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OCTOBER 28-29, 2005 26 TISHREI 5766


"But of the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat thereof." (Beresheet 2:17)

As we begin a new cycle of studies in Torah, we realize that the first perashah, Beresheet, is filled with profound lessons. We read about Adam and the command from Hashem not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Rabbi Avigdor Miller quotes a famous verse from Mishle (9:17), "Stolen waters are sweet." This explains a lot of what is going on inside of Adam. Once this fruit was forbidden, it gained an especial allure in the eyes of man. Stolen waters are sweet, merely because they are stolen despite their lack of color or flavor. But there was another special tree in paradise, the tree of life, a tree that gives life. The fruit of the tree of life was not yet forbidden, therefore Adam was not tempted to eat from it. For sure he intended sooner or later to utilize the opportunity to gain life, but the permission to eat deprived the tree of life of its attractiveness. After the sin, it was already too late. Adam reminded himself of the great opportunity which he had neglected, but by then he was no longer in the Garden of den.

The lesson of this story is clear. Men are put by Hashem into this garden of life where the fruit of eternal life is available. Instead of utilizing life to earn happiness of the afterlife, man eagerly pursues worthless and even sinful ambitions. This is how man spends his years. Even when they are wise enough to perceive in their last years that they have failed to utilize the tree of life, their time is ended and they must forsake this garden of opportunity.

Let us turn this year of opportunity to a year of life. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Kayin said to Hebel, his brother" (Beresheet 4:8)

After Kayin spoke to his brother Hebel, the Torah says that Kayin came up and killed Hebel. What is not clear is what did Kayin speak about to his brother, and what, if anything, did his brother answer him. The Torah doesn't record what took place.

The message is that since Kayin was jealous that his brother's sacrifice was accepted and his wasn't, the envy was the emotion which directed Kayin's action. It doesn't matter what he said and what his brother answered. Anything that would have been spoken about would be taken the wrong way and would cause a rift. We must remember this when we are upset about something. Whatever is said is not going to satisfy us and can cause hatred. We should learn to keep quiet until we get control of ourselves so that nothing is said or done which may be regretted. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And there was evening and there was morning, one day" (Beresheet 1:5)

The Jewish calendar dictates that the beginning of the day begins at night followed by the day. In the gentile world, the opposite is true, where the day begins at sunrise and ends at night. The reason for this is that night signifies problems, troubles, and suffering, whereas the day represents happiness and salvation. For the gentiles, everything is beautiful at the onset and they have kingdoms, etc. But their future is one of ultimate doom. The Jewish nation has difficult times in the beginning, but in the end of days we will have true ultimate sunshine. This is the same reason the Sabbath of the gentiles is on Sunday at the start of the week, whereas our Sabbath is the end of the week, to signify rest at the end. We are at the footsteps of the Mashiah, let us reinforce our desire for the final redemption and Hashem we bring it now in our time, amen! Shabbat shalom! Rabbi Eli Ben-Haim

Wanna Bet?

"In the beginning" (Beresheet 1:1)

Why does the Torah start with the letter bet, the second letter of the Hebrew alef-bet, and not with the first letter, alef?

Actually, the Midrash Tanchuma (Beresheet 5) asks this question and answers, "Because alef begins the word "arur - cursed," whereas bet begins the word "baruch - blessed."

This explanation is difficult to understand. Alef also begins beautiful words, such as "emet - truth," or "ahabah - love," while bet also begins ugly words such as "barad - hail (7th of the ten plagues of Egypt) and "beliya'al - wickedness." So why does the Midrash offer such an explanation - one that doesn't seem to fully answer the question? The Midrash may be alluding to the following: The letters of the Hebrew alef-bet also serve as numbers. Each has a number value - alef equals one, bet, two, and so on. By extension, alef can mean to care only about one person, oneself, and to forget about others. Bet, on the other hand, means coexistence, caring and getting along with another.

The Torah starts with a bet to teach us that caring about others is baruch - the source of all blessing, and not with an alef - which implies selfishly caring only about oneself, which is arur, cursed.

The explanation of the Midrash thus shows how the very first letter of the Torah teaches us the importance of ahabat Yisrael, loving one's fellow Jew! A similar idea is expressed in the story told in the Gemara (Shabbat 31a). A non-Jew came to Hillel, the great Sage and leader of the Jews in his time, with a request to convert to Judaism on the condition that Hillel teach him the whole Torah while standing on one foot. To do this, Hillel chose a brief teaching that summarized all of the Torah: "What you dislike, do not do to others - that is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary."

Hillel wanted to show this proselyte, at the very beginning of his way through the Torah, that the basis of the entire Torah is to avoid selfishness and to care about others. (Vedibarta Bam)

Shabbat Table Talk

[Before the flood] "Hashem saw that man did much evil in the land, and all the thoughts of his heart were evil the entire day." (Beresheet 6:5)

Seforno explains that "man did much evil" refers to the past, and "the thoughts of his heart were evil" refers to the future. They would not listen to anyone who would try to correct them and therefore there was no hope that they would do teshubah.

Regardless of how many faults a person has, if he accepts criticism there is hope that he will improve. A person who loves criticism will be grateful to anyone who shows him ways to improve. As Rabbi Noah Weinberg says, "Everyone is grateful to someone who tells him that in his carelessness he dropped his wallet with a large sum of money in it. That should be our attitude toward constructive criticism."

Question: How do you react when someone criticizes you? Are you willing to ask five people to give you some constructive criticism? (Growth through Torah)

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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