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

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Vol. 13   No. 1

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Chayim Azaryah ben Yosef ha'Levi a.h.

Parshas Bereishis

Sin and Retribution
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

The Snake's Sin

After Adam and Chavah had eaten from the Eitz ha'Da'as, G-d said to the Snake (3:14) 'Because you did this, cursed are you more than all the animals and the wild beasts of the field ... and you will eat dust all the days your life' ".

R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld asks two questions, the first, based on Rashi, who describes the Snake as a Meisis (an enticer). This complies with Chazal, who equate him with the Yeitzer ha'Ra, whose job it is to incite people to sin. That being the case, why did G-d, who appointed him to that post in the first place, then see fit to punish him, when he was merely performing his duty? And he exacerbates the question by citing the Gemara in Sanhedrin (29a) which explains that the Snake could have avoided punishment by employing the classical argument 'When the Rav (Hashem) says do one thing and the Talmid (in this case, the Snake) do the opposite, to whom does one listen'?

The second question is: What did G-d mean when He told the Snake "because you did this ... "? What did the Snake do? Surely it was Adam and Chavah who performed an action; whereas the Snake only spoke, and speech is not considered an action (as we find in Makos 70b, and in many other places)?


And he answers by first of all pointing out that the second question is based on a slight misconception. True, the Snake sinned with the power of speech; but he also performed an act. Rashi himself cites the Medrash that the Snake pushed Chavah against the Eitz ha'Da'as and, when nothing happened, he said to her 'See, you did not die for touching it, you will not die for eating it either'.

So you see that the Snake did perform an act after all, and it is for that act that he was taken to task. His job was (and is) to talk people into sinning, not to accost them physically. That is why G-d responded with "because you did this thing". You overstepped your mark by performing an action, and that is why you are being punished ... Cursed are you more than all the animals ... '!


The Snake's Punishment

In a Beraisa in Yuma (75a), Rebbi Yossi comments how different are the ways of G-d than the ways of man. Anger the latter, and he will be after your blood. But G-d is different. As a result of His curse, the Snake slithers up to the roof, and he finds his food there, he slides down to the ground and there too, his food is waiting for him. So we see how even G-d's Midas ha'Din is tempered with Rachamim.

The question is asked 'Then what's so bad about the curse'? So the Snake has what they call in Yiddish 'permanent Kest' (all his means seen to). Surely that's preferable to spending one's days and nights in search of Parnasah, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim "the whelps roar for prey, and seek their food from G-d".

The answer to this says question the Chachmas Chayim, lies in the Gemara in Yevamos (64a), which explains that our Fathers and Mothers were barren, because G-d knew that they would Daven, and He eagerly anticipates the prayers of Tzadikim; specifically of Tzadikim (says the Maharal, but not of Resha'im, because a Tefilah is compared to a Korban, about which the Navi Yeshayah [1:12]) writes "Who asked you for this, you who trample in My courtyard").

With this, he adds, we can better understand the essence of the Snake's curse. G-d's was telling the Snake that He doesn't want his prayers, and that, unlike the other creatures that He created, he would never have the need to supplicate before Hashem for his Parnasah. It was as if G-d was saying to the Snake 'Here, take your Parnasah and get out of My sight'. And one can hardly imagine a more terrible curse than having one's connections with G-d severed.


This theme recurs constantly throughout the Pesukim in T'nach and throughout our liturgy. When the Pasuk writes in Ha'azinu "I wounded and I will heal", and one of the Piyutim in S'lichos "through their troubles avail them salvation and relief", what is it referring to if not to the interrelationship between G-d and ourselves. We sin, He sends us suffering; we call out to Him, and He responds?

Yes, suffering, as unwanted as it is, serves as our link with G-d. It is His way of reminding us to turn to Him in our troubles. And conversely, nothing causes a person to turn away from G-d more than when everything goes well and one forgets that One needs Him (as we find in numerous Pesukim, for example in Devarim [32:15]).


In fact, says the Chachmas Chayim further, this concept will also help us understand a Gemara in Pesachim (118a) ... When, after Adam had eaten from the Eitz ha'Da'as, Hashem told him that thorns would grow from the field and that he would eat the grass of the field, he burst into tears. 'Ribono shel Olam', he exclaimed in chagrin, 'should I and my donkey eat from the same feeding-trough?'

And when G-d replied "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread", he felt better.

