity and must deal with a disobedient man. Man's attempt to acquire wisdom rooted on the premise that God's commandments were unwise (3:5) has set a dangerous precedent. Man who has eaten from the eitz ha-da'at assuming this premise can no longer be tolerated in Gan Eden where the rewards await those who eat what and when they are told.

Like his placement in Gan Eden, man's expulsion is described twice to accent the repudiation of both aspects of his charter. In pasuk 23 man is sent out to work the ground he consists of - man's life now revolves around the dirt aspect of his makeup. No longer will he be able to benefit from God-given ("natural") food. In pasuk 24, the Torah repeats man's expulsion - this time to stress that now keruvim with a revolving sword protect Gan Eden. Originally man was given the right the protect the Gan (2:15); now others protect it from him.

The Gan Eden narrative redefines the world as we know it. Negatives are very often the result of man's misguided actions. God's commandments must be obeyed without question. Any attempt to outsmart them is doomed to fail.

B) Kayin's Sin - Perek 4

Although perek 4 tells a new story about a new generation, it bears a striking resemblance to the preceding incident. Like Adam, Kayin sins after being warned by God. The warning paraphrases the curse to the isha:

"Ve-im lo teitiv, la-petach "Ve-el isheikh TESHUKATEIKH

chatat roveitz VE-EILEKHA VE-HU YIMSHOL BAKH"(3:16)


Additionally, God's manner of approaching and curse of Kayin mirror that of Adam:

"Ei Hevel achikha" (4:9) "Ayeka" (3:9)

"Arur ata min ha-adama... "Arura ha-adama ba'avurekha

ki ta'avod et ha-adama (4:11-2) (3:17) ha-adama"(3:23)

The world is created to serve man who serves God. Adam and Kayin who sin are both exiled (4:14) - the ground becomes cursed for them.


The "toldot shamayim va-aretz" stories serve as the backdrop for the hope invested in Noach described at the end of Parashat Bereishit:

"Vayikra et shemo Noach leimor:

"ARURA HA-ADAMA 'zeh yinachameinu mima'asei yadeinu

ba'avurekha- BE-ITZAVON UMEI'ITZVON[5] yadeinu MIN HA-ADAMA tochalena kol yemei ASHER EIRARA Hashem.'"(5:29) chayekha." (3:17)


[1] The last brother to be chosen was Ya'akov. From Ya'akov and on, all children are included as "B'nei Yisrael." Of course the children of Ya'akov were not necessarily aware of this pattern change, which well explains the animosity felt toward Yosef.

[2] Prior to the depiction of Gan Eden, the Torah describes the Earth's entirety as being watered by a different natural water source - the "eid" (2:6). The relationship between eid (a mist that rises from the ground to water it, reminiscent of the ecological cycle of evaporation, clouds, and rain) and river reappears later in the contrast between Eretz Mitzraim and Eretz Yisrael (Devarim 11:10-2).

[3] The "le-ovda u-le'shomra" description in pasuk 15 can be understood in light of God's commandment in the next pesukim (16-7) to avoid the eitz ha-da'at. See Bereishit Rabbah 16:5, Ibn Ezra, and Sforno who explain "le-ovda u-le'shomra" as independent.

[4] In light of this parallel we can understand the Torah's placement of Adam's naming of "Chava" here as parallel "Vayehi ha-adam le-nefesh chaya."

[5] The word "itzavon" (and other similar forms) appears also in 3:16 (twice) and then later in 6:6.



How many stories of Creation are there in Parshat Breishit, ONE or TWO? Although this question is more often discussed by Bible critics than yeshiva students, its contains a significant spiritual message.

This week's shiur discusses the structure of Parshat Breishit, in an attempt to better understand the meaning of the Torah's presentation of the story of Creation, and to 'set the stage' for our discussion of the overall theme of Sefer Breishit in the shiurim to follow.


From a literary perspective, it is quite easy to differentiate between two distinct sections in the Torah's account of the story of Creation.


