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Vol. 24 No. 1
Wishing all readers a year of good health and success
Torah Cannot be Compromised
(Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim)
"Let us (G-d together with the angels) make man in our image, after our likeness, and he will rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over the animals, the whole earth and every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth" (1:26).
When Moshe Rabeinu arrived at this Pasuk, the Medrash tells us, he stopped short. "Why do You use the plural form here?" he asked G-d in surprise. "Why strengthen the hand of the Apikorsim who believe that there is more than One G-d?" "Write", G-d answered him, "and let those who want to go astray to do so". Meanwhile, we can learn from this Pasuk that one should not be ashamed to consult even someone who is less knowledgeable than oneself.
This Medrash, says the Chofetz Chayim, bears out the Chazal that Derech Eretz (good manners) preceded the Torah - by twenty-six generations. Indeed, the Torah is going out of its way to teach us a simple lesson in Derech Eretz, even if it entails using language that can be interpreted blasphemously. Thus it writes "Let us make man", and not simply "I will make man".
The truth of the matter is, comments the author, that even had the Torah written "I will make man", as in fact the elders would later translate for King Ptolemy in the Septuagint, those who were so inclined would nevertheless continue to believe in dual deity, and rest assured that they would discover other sources to prove their heretical beliefs. Or they would simply claim that Torah is not a Divine work anyway. Consequently, he concludes, the Torah may just as well write "Let us make man" for the benefit of those who will learn Derech Eretz from it.
This should serve as a rebuttal for those who insist on making changes to the Torah for the sake of people who may find it difficult to cope with it in its current form, or, to use a more popular argument, 'to keep up with the times'.
Surely, before making compromises in the name of the Torah in order to uphold its integrity, one should first consult the Torah's opinion in the matter. And the Torah has just indicated, in no uncertain terms, that it does not want compromise, motive notwithstanding!
This is reminiscent of a man who began throwing an assortment of perfectly usable articles that he had just stolen from a shop into the river. Everyone thought that the man was crazy. 'I don't know whether he was crazy or not', commented the Chafetz Chayim. 'What I do know is that the articles were not his'. And so it is with the person who is willing to compromise on the Mitzvos of the Torah. He may be crazy or he may not be crazy, but what is certain is that he has no portion in the Torah. If he did, he would cherish and protect it, not sacrifice it!
To be sure, it is that much more convenient to compromise on obligations that are difficult to meet, but look what happened to King Shaul when, following Shmuel ha'Navi's command to totally destroy Amalek, man and animal he found a 'good' excuse to rescue King Agag and to keep alive the sheep. On the other hand, see what happened to Mordechai, when, despite the life-danger involved, he refused to bow down to Agag's descendent, Haman. How his stubborn refusal initially incurred the all-powerful Haman's wrath. Yet that very refusal to compromise ultimately brought about the miraculous downfall of that very man, together with his ten sons.
Yes, the very same Haman, whose existence was due to the misplaced compromise of Mordechai's ancestor, Shaul, died as a result of Mordechai's refusal to compromise!
So you see, the Chofetz Chayim concludes, how important it is to be firm as a rock and as an iron post in the service of Hashem. It may well sometimes appear more prudent to overlook some of the 'minor' details of the Mitzvos for one reason or the other, but safeguarding the wider basic principles takes precedence. The truth of the matter is that miracles will occur for those who refuse to budge when the Kavod Shamayim is at stake, like they occurred to Mordechai ha'Tzadik. They will never occur on behalf of those who seek compromise!
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The Alef & the Beis
"Bereishis boro Elokim … " (1:1).
The commentaries offer many explanations as to why the Torah begins with a 'Beis' and not with an 'Alef'. The following is a well-known Kabbalistic interpretation.
'Beis' stands for 'B'riyah' creation, a state which lies within our realm of comprehension; 'Alef', for 'Atzilus', the situation out of which creation came into being - a state which is beyond human comprehension. Therefore the Torah could not have begun with an 'Alef', since the Torah, in its current format, was given to us to understand.
Nevertheless, the Zohar explains, the Alef (Atilus) is hinted in the top of the right leg of the 'Beis', which points back at the 'Alef', as if to say 'You created me!'
"Bereishis boro Elokim" (1:1) … "boro Elokim la'asos" (2:3).
One of G-d's Thirteen Attributes is 'emes' (truth). The Torah, God's Book, too, is called 'Toras Emes', as we testify every day in 'u'vo le'Tziyon go'el'. And it is also the Midah of Ya'akov (the chosen of the Avos), whose image is engraved underneath G-d's Holy Throne, as we say (Ibid.)'You give Emes to Ya'akov'. This goes nicely with the adage 'Yisrael, Oraysa ve'Kudsha-B'rich-Hu' chad Hu (Yisrael, Torah and G-d are one).
Stressing the singular importance of Emes, Chazal describe it as G-d's seal. That being the case, it is not at all surprising to find the word "Emes" spelled out in the last letters of three consecutive words (just like a seal which one finds at the end of an important document) a number of times during the course of the Creation.
(Refer to the Ba'al ha'Turim, who lists the various sequence of words where this occurs.) Interestingly, the first and last times that he lists are to be found in the first three words of the Creation "Bereishis boro Elokim" and the last three words there "boro Elokim la'asos", to teach us that G-d stamped His Royal Seal at the beginning of the Creation and at the end.
Yisrael Attest to the Creation
" … le'einei kol Yisrael" (ve'Zos ha'B'rochoh 34:12) … "Bereishis boro Elokim es ha'Shomayim ve'es ho'oretz" (Bereishi, 1:1).
Commenting on the significance of remembering the Exodus from Egypt, the Ramban, at the end of Parshas Bo, explains that whereas nobody witnessed the Creation of Heaven and earth - rendering the obligation to believe in it (and to discredit evolution), the whole of Yisrael witnessed the miracles in Egypt and the subsequent 'Yetzi'as Mitzrayim'.
And he points out that the G-d, who displayed total control over the laws of nature, compelling them to do His bidding, must have been the one who created them in the first place. Consequently, Emunah in the miracles of Egypt facilitate believing in the Creation.
And it is for exactly the same reason that at the end of ve'Zos ha'B'rochoh', the Torah mentions the miracles of Egypt, and ends with the words 'before the eyes of Yisrael', and then 'continues' with the description of the Creation. The message is that since Yisrael saw the former with their own eyes, they are able to attest to the latter as well.
Why Good is not Mentioned
" … G-d called the dry land 'yaboshoh' and the gathering of water He called 'yamim', and G-d saw that it was good" (1:10)
Rashi in Pasuk 7, comments that the words 'for it was good' do not appear on the second day, because, he explains the creation of the water was not completed until the third day. That is why on the third day it mentions it twice - once after the conclusion of the creation of water (as quoted above), and once after the creation of the vegetation and the trees.
So what if the water was not concluded on the second day asks Rabeinu Bachye? Why did the Torah not write "it was good" (to establish their existence) in connection with the creation of the sky and the angels, which were concluded on the second day?
This is a solid proof, he answers, that the main objective of the creation was the earth - for Yisrael to carry out the will of Hashem - and not the sky and the celestial bodies. Consequently, the Torah does not deem the creation of the sky and the angels sufficiently important, to write about them 'that it was good'. It therefore waited until the water was completed to insert it.
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