It is exactly as we said. As long as a person's income is assured, without him having to raise a finger to obtain it, then he is no different than his donkey. Like the latter, all he has to do is approach the trough and eat, without a worry in the world. So when G-d informed Adam that all he would have to do is munch thorns and thistles together with the grass in the field, he was devastated. The mere thought that his sustenance was readily available, without the slightest effort on his part, brought Adam to tears, because he felt that He was as disconnected from G-d as his donkey. And it was only when G-d changed the decree to having to work by the sweat of his brow, that He felt relieved, because the fact that he would be in G-d's hands after all, and would have to turn to Him constantly in prayer, meant that G-d would always be at the receiving end, to send His blessing in all his endeavors.

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Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim

Unity and Division

"And G-d saw that the light was good, and He divided between light and darkness" (1:4).

Of all R. Chayim's supreme qualities, says the Chochmas Chayim, perhaps the most dominant was his insistence to divide from all those groups who in the slightest way, broke with tradition. He refused point-blank to make the least compromise to accommodate them, and he based this on a Medrash in this Parshah. Why, asks the Medrash, does the Torah not write "ki Tov" on the second day of the creation? And the Medrash replies that it is because 'machlokes' (division) was born on that day, for so the Pasuk writes "And it (the sky) shall divide between water and water".

R. Chayim asks, why the Medrash does not make the same observation on the first day, where the Torah also writes "and G-d divided between light and darkness", yet the Torah writes "ki Tov"?

Evidently, he concludes, it is possible to distinguish between one kind of division and another. Light and darkness, he explains, are two opposing forces, which cannot live together in harmony. Dividing them therefore, was a necessary part of the Creation and a good thing, as is the case with Tzadikim and Resha'im, which light and darkness symbolize.

Division between water and water is a different matter. Both are part of the same creation, and if it becomes necessary to separate them, something must be wrong, and for the Torah to have written "because it is good" would have therefore been inappropriate".


One Special Day

"And Hashem called the light 'day' and darkness, he called 'night'. And it was evening, and it was morning, one day" (1:5). Rashi, citing the Medrash, explains how, according to the parallel expression used on the other days ("the second day", "the third day" ...), the Pasuk ought to have written 'yom rishon' (the first day), rather than "yom echad" (one day); and the reason that it chose to write "yom echad" is because on the first day of the creation, Hashem was still single in the world, since by the second day, He had already created the angels.


R. Yosef Chayim suggests that the Torah uses the word "Echad" because the creations of that day were unique, in that they were all created out of nothing (which is known as 'b'riyah'), as opposed to the days that followed, when Hashem merely formed what He had already created ('yetzirah').


That's Called Conceit

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

The Gemara in Chulin (60b) remarks how one moment the Pasuk is talking about "two great luminaries", and the next, about "one great luminary and one small one".

And it answers that G-d did indeed create them equal. But the moon complained that it was not possible for 'two kings to wear the same crown'.

That is when G-d instructed the moon to make itself smaller. And when the moon queried the fairness in having to do this merely for having made a correct observation, Hashem responded by asking Yisrael to bring a Korban Chatas every Rosh Chodesh for having diminished the size of the moon.

G-d's response certainly begs an explanation, yet the moon did decrease in size, and has been smaller than the sun ever since, conveying the message that the moon had indeed erred in its statement.

R. Yosef Chayim explains that considering oneself on the same level as one's friend, is in itself a shortcoming for it smacks of conceit. Support for this lies in a letter that the Ramban sent to his son, where he writes 'All your words should be spoken gently, your head should be bent; your eyes look downwards and your heart upwards, and you should hold everyone greater in your esteem than yourself'.


Why Were the Sun and Moon Created?

"And G-d said 'Let there be luminaries in the sky to divide between day and night; and they will serve as signs and for festivals, for days and for years. And they shall serve as luminaries in the sky ... to light up the earth" (1:14/15).

Ask anybody why the sun and moon were created, and they will give you a quizzical look and reply, 'Why, to illuminate the earth of course! Why else?'

But that's not quite what the Pasuk says. The Torah lists among the purposes of the creation of the sun and the moon ... 1. to distinguish between day and night; 2. as signs (such as eclipses); 3. to determine the days and nights; 4. to determine the years, and only then 5. "and they shall serve as luminaries", almost as an afterthought, as Rashi writes 'And in this capacity too, they shall serve - that they shall illuminate the world'.