  • SECTION II - MAN IN GAN EDEN / 2:4 ->3:24

SECTION I, better known as PEREK ALEPH, is easily discerned because of its rigid structure, i.e. every day of creation follows a very standard pattern. Each day:

  • Begins with the phrase: "VA'YOMER ELOKIM...", heralding a new stage of creation (1:3,6,9,14,20,24);

  • Continues with "VA'YAR ELOKIM ki tov" (1:4,10,12,18,21,31);

  • Concludes with "VAYHI EREV VAYHI BOKER, YOM..." .

Furthermore, within this section, God's Name is exclusively "shem Elokim" (in contrast to the use of "shem Havaya" in the next section). Finally, the use of the verb "bara" (to create ex nihilo - something from nothing) is also unique to this perek.

In addition to its the special structure, the CONTENT of PEREK ALEPH also indicates that it is a self-contained unit. It presents a COMPLETE story of creation, with a classic set of matching introductory and closing psukim: The section opens with:

"BREISHIT (in the beginning), BARA ELOKIM - God created

SHAMAYIM and ARETZ. [Beforehand] everything was in a state

of TOHU VA'VAHU -total CHAOS, [then]..." (1:1-2).

In contrast to this original chaos, at the conclusion of the six days of creation we find a STRUCTURED UNIVERSE in a state of perfect order. Therefore:

"VAYCHULU ha'SHAMAYIN v'ha'ARETZ... and God blessed the seventh day... for on it He CEASED from all of His work - "asher BARA ELOKIM" - which He created." (2:1-3)

These psukim form an appropriate conclusion to this first section.

SECTION II, better known as PEREK BET (2:4-3:24), seems to present a conflicting account of the story of Creation. We will list several reasons:

  • Throughout this section, God's Name is no longer simply ELOKIM, rather HASHEM ELOKIM ("shem Havaya").

  • In contrast to PEREK ALEPH where man is the LAST stage in creation, in PEREK BET he is the FIRST! - Trees and vegetation grow only AFTER Adam is created/ 2:5; - Likewise, the animals are created only afterward/2:18-21.

  • In contrast to the consistent use of verb "bara" in PEREK ALEPH, PEREK BET uses the verb "ya'tzar" (creation 'something from something'/ see 2:7,19).

Although it is possible to reconcile these apparent contradictions (as many of the commentators do), there is no doubt that this section, at least, appears to be presenting a conflicting story.

Why does the Torah choose to present the story of Creation in this manner? We obviously cannot accept the claim of the Bible critics that these two sections reflect two conflicting ancient traditions, for the entire Torah was given to Moshe Rabeinu at Har Sinai. Thus, this unique style must be intentional, and we must, therefore, search for the prophetic meaning behind this manner of presentation.

Two renowned Torah scholars of this century have discussed this issue at length. The analytical aspect, the approach of "shtei bchinot" (two perspectives), has been exhausted by Rabbi Mordechei Breuer in his book Pirkei Moadot and in numerous articles in the periodical M'gadim. The philosophical implications have been discussed by Rav Soloveichik ZT"L in his article 'The Lonely Man of Faith' (Adam I & Adam II). It is beyond the scope of this shiur to summarize these two approaches (it is recommended that you read them). Instead, we will simply conduct a basic analysis of PEREK ALEPH & PEREK BET and offer some thoughts in regard to its significance.


Because Chumash is a book of "n'vuah" (prophecy), and NOT a book of history or science, we should expect its presentation of the story of Creation to focus primarily on man's relationship with God, the essence of n'vuah. With this in mind, we begin our analysis.

