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

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Vol. 9   No. 1

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Miriam, Yosef Sh'lomoh, Chavah Yehudis ve'Esther Peninah
B'nei ha'Rav ha'Ga'on Rav Binyamin n.y.

Parshas Bereishis

That's What Rebbi Yitzchak Said
(Part 1)

The Torah ought really to have begun with "ha'Chodesh ha'zeh lochem Rosh Chodoshim" (the joint Mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh and the Korban Pesach), the first Mitzvah that K'lal Yisrael were commanded, says Rashi, quoting a Medrash Yalkut in the name of Rebbi Yitzchak.

The Torah's main objective, after all, is to teach Yisrael the Mitzvos, as is inherent in the word Torah (which means teaching or guide). The stories that precede "ha'Chodesh ha'Zeh" and which lead up to it, appear at best, to be of secondary importance, and certainly do not seem to belong here at the beginning of the Torah.

So why does the Torah begin with "Bereishis", asks Rebbi Yitzchak?


It is to counter the claims of the nations of the world, he replies, should they accuse us of having stolen Eretz Yisrael when we conquered it from the Cana'anim. Therefore, this Parshah comes to teach us that G-d created the world, in which case the world is His. Consequently, He gave Eretz Yisroel to the Cana'anim in the first place, and He was perfectly entitled to take it away from them and give it to K'lal Yisrael, when he saw fit to do so.


Rebbi Yitzchak does not for one moment suggest, the K'li Yakar explains, that the Torah should have omitted the whole of Seifer Bereishis. Not at all! The creation and the episode of the Flood, he points out, are vital to teach us G-d's existence and the concept of Divine reward and punishment, respectively. And besides, Bereishis contains a number of Mitzvos, albeit given to individuals - Eiver min ha'Chai to No'ach, B'ris Milah to Avraham and Gid ha'Nasheh to Ya'akov, and Mitzvos, as we explained, are what the Torah is all about.

Rebbi Yitzchak is therefore suggesting that, seeing as the Torah's main objective is the Mitzvos that were given to Klal Yisrael, as we explained earlier, all other teachings are of secondary importance. Consequently, they would seem to belong, not at the beginning, of the Torah, but at the end, after all the Mitzvos have been listed.


The fact that, for the reason mentioned, the Torah begins with "Bereishis", demonstrates the depth of our right to Eretz Yisrael, even to the point that it overrides the importance of the Mitzvos. This is not at all surprising, when we bear in mind that those very Mitzvos are enhanced and their sanctity magnified when they are performed in Eretz Yisrael (as the Ramban explains in a number of places).


The K'li Yakar however, explains that the Torah here is stressing its abhorrence of theft. Indeed, G-d has indicated on numerous occasions, just how much He detests theft, as we find for example, in the generation of the Flood, whose fate was sealed primarily because of the sin of theft. This theme recurs with Adam ha'Rishon, where the Medrash stresses that G-d accepted the bull that he brought as a sacrifice, because it was not stolen. Yitzchak too, instructed his son Eisav to bring him two goats that were not stolen. And Yisrael in Egypt were told to "Draw and take your animals for the Korban Pesach" and not stolen ones (because G-d hates theft) as the Ba'al ha'Turim explains.

Had the Torah not preempted the nation's claims by stressing that Yisrael did not steal the land from the Cana'anim, then all of the above would have been lost on them. Even though they would later copy the Torah from the twelve stones that Yehoshua erected in Gilgal (in which case they might have eventually arrived at "Bereishis" at the end of the Torah, as we explained earlier), nevertheless who says that they would read it all? Who said they would reach 'Bereishis' at the end of the Torah?

What transpires is that G-d anticipated the terrible Chilul Hashem that would ensue, should the nations of the world accuse His people of theft, and Him of turning a blind eye to this terrible sin. Indeed, all the other examples of G-d's abhorrence (that we cited above) would be rendered meaningless.

And that is why the Torah found it necessary to begin with "Bereishis Boro Elokim".