The first four capacities are spiritual, or at least they have spiritual connotations. The last capacity is purely physical, and the physical is always secondary to the spiritual. That is why the The Navi Yirmiyah writes (33:25) "Were it not for My Covenant (the Torah), night and day, I would not have put in place the natural attributes of heaven and earth". And that is why the Torah chooses to place it at the end of the list.


Perfecting Ourselves

"And G-d blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it, because on it He 'rested' from all the work that G-d created, to do" (2:3).

The word "to do (la'asos)" implies that with the advent of Shabbos, G-d stopped creating, and from now on the task of completing what G-d created then, lies with man. It is up to him to take G-d's creations and work on them, by planting and building the raw materials with which G-d presented him, and turning them into palatable food and buildings, and so on. The Pasuk says in Tehilim (118:126) "Eis la'asos la'Hashem Hefeiru Torosecho".

It also implies that man must complete himself spiritually, for just as he is born physically incomplete and mentally immature (as opposed to an animal which quickly attains physical and its maximum mental maturity), so too, is he born spiritually.

The numerical value of "eis" is four hundred and seventy, and that is how many words there are from "Bereishis" until the word "la'asos".

And "la'asos" is the equivalent to 'Mishnayos', a hint as to how to attain spiritual perfection.

And what's more, when David Hamelech wrote "Eis La'asos Hashem, Heiferu Torosecho", he is hinting at Rebbi, who transcribed the Torah she'be'al Peh (the Mishnayos) based on this Pasuk, so that Torah should not be forgotten from Yisrael.

Interestingly, Rebbi's Heter is already hinted here, by means of the four hundred and seventy words ("Eis) until the word "La'asos" (R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld).

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(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 31:
Reciting Kidush

It is a Mitzvah to recite words when Shabbos enters and when it departs, that should mention the greatness of the day, its supremacy and how it differs from the other days of the week, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:8) "Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it", meaning that one should remember it with a mention of sanctity and eminence. Chazal have said that Kidush must be recited over a cup of wine. One fills the cup with a Revi'is or more of undiluted or diluted wine (one part wine to three parts water). And one recites Kidush over it according to the traditional wording. And in the same way one recites a B'rachah over wine when Shabbos departs, and this B'rachah is known as Havdalah.

A reason for the Mitzvah is to arouse us to appreciate the greatness of the day and to fix in our hearts our faith in the creation of the world out of nothing, as the Torah writes (ibid 11) " ... for in six days did Hashem make Heaven and earth ... ". And the reason that Chazal fixed this Mitzvah over wine is because it is man's nature to be deeply aroused by wine, since it both nourishing and makes a person happy. And the author has told us on numerous occasions that to the degree that a person is aroused and his subsequent actions, to that extent they will leave their indelible mark on him. That is why the Gemara holds that if a person prefers bread to wine, then he should recite Kidush over wine (because then the bread will make a deeper impression on him than wine). Granted, Havdalah at the termination of Shabbos is confined to wine (to the exclusion of bread), but this too, is justifiable, since the Chachamim, as well as the Torah, always go after the majority, and most people fancy a cup of wine on Motza'ei Shabbos, more than food (bear in mind that they have just eaten a full meal in honour of Shabbos). Nor is it necessary to explain why Chazal fixed Havdalah over a whole fourth cup (presumably the author requires Kidush before Se'udah Shelishis as well), since less than that would not serve the purpose of arousing us to the thoughts mentioned above. The Chachamim require the Kos that is used for Kidush to be washed, and they also forbade eating anything once Shabbos enters, before reciting Kidush, and that Kidush should be recited in the location that one is about to eat. All of these are branches of the arousal that Kidush is meant to cause.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... such as the text of Kidush and Havdalah of Shabbos and Yom-Tov ... which wine is eligible for the Mitzvah and which is not ... whether one may, or may not, recite Kidush and Havdalah over beer ... what happens if someone is eating a meal when Shabbos arrives or departs ... The Dinim of the B'rachah that we recite over Besamim and over Ner on Motza'ei Shabbos and Motza'ei Yom-Kipur ... which spices are eligible for Besamim and which are not ... as well as all the other details of the Mitzvah, are discussed at the end of Pesachim, and in various places in B'rachaos abd Shabbos (see also Orach Chayim Si'man 262 & 271).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere to men and women, even though it is a positive Mitzvah that is time-bound, for, as our Rebbes have taught us, anyone who fails to sanctify Shabbos with words has negated this Mitzvah. Whereas if he recited Kidush but without wine or bread, he has fulfilled the Mitzvah min ha'Torah Bedi'eved.

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