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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Bereishis 5768

We begin a new cycle of Torah reading this week. This year, G-d willing, we will focus more frequently on the Ramban (with Rashi) than we have in the past.

Genesis 1:4

And G-d saw the light that it was good and He separated the light form the darkness.


And G-d saw the light that it was good: Ramban: [Ramban first quotes Rashi] Rashi wrote: Here too we need the words of the aggadah. He (G-d) saw that it was not fitting that the evil ones should use it, so He set it aside (separated it) for the righteous in the future (the World to Come). But according to its P'shat it means: He saw that is was good and it wasn't nice for the light and darkness to be present all mixed together (at the time) so He thus fixed for this one (the light) its jurisdiction during the day and this one's jurisdiction by night.

The Ramban disagrees with Rashi's comment, and says:

"If so it would mean that [G-d had] a change of heart and had new thoughts about the matter! For (only) after G-d saw the light, did He realize it was so good, like a human who does not know how things are until they come into being." Of course this cannot be the case for G-d has knows how His creation will work out, he cannot be surprised at the outcome!

To overcome this problem the Ramban then gives his own interpretation. The word "He said" here means that G-d brought something into existence. The word "and He saw" means to establish it permanently (like a second stage of creation - first creating it then fixing it permanently in existence). This means, says the Ramban, that the continued existence of things is G-d's desire. The moment He no longer desires it, it instantaneously ceases to exist. The Ramban is saying that G-d didn't change His mind, He just took the creative process to the next step of establishing it permanently.

For a fuller understanding of the Ramban we look at another of his comments. This one on verse 1: 31

Genesis 1:31: And G-d saw all that He had made and behold it was very good: Ramban: This means its permanent existence, as I have explained. Why does it say here "very good"? It means it was good in its totality - everything in creation taken together, even though there are bad things within the creation. This is similar to the midrash that says the word "very good" is meant to include death or the evil inclination or bad things that happen in the world. Then the Ramban adds a significant phrase "for the evil is necessary for the good to exist"!


This latter comment is an amazingly profound insight. Evil is necessary for the good to exist! To give an example; If every husband and wife always had two perfectly healthy children who would be guaranteed to live to be 120 years, then no one would appreciate or even, love their children. If there were no death, no one would appreciate the goodness of life.

It is for this reason that at the end of G-d's creative process it says "G-d saw all that He made and it was very good."


Let us adopt the Ramban's insight into our approach to life, taking the bitter with better. We appreciate what we have only because it is possible that we may not have it, be it health, wealth or good experiences.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

The Institute is preparing a new volume on Megillas Esther. It will be titled: "What's Bothering Rashi and the Midrash?" It analyzes both Rashi and selected Midrashim on the megillah. If you would like to be a sponsor, please contact us.

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