We mentioned above that Perek Aleph exhibits a very rigid structure; God's actions are depicted in a similar fashion. Nevertheless, each day is unique, for on each day something new is created. To help appreciate the progression of the creation process from day to day, we must first summarize what was created on each day. Let's start with a list:



II. " RAKIYA" - separating the MAYIM above and MAYIM below.

III. ARETZ (the Land) - which brings forth vegetation

A. seed-bearing plants / "esev mazria zera"

B. fruit-bearing trees / "etz pri oseh pri"

IV. LIGHTS in the SHAMAYIM (sun, moon, stars etc.)


A. birds in the RAKIYA SHAMAYIM

B. fish in the MAYIM (sea)

VI. LIVING CREATURES who live on the ARETZ (land)

A. animals - all forms

B. Man - b'tzelem Elokim, blessed by God

to dominate all living creatures

C. food for these living creatures:

1. Man - vegetables and fruit (1:29)

2. animals - only vegetables (1:30)


Now, let's turn our list into a table. If we line up the first three days against the last three days, an amazing parallel emerges:

DAYS 1 ->3 DAYS 4 -> 6

I. LIGHT - - -> IV. LIGHTS in the heavens

II. RAKIYA SHAMAYIM (above)-> V. Birds in the SHAMAYIM

MAYIM (below- the sea) - -> Fish in MAYIM

III. ARETZ (land) - - -> VI. Animals on the ARETZ

seed bearing plants - - - -> eaten by the Animals

fruit bearing trees - - - -> eaten by Man

It is beyond the scope of the shiur to explain its full meaning, but this parallel in the internal structure of PEREK ALEPH provides further proof that it should be considered a distinct unit. This established, we must now ask ourselves what precisely was created in these six days.


We mentioned earlier that PEREK ALEPH contains a complete story of the process of Creation. In contrast to a primal state of total chaos, after six days we find a beautifully structured universe containing all the various forms of life which we are familiar with, including plants, animals, and man.

Note that the Torah emphasizes that each form of life is created in a manner which guarantees its survival, i.e. the ability to reproduce:

a. plants: "esev mazria zera" - seed-bearing vegetation

"etz pri oseh pri" - fruit-bearing trees (1:11-12)

b. fish and fowl: "pru u'rvu"- be fruitful & multiply (1:22)

c. Man: "pru u'rvu..." - be fruitful & multiply (1:28)

This end result of this creation process is what we call NATURE -- the exact opposite of TOHU VA'VAHU. Nature, (as defined by Funk and Wagnells), is the entire material universe and its phenomena. What PEREK ALEPH describes then, is God's creation of nature. It informs us that nature was not always there, rather its creation was a willful act of GOD. By keeping Shabbat, resting on the seventh day, as God did, we assert our belief that God is the power behind nature. [Note, the modern Hebrew word for nature is "teva", but it is not used in Tanach. Rav Breuer, in his articles, relates to the Creation in PEREK ALEPH b'shem ELOKIM as "briyat Olam ha'TEVA".]

This understanding can help us appreciate the Torah's use of the verb "bara" in PEREK ALEPH. Recall that "bara" implies creation ex-nihilo, something from nothing. Now, note where the THREE times active uses of "bara" are found in PEREK ALEPH. They are precisely where we find the creation of each of the basic forms of life (i.e. plants, animals, and man), reflecting the three fundamental steps in the evolutionary development of nature:

* STEP I - All matter and plants -

"Breishit BARA Elokim et ha'SHAMAYIM v'et ha'ARETZ" (1:1)

This includes everything in the SHAMAYIM and on the

ARETZ, i.e. the creation of all "domem" (inanimate

objects) and "tzomeyach" (plants). Note that this takes

place during the first FOUR days of Creation.

* STEP II - The animal kingdom

"va'YIVRA Elokim - and God created the TANINIM and all

living creatures... by their species"(1:21)

This includes the birds, fish, animals, and beasts etc.

which are created on the fifth and sixth days.

* STEP III - Man

"va'YIVRA Elokim et ha'ADAM..." (1:27)

The creation of man b'tzelem Elokim, in God's image.


Why does the Torah choose to begin by telling man that the creation of nature was a willful act of God?

The purpose of n'vuah, we explained, is to define man's relationship with God. Man's most basic relationship is with nature, i.e. with his surroundings and environment. Man does not need God in order to realize that nature exists; it stares him in the face every day. Man can not avoid nature, rather he must contemplate it and struggle with it. Without the Torah, one could easily conclude that nature is the manifestation of many gods, as ancient man believed. Nature was attributed to a pantheon of Gods, often warring with one another. Modern man usually arrives at quite the opposite conclusion -- that nature doesn't relate to any form of god at all. Chumash MUST begin with story of Creation, for man's relationship with God is based on his recognition that nature is indeed the act of one God. He created the universe and continues to oversee it.

