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

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Vol. 18   No. 1

This issue is sponsored by the Irom Family
in loving memory of their father
Yaakov ben Eliezer z"l
on his first Yohrzeit

Parshas Bereishis

All in the Word - 'Bereishis'
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Besides Moshe Rabeinu, about whom the Torah writes (in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah) "va'yar Reishis lo", the Torah refers to three Mitzvos as 'Reishis', the Mitzvah of Chalah ('Reishis Arisoseichem'), the Mitzvah of Ma'asros ('Reishis Degoncho') and the Mitzvah of Bikurim ('Reishis Bikurei Admoscho'). That explains, says R. Bachye, why, based on the word "Bereishis", Chazal say that the world was created for these three Mitzvos and for the sake of Moshe.

He explains how all of these are connected with Chochmah, which is borne out by the commentaries, who explain that, although the Torah begins with a 'Beis' (representing Binah), the right-hand extension of the base of the Beis points back to the 'Alef' (Chochmah), hinting that the source of the Creation is Chochmah. Besides, R. Bachye cites Unklus, who actually translates "Bereishis boro Elokim " as 'G-d created the world with Chochmah'. Chazal also note the connection between 'Reishis' and 'Chochmah' in the Pasuk in Tehilim (111:10) "Reishis Chochmah Yir'as Hashem", and it is surely no coincidence that the word "Yir'as" is also contained in "Bereishis". (Perhaps "Bereishis" is then the acronym of 'Shav Reishis' (the first thing is Teshuvah).


R. Bachye explains that Bereishis also hints at the first Beis-Hamikdash, which stood for four hundred and ten years, inasmuch as, if we divide the word into three parts 'Beis', 'Rosh' and 'Yud-Tav' - four hundred and ten, we can read it as 'Bayis Rosh (the first Beis-Hamikdash) 'Tav-Yud' (will stand for four hundred and ten years).

And when the Pasuk then writes. "And the land was null and void", it is hinting that the first Beis-Hamikdash was destined to be destroyed. The Pasuk continues

"And the Spirit of G-d hovered over the surface of the water" - with reference to the Torah ('Ein mayim ela Torah'), which G-d has promised in Parshas Vayeilech (31:21) will never be forgotten, even when we are in Galus.

"And G-d said 'Let there be light!" - This hints at the era following the Galus, the era of Mashi'ach (as the Navi indicates in Yeshayah [60:1] "Arise shine, for your light has come").

"And G-d divided between the light and the darkness" - It is during the era of Mashi'ach that G-d will draw a clear distinction between Yisrael, who long for the salvation, and the gentile nations, who dwell in darkness.


And it is in the above connection that the Medrash interprets the current Pasuk in connection with the four nations that were destined to subjugate us, when it writes "And the land was null and void, and darkness covered the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of G-d hovered over the surface of the water".

"And the land was null" - 'This is the kingdom of Bavel'; "and void" - 'This is the kingdom of Medes'; "and darkness" - 'This is the Kingdom of Greece'; whereas "the depth" - refers to 'the Kingdom of Rome'.

"And the Spirit of G-d" - 'This is the spirit of the Mashi'ach'.

According to the Medrash, G-d informed us already at the beginning of the creation what was destined to occur at the end of time, to teach us that the purpose of the creation was the days of Mashi'ach ('Sof ma'aseh be'machashavah techilah').


Other hints contained in the word "Bereishis", says R. Bachye are 1. "Eish B'ris" - with reference to the third Beis-Hamikdash, which will come down from Heaven made of fire, and which G-d swore would never be destroyed. 2. 'Boro Shis' (He created the foundations) - with reference to the Beis-Hamikdash's foundations deep under the ground (known as the Shitin), which G-d already dug before the creation, and 3. 'boro tayish' - hinting at the ram that was created before the world, and which was waiting in the thicket to be sacrificed in place of Yitzchak.

Furthermore, the author says, "Bereishis" is the acronym of 'Beis-Yud' Areshes', meaning with ten sayings/commands (as in 'Areshes sefoseinu' the sayings of our lips, that we recite after the Tekiyos during Chazaras ha'Shatz) - with reference to the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, that G-d created the world with ten commands.

And finally, alluding to the opinion of R, Eliezer that the world was created in Tishri (which the Gemara accepts against that of Rebbi Yehoshua, who maintains that it was created in Nisan), R. Bachye points out that "Bereishas" is the acronym of 'Alef be'Tishri'.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva al ha'Torah)

The Land is Ours

"In the beginning G-d created Heaven and earth" (1:1).

Rashi explains that the Torah begins with "Bereishis" (rather then with the Mitzvos given to K'lal Yisrael [in Parshas Bo]) to counter the nations of the world's claim that we are robbers, who captured the seven lands of Cana'an. We can now tell them that since G-d created the world, He owns it. Consequently, He gave it first to Cana'an; then He took it away from the Cana'anim and gave it to us. .

