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

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Vol. 17   No. 1

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Parshas Bereishis

Adam Names the Animals

(Based on Rabeinu Bachye)

Commenting on the Pasuk " and whatever Adam named every living creature, that remained its name", R. Bachye cites the Medrash describing how Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu passed before Adam all the animals and all the beasts, and he (Adam) named each one. 'It is befitting to name this one 'Aryeh', this one 'Chamor' and that one 'Sus', he announced, and so with each and every animal. His ability to do that, says the Medrash, gives us an insight into the depth of Adam's profound wisdom. He was after all, made in the image of G-d and was the work of His Hands!

The author elaborates; he explains that in his great wisdom and power of perception, Adam understood the nature of every single animal and beast. And he now used that knowledge to name each of them according to its nature and characteristics. For example, he says, he recognized the immense strength of the lion and (perhaps on account of that strength) that it is the king of the beasts. Indeed, the prophet Hoshei'a even went so far as to compare G-d Himself to a lion, when he said (11:19) "They will go after Hashem like a roaring lion". So he (Adam) called it by the name 'Aryeh', since the letters of its name are all spiritual - the 'Alef', 'Yud' and 'Hey' are taken from Hashem's Name ('Eh'keh'), whilst the 'Reish' stands for 'Ru'ach' (spirit).

Likewise, he realized in his great wisdom, that the eagle is the king of the birds, and that it flies higher than all of them and, citing R. Sa'adya Gaon, he explains that every ten years it soars higher than ever before, until, overcome by the heat of the sun, it casts itself into the sea, where it becomes rejuvenated and begins a nother cycle. And it continues to do this after every ten years, until it reaches the age of a hundred, at which stage it soars high into the sky once again, but this time it falls into the sea and dies. All this Adam knew, and so he called the eagle 'Nesher' - the 'Shin' representing 'eish' (fire), the 'Reish', 'ru'ach' (wind) and the 'Nun', nofeil (fall), depicting its ways, its life-span and its end in three short letters.

And so it was with the donkey, which he called 'Chamor', based on the word 'chomer' (physical), because the donkey constantly pursues its own desires, and because in its physicality, it is the most stupid of all creatures. In addition, he called it by that name because it is its way to carry loads of produce, and one of the most common measurements used by Chazal in describing the loads carried by a donkey is 'Chomer' (the equivalent of fifteen Sa'ah).

Rabeinu Bachye then cites 'Sus' (horse), so-called by that name because (based on the word 'sos' - spelt with two 'Sinim' [a 'Siyn' and a 'Samech' are interchangeable]), the horse rejoices in warfare, as Chazal have taught. And so Adam went on to name every single animal and bird.

(The Medrash explains that he called himself 'Adam', because he was created from earth [adamah]).

And when Hashem finally asked him what He (Hashem) was to be called, he replied with the four-letter Name of Hashem, because, he explained, He was Master of all the creatures (see the author's final words in 2:19, and the footnote - also bear in mind that we pronounce Hashem's Name 'Alef, Daled, Nun, Yud', which means Master).


Chazal explain that Adam was created as an adult of twenty. Considering that the above took place immediately after his creation - just before he went on to name Chavah, his knowledge of language (Lashon ha'Kodesh), state of intelligence and profound knowledge of the creation was phenomenal, to say the least.


One can perhaps reconcile the creation with evolution, by explaining that G-d commanded each creation to appear, after having condensed the long, long process of evolution in a split second. In other words, things that ought to have taken millions of years to reach a stage of completion, came into being already formed at G-d's command.

But if this is feasible to say this with regard to all the other creations, it is not feasible to say it about man, who as the Pasuk describes, was formed directly by G-d "in the image of G-d", into whom He breathed a Neshamah, as the Torah writes (2:7) "And G-d formed man and He breathed into His nostrils a Soul of life".

Adam was created directly by the Hands of G-d, body and Soul, in the form of a super-intelligent human-being, precluding the possibility of any vestige of evolution from any part of his creation!

See also Parshah Pearls (1:27).

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Soul of Life

" Let the earth teem with swarms of living souls (Nefesh Chayah) " (1:20).

After having completed the formation of the Heaven and the earth, each of which then became the matter from which all Heavenly bodies and the earthly creations, respectively, were created, G-d now commanded the creation of the water, which became the matter from which some of the creations that move. The Torah uses the expression "Nefesh Chayah" (a soul of life), incorporating all creatures that live in the sea and the birds, which were created partly from water, partly from earth (as is clear from a combination of this Pasuk and that of 2:19).

The Pasuk uses this expression in order to distinguish them from the plants that were created on the previous day, which have a soul too (which causes them to grow), but not a soul of life. The basic difference between them, the author explains, is that whereas the latter move, the former don't.