Furthermore, The Torah's use of the verb "bara" to describe the creation of man is extremely important. One who perceives nature and his relationship with the animal kingdom might easily conclude that he is basically part of the animal kingdom. He may be more advanced or developed than the 'average monkey', but he is biologically no different. The use of the verb "bara" to describe God's creation of man informs us that man is a completely new category of creation. He is created "b'tzelem Elokim", in the image of God, i.e. he possesses a spiritual potential, unlike any other form of nature. [See the Rambam in the very beginning of Moreh N'vuchim (I.1), where he defines "tzelem Elokim" as the characteristic of man that differentiates him from animal.]


In Perek Aleph, man emerges not only as the climax of the creation process, but also as its MASTER:

"And God blessed man saying: Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and MASTER it, and RULE the fish of the sea, and the birds in the sky, and the living things that creep on the earth..." (1:28).

This blessing to man is NOT a commandment, rather it defines man's very nature. Just as it is natural for vegetation to grow, and all living things to reproduce, it is 'natural' for man to dominate his environment; it becomes his instinct. Perek Aleph teaches man that he must recognize that his nature to dominate all other living things is also an act of God's creation. However, he must ask himself, "Towards what purpose?" Did God simply create man, or does He continue to have a relationship with His creation? Is the fate of man out of His control, or does a connection exist between man's deeds and God's "hashgacha" (providence) over him?

The answer to this question lies in PEREK BET!


Perek Bet presents the story of creation from a totally different perspective. Although it opens with a pasuk which connects these two stories (2:4), it continues by describing man in an environment which is totally different than that of PEREK ALEPH. In PEREK BET, man is the focal point of the entire creation process. Almost every act taken by God is for the sake of man:

* No vegetation can grow before man is created (2:5)

* God plants a special garden for man to live in (2:8)

* God 'employs' man to 'work in his garden' (2:15)

* God creates the animals in an attempt to find him a

companion (2:19/ compare with 2:7!)

* God creates a wife for man (2:21-23)

In contrast to Perek Aleph, where man's job is to dominate God's creation, in Perek Bet man must be obedient and work for God, taking care of the Garden:

"And God took man and placed him in Gan Eden - L'OVDAH u'l'SHOMRAH - to work in it and guard it." (2:15)

Most significantly, in PEREK BET man enters into a relationship with God which contains REWARD and PUNISHMENT, i.e. he is now responsible for his actions. For the first time in Chumash, we find that God COMMANDS man:

"And Hashem Elokim commanded man saying: From all the trees of the Garden YOU MAY EAT, but from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad YOU MAY NOT EAT, for on the day you eat from it YOU WILL SURELY DIE... " (2:16-17)

This special relationship between man and God in Gan Eden, is paradigmatic of other relationships between man and God found later on in Chumash (e.g. in the Mishkan).

God's Name in PEREK BET - HASHEM ELOKIM (better known as "shem HAVAYA") - reflects this very concept. The shem HAVAYA comes from the shoresh (root) - "l'hiyot" (to be, i.e. to be present). This Name stresses that Gan Eden is an environment in which man can recognize God's PRESENCE, thus enabling the possibility of a relationship.

Should man obey God, he can remain in the Garden, enjoying a close relationship with God. However, should he disobey, he is to die. In the next chapter, this 'death sentence' is translated into man's banishment from Gan Eden. In biblical terms, becoming distanced from God is tantamount to death. [See Dvarim 30:15-20.]

In the Gan Eden environment, man is confronted with a conflict between his "taava" (desire) and his obligation to obey God. The "nachash" (serpent, recognizing this weakness, challenges man to question the very existence of this Divine relationship (3:1-4). When man succumbs to his desires and disobeys God, he is banished from the Garden.

Whether or not man can return to this ideal environment will later emerge as an important biblical theme (and be the topic of future shiurim).

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