Parsha : bereishit



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A DUAL EXISTENCE

From PEREK ALEPH, we learn that God is indeed the Creator of nature, yet that recognition does not necessarily imply that man can develop a personal relationship with Him. The environment created in PEREK BET, although described in physical terms, is of a more spiritual nature, for in it, God has created everything specifically for man. However, he must obey God in order to enjoy this special relationship. In this environment, the fate of man is a direct function of his deeds.

So which story of Creation is correct, PEREK ALEPH or PEREK BET? Clearly both, for in daily life man finds himself in both a physical and spiritual environment.

Man definitely exists in a physical world in which he must confront nature and find his purpose within its framework (PEREK ALEPH). There, he must struggle with nature in order to survive. However, man also exists in a spiritual environment which allows him to develop a relationship with his Creator (PEREK BET). In it, he can find spiritual life by following God's commandments while striving towards perfection. Should he not recognize the existence of this potential, he defaults to spiritual death, man's greatest punishment.

Why does the Torah begin with the story of Creation? We need only to quote the Ramban (in response to this question which is raised by the first Rashi of Chumash):

"There is a great need to begin the Torah with the story of Creation, for it is the "shoresh ha'emunah", the very root of our belief in God."

Understanding man's potential to develop a relationship with God, the first topic of Sefer Breishit, is a tenet of Chumash and Judaism.



FOR FURTHER IYUN

A. See the first Rashi on Chumash ("Amar Rebbi Yitzchak...), see also the Ramban.

1. In your opinion, does Rashi argue with the Ramban? If so, on what assumption?

2. Read carefully Tehilim 111 (quoted in Rebbi Yitzchak's Midrash). Note the FINAL pasuk of that perek!

Now read Yirmiyahu 27:1-7, especially 27:5!

Who is God taking the land away from? Who is He giving it to and why?

Does the Midrash of Rebbi Yitzchak quote this pasuk? Look carefully. Is this the same context or in a different one? 3. Based on the above, is Rebbe Yitzchak coming to tell us why God has the right to give us Eretz Yisrael, or why we have an obligation to keep the mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael?

Relate this to theme of Sefer Breishit, and Rashi's original question! B. The creation story with 'shem Havaya' [PEREK BET] continues in chapter four with the story of Kayin and Hevel. It ends with an ambiguous pasuk regarding the generation of Enosh - "az hu'chal likro b'shem Hashem". There are two opposite explanations of this pasuk. The first is: 'then Enosh BEGAN (hu'chal -- from shoresh l'hatchil) to call out in the name of G-d'. This implies a positive development by mankind towards a search for G-d. The second explanation translates "hu'chal" as 'to profane', from the shoresh 'l'chalel'. In other words, 'with this generation man began to profane G-d's name'. [See Rashi, Rashbam, and Sforno.]

1. See Rambam Hilchot Avoda Zara 1:1. How did the Rambam understand this pasuk?

2. Should this perek be considered a continuation of the creation story of "perek bet"? If so, explain why.

B. Note that God's name in perek Aleph ("Elokim") is plural!

1. Why should 'one' God have a name in the plural?

2. Can the word Elokim in Chumash refer to something other than God? If so, bring examples.

3. Relate Elokim to the word 'power'.

4. What did ancient man relate the powers of nature to? (how many Gods?) Relate this to the above shiur.

5. See Rav Yehuda haLevi's explanation of both Shem Elokim and Shem Havayah in Kuzari ma'amar r'vii.

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8 - MACHON MEIR

The Creation

Rav Shlomo Aviner

Creation was achieved in stages and not suddenly. One cannot go from emptiness to existence all at once, as Chazal have said, "The world was created by ten sayings". The world was not created by one saying, "Yet it could have been created by one saying", obviously, from the aspect of Divine capabilities there is nothing to prevent everything being created at once. But a gradual process is necessary from our point of view, "in order to give good reward to the righteous". A world created from ten sayings, is a world which enables us to be partners in it, to participate in Creation. Our participation in creation is the meaning of life.

This world is a world which is created gradually, but the work was not completed during the seven days of creation. Although Hashem rested, creation continues to be improved by mankind, as we find in the famous midrash on Hashem's work and the work of mankind, "which is better, wheat or baked goods, flax or clothing; and just as circumcision is the work of man, which perfects the divine creation, so too everything which Hashem has created needs perfection from us as it is written, "which G-d created to do".