And he goes on to divide those movements into five categories, each with its own name. Basically, they are 1. the birds that fly, 2. the animals and the fish that move forward by walking or swimming; 3. the insects that feel or grope; 4. humans that walk on two legs; 5. snakes and insects that crawl on their stomachs.

See also 1:31, 'The Number Five in the Creation'.


The First (Cave?)-Man

"And G-d created Adam in his image, in the image of G-d He created Him" (1:27).

See Main Article.

The world depicts the first man as a primitive being, looking much like an animal and acting like one, who had only just begun walking on two feet. He was of minimal intelligence, and was not even able to speak, let alone read or write. He communicated by grunting and growling, and what's more, it had taken him millions of years to reach that stage.

Now compare this to the Torah's description (through the eyes of Chazal) of Adam ha'Rishon on the day that he was created. Firstly, as one who was created by G-d's Hands, he was the most perfect and handsome human-being who ever lived. From the very first moment that he was created, he spoke a flawless Lashon ha'Kodesh, and his intelligence and knowledge far surpassed that of his descendents. For we see how he was able to blend his profound understanding of the animal world with his mastery of Lashon ha'Kodesh, in that he was able to name each and every species according to its nature and Midos - and he did all of this within a few short hours of his creation.

Finally, Chazal tell us, he wrote a history-book, which discussed the detailed lives of all the prominent people until the end of time. So he was a Navi too.

The contrast between the true image of the first man and the one portrayed by the world is so striking, that it would be comical if it were not so sad.

In any event, it demonstrated admirably, how far people can (and do) stray from the truth without Torah.


Very Good Things -
Like The Yeitzer-ha'Ra and Death

"And G-d saw all that He had done and behold it was very good (tov me'od) " (1:31).

"Tov", says the Medrash, refers to the Yeitzer ha'Tov (the Good Inclination), whilst "Me'od" refers to the Yeitzer-ha'Ra (the Evil Inclination).

What is so good about the Yeitzer ha'Ra, you may well ask?

R. Bachye explains that, were it not for the Yeitzer ha'Ra, people would not build houses get married or have children (and the world would cease to exist).


Furthermore, says the Medrash, "Me'od" refers to death. A wonderful institution, says R. Bachye, for it serves as the transition between one generation and the next. That explains why one recites the B'rachah of 'ha'Tov ve'ha'Meitiv' in the house of a mourner. And what's more, says R. Bachye, it creates life for the Soul of the Tzadik (presumably, what he means is that it creates the opportunity for him to enter 'the Land of the Living and brings him into close contact with the Shechinah), like we say in Hallel "Precious in the Eyes of Hashem is the death (ha'movsoh) of His pious ones"; and he goes on to explain the extra 'Hey' in "ha'movsoh" with reference to the Shechinah, who takes the life of the Tzadik, rather than the Angel of Death.


The Number Five in the Creation

"And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day (yom ha'Shishi)" (Ibid.).

Notwithstanding Chazal's well-known interpretation of the 'Hey' in the word "ha'shishi" (see Rashi), R. Bachye attributes it to the honour of Adam ha'Rishon, the crux of the creation, who was created on that day. It is as if the Torah was referring to that auspicious sixth day, on which Adam was created and which marked the end of the creation.


Alternatively, he says, it hints at the number five, which recurs on each day of the creation.

On the first day, he points out, the word "Or" (light) is mentioned five times, and on the second, it is both the word "Roki'a" (sky) and "Mayim (water). On the third day, the Torah mentions five different species of plant-life - 'vegetation, herbs, seeds, fruit that tastes like the tree on which it grows and fruit; on the fifth day, creatures with a soul were created, incorporating five kinds of movement (see Pasuk 20) and on the sixth, man, whose body possesses five senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing & sight) and whose Soul has five names (Nefesh, Ru'ach, Neshamah, Chayah & Yechidah).

All this goes beautifully with Chazal, who, commenting on the word "be'hibor'om" (2:4) explain that G-d created this world with the latter 'Hey'.

* * *

Highlights from

Targum Yonasan

'At that moment, the snake spoke Lashon-ha'Ra about his Creator, and he said 'You will not die; It is just that every artisan hates his competitors!' (3:4).

' the woman saw Sama'el the Angel of Death, she was scared and she knew that the fruit was good to eat, that it was good for one's eyesight, and that it was joyous to look at, so she took from its fruit and ate it, and gave some to her husband with her, and he ate too' (3:6).

'And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked, that they had been stripped of the nail garment (of protection) with which they had been created; and, aware of their embarrassment, they stitched for themselves some fig-leaves and they made themselves (wide) belts' (3:7).

'Then Hashem G-d called to Adam and He said to him "Is not the entire world that I created revealed before Me - darkness no less than light, and how do you think in your heart to hide before Me? The place where you are hiding is visible to Me. And what happened to the Mitzvah that I commanded you?" ' (3:8).