In spite of the Medrash, the K'li Yakar concludes, the Torah needed to begin with "Bereishis", because from it we learn the vital principle of Creation, precluding the notion that the world created itself. Without it, he says, there would be no basis for Kabolas ha'Torah - and not for the Mitzvos either.

In two basic issues, the K'li Yakar disagrees with the Ramban, as we shall see.


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the Peninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro)
Bereishis and Pidyon ha'Ben

Based on the Sifrei Kabalah, who say that all the Mitzvos are hinted in the Parshah of Bereishis, someone once asked the G'ro at a Pidyon ha'Ben where the Mitzvah of Pidyon ha'Ben was hinted.

Back came the reply "In the word "Bereishis", whose acronym is 'Ben Rishon Achar Sheloshim Tifdeh' ('You shall redeem your first son after thirty days')'


The Hidden Light

"And Hashem saw that the light was good, and He separated it ... " 1:4).

Rashi cites a Medrash, that after creating the light, G-d decided that it was not good for the Resha'im to use it, so he hid it for the use of Tzadikim in the World to Come.

It is well-known, the G'ro explains, that, a 'vav' which is punctuated with a 'Patach' (the vowel pronounced 'ah') changes a verb in the future tense to the past. That being the case, the Torah itself hints at the teaching of the Medrash, when it writes (1:3) "Va'yomer Elokim Yehi Or (there shall be light - future), Vayehi Or ('and there was light - past)". This suggests that G-d created a light that would serve as a source of light for the entire world (in the future), but that He immediately retracted by putting it away for the Tzadikim in the World to Come (turning it into a thing of the past).


The Big and the Small

"And G-d made the two big luminaries, the big luminary to rule over the day, and the small luminary to rule over the night" (1:16).

The Torah first refers to the moon as one of the big luminaries, and then promptly calls it 'the small luminary'?


The G'ro, traveling through the countries of Europe in his self-imposed exile, once arrived at the inn of an outstanding Talmid-Chacham. The Talmid-Chacham, realizing that the youth staying at his inn was a great and holy person, placed before him a Chumash, open at the beginning. Pointing to the margin beside this Pasuk, he asked the G'ro whether he could decipher the word 'gushenk' ('Gimmel, Vav, Ayin, Shin, Aleph, Nun and Kuf'). It appears that his father, no longer alive, had written this strange word there, and nobody seemed to know what it signified. Without hesitation, the G'ro replied that it stood for 'Godol, Ve'somuch Al Shulchan Aviv, Nikra Katan' ('meaning that irrespective of the status of a son, as long as he is supported by his father, he is considered a Katan - a minor). Among other things, this affects articles that he finds, and which he must give to his father.

The moon may well be a big luminary, as indeed the Torah refers to it at its creation. However, in effect, it has no light of its own, receiving all that it has from the sun, and someone who receives his sustenance from his father is in essence, a Katan.



"And G-d said, 'Let us make man" (1:26).

This Pasuk indicates that when creating Adam, G-d first consulted with the heavenly bodies. Indeed, Chazal describe how He first asked Shalom and Tzedek whether to go ahead and create him or not. Shalom protested adamantly, on the grounds that man is totally argumentative; Tzedek on the other hand, agreed with his creation, seeing as he would give charity to the poor on a large scale.

So what did G-d do? He threw Emes (who also objected to man's creation) down to earth, but Shalom remained in Heaven.


This Medrash helps us to understand a Gemara in B'rachos. The Gemara states (64a) that when someone takes leave from a live person, he says 'Lech le'Shalom' (Go to peace), whereas when he takes leave from the deceased, he says 'Lech be'Shalom' (Go in peace).

According to the above Medrash, as long as a person is alive, he lives in a realm where there is no Shalom. He is only moving towards peace, but he does not actually attain it as long as he is in this world. So we say to him, 'Lech le'Shalom!'. However, once he dies, he finds himself in the same realm as Shalom. So we say to him 'Lech be'Shalom!.