There is a dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shamai which was created first, the heavens or the earth? Beit Shamai say - the heavens, as it is written, "In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth", and Beit Hillel say - the earth, as it is written, "On the day which Hashem Elokim made earth and heaven". The dispute emanates from their approach: Beit Shamai regarded things from their spiritual, divine aspect, whilst Beit Hillel, regarded them from their realization in practice. Although the question is asked: these two psukkim apparently contradict one another, how can we settle between them? Obviously there is no contradiction, there is creation ("Beriyah") and there is making ("Assiyah"). In the world of creation heaven preceded the earth whilst in the world of making, the earth preceded the heavens. The world of creation is a lofty world, abstract, divine. This is the expression used concerning the creation, "In the beginning G-d created ("Bara"). And in Parshat Korach too, it refers to the renewal of creation, "If Hashem will create a creature". But "making" can also have a significance to humans.

Everything which Hashem created needs "assiyah", we continue to make it and as such we find significance to what there was before. One could say, that everything we do is a continuation of the tenth saying, "Let us make man". We continue making man, man continues correcting and improving himself. It is through this that the previous nine sayings receive their value, through man's work. At first we are told that the earth is total chaos and the Master of the Universe gradually organizes it. One could understand that during the seven days of Bereshit this organization was completed but this is not so, for Chazal tell us that there were two thousand years of chaos: although the chaos was organized by the Master of the Universe, we must also organize it. After two thousand years of chaos come two thousand years of Torah, divine instruction, and as a result of this, after them come two thousand years of Mashiach which means - mankind's elevation, human acts. Through the Torah, which comes after chaos, we correct the chaos, dealing with the world of correction and slowly turning chaos into correction. This work is a very slow process. One must understand the fundamental approach to Adam Ha'Rishon's existence. He was indeed a man like us, but his existence was cosmological. This was a man who included within him all of the neshamoth of the whole of mankind. After this these neshamoth gradually split up, and therefore what happens to this man, the all-inclusive man, is actually what happens to the whole of mankind.

Man goes on, growing and flourishing, as the heavenly light descends, dropping down and penetrating the world. This idea of development is also recognized by the new human culture, and it has been given biological and philosophical basis by the sages of other nations. It would seem that a contradiction exists between these evolutionary theories and the concepts of "ennobling" (Atzilut) and "hishtalshelut" since hishtalshelut is from above to below, light descends and develops from the upper worlds to the lower worlds, whilst evolution is from below to above. There is however, no contradiction: the descent of the divine light from above to below, and its rising from below to above, they are the very same process; man's sin (his descent) causes the Shechina to depart (rising above), Avraham came along and brought the Shechina down (i.e. he elevated himself) and Moshe came along and brought it down even further (i.e. he elevated himself by accepting the Torah). Hashem dwells amongst us, the divine light appears in our world and revives it, and the greater that divine illumination, the greater the revelations of life; from the inanimate to plant and animal life. The divine light descends gradually, slowly making its way throughout the years and the generations, as a result of which, man is elevated higher and higher.



Education Corner: Youth on Friday Nights

Rav Elisha Aviner

When darkness falls on a Friday night, we receive the neshama yeteira (addition to the neshama). During the Friday night prayers one can feel a special spiritual elevation, and even the meal varies from the regular week-day fare. Both young and old alike can appreciate these feelings. But on the long winter nights, when the Shabbat meal ends, many youths remain with nothing particular to occupy themselves. Some of them take part in the conversations which take place in the home on everything and nothing whilst others settle down with an enthralling book, and some just go to bed early. Happy are those who have Torah to speak about!

There are, however, others who don't find any of the previous options to their taste and quickly slip out to the street to meet the "chev're" and spend time with them doing nothing. Wandering here and there, from bench to bench, from corner to corner, leaning on these poles or others, a little bit of ball, a few garinim, a bit of shouting, until the hours pass.

