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

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Vol. 12   No. 1

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Parshas Bereishis

Two Trees
(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash)

Seeing as G-d had explicitly permitted Adam to eat 'from all the trees in the Garden' except for the Tree of Knowledge, there is no reason to assume that he had not eaten from the Tree of Life before eating from the Tree of Knowledge, comments the Rosh quoting Rebbi Shimshon. Assuming that he did, he asks, why did he die after eating from the Tree of Knowledge? Why did the fruit from the Tree of Life that he had eaten not protect him from dying?

And he answers that what he ate before would not have helped him survive, once he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. And he compares it to a healthy man who takes a medicine. That medicine will not have any affect on him, since he is not sick. On the contrary, once he becomes sick it is the illness that neutralizes the medicine, rather than the medicine neutralizing the illness.

So too, the Tree of Life was like a medicine, which only cured the sickness of death once he had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge and had to die. Before that, the inherent poison of the Tree of Knowledge would negate the power of the Tree of Life, rendering it impotent.

And when G-d banished Adam from Gan Eden in case he would "eat from the Tree of Life and live forever", that was only because he knew that he would not eat from the Tree of Knowledge a second time.


In a slight variation of the same idea, one might refer to the Tree of Life as an antidote. Eating from it before he had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge would have been futile, since at that stage, he was destined to live forever anyway. And it was only after he had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, and death was decreed upon him, that the Tree of Life became necessary to save him from the death penalty, should he partake of it.


If the Tree of Life was created solely as a cure or as an antidote for Adam, should he eat from the Tree of knowledge, as we explained, then the question arises, why did G-d create it? It was only destined to play a role once Adam had sinned, but the moment he did, G-d promptly banished him from Gan Eden, precisely so that he should eat from it. So why did He create it?

It therefore seems to me that the Tree of Life had its own intrinsic role to play, and not secondary to the Tree of Knowledge.

Had Adam not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Life would have granted him Life by its mere proximity. In other words, it would have been the source of Adam's eternal existence. However, once Adam sinned, the poison of the Tree of knowledge neutralized the function of the Tree of Life, depriving it of the Power of providing life unless its fruit too, was imbibed. And because Adam no longer deserved to live forever, G-d banished him from Gan Eden, to ensure that this should not happen.

This is similar to the concept of Galus, which the commentaries explain esoterically, to be a means to attract the Neshamos of those gentiles who are due to attach themselves to the Jewish people.

There too, the question arises, what would have happened if Yisrael had not sinned, and had not needed to go into Galus. Does it mean that then those Neshamos would have been lost?

Of course it doesn't! Had we not sinned, our own influence would have been so powerful, that we would have attracted the gentile Souls of the nations of the world, from Eretz Yisrael. They would have come to us. Now that we sinned, and our influence was weakened, we could only attract them by going to them in Galus.


In any event, it is no longer necessary to confine the Tree of Life to a secondary role. As we explained, it had a role of its own to play. And this is borne out by the order in which the two trees appear in the Torah - " ... and the Tree of Life in the middle of the Garden, and the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad" (2:9). Surely, if the sole purpose of the Tree of Life was secondary to that of the Tree of Knowledge, it would have reversed the order, and mentioned the latter first. The order that they do appear on the other hand, makes good sense. For initially, G-d wanted Adam to live forever, by means of the Tree of Life, and it is only if he would succumb to the temptation offered by the Tree of Knowledge, that he would lose that right and be denied access to the Tree of Life.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash)

The Fig that Brought Mourning to the World

"And they sewed fig-leaves (alei te'einah) and they made themselves belts" (3:7).

"Te'einah", the Rosh explains, is of the same root as 'to'einah', which in turn, is rooted in the word 'Onein' (a mourner). After all, he explains, adopting the opinion that the fruit that they ate was a fig (see Rashi), the fig was instrumental in bringing mourning into the world.


A Dead Man Walking in the Garden

"And they heard the Voice of Hashem walking around in the Garden on the west side (mis'halech ba'Gan le'ru'ach ha'yom)".

In a play on words, the Rosh explains these words in the form of a dialogue between G-d and the Angels.

The Angels declared "Meis holech ba'gan" (There is a dead man walking in the Garden - Adam, upon whom G-d had decreed death if he would eat from the Tree of Knowledge).