'And he said "I heard the voice of your words in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, and the Mitzvah that You commanded me I transgressed, so I hid out of shame!" ' (3:9).

' Hashem said to the woman "What is this that you did?", and the woman replied "The snake tempted me in his wisdom, and tricked me in his wickedness, and I ate" ' (3:13).

' Hashem brought the three of them to be judged, and he said to the snake " You will travel on your belly; your legs will be cut off and you will shed your skin once every seven years; Your mouth will contain poison and you will eat the dust of the earth all the days of your life" ' (3:12).

'And I will create a feud between you and the woman, and between your children and her children. And it shall be that, whenever her children will observe the Mitzvos of the Torah, then they will crush your head; but when they forsake the Mitzvos of the Torah, then you will bite their heels. Only they will have a cure but you will not, when, at the end of time in the days of King Mashi'ach, they will be at peace (whereas you will not)' (3:15).

* * *

The Mitzvos

Mitzvah 424:
Not to Test a Genuine Prophet

*We are not permitted to test - excessively - a Navi* who is chastising the people and who is teaching them the ways of Teshuvah, once he is known to be a true prophet. It is in this connection that the Torah in Va'esvhanan (6:16) "Do not test Hashem your G-d, like you did at Masa"; This means that one may not test the rewards and punishments that G-d sends us through His prophets to the point that we doubt them.

*A reason for this Mitzvah* is because over-testing a genuine Navi can sometimes be damaging, inasmuch as it causes people who are jealous of him and who are pained by his high position to object to his prophesies. Bear in mind that prophecy is not necessarily something that is ongoing; Some prophets prophecy only rarely, and if each time a Navi prophesies, he is asked to prove the veracity of his prophesies, it will often cause the people to rebel against him and to treat his words lightly. The Torah therefore commands us to have faith in him and not to put him to the test more than necessary. This actually happened when the false prophets challenged the true prophets and, in spite of sign after sign and miracle after miracle, the former denied the truth of their prophesy.

In similar vein, this Mitzvah forbids performing Mitzvos to test G-d as to whether He will reward him for obeying His word, rather than out of love or fear of Him. Do not question this from the Gemara in Ta'anis (9a), which explain the Pasuk "Aser te'aser" to mean 'Give Ma'aser in order to become wealthy!', because the Gemara itself explains that the Mitzvah of not testing G-d applies to all the Mitzvos, with the sole exception of Tzedakah. And they base this on the Pasuk in Mal'achi "Bring all the Ma'aser to the storehouse and test Me now ". The reason for this in turn (similar to in the Pasuk in Mishlei [19:17]"One who favours a poor man becomes Hashem's creditor"), is that those who sustain the servants of G-d with Ma'aser will earn themselves a blessing and a profit in their financial resources, which no amount of sin or iniquity can prevent.

*And the reason for the prohibition of testing G-d in the realm of Mitzvos * is based on the principle that there is no reward for Mitzvos in this world, as the Gemara explains in Avodah-Zarah (3a) "Today to do them", 'but tomorrow (in the World to Come) to receive the remuneration'. And when the Gemra says in Rosh Hashanah (4a) that 'Someone who donates a Sela for Tzedakah on condition that his son recovers from a severe illness, he is considered a complete Tzadik,', the commentaries explain that this is because deep down, he really wants to donate the Sela for Tzadakah, whether his son recovers or not, and not to test G-d.

*Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah* To validate the Navi's status as a Navi, to the point that we may no longer doubt his words, he needs to accurately predict (without erring in even one detail), two or three times, something that subsequently does occur). The event that he predicts need not be something supernatural (like those performed by Moshe, Eliyahu and Elisha). In addition, the potential Navi must be a man of integrity , who is pure in his ways, for we know that prophesy only rests on pious men of good deeds. The fact that a negative prediction of a Navi does not come true does not rescind his status as a Navi, for G-d is slow to anger, abundantly kind and is ready to retract from carrying out His evil decrees when people do Teshuvah - like we find with the inhabitants of Ninveh, and with Chizkiyahu, who was granted another fifteen years life after the decree that he would die had been issued. This is not the case however, where a Navi predicts something good, and that good does not materialize. Should that happen, the Navi's status has been rescinded. This is because, due to G-d's goodness and abundant kindness, anything good that He decrees via a prophet, even if it is conditional, cannot be withdrawn,. It transpires that a Navi can be properly examined via a positive prophecy and all other details are discussed in the Gemara (and in the Rambam, in the tenth chapter of Hilchos Yesodei-ha'Torah).

*This Mitzvah applies to both men and women* everywhere and. whenever a prophet arises in Yisrael. Anyone who contravenes it and tests him excessively, has transgressed a La'av. He is not however, subject to Malkos, since it does not involve an act.

* * *

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