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Parshas Bereishis - Vol.
4, Issue 1
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Bereishis bara Elokim es HaShomayim v’es ha’aretz (1:1)
On Simchas Torah, we complete the annual cycle of the public reading of the Torah by finishing Parshas V’Zos HaBeracha, and we immediately begin reading the Torah anew with Parshas Bereishis. The person who is honored to be called up to the Torah for the final Aliyah in Parshas V’Zos HaBeracha is referred to as Chosson Torah, and the person who receives the Aliyah for the beginning of Parshas Bereishis is called Chosson Bereishis.
The Rokeach (371) rules that in addition to reciting the normal blessings said by one called up to the Torah, the Chosson Bereishis should also say the shehechiyanu blessing, thanking Hashem for allowing him the opportunity to once again begin studying the Torah. Although others disagree with the Rokeach and our custom is not to make this blessing, we can still derive an important lesson from this opinion. Although clearly a moment which is celebrated with much enthusiasm and joy, in what way is the fresh start of the Torah a cause to recite this rare blessing?
Our Sages teach that every word in the Torah can be interpreted in 70 distinct ways. Rav Moshe Tukechinsky, who was Mashgiach of the Slabodka yeshiva in B’nei B’rak, suggests that this number is no coincidence. Dovid HaMelech writes (Tehillim 90:10) that the average life span of a person is 70 years. Hashem placed in the Torah a corresponding number of levels so that a person won’t be complacent with his previous understanding, but will seek to discover a new layer of depth in each successive year.
However, Rav Tukechinsky adds that it is unreasonable to expect a person to begin this project in the first few years of his life, when his intellect isn’t yet adequately developed for the task. Rather, this lifelong project begins at a person’s Bar Mitzvah, when the Torah considers his mind sufficiently advanced to hold him responsible for his actions. It should come as no surprise that Rav Tukechinsky died at the age of 83!
Rav Moshe Wolfson notes that in secular studies such as mathematics, at the end of each school year the students must turn in their old books and receive new, more advanced books at the beginning of the next year. In contrast, Jews around the world study the very same Torah, Mishnah, and Gemora beginning in their youth and continuing throughout their lives, as the Divine wisdom contained therein may be accessed by each student on his personal level.
Many of us, this author included, grew up with a perfunctory introduction to the basic “stories” of the Bible – Adam and the forbidden fruit, Noach and the flood, Moshe and the ten plagues, and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Although at that point we may have thought that we understood the full depth of the Torah, we are now mature and intelligent enough to recognize the folly and arrogance of this belief. The Mishnah (Avos 5:26) teaches: Delve into it (the Torah), and continue to delve into it, for everything is contained within it. This is a lesson that each of us, no matter where we are on our personal path of Jewish growth, would do well to contemplate and internalize, and it is for this fresh opportunity to do so that we offer our thanks and blessing to Hashem.
Vayomer Elokim yishretzu hamayim sheretz nefesh chaya v’of y’ofeif al ha’aretz al p’nei rakia HaShomayim (1:20)
Throughout the generations, philosophers have debated the age-old question of which came first: the chicken or the egg? What does the Torah, which is the blueprint for the Creation and contains the answer to every question, have to say about this hotly-contested issue?
On the fifth day of Creation, Hashem said, “Let the waters abound with swarming living creatures, and fowl that fly about over the earth across the expanse of the Heavens.” On the phrase meaning “living,” Rashi comments, “that it will be alive” – in the future tense. In the following verse (1:21), which relates the actual creation of the marine and bird life, the same expression which means “living” appears, but this time, Rashi comments, “that it is alive” – in the present tense.
On the sixth day of Creation, Hashem declared, “Let the Earth bring forth living creatures, each according to its kind: animals, creeping things, and beasts of the land.” Once again, this verse contains the identical phrase which means “living,” and Rashi comments, “that it is alive” – in the present tense. It is very uncharacteristic for Rashi to comment on the same phrase three times in a span of five verses. Further, it is not coincidental that Rashi switched the verb tenses between the verses. Why did he feel the need for these multiple comments, and what does this teach us?
Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin explains that regarding Hashem’s command on the fifth day to create marine and bird life, His intention was for the waters to produce fish eggs that would yield fish, and bird eggs which would hatch and create birds. For this reason, Rashi stresses that they will be alive after they hatch. In the following verse, the Torah records that marine and bird life were actually created. In other words, the eggs hatched and produced the desired fish and bird species; for this reason, Rashi writes that they were alive, since this verse discusses their post-hatching state. On the sixth day, the Torah records the creation of land animals which aren’t hatched from eggs. They were initially created in their living states, and for this reason, Rashi refers to them as already being alive.
The mystics teach that there is nothing which is not alluded to in the Torah. Although the Maharil Diskin was coming to address a textual difficulty in Rashi’s commentary, his answer enables us to decisively resolve the philosophical dilemma by concluding that the egg was created before the chicken!
Vayomer ha’adam haisha asher nasata imadi hee nasna li min haeitz v’ochel (3:12)
After Adam and Chava ate from the forbidden fruit, they heard the sound of Hashem approaching, and they attempted to hide from Him. Hashem called out to Adam, who responded that he was afraid because he was naked. Hashem challenged how Adam knew that he was naked, questioning whether he had eaten from the forbidden fruit. Adam responded, “The woman whom You gave to be with me gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
Commenting on this defense, Rashi cryptically writes that in giving this explanation, Adam was denying the good that Hashem had given him through Chava. This is difficult to understand. Although it may have been inappropriate for Adam to “pass the buck” and blame Chava instead of accepting responsibility for his own actions, in what was this considered a lack of appreciation on his part? Wasn’t Adam just telling the truth?
Rav Aryeh Finkel explains that this question is rooted in a fundamental error. He compares it to a case of a newlywed couple who are opening their wedding gifts. Upon opening the envelope from a distant uncle, they are flabbergasted to see that the card contains a check for one million dollars. After calming themselves down, the wife points out that the uncle didn’t even bother to write a note or sign the card. The husband responds in shock that his wife could even notice such a flaw. At a time like this, when they have just received such a valuable and totally unexpected gift, how could somebody notice such a relatively minor oversight? They should be so overcome with excitement at their good fortune that there is no place to focus on or even think about such trivialities.
Similarly, Hashem had just given Adam the most precious gift possible: Chava, a wife and helpmate. The Gemora in Yevamos (63a) teaches that Adam, desperate for a mate, sought a wife with every species that was created, but he wasn’t satisfied until Hashem created Chava. A loving and supportive wife should have been worth so much to him that, like the husband in the story, his intense joy over his discovery precluded him from finding any fault in her. The fact that he was able to blame her for the sin of the forbidden fruit was rooted in his lack of appreciation of her true value. For this reason, Rashi writes that in ascribing a deficiency to Chava, Adam was revealing his lack of gratitude to Hashem for the priceless gift that He had given him.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (1:16) that Hashem initially created the sun and the moon equal in size, but because of an argument made by the moon, He subsequently made it smaller. In order to appease the moon, Hashem gave it the stars to serve and enhance it in the night sky. How did being surrounded by even smaller stars make up for the fact that the moon had been significantly reduced from its original size and glory? (Meged Yosef)
2) The serpent succeeded in getting Chava to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge by convincing her that doing so wouldn’t cause her death (3:4-6). Immediately after eating the fruit, she gave some to Adam to eat. Rashi explains that she did so out of a fear that after her death, he would remain alive and find another mate. How is it possible that she ate the fruit out of a belief that doing so wouldn’t be fatal, only to fear the aftermath of her impending death? (Taima D’Kra)
3) For her role in eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, Hashem punished Chava (Rashi 3:16) with the difficulty of raising children and with the pain of pregnancy. Wouldn’t it have been more chronologically precise to reverse the curses, as the suffering of pregnancy precedes that of child-raising? (Divrei Dovid, Maharsha Eiruvin 100b, Kehillas Yitzchok, Nesivos Rabboseinu, Ayeles HaShachar, Meged Yosef, Peninei Kedem, M’rafsin Igri)
4) If Chanoch was so righteous and walked with Hashem (5:22), why does the Torah tell us so little about the details of his life? (Chasam Sofer quoted in Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha)
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