It is no secret that Shabbat was given for Torah and sanctity, for spiritual elevation and to supply nutrition for the neshama yeteira. In truth, therefore, Shabbat eve should be dedicated to parents studying with their children. There is however a gap between the present situation and what is desirable: there are parents who are not "built" for a whole evening of study with their children and there are those children who do not heed the voice of Torah from their parents. What can be done about this? Our obligation is to organize educational activities for youths on Friday nights, either via the existing youth groups or by creating new study groups. Someone who has been brought up in a home in which Friday nights are dedicated to family "togetherness" will find it difficult to agree with this suggestion, but the streets on Friday night, filled with kippa wearing youths, bear grave witness to the fact that this is not a marginal phenomenon. This is a fact!

Many youths spend Friday nights outside of their homes - on the street! We must suggest a constructive educational solution for them. Institutionalized educational activities are preferable to spending time which has no content. We must approach all those who are engaged in informal education and ask them to accept this important task upon themselves. Good luck!



Around the Shabbat Table: Man's Origin and His Purpose

Rav Ya'akov Ariel

The Torah's description of man's origin does not come in order to satisfy his curiosity. Supplying information of this type is not the Torah's aim. The Torah, as its root implies, instructs man how to live and intends to emphasize his purpose to him rather than his origin. The description of man's origin comes only in order that he should recognize his worth, as someone who has been created in G-d's image, to guard and cultivate this value and advance man towards his target. Before man asks where he comes from, he must ask, where is he going to? This is the most significant question for him. Where is he heading? What is his essence? What target does he aim for?

Hashem's intention in asking Adam "Where are you", is: where do you stand? At which level? At the level of mankind or that of animals? For man aspires to the spiritual, to the elevated, the restrained and the refined, whilst animals head for coarse, sensual, wildness lacking all restraint. Man stood up against this dilemma in all its strength when he stood by the Tree of Knowledge: does he see himself as someone who has been commanded by Hashem to work in Gan Eden and guard it, or someone who is drawn after his eyes' desires, that which is pleasant to see and good to eat? This question wanders in the garden on the wind of the day, still echoing everywhere that man is: where are you? Are you still a man or have you perhaps forgotten?

The reply is eternal too, "I heard Your voice in the Garden and I was afraid because I am naked, and I hid [from You]". Even when man tries to deny the Divine Image within him, to uproot it and forget it, he cannot completely ignore its existence. He can hear the echo of its voice from the depths of his soul, either consciously or unconsciously. This hidden awareness creates a conflict in his personality, he knows that he is not an animal. An animal which does not need clothing to cover it. Its nakedness does not disturb the natural course of its life. Man too, before he sinned, was natural from this aspect. But after the sin things were overturned and concepts confused. The yetzer overcame the mind. The mind's enslavement to the yetzer (the evil inclination) upset man's order of life. The imagination blurred man's conception of things. He is no longer capable of a clear distinction between good and evil, between permissible and forbidden. Nakedness bothers him. Before the sin there were absolute, unequivocal moral concepts, after the sin, after man has preferred surrendering to his baser instincts rather than recognize his spirituality, his priorities have equally suffered upheaval.

The World's Reparation

Rav Yitzchak Nissenbaum

"For two and half years, Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel were in dispute. These said, 'It would have been better were man not created than that he be created' and the others said, 'It is better that man was created than had he not been created', they voted and came to the conclusion that it would have been better were man not created than that he be created, but now that he has been created, he should search his deeds and there are those who say that he should test the quality of his deeds". After prolonged arguments, in which all of the light and shade of life were clarified and sorted out, they came to the conclusion that there is more shade than light and the evil is greater than the good, the curses outweigh the blessings and it would have been better were man not created than that he be created. But however great the natural evil of the world may be, the evil which man causes himself and the whole world is seventy-sevenfold times greater; it is for this reason that the earth was originally in chaos. And since so very much depends on man himself, now that he has been created he should search those deeds that he has already done and test the quality of those deeds which he is about to do in order that he cause no harm to another person and will even increase the positive aspects of the world. This searching and testing can only emanate from a broad outlook on the whole world. If one should view the world from the point of view of his own life and needs, then the evil on earth is truly great, extremely great, so much so that if we measured its size and depth, it would have been better were man not created. The Torah therefore does not say of creating man "For it is good". Not everyone dedicates the positive which is hidden within him to the world and not everyone extracts from the whole of creation the positive which is hidden within it. But if one can elevate himself above his narrow field and perceive the whole world in his mind's eye, realizing that he is a limb of the general body, which embraces the whole of the world from the beginning of the generations until the end of generations, then he will find even in the greatest evil in the world - death - very good. "And Elokim saw everything that He had done and it was very good" - "Very - this is Angel of Death". Man will then dedicate the best of himself to the existence of the world, its reparation and its improvement.

