Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 8   No. 1

This issue is co-sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Chayim Ezriel ben Yosef z"l
and Yosef ben Yaakov Shlomo HaLevi z"l

Pashas Bereishis

Be-rei-shis - Prelude to Wisdom

It is well-known that the Torah can be explained on four basic levels, one of them that of 'remez' (the symbolic exegesis of the Torah). In this regard, the commentaries (notably the Ba'al ha'Turim and the Or ha'Chayim) present numerous interpretations of the word 'Bereishis', of which we will now cite just a few.


It will be noted that the letter 'beis' alone, has four connotations ('for the sake of', 'with', 'house' and 'two').

It is also noteworthy that many of the explanations are based on 'beis Reishis', both of which comprise the same letters as "Bereishis", (two beginnings) or 'boro sh'tei' (He created two) - which might refer to two Toros, two worlds or two inclinations.


The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that, in the same vein, the letters of "bereishis" form 'yerei Shabbos' (because it is only on the merit of Shabbos that the world was created), 'aleph be'Tishri' (the date on which the world was created), and 'Beis Rosh' (hinting at the first Beis ha'Mikdosh). Rabeinu Bachye elaborates on this d'roshoh. According to him, the 'beis' alone hints at the Beis ha'Mikdosh, and the 'tov-yud' at the four hundred and ten years that the first Beis ha'Mikdosh stood.

One might well add to the above list the words 'yerei Boshes' (which hints at teshuvah and is reminiscent of the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos 'Boshes Ponim le'Gan Eden' - one who is reserved goes to Gan Eden).


In addition to the fact that many of the most fundamental principles of our religion are contained in these hints, it is significant that the fear of G-d figures prominently in many of the d'roshos - and this is particularly true of the following examples.


Rashi has already cited the Medrash "Bereishis" - ' because of Torah and because of Yisroel' who are both called 'first' (the first of the creations and the first to acknowledge Hashem respectively). The Or ha'Chayim, based on the posuk in Tehilim (111:10) "Reishis chochmah Yir'as Hashem", adds to these the fear of G-d, which is also called first. As a matter of fact, his explanation sheds much light on that of Rashi. For on the one hand, the fear of G-d is the ultimate goal of Torah-study. And on the other, it is Yisroel of all the nations, who opt for this goal in life, as is evident from the fact that they alone of all the nations, chose to receive the Torah.

Following this introduction, the Or ha'Chayim interprets "Bereishis" as 'beis reishis' - two kinds of fear. As the Tikunei Zohar comments, there are two levels of the fear of G-d: 1. Fear of punishment; 2. Fear of G-d Himself (i.e. of 'hurting' Him - because He is G-d). That is why the posuk continues "Es ha'Shomayim" representing the fear of G-d Himself, "ve'es ho'oretz" representing the fear of punishment.


In another explanation, the Or ha'Chayim cites the Medrash which, based on a posuk in Mishlei, explains that the Torah is the blueprint of the world. Consequently, he darshens from "Bereishis boro Elokim" that G-d created the world 'with the Torah' (which is called 'Reishis').


Again, referring to the connection between 'Reishis' and the fear of G-d, he draws on the posuk in Yeshayah "the fear of G-d is His treasure" (the thing that G-d treasures over and above everything else). Whoever possesses Yir'as Shomayim, he extrapolates, becomes a dwelling in which the Shechinah rests. And this is hinted in "Bereishis boro Elokim" - 'Bayis reishis (Yir'as Shomayim) Elokim' - implying that with the fear of G-d one becomes the dwelling of Hashem.


Another Medrash states that 'the Seifer and the sword came down into the world wrapped together'. The Medrash means that the midas ha'Din (hinted in the sword) was placed in this world together with the Seifer Torah - which has the power to soften it. Hence the Torah writes "Bereishis boro Elokim" - Hashem created the Torah together with the midas ha'Din (similar to the dictum 'I created the Yeitzer ho'Ra, and I created the Torah as its antidote' Hashem said - Kidushin 30b).


Chazal have taught us that Gan Eden and Gehinom are among the things that Hashem created before He created the world, and this too, is hinted in the opening words of the Torah - "Bereishis ... " (two firsts, as we explained above) two things Hashem created first, Gan Eden and Gehinom, and both were created simultaneously.

And the Torah goes on to describe their role - "es ha'Shomayim ve'es ho'oretz". G-d created heaven, which embodies connotations of spirituality in all its forms, and He created the earth, with its connotations of physicality. He also created man with a Heavenly soul (like the angels) and with an earthly body (like the animals). The choice now lies with him. If he reaches for the heavens by following the dictates of his soul, he can look forward to going to Gan Eden; should he, on the other hand, give in to his animal instincts, then Gehinom awaits him.


Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro
The E'ven Shesiyoh

The Zohar explains that "Bereishis" is the acronym of "Boro Shis", which refers to the 'e'ven shesiyoh' (the corner-stone of the world, from which the world expanded).

"Boro Shis" also implies that the world was created with six letters 'aleph, beis, gimel, dalet, hey and vov', and it is they that formed the 'e'ven shesiyoh'.

If one takes the last letters of these six letters when spelt out fully (i.e. the 'peh' of 'aleph', the 'sof' of 'beis', the 'lamed' of gimel', the 'tof' of 'dalet', the 'yud' of 'hey' and the 'vov' of 'vov') they spell 'talpiyos', and this is hinted in the posuk in Shir ha'Shirim (4:4) "Ke'Migdal Dovid tzav'orech, bonuy le'Talpiyos", which the Targum associates with the creation of the world. (In any event, even if "Talpiyos" refers to the Beis ha'Mikdosh (as the Gemoro explains in B'rochos 30a), the Gro's explanation fits beautifully, since the E'ven Shesiyoh was also the foundation stone of the Beis ha'Mikdosh.


Pidyon ha'Ben

Someone once asked the Gro whether it was true that all the mitzvos are hinted in the Parshah of Bereishis. When the Gro answered in the affirmative, the questioner, who happened to be sitting with the Gro at a Pidyon ha'Ben, asked him where Pidyon ha'Ben is hinted. Back came the reply - in the word 'Bereishis', which is the equivalent to the first letters of 'Ben rishon achar sh'loshim yom tifdeh' (Redeem your firstborn son after thirty days).


Big and Small

During his self-imposed exile, the Gro once stayed with a certain balabos, who was a considerable talmid-chochom. His host, who perceived his guest to be a great man, showed him a seifer that had belonged to his father. In the seifer, next to the posuk which, after describing the sun and moon as two big luminaries, then refers to the moon as a small luminary, his father had written the letters 'gimel, vov, ayin, shin, alef, nun, kuf'. He had shown the seifer to many people, but nobody was able to decipher his father's note.

Without hesitation, the Gro replied that it referred to the Gemoro in Bovo Metzi'a (12b) 'Godol ve'somuch al shulchan oviv nikro kotton' ('a grown-up who still eats at his father's table, is nevertheless called a child') - whose first letters are the equivalent of those that were written in the Seifer.

What the father had meant was that, although the moon was created the same size as the sun, the Torah immediately goes on to refer to the moon as 'a small luminary', because it does not possess its own light (but receives its illumination from the sun). And this can be compared to a son who receives his financial support from his father.


Working on Shabbos, Resting on Shabbos

"And G-d completed on the seventh day the work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had done" (2:2).


Having created animals and man, both of whom toil and become tired, G-d needed to invent the concept of rest, the only thing missing in the creation. So He created Shabbos, whose essence is rest (desisting from mundane activities). That is what the Torah means when it writes "and the Heaven and the earth, together with all their hosts, were completed. And G-d finished His work ... on the seventh day".

Chazal inform us in Pirkei Ovos (5:6) that ten (miraculous) things were created on Friday evening at dusk. They are all metophysical, and as such did not belong to the things that were created during the six days. One might have thought that they were created on Shabbos.

Therefore, the Torah continues "and He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had done" - to include the ten miraculous things - to teach us that even they did not encroach upon the rest that was Shabbos. In fact, they were not created on either of them - they were created at dusk, a period which is neither the one nor the other. Man treats it as Shabbos, because he cannot assess the exact moment that Shabbos enters - G-d can!

And what do we learn from the third posuk "And G-d blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it, because on it He rested from all His work ... "?

As we just explained, the term "all His work" refers to the metaphysical creations that were created at dusk, before the entry of Shabbos. One of those creations was the Mon (Manna), and the Torah is teaching us here that not only did the creation of Mon not encroach upon the Shabbos, but neither did its presentation. Because, as Rashi explains, Hashem blessed Shabbos inasmuch as a double portion fell each Friday to cover the Shabbos, and He sanctified it with the Mon, by not allowing it to fall on Shabbos itself.


This explanation puts in the right perspective the three seemingly repetitive pesukim dealing with the Shabbos (see footnote in P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro).


Seeing Double

According to the Rashi that we just cited, it is not clear in what way the Mon was blessed by the Shabbos. For at the end of the day, the portion of Mon that they received on Shabbos was in no way different than the portion that they received during the week (and so what if it fell on Friday instead of on Shabbos?).

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos however, explains in Beshalach that, granted, four portions of Mon fell on Friday, two for that day (including Friday night's meal) and two for Shabbos. But then, after they had eaten their first Firday meal, the three remaining meals doubled (because everything on Shabbos is double - a sign of blessing). And this explains as to why we take Lechem Mishneh for Shalosh Se'udos too , says the Da'as Zekeinim- because, in fact, Yisroel in the desert ate two breads at each Shabbos meal. This was to satisfy the extra appetite that came with the extra Neshomoh each Shabbos.


