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Parshas Bereishis - Vol.
5, Issue 1
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vayar Elokim es kol asher asah v’hinei tov me’od vayehi erev vayehi boker yom ha’shishi (1:31)
After recording what Hashem created on each day of Creation, the Torah records that He saw what he had made and it was good. However, at the end of the sixth day of Creation, at which time Hashem effectively completed making the entire universe, the Torah records that He saw what He had created and it was very good. This is difficult to understand.
If each of the individual days of Creation were viewed as merely good, it would be understandable for the cumulative sum of them to be described as a lot of good, but the term “tov me’od” implies that the total sum of the good wasn’t just quantitatively greater, but it was qualitatively different as well. How do six units of good become transformed into something which is very good?
When a painter wants to produce a masterpiece, he may first fill the canvas with all of the shades of blue, followed by the greens, reds, and every other color in turn. Each of the colors may indeed be pretty by itself, but it is only when the painting is completed and all of the colors combine to produce one cohesive painting that it can be described as a masterpiece. Similarly, the Seforno explains that although the value of what was created on each individual day was only viewed as good, the total sum of all of the parts of Creation functioning in one harmonious unit was elevated into another category and was described as very good. In modern terms, this phenomenon is described as the sum being greater than the whole of the individual parts.
On the recent Yom Tov of Sukkos, we read in Koheles (4:9) “Tovim ha’shnayim min ha’echad,” which literally means that two people are better than one. However, if this is to be taken at face value, the wisdom of Shlomo HaMelech isn’t required to understand that two people can accomplish more than just one. Instead, Rashi writes that Shlomo is coming to teach us that two people working together can often achieve more than the sum of what the two of them could have done while working independently, as many projects will only be undertaken when they are working in tandem.
Interestingly, Rashi adds that an example of this is marriage, which enables the couple to accomplish and produce far more than they could have done on their own. This is difficult to understand. Although there is certainly no shortage of good reasons to get married, is increased productivity one of them? Most eligible husbands are able to study far more Torah without the financial responsibilities and other time commitments that generally come with marriage, and the average young woman who is dating has far more free time to pray and do mitzvos each day when she doesn’t have a house to run and young children to take care of.
However, Chazal teach us that Hashem doesn’t see things the way that we see them. The Gemora in Berachos (17a) teaches that the merit in which women earn their unique share in the World to Come is through walking their sons to school where they study Torah and waiting for their husbands to return from distant yeshivos, which are obviously merits that she can accrue only after marriage. Similarly, the Gemora in Yevamos (62b) teaches that any man who isn’t married is lacking not only in happiness, blessing, and peace, but he is also deficient in Torah itself.
However, when these two deficient people come together in marriage, they become a new entity which is greater than the sum of the individual parts. As Rashi explains, they will be able to undertake new projects that neither would have accomplished on his own, and they will be able to accrue merits through Torah study and giving to one another that they were unable to achieve while single.
One of the seven blessings recited under the chuppah at a wedding is “Yotzeir ha’adam” – Who makes man. If this blessing was thanking Hashem for the creation of Adam, the original man, it should say “Yatzar ha’adam” – Who made man – in the past tense. Instead, it is praising Hashem for the creation of a new entity – the new couple – at this very moment, and for this reason it is written in the present tense. Just as Hashem created a new category of “tov me’od” through the symbiotic interactions of the Creation as a whole, and just a master painter creates a stunning work of art through the intricate combination of the colors in his palette, so too can every new couple create a new and wonderful “Bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel” through the harmonious combination of their unique talents and skills.
Vayipol Elokim tardeimah al ha’adam vayishan vayikach achas mi’tzalosav vayisgor basar tachtenah (2:21)
In relating all of the details and the order of the Creation, it isn’t until our verse, the 52nd verse in the Torah, that the letter “samech” appears. After creating Adam, Hashem cast a deep sleep upon him. After taking one of his ribs to form his wife Chava, Hashem closed Adam’s flesh. Why doesn’t the letter “samech” appear for so long, and what is the significance of the fact that it is first used in this verse?
When spelled out, the letter “samech” is written “samech-mem-chaf,” which is also the word which means “support.” The Gemora teaches (Yevamos 62b) that a man who dwells without a wife is lacking many things, one of which is a wall. The commentators explain that a supportive wife can serve to protect and encourage her husband.
The Torah relates that Hashem created Chava to serve as an “eizer k’negdo” – helpmate opposite him – for Adam. The numerical value of this phrase is 360 – the number of degrees in a circle which surrounds and protects what is inside of it. The Targum renders the word “helpmate” into Aramaic as “samech” – supportive wall. For this reason, a bride walks around the groom under the wedding canopy to symbolize this function, and the groom marries the bride by giving her a circular ring. Therefore, the very letter which means support and is written as a circle is used for the first time to describe the creation of the first person – Chava – who fulfilled this role.
Ul’Sheis gam hu yulad ben Vayikra es shemo Enosh az huchal likro b’shem Hashem (4:26)
After relating that the third son of Adam and Chava, Sheis, gave birth to a child named Enosh, the Torah records that at that time, people began to call out in the name of Hashem. Although this ostensibly seems like a praiseworthy act, Rashi writes that to the contrary, the generation of Enosh introduced idolatry to the world. Instead of calling out to Hashem, they began to call people and even inanimate objects by the names of Hashem, profanely ascribing to them G-d-like qualities. If this was the case, why does the Torah write the verse in a manner which could be misconstrued as praising their actions?
When Rav Tzvi Hersh Farber arrived in London at the turn of the century, he was worried about the state of the Jewish community that he would find. However, his fears seemed to be misguided when he noticed synagogues which names such as “Shomrei Shabbos” and saw stores proudly advertising that they sell kosher meat. He assumed that the people were just as strong and observant as the communities in Eastern Europe with which he was familiar.
Unfortunately, he quickly realized that his optimistic interpretation was premature and incorrect. In Russia and Poland, there was no need for a synagogue to announce that it catered to those who observed Shabbos because nobody in the community would dream of desecrating Shabbos. The butchers didn’t advertise that they slaughtered animals according to Jewish law because they were all G-d-fearing Jews and nobody would assume otherwise. In this sense, the public declarations of religious observance were in fact testimony to the massive state of spiritual decline in which he found himself. It was only because the overwhelming majority of Jews had abandoned the path of religious observance that the few who remained true to the Torah were required to proclaim their faith.
In light of this incident, Rav Farber humorously suggested that until the generation of Enosh, there was no need to publicly announce one’s faith in Hashem. Everybody believed in one G-d, and there was no reason to suspect somebody of any other belief which would require him to issue a denial. It was precisely when the generation of Enosh introduced idolatry to the world and began a spiritual descent that, just as in London, the few faithful who remained were required to call out in the name of Hashem to publicly declare their faith and separate themselves from the wicked ways of their contemporaries.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Torah relates (1:5) that after the first day of Creation, there was night and there was day. Did the creations on each day occur at night or during the day? (Bereishis Rabbah 12:14, Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 7)
2) Prior to eating from the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge which could cause him to die, why didn’t Adam first eat from the tree of life, which was permitted to him and which would allow him to live eternally? (Tosefos Rid)
3) What was the first episode of domestic violence in world history? (Baal HaTurim 3:12)
4) After Adam and Chava ate from the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge, their eyes were opened and they realized that they were naked (3:7). After Hashem meted out their punishments and curses for eating from the forbidden fruit, He made garments of leather for them to wear. Why did Hashem specifically make them out of leather?
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