But how can they accuse us of being robbers, asks Rabeinu Tam from Orleans? Does the Torah not specifically relegate Cham (the father of Cana'an) to the status of 'Eved Avadim' to his brothers, Shem and Yefes; and whatever a slave owns belongs to his master? Indeed, at the international tribunal convened by Alexander the Great, Gevihah ben Pesisah used this very argument to prove that the Cana'anim had no right to Eretz Yisrael.

Rebbi Aharon from Poitiers dispels this argument, however, due to the fact that Cham became the slave, not only of Shem, but also of Yefes. In that case, half of Cana'an's lands ought to have been given to Yefes' descendents, as the above Pasuk implies (when it writes "to his brothers"), and as the Torah specifically writes in No'ach "G-d will give Yefes beauty, and he will dwell in the tents of Shem, and Cana'an will be a slave to them!" So by virtue of the fact that we did not give any part of the captured land to Yefes, that answer would not have completely dispelled their claim that we are robbers.

That argument may well have sufficed to satisfy the judges of Alexander the Great, but it would not satisfy the Western World (the sons of Yefes)!


G-d's Throne of Glory

" and the wind from G-d was hovering on the surface of the water" (1:2).

Rashi explains that G-d's Throne of Glory was standing in the air and hovering .

What prompts Rashi to insert the Throne of Glory into this Pasuk, asks the Riva?

And he cites R. Elyakim, who explains that since the Gemara in Pesachim lists G-d's Throne as one of those things that was created before the world (see also 'Highlights from Targum Yonasan'), it stands to reason that G-d was sitting on it at the time of the creation. And this Pasuk was the ideal location to insert it.


The Two Big Luminaries

"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, and the stars" (1:16).

How do we explain the fact that the Torah first refers to the sun and the moon as two big luminaries, suggesting that they were equal in size, and immediately refers to the moon as a small luminary, asks the Riva?

Quoting the Rav B'chor Shor, he explains that initially the Torah refers to them as the two great luminaries, because compared to the stars (as we see them), they are indeed large, but then it refers to them independently, where the sun is much larger than the moon (and always was, even before its size was reduced).

Alternatively, he explains, the Torah may well refer to the moon as small on account of the fact that it was later reduced in size. But originally, it was created the same size as the sun.


The Tree of Life?

"From all the trees of the garden you shall eat" (2:16).

It is to be assumed that Adam fulfilled this command (the only Mitzvas Asei that he had been commanded) and that he ate from the Tree of Life too. If that is so, asks the Riva, how could G-d decree death on him, seeing as the Pasuk specifically writes about it "and he will eat and live forever"?

Firstly, he answers, the fruit of the Tree of Life was only effective after one had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge (where the Pasuk we just quoted is written), because that is when one would need an antidote from the ensuing death penalty. Sure enough, the moment Adam did so, G-d hastened to banish him from Gan Eden, 'lest he eat from the Tree of Life '.

And he compares this to a medicine, which is effective for a sick person but which makes a healthy person sick.

Secondly, the Riva points out, Adam had only been in Gan Eden for a few hours, so perhaps he had not yet managed to fulfill the Mitzvah before eating from the Tree of Knowledge. And even if he had, it may well be that the Tree of Knowledge was so potent that it caused death even to someone who had eaten from the Tree of Life beforehand.

And besides, even if the Tree of Life was the more potent of the two, it may well be that before eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam was not sufficiently astute to eat from the Tree of Life first, to prevent the ensuing decree of death from taking effect.


What Was Chavah Made Of?

"And He took one of his sides and He replaced it with flesh" (2:21).

This is how Rashi translates the words "achas mi'tzal'osav", citing the Pasuk in Terumah "u'le'Tzela ha'Mishkan" (meaning 'and to the side of the Mishkan') as proof. And he concludes that it is from here that Chazal learn that Adam and Chavah were initially created as one entity, half male and half female, until G-d separated them.

The Riva asks why Rashi finds it necessary to translate the word "tzela" (any more than he does other nouns in the Torah)? Citing R. Elyakim, he explains that the word can also mean 'a rib' (which in fact, is how Unklus translates it).

Rashi however, rejects that translation in favour of 'side'. Because otherwise, how could Chazal infer from here that Adam and Chavah were initially created as one entity?


Adam's Discovery

"This time, a bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh" (2:23).

This teaches us, Rashi explains, that Adam had relations with every animal and beast, but he did not feel fulfilled until G-d brought him Chavah.

This cannot be taken literally, says the Riva (as it is inconceivable that Adam would have indulged in bestiality). What Rashi therefore means is that, in his profound wisdom, he examined the personality of each and every animal and came to the conclusion that there was none among them that would make a suitable helpmate for him.


Whether to Believe the Snake

"And the snake said to the woman 'You will not die' " (3:4).