If man includes himself in "Everything that He had done" and will eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, together with the other trees of the Garden, then he will find his Garden of Eden in this world which is not all good. Someone who recognizes himself as a limb of a larger body, will care for the existence and improvement of this body and will elaborate the positive aspects of this world. However someone who believes himself to be a whole world in himself, and cares only for his own needs, and good and evil in his eyes are what is good and bad for him, he will increase evil in the world and will certainly be expelled from Gan Eden and his fate in life will be bitter and evil. The ravages which have already destroyed whole worlds and are likely to destroy our existing world, are what the Torah comes to correct with its mitzvoth and laws, which increase the positive, the blessings and peace in the world. It is for this reason that it has been said, "The world and everything in it were only created in merit of the Torah". It is the Torah which directs mankind on their way in life so that they will be good and content in the land.

As Of Now... The Power of His Deeds

Dov Bigon

Rashi begins his commentary on the Torah with a reply to the claim which the non-Jewish nations have claimed in the past and in the present, as if Am Yisrael were a nation of thieves, highway men who have conquered the Land through their might of hand from the Canaanites in the past and the Arabs in the present.

The reply: "The power of His deeds has He told His People, to give them the possessions of the nations". It would seem that it should have said "the power of His deeds has He told the nations..." in reply to their claim but it says "He told His People" - the nations are constantly making claims against Am Yisrael, not only because of conquering the land, as we have been commanded by the Creator, but throughout the generations they have had complaints about the fact that we study Torah and they have burnt the Torah. The peak of their complaints was with the Nazis, Hashem should wipe out their name, who protested against the very existence of the Jewish Nation.

Our reply to all of those who have complaints against us, especially those who want to evict us from our land, is that we act through the power of the will of the Creator of the World, who has chosen us from all nations and has given us His Torah in order that we achieve the fulfillment of His will. We have come to Eretz Yisrael through the power of the faith which can never be undermined, that Hashem wants to give us this land and the land belongs to Am Yisrael through His power and His will.

The faith, the knowledge of this blessing is that which gives us the power to survive the exile expectantly awaiting our return to our land. It is that which gives us the strength to continue to fight, to settle the Land of Our Life.

The whole world, including the Arabs, will eventually realize that Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael, according to Hashem's will and the bond between Am Yisrael and its land will bring the whole of mankind much light and good, "For Torah will emanate from Zion and Hashem's Word from Yerushalayim".

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9 RAV RISKIN

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10 - ATERET COHANIM (By Rav Shlomo Aviner)

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11 - HARAV SOLOVEITCHIK

On the passuk "Vayishmu Es Kol Hashem Elokim Mishalech Bagan Leruach Hayom" (3:8) the Rav discussed the word Mishalech based on 3 different interpretations:

1) Rabbeinu Yonah explains that man heard the sound of Hashem while he, man, was walking around in the garden.

2) The Ibn Ezra explains that the word Mishalech is describing the Kol Hashem, that the sound of Hashem was extending and spreading through the garden.

3) The Ramban explains the word Mishalech as indicating accompanying, being present. The Shechina will be ever present no matter where man may go. Adam felt the presence of Hashem in garden.

All three interpretations lead to the same conclusion: there is hope for man no matter how enveloped in wickedness he may be. The empty feeling and frustrations that the wicked derives from his action will drive him back to Hashem. The hopeless realization that his present path in life will not succeed is always there pushing him to repent and return to Hashem. This is what the Passuk means:

"Shalom Shalom Larachok Vlakarov... Vhareshaim Kayam Nigrash Ki Hasheket Lo Yuchal Vayigrishu Miyamav Refesh Vtyt".

There is no peace of mind for the wicked. They are never content with their actions and way of life. This gnawing emptiness can eventually bring him back to the Derech Hashem and Torah. All 3 interpretations are hinting at this fundamental concept.

The sin of eating from the Eitz Hadaas was that Adam thought that he could throw off the yoke of Hashem, that he could write his own Shulchan Aruch, so to speak, so he could follow his own conscience. Man wanted to be Gd-like in the knowledge of good and evil.