Presumably, what the Medrash means is that man cannot attain Shalom on his own initiative. To attain it, he requires a lot of Siya'ata di'Shemaya (Divine Inspiration), which in turn comes through prayer because Shalom is in the hands of G-d. And this idea comes across strongly in the final B'rachah of the Amidah, and in the last Pasuk there 'Oseh Shalom bi'Meromav ... ', where we acknowledge that Shalom comes from above.


Man's Supremacy

"Let us make man ... and let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, over the animals and over all the earth" (ibid.).

The Gemara in B'rachos (60b) obligates the recital of the B'rachah ' ... she'osoh li kol tzorki' when putting on one's shoes.

The obvious question is what this B'rachah has to do specifically with shoes? Does a person really attain all his needs when he puts on his shoes?


The G'ro however, connects this with the Pasuk in Tehilim (8:7) "You gave him sovereignty over all Your works ...". The Pasuk indicates here how G-d placed the entire creation in the world under man's dominion. Man takes a seed and plants it, or he digs up a planted seed at his whim. He takes an animal's child and Shechts it and he drinks the milk of its mother. More than that still, he takes the animal itself and Shechts it in order to eat its meat. But what is certainly the most powerful symbol of sovereignty is the fact that he Shechts an animal, simply because he wants its skin to make himself a pair of shoes. And that is why this Pasuk concludes with the words "You placed everything under his feet".

In any case, the act of Shechting an animal in order to make himself a pair of shoes, stresses more than anything else man's supremacy over animals. And that explains why Chazal instituted the B'rachah 'she'Osoh li kol tzorki' on wearing shoes.


Nourishment, Calories, Vitamins and Taste

"And G-d said behold I have given you all the herbs ... and all the trees ... it shall be for you as food" (1:29).

This is the last of the ten commands with which G-d created the world. It is not at first clear what it is that G-d created here, seeing as the creation of the plants and the trees has already been mentioned earlier.

Until now however, G-d may have created plant life. However, no mention was made of the fruit being fit to eat (see Pesukim 11/12). It is only now that He ordered the fruit to adopt a nutritious character, providing nourishment, calories, vitamins and taste to those who eat it.


The Chronological order of events
that took place from the Creation
until the fortieth year in the desert.
(based mainly on the Seider ha'Doros).

1-930 Adam
year 1 (day 1) Birth of Kayin and Hevel & twin sisters
(day 52) Kayin murders Hevel
130 Adam returns to Chavah after a hundred and thirty years of abstention;
130-1042 Sheis
235-1140 Enosh
325-1235 Keinan
395-1290 Mahalalel
460-1422 Yered
622-987 Chanoch
687-1656 Mesushelach
874-1651 Lemech
987 Chanoch is taken up to Heaven. He becomes the angel Matatron.
1056-2006 No'ach
1536 G-d decrees the Flood
1556 Ya'fes
1557 Cham
1558-2158 Shem
1656 (10th Cheshvan) Mesushelach the Tzadik dies.
17th Cheshvan The Great Flood
27th Kislev The rain stops falling; the water level begins to rise
1st Sivan The water begins to recede
17th Sivan The Ark rests on Mount Ararat
1st Av The tops of the mountains appear
10th Ellul No'ach opens the window of the Ark; he sends the pigeon for the first time ...
17th Ellul ... for the second time ...
24th Ellul ... and for the third time
1657 (1st Tishri) No'ach removes the cover of the Ark
27th Cheshvan The world is dry once again
1658-2098 Arpachshad (son of Shem)
1695-2126 Shelach
1723-2160 Eiver
1757-1966 Peleg
1787-2026 Re'u
1819-2049 Serug
1849-1997 Nachor
1878-2083 Terach
1948-2123 Avraham Avinu
1949-1997 Nachor
1959-1998 Haran
1958 (1st Tishri)-2085 Sarah Imeinu
1973 Avraham marries Sarah
1998 Avraham smashes his father's idols, and is subsequently cast into the furnace by Nimrod
1996 The Tower of Bavel
2000 Terach takes his family from Ur Kasdim to Charan; Avraham and Sarah preach monotheism to the people
2006 No'ach dies
2083 Terach dies
2085 The Akeidas Yitzchak. Sarah Imeinu dies.


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