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   by Jacob Solomon

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PARASHAT BEREISHIT 5765 - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS


BASIC QUESTIONS ON PARASHAT BEREISHIT

In what context were the following said?

(i) Let there be light!

(ii) Let Us make Make Man.

(iii) You will surely die on the day that you eat from it.

(iv) For she was taken from a man.

(v) Therefore a man leaves his father and mother…

(vi) Where are you?

(vii) You shall eat bread with the sweat of your brow…

(viii) If you improve yourself, you will be forgiven.

(ix) You will be a vagrant and wanderer on earth.

(x) His days shall be a hundred and twenty years.

ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT OF PARASHAT BEREISHIT

In what context were the following said?

(i) G-d: in creating the same on the First Day of the Creation.

(ii) G-d - in creating Man on the Sixth Day of the Creation. [The use of the plural is understood by Rashi to refer G-d consulting His angels: and he brings in support a parallel explicit passage from Kings I 22:19]

(iii) G-d - to Adam - in warning him not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

(iv) Adam - exclaiming his recognition of Eve as being of the same species as himself.

(v) Not clear from the text - Rashi understands the text as G-d's comment in relating human practice to the coming together of Adam and Eve.

(vi) G-d to Adam, after he ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.

(vii) G-d to Adam - as a consequence of eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.

(viii) G-d to Cain, when Cain was distressed that his offering was not accepted.

(ix) G-d to Cain, as a consequence of his having murdered his brother, Abel.

(x) G-d - in exclaiming His distress in his disappointment with Mankind. ['His days shall be one hundred and twenty years' is variously interpreted by the commentators - including that a person's lifespan shall only extend to a hundred and twenty years, and that in another hundred and twenty years, He will bring the Flood.]

QUESTIONS ON RASHI'S COMMENTARY ON PARASHAT BEREISHIT

Why, according to Rashi:

(i) does the Torah begin with the story of the Creation, rather than the first of the 613 Mitzvot?

(ii) did G-d give a special blessing to the birds and fishes?

(iii) did G-d give the command to 'conquer her' (1:28)?

(iv) is it 'not good for Man to be alone' (2:18)?

(v) is a woman described as 'a helper - kenegdo' (ibid)?

(vi) should one be careful not to exaggerate G-d's teachings?

(vii) did G-d call to Adam after he ate from the forbidden fruit: 'Where are you?' (3:9)

(viii) did G-d accept Abel's offering and not Cain's? (implied)

(ix) was Noah so called?

(x) was G-d comforted that 'He made Man on the Land' (6:6)?

ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS ON RASHI'S COMMENTARY ON PARASHAT BEREISHIT

(i) This is to bear testimony that G-d is the Creator of the Universe and that He - the Almighty to whom the whole Universe belongs - declared that land of the Seven Nations (the Holy Land) belongs to the Israelite nation.

(ii) This was to ensure that they multiply in great numbers, providing a constant supply of food for Mankind.

(iii) To teach Mankind that it is a man's duty to search for a woman as a life partner, and not the other way round.

(iv) If Adam was to remain the only creature in the world of his singular intellectual capacity, he might be perceived as a deity on earth, as it were, by the lesser members of the Creation

(v) The word 'kenegdo' has a double meaning - 'corresponding to him' and 'against him'. If he is worthy, she will complement him; if he is unworthy, she will stand her ground against him.

(vi) Eve related to the snake that G-d did not only forbid eating from the Tree of Knowledge, but she went further by falsely claiming the He forbade touching the tree as well. The snake, by way of response, (following Rashi) demonstrated that touching the tree did no harm, and argued that in the same way, eating from the tree would bring no adverse consequences. From that may be derived the danger of wrongly adding to G-d's teachings and instructions.

(vii) To teach us correct conduct - that one should always open in as calm a manner as possible - whatever the claim - so that the accused will be at ease to converse.

(viii) The text, according to Rashi, implies that Abel brought his offering from the best of his products, whilst Cain brought his from inferior resources.

(ix) The spelling of the word 'Noah' in Hebrew also means 'rest'. That was said prophetically in reference to Noah, who is attributed by tradition to have invented tools for land cultivation - easing the farmer's burden.

(x) On the land, Man could do relatively little harm. Were He to have created Man amongst the celestial beings, he may well have had a bad influence on them.

QUESTIONS BASED ON OTHER COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT BEREISHIT

Why, according to the commentaries below, did:

(i) G-d create each species 'to its kind' (1:25) - according to the S'forno?

(ii) G-d describe the Creation on the Sixth Day as 'very good' - according to Hirsch?

(iii) G-d create Adam outside the Garden of Eden, and only then 'lead him' (2:15) into the Garden of Eden - according to Chizkuni?

(iv) forbid Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (2:17) - according to the Malbim?

(v) G-d (Himself) clothe Adam and Eve (3:21) after the Sin - according to Rabbeinu Bachya?

(vi) G-d describe Man as being 'but flesh' - according to the S'forno?

ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS BASED ON OTHER COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT BEREISHIT

(i) According to the S'forno, the singular form 'its kind' implies that G-d endowed each species of the Creation with whatever senses and faculties it needs to thrive.

(ii) According to Hirsch, the Sixth Day of the Creation is described as being 'very good' because by then the Creation as a whole appeared as an integrated picture. For even things which in themselves appear to be bad - such as suffering and death - only appear so as isolated phenomena, but not as part of the 'great picture'.

(iii) He did this to show Adam the contrast between the poor land outside the Garden, and the highly productive land within. That contrast should have helped him resist the temptation to eat from the forbidden fruit, which put his future there in jeopardy.

(iv) The Malbim explains that on the day that Adam would eat from the Tree of Knowledge, he would feel the newly aroused instincts of jealousy, lust, and honor, making it impossible to attain the goal of complete spirituality - which would cause eternal earthly life to be an impossible burden.

(v) He did this to show Adam and Eve that He still loved them, despite their failure to resist the temptation of eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

(vi) G-d describes Man as being 'but flesh', according to the S'forno, to emphasize that he cannot survive without Divine compassion.

ADDITIONAL QUESTION ON PARASHAT BEREISHIT

G-d took the Man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and to guard it. G-d commanded the Man saying, "You may eat from every tree of the garden. But you may not eat from the Tree of Knowledge; for on the day you do eat from it you will die" (2:16-17).

Two issues: firstly, why did G-d create the Tree of Knowledge? Surely there were other ways He could have tested Adam's loyalty? Secondly, what was the connection between Adam's having to work and guard the Garden of Eden, and his being forbidden to eat from the Tree of Knowledge?

My attempts to write on these issues may be found on Shema Yisrael 5762

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Also by Jacob Solomon:
Between the Fish and the Soup

From the Prophets on the Haftara

e-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il

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