'Arvi'ach lo ha'yom", replied G-d (I will give him one day's grace, since I did mention "on the day" [and "a day in Your (G-d's) eyes is a thousand Years"- Tehilim 90:4], and he will die tomorrow). Indeed, he lived a thousand years, with seventy years deducted, which would serve as the average life-span of his descendants (ibid. 10). Others explain that when Adam saw in the Book of the Creation that David was destined to die at birth, he donated seventy of his own years to him.


When Darkness Descended

"And you will bite him in the heel" 3:15).

Based no doubt, on another play on words (as the word for bite is "teshufenu", but it is also rooted in the word 'neshef', which means 'night'), the Rosh cites the Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer, which explains that the sun did not set on Friday night (for the Torah does not write there "And it was night and it was day ..." like it does on the other days of the creation). When it did set on Motza'ei Shabbos, Adam became afraid that the snake who had already misled them once, would come (in the dark) and bite his heel, upon which G-d sent a pillar of fire to light up the darkness.

Others say that Adam instinctively picked up two slates and struck them together, producing fire. This made him extremely happy, and he stretched out his hand towards the fire and recited the B'rachah ' ... borei me'orei ha'eish'.


Thorns in Our Side

"And thorns and thistles it (the land) will grow for you" (3:18).

Thorns and thistles are translated from "ve'Kotz ve'Dardar", whose numerical value comments the Rosh, is equivalent to that of "doros" (generations). In every generation he explains, there are Resha'im who are thorns in the side of the Tzadikim. If there is an Avraham, there is a Nimrod; if there is a Yitzchak, there are P'lishtim; if there is a Ya'akov, there is an Eisav, Moshe, Dasan and Aviram (Avi Ezri).


The Man's Curse
the Woman's Curse

"By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread" (3:19).

This curse, Rebbi Yehudah ha'Chasid explains, is restricted to farmers. It does not extend to princes and kings (doctors or accountants).

On the other hand, the curse "You will give birth in pain" applies to all women, irrespective of status or occupation. This is because Chavah sinned and caused Adam to sin too. Therefore her curse is more extensive than that of Adam, who sinned himself but did not cause others to sin.


The Mother of All Living Creatures

" And Adam called his wife Chavah, because she was the mother of all living creatures" (3:20).

The Rosh explains that Chavah would sustain every animal and beast, whilst Adam tilled the land.


The Fires of Gehinom ...

" ... And the turning blade of the sword" (4:2).

This refers, says the Medrash, to Gehinom, whose residents suffer a constant change of temperature from boiling hot to freezing cold and back to boiling hot (Rosh).

The famous fires of Gehinom, it seems, constitute only half the story.


Two Korbanos

" And it was at 'the end of days', and Kayin brought from the fruit of the ground" (4:3).

The Medrash explains that Kayin brought flax-seeds, whereas Heval brought sheep, and he cites the bitter ending to the combination to explain the prohibition of Sha'atnez (as wool comes from sheep).


Based on the Torah's expression "at the end of days" (used regarding Kayin), and "from the firstborn of his sheep" (used regarding Hevel), the Rosh also explains that whereas Kayin only brought his Korban from the leftovers of his meal (after having first derived personal benefit from the crops), Hevel refused to benefit from his sheep before having brought from them a Korban to Hashem.


Reward! Which Reward?

" .. and G-d turned to Hevel and to his gift" (ibid.).

This Pasuk, the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos observes, is an answer to those who deny the existence of the World to Come. For how else can one understand this Pasuk? The only thing Hevel received in this world for his pains was death. When the Torah therefore writes that G-d turned to Hevel ... " ( implying that He rewarded him for his gift), it can only be with reference to life in the World to Come.


Chanoch - and Matatron

"And Chanoch went with G-d (es ha'Elokim)" (5:24).

According to the Rosh, it was with the Angels with whom Chanoch walked, and he cites a Pasuk in Iyov (16:19) "Behold My witness ('eidi') is in the Heaven and My attestor ('sahadi') is on high". The numerical value of "Eidi" is equivalent to that of 'Chanoch', and that of "sahadi' (spelt with a 'Siyn'), to that of 'Matatron', a clear indication, says the Rosh, that Chanoch became Matatron.


When the Curse Came to an End

"This one will comfort us" (5:29).

They had a tradition that the curse of Adam ("The land will be cursed because of you") would not come to an end until a man would be born who was already circumcised, Then it would cease. No'ach was born circumcised, and everyone said (correctly) that he was the one to whom the saying referred.