Rabbeinu Yonah explained that man was walking the way he saw fit, as if he was the master of the garden, showing that he was the master of his destiny. But as he was walking around, he could not escape the sound of Hashem, who he recognized was the true master of everything.

The Ibn Ezra explained that as the Kol Hashem began to spread throughout the garden, bit by bit, man began to realize what he did and the enormity of his actions.

The Ramban explained that Adam could never run away from Hashem, just like the Kol Hashem was always surrounding him. The Shechina never leaves man and it is this constant accompaniment that will bring man completely back to Hashem.

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12- HALACHA (Gross)

Lighting the Shabbos Candles: Whose obligation is it?

The obligation to light Shabbos Candles rests equally on all members of a household. Chazal established, nevertheless, that it is the wife's responsibility to do the actual lighting. One of the reasons given(1) is that candle-lighting atones for Chava's part in the sin of the Eitz Ha'daas. Chava caused Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit for which mankind was punished by losing its immortality. Thus Chava "extinguished the light of the world" and the woman sets aright Chava's misdeed by assuming the obligation of lighting candles for her household(2).



Consequently:

Even if a husband demands to light candles, the wife has the right to protest and prevent him from doing so(3). It is recommended, nevertheless, that the husband take part in the mitzvah too, by lighting and quickly extinguishing the candle wicks, thus making the candles easier to light(4). The husband should also light candles(5) in other rooms of the house where the wife does not light them(6).

If one has no wife, or if he sees that his wife is running late and will be unable to light on time, then he should light the candles with the blessing(7).

If one's wife is not home for Shabbos, it is preferable that the husband himself light candles and not one of the daughters(8). If, however, a daughter who is over 12 years old lit for him, he fulfills the Mitzvah through her lighting. One cannot, however, fulfill his obligation by having a daughter under 12 light candles for him(9).

In the event that a brother and sister are at home without their parents, it is preferable that the sister light the candles(10) .

Years ago, it was customary for a woman who gave birth not to light candles on the first Friday night after giving birth. For that one Shabbos, candles were lit by the husband(11). There are various reasons given for this custom(12). In view of conditions prevalent nowadays, however, many Poskim agree that the custom is no longer valid and the wife should light candles as she does every Friday night(13).

QUESTION: In regard to Shabbos candle-lighting, whose customs should a woman follow, her husband's or her mother's?

DISCUSSION: There is a general rule that once a woman gets married, she must follow her husband's customs. This applies to all customs, both leniencies and stringencies. Since, through marriage, the woman enters into her husband's domain, she must follow his customs as well(14).

It is possible, though, that there may an exception to this rule in regard to Shabbos candle lighting. Many women follow the example set by their mothers when it comes to issues such as the number of candles to light, the appropriate time to light candles on Yom Tov, and other custom-related matters or practices. Often, their husbands do not object, even though their own mothers followed a different custom. Is this contrary to the aforementioned rule?

It seems that there is an Halachical source for this practice. It is customary for many women to recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu when they light candles for Yom Tov. Although this custom has no source or basis in Halacha, indeed, it may be Halachically objectionable(15), it has nevertheless become almost universally accepted.

Rav Yaakov Emden(16) reports that he personally objects to this custom. Indeed, he rules that if a woman does not have a specific custom to recite a Shehechiyanu at candle-lighting time, she should not do so. Nevertheless, he says, his wife - who saw/learned this custom in her parent's home - does so, and he does not object. Since it is not clearly wrong, he does not feel compelled to reject her Minhag, which she witnessed at her home.

Surely, Rav Yaakov Emden was well aware that upon marriage, a woman ought to change her customs to follow her husband's. Still, he did not insist that his wife abandon her parents custom and adopt his own. As long as the custom did not contradict the Halacha, he allowed her to maintain the custom of her parent's home.

A possible explanation is that Rav Yaakov Emden held that the customs pertaining to candle-lighting are an exception to the general rule. Since, as mentioned above, Chazal made it the woman's responsibility to light candles, it becomes "her" Mitzvah, to be followed according to her customs(17). Apparently, it is not incumbent upon the husband to insist that his wife alter all the customs which she learned from her mother. Although she may do so if she likes, she is not required to do so(18).

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