In any event, the Chazal that Hashem blessed the Shabbos with the Mon and sanctified it with the Mon, now fits beautifully. He blessed it by doubling the portion of Mon that they received, and sanctified it by sending it on Friday instead of on Shabbos.


Double Times Double

We just explained that the concept of double is a sign of blessing. In fact, the Ba'al ha'Turim cites a Medrash that the reason that the Torah begins with a 'beis' is because 'beis' stands for b'rochoh (as opposed to 'aleph', which stands for 'orur' - curse). 'Would that the world survive - even with My b'rochoh', said Hashem.

In similar vein, the numerical value of the root letters of 'b'rochoh' - 'beis', 'resih' and 'chof' are all double: 'beis' is 2 (double 1), 'reish' is 200 (double 100) and 'chof' is 20 (double ten).

How apt then, that a firstborn ('bechor'- whose letters are the same as 'b'rochoh') receives a double portion.


Adapted from 'Mitvos ha'T'luyos bo'Oretz',
based on the rulings of the Chazon Ish
by R' Kalman Kahana z.l.

Ploughing and Digging

9. We have already explained that ploughing in the Sh'mitah year is forbidden by Torah law. Consequently, the prohibition applies whether one is preparing the field for the seventh year crop or for that of the eighth year. And it is forbidden even if one's intention is not to prepare the ground for sowing.

Chazal also forbade digging around the tree, if it is for the purpose of strengthening the tree or improving it. It is permitted however, if one's intention is only to fill in the cracks in the tree.


10. One may dig around a weak tree, if there is a suspicion that if, failing to do so, will cause the tree to die or the fruit to spoil. And the same applies to those kinds of herbs and vegetables that are not subject to the prohibition of 's'fichim' (which will be explained later). One should take care however, to apply this concession only according to its minimum requirement. One should also note that the concession is restricted to digging, and does not extend to ploughing (which the Torah expressly prohibits).


11. One may dig irrigation ditches around the vines, and this is permitted even if it is to prepare them for watering after the Sh'mitah. Similarly, one may dig a water canal in a field, and even to lay a watering-net inside it, during the Sh'mitah.

All this is permitted even there where no loss is involved, due to the fact that these are not tasks that can be classified as 'work of the land', nor do they come to improve the actual ground or the tree. They are a preparation for working the land, and this is permitted.



12. It is forbidden to fertilize one's field in the Sh'mitah, irrespective of whether it is for the needs of the seventh year or the eighth. And during the fertilizing season, even moving large quantities of manure from one's house to the field, to pile it up there, is prohibited - even though one does not intend to actually spread it out in the field.


13. One may fertilize weak trees, which are likely to die or if their fruit is likely to sustain visible damage for lack of fertilization - but not before one has weighed up carefully that the three or the fruit will genuinely suffer this fate, because whatever is purely for gain (rather than to prevent loss) is forbidden.

Should fertilizing the field once suffice, then one is not allowed to do it twice. One is also obligated to fertilize one's field before the Sh'mitah, if need be, so as to circumvent the need to do it during the Sh'mitah. And in similar vein, whatever one is able to postpone until after the Sh'mitah, one should, to avoid doing it in the Sh'mitah-year.

The concession of fertilizing too, together with its restrictions, applies equally to those kinds of herbs and vegetables that are not subject to the prohibition of 's'fichim'.


Sowing and Planting

14. It is forbidden to sow or plant any seeds or trees. Nor may one plant vegetables in the Sh'mitah. This prohibition incorporates non-fruit-bearing trees, as well as flowers, and would appear to apply to planting them in the house, no less than in the field, though the prohibition would then be confined to holed pots, but not to pots without holes.

A house, in this regard (to permit planting in a pot without holes) would depend upon the plant being covered (e.g. with a ceiling) though it might also require walls of ten tefochim. A pot without a hole comprises one which has no more than a small hole to allow the water to drain. This should be less than the size of a small root (which is smaller than a ke'zayis - an olive-volume). However, since we are not fully conversant with this measurement, one should make sure that the hole is just sufficiently large to let the water drain liberally, and no larger.

This is the din regarding plants. But as far as trees are concerned, an earthenware pot is always considered holed, and one may therefore not plant a tree even in a pot without a hole, even inside the house during the Sh'mitah.


15. One may not remove the ceiling of a house if there is a plant-pot beneath it. Nor may one move a plant-pot from the garden to the house or vice-versa, irrespective of whether the pot is holed or not, or as to the circumstances under which the plant that it contains was sown.


16. All the dinim of Sh'mitah apply to a roof-garden. Consequently, sowing and cultivating there is forbidden.


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