Rebbi Yehudah ha'Chasid also said that before No'ach was born, everyone had webbed feet. In fact, they even used to plough with their hands. The first person to be born with separate fingers was No'ach. He was unable to plough with his hands, so what did he do? He invented the plough.


No'ach and the Nefilim

When No'ach rebuked the evil giants of his generation, ordering them to do Teshuvah before the water came and drowned them, they had all the answers ready. If G-d would bring the flood from the Heavenly bodies, they countered, their tremendous height would ensure that the water would not even reach up to their necks; whereas if He would bring it up from the depths, then they would simply place the soles of the feet on the source of the gushing water, thereby stopping the flood in its tracks. When the Flood actually arrived and they placed their feet on the gaping holes in the ground, from which water was gushing out to flood the world, G-d made sure that it became nice and hot, and they ended up with badly burned feet, from which the skin peeled off. That's before the water from the Heaven rose way above their heads.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 430:
To Bless Hashem After a Meal

We are obligated to bless Hashem after eating bread or one of the seven species mentioned in the Torah, provided one is satisfied. By 'bread', the Torah means bread made from wheat (incorporating spelt) or barley (incorporating oats and rye). And it is in connection with these that the Torah writes in Eikev (8:10) "And you will eat and be satisfied and bless Hashem for the good land that He gave you".

The point of satisfaction is not uniform, and every person knows what constitutes satisfaction as far as he is concerned. We know, for example, that a Tzadik eats just "enough to satisfy his Soul" (Mishlei 13:25), meaning according to what he needs to live.

Confirming the condition of satisfaction, the Gemara in B'rachos (20b) quotes Hashem, who told the angels that He favours Yisrael because they favour Him. After all, He explained, the Torah writes "ve'ochalto ve'sov'to u'verachto", yet Yisrael do not wait until they are satisfied. They bless Him (mi'de'Rabbanan) already after having eaten a k'Zayis or a k'Beitzah. The author will elaborate further on this Gemara and its implications later, including an explanation of a Machlokes that is based on its interpretation.

Before embarking on a reason for the Mitzvah, it is important to know by way of introduction that honour, glory, goodness, wisdom, ability and blessing in their entirety, already belong to G-d, and neither the words of a Chacham nor his actions, for better or for worse, can add to that or detract from it. In that case, it is important to remember that when we recite the words "Baruch Atah Hashem', or mention the word 'Yisbarach', this cannot be understood literally, as if we want to add something that G-d does not already have (Chalilah), for there is nothing that one can add. He is the Master of all creatures (as well as of blessings), He makes them and forms them out of nothing, and He is the One who showers us with an abundance of the B'rachos that He created, whenever He pleases.

It is therefore important to search for the meaning of the text of the B'rachos, to avoid spending so much of our time reciting something that we do not understand. Even though the Seifer ha'Chinuch heard other profound, esoteric interpretations of 'Baruch Atah Hashem', based on deep Kabbalistic secrets, he prefers to present a more simple explanation - everybody knows that G-d created the world and He formed man, and it is under his jurisdiction that He then placed the world and all that is in it.

Now one of G-d's Midos is 'Rav Chesed'. He desires only what is good for His creations, to which end He has decreed that they need to be worthy to receive it. Indeed, this is part of His flawless perfection, since it is only one who does good to others who fits the description 'perfect in his goodness'.

And now that the extent of G-d's absolute goodness creates His desire to shower us with His blessings, the B'rachos that we recite, simply serve to arouse within ourselves the acknowledgement that G-d is the epitome of all goodness and blessings. And it is this acknowledgement (that He contains all the good things and that He rules over them, to send them to wherever He deems fit), that renders us worthy of becoming the recipients of His B'rachos.

That explains why, after 'Baruch Atah Hashem', we ask for knowledge, forgiveness for having sinned, a cure for the sick or riches, whatever it is that we need. And after having placed our request, we again acknowledge that He alone is able to fulfill our request, for this constitutes the opening and the conclusion of the B'rachos, the latter being necessary so that we should not be perceived as a servant who, having received his portion from his master, slinks out without acknowledging his master's kindness.

According to this interpretation, 'Baruch' is an adjective, describing G-d as the One who incorporates all B'rachos.

(to be continued)

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