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Parshas Bereishis - Vol. 11, Issue 1
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vaya'as Hashem Elokim l'Adam ul'ishto kasnos ohr vayalbisheim (3:21)

Although Adam and Chava were originally created naked, they were on such a sublime spiritual level that they were removed from all physicality and weren't embarrassed by their state (2:25). After eating 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 Adam and Chava to wear. Why did He specifically make them out of leather?

The Rogatchover Gaon answers that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 223:3) rules that a person who buys or acquires a valuable new garment must say the blessing thanking Hashem for his precious new possession. As such, Adam and Chava would be obligated to recite this blessing upon receiving from Hashem the new garments that He made for them.

However, the law is that this blessing must be recited immediately upon acquiring the new item, while the joy that it brings to its receiver is still fresh and at its maximum. As such, Hashem had a dilemma, as at the moment that He gave Adam and Chava their new garments, they would be required to make a blessing, yet they were naked and a naked person is forbidden to say blessings. However, the prevalent custom (Orach Chaim 223:6) is not to say this blessing on garments made from animals. Therefore, Hashem specifically made the clothing out of leather so that the naked Adam and Chava would be exempt from reciting a blessing that they would be unable to make.

Vayomer Kayin el Hevel achiv vayehi bih'yosam ba'sadeh vayakm Kayin el Hevel achiv vayehargeihu (4:8)

In Parshas Tazria (Vayikra 13:45-46), the Torah commands a metzora to dwell outside of the Jewish camp and to announce his impure status to others by calling out, "Tamei, tamei!" The Gemora in Moed Katan (5a) explains that this is done for two reasons. When the metzora informs other people about his condition, they will pray that he should be healed quickly. Additionally, their awareness of his impure status will enable them to avoid becoming defiled through contact with him.

However, the Kotzker Rebbe suggests that the Torah's words tamei tamei yikra - he shall call out, "Tamei, tamei" - can also be homiletically interpreted as saying that tamei - an impure person - tamei yikra - will call other people impure, as the Gemora (Kiddushin 70a) teaches that kol ha'posel b'mumo posel - people with faulty character traits and spiritual blemishes attribute their failings and weaknesses to others instead of acknowledging and taking responsibility for their own shortcomings.

In Parshas Bereishis, we find a tragic application of this concept. When Cain saw that his brother Hevel's offering was accepted by Hashem while his own sacrifice was rejected, he became depressed. Hashem came to Cain and reproached him for his conduct, encouraging him to improve himself and conquer his evil inclination. Shockingly, the very next verse records that Cain was in the field with Hevel and murdered him. How is it possible that immediately after hearing a message of rebuke directly from Hashem, Cain proceeded to kill his brother in cold blood? Further, the Torah records that prior to doing so, Cain said something to Hevel, but the content of his message is cryptically omitted. What did Cain say to Hevel just prior to killing him?

My cousin Shaya Gross z"l resolves both difficulties by suggesting that what Cain related to Hevel was the "mussar schmooze" that he had just received from Hashem. In other words, instead of personally taking Hashem's message to heart, Cain decided that his brother possessed the spiritual faults and deficiencies that Hashem was addressing, and he proceeded to share the rebuke with Hevel, which is also how he was able to justify murdering him so shortly after being admonished by Hashem.

In the Yom Kippur Viduy, we recently confessed to Hashem for the sin of kishinu oref - being stiff-necked and refusing to take messages of rebuke to heart. When we hear an inspiring speech, instead of looking inward and applying its lessons to ourselves, we are often tempted to conclude that it is intended for our friend or neighbor, who is far more deficient in the area being addressed. However, in doing so, we are following in the footsteps of Cain and the metzora and denying ourselves the critical opportunity to honestly examine our ways, and it behooves us to instead maturely acknowledge our own personal shortcomings and strive to grow and correct them.

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 sharp 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.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Rashi writes (1:11) that Hashem commanded the ground to give forth fruit trees which would taste like the fruits they would yield, but the earth disobeyed and instead sprouted trees which don't taste like their fruits. As a result, when man was punished for eating from the tree of knowledge, the earth was also cursed (3:17-19). Why did Hashem wait to punish the ground instead of doing so immediately at the time of its sin? (Kli Yakar, Divrei Dovid, Chasam Sofer)

2) In recording the events of Creation, why doesn't the Torah make any mention of the creation of the Heavenly angels? (Chizkuni 1:27)

3) The Mishnah in Avos (5:1) teaches that Hashem created the world with ten utterances. However, a count of them yields only nine. What was the tenth utterance? (Peninim MiShulchan HaGra)

4) In relating the lifespan of Adam, the Torah writes (5:5) that the days that he lived were 930 years. What is the significance of emphasizing "that he lived," an expression which seems redundant and which isn't used in recording the lifespans of his descendants, with the exception of Avrohom (25:7)? (Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, HaK'sav V'HaKabbala 25:7, Beis Yitzchok, Maharil Diskin)

  2015 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to parshapotpourri@optonline.net


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