Rashi explains that the snake pushed Chavah on to the tree and said to her 'Just as you did not die from touching it, so too, will you not die if you eat from its fruit'.

Quoting the Chizkuni, the Riva cites others who interpret the snake's words to mean that she would not be any worse off eating the fruit, since she was anyway destined to die for having touched the tree.

According to Rashi's explanation, the question arises as to why she believed the snake in the first place, when he pointed out to her that she had not died when she touched the tree? G-d, after all had not warned Adam that they would die immediately if they sinned, but that they would die on the day that they did so, and the day was not yet over?

Some commentaries, says the Riva, explain that Chavah actually thought that they would die immediately upon eating the fruit or touching the tree (perhaps Adam failed to add the words "on the day " when he conveyed to her G-d's warning). Consequently, she believed the snake when he proved from the fact that she was still alive that she would not die for eating the fruit either.

* * *


' G-d called to Adam and He said to him "Is not the entire world that I created revealed before Me - darkness just like light? So how do you think in your heart to hide before Me. Do you imagine that I cannot see the location where you are hiding? And what happened to the Mitzvah that I commanded you?" ' (3:9).


'And he said "I heard Your Voice in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked, and the Mitzvah that You commanded me I removed from myself, so I hid out of shame" ' (3:10).


'And to Adam He said "Because you accepted the words of your wife and you ate from the fruit of the tree the land shall be cursed, because it did not tell (warn) you of your sin; (therefore) with toil you will eat from it ' (3:17).


' thorns and thistles it shall grow in abundance because of you, and you shall eat the herbs that grow in the field. Adam replied and said "Have mercy I beg of You Hashem, that we should not be on a par with the animals who eat herbs from the field! Let me get up now and toil with the work of my hands, so that we should eat the produce from the ground, in order that there shall be a distinction between man and animal" ' (3:18).


'With the toil of your hands will you eat food because you are dust and to dust you shall return, and from dust you are going to arise to give final reckoning on all that you did, on the day of judgement" ' (3:19).


' G-d made for Adam and his wife clothes of glory from the skin of the snake that He had taken away from it (which they wore) on the skin of their flesh to replace the nail that they had discarded, and He dressed them' (3:28).


'And G-d exiled him from Gan Eden, so he went and resided on Har ha'Mori'ah ' (3:23).


'And He banished Adam (from Gan Eden) and He rested the Glory of His Shechinah on the east-side of the Garden of Eden between the two Cherubs. Before He even created the world, He created the Torah and established Gan Eden for the Tzadikim who would eat and enjoy the fruit of the trees for having worked during their lifetime to study Torah in this world, and for having fulfilled its Mitzvos. And He established Gehinom for the Resha'im, which is compared to a sharp sword with a double-sided blade. He also established flashes of fire and burning coals to judge with them the Resha'im who rebelled in their lifetime against the teachings of the Torah (because the Tree of Life is the Torah! Whoever keeps it in this world will live forever via the Tree of Life, the Torah is good to serve it in this world like the fruit of the Tree of Life in the World to Come - (Targum Yerushalmi)' (3:24).

* * *

(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 456:
Not to Pay Attention to Someone who Prophesies in the Name of Avodah-Zarah

We are forbidden to pay attention to anyone who prophesies in the name of Avodah-Zarah. This entails not questioning him further concerning a sign or a miracle that he is able to give to support his prophecy, like we do with someone who prophesies in the Name of Hashem. Rather we are obligated to stop him in his tracks, as befits any other sinner. And if he persists in his evil deed, then we carry out the punishment as prescribed by the Torah - to kill him by strangulation. And it is in this connection that the Torah writes in Re'ei (12:3) "Do not listen to the words of that prophet ".

A reason for the Mitzvah is because people constantly make errors, their intelligence is weak and they do not always get to the bottom of things. So the Torah is worried that perhaps on account of the lying arguments and the lengthy discussions which one enters into with the false prophet who prophesies in the name of Avodah-Zarah, people will be convinced by his words. Perhaps doubts will enter their hearts, even if it is for only a short period of time, with regard to the veracity of his arguments, that perhaps there is a shred of truth in his lies. Even though we know full well that these thoughts will not last, since the truth will prevail and demonstrate that the false prophet's words are nothing but a pack of lies; Nevertheless, the Torah takes pity on us, not to waste even one moment of our precious time deliberating over those evil thoughts.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah are to be found in the eleventh chapter of Maseches Sanhedrin (and in the Rambam, in the first chapter of Hilchos Avodah-Zarah).

The Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to men and women. Whoever contravenes it and listens to a prophet who prophesies in the name of Avodah-Zarah, such as entering into a discussion with him or asking him for a sign or a miracle, has transgressed this La'av. He is not however, subject to Malkos, seeing as it is a La'av which is not subject to an action.

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