Parshat
Bereishit

A Student Publication of the Isaac and Mara Benmergui Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Bereishit            27 Tishrei 5762              October 13, 2001              Vol.11 No.5


In This Issue:

Rabbi Darren Blackstein
Mr. Baruch Speiser

Donny Manas
Willie Roth

Rabbi Howard Jachter

This week's issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by Aaron and Reva Tokayer
Ilan, Danielle, and Yaron in honor of Noam's Bar Mitzvah.




Operation Infinite Patience

by Rabbi Darren Blackstein

Every time Parshat Bereishit is read, we are forced to look back at the very inception of our existence.  We hope that the passage of time signifies growth.  Has mankind changed?  Has mankind improved?  How far have we come?  Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, creates Adam.  We seem to be given the first impression that such an existence might be tolerable.  However, Hashem decides to fashion a partner for him.  The Torah, in chapter 2 verse 18 tells us that Hashem said it is not good for Adam to be alone...  This speech is actually counted by the Midrash as one of the ten speeches that Hashem used to create the world.  Apparently, having a partner should remedy man’s situation from being one that is not good to one that is good.  Yet, in chapter three we read about the monumental transgression that they participated in by eating from the Tree of Knowledge.  They grew together, they sinned together, and we are taught that they both did Teshuva.  We would have hoped that the “good” that Hashem wanted out of this partnership would then be realized.  Yet, once again, we read in chapter four of the conflict between Kayin and Hevel, the children of Adam and Chava.
Ironically, their very names seem to set the stage for their eternal conflict.  The name Kayin seems to indicate, “acquisition,” while the name Hevel seems to indicate, “vanity.”  Man’s acquisitions are fleeting.  This is pointed out by the Ramban at the beginning of our chapter.  What does man do with his temporary ownership of things in this world?  Does he flaunt them as his own or does he dedicate them to the service of the true Owner?  It is fascinating to note that their strife appears to be kindled as a result of religious activity.  Kayin brings an offering to Hashem, as does Hevel.  Hevel’s is accepted, ostensibly due to the fact that he was willing to give up his choicest flock.  Kayin’s is not accepted, ostensibly due to the fact that he was unwilling to part with his choicest fruit.  This was, understandably, very frustrating for Kayin.  His first inclination was probably to feel immense grief, anger, and even jealousy when comparing his fortune with that of his brother.  In order to adjust his attention, Hashem speaks to Kayin.  In verses 6 and 7 Hashem tells Kayin that there is nothing to worry about.  If Kayin chooses improvement then he will be forgiven.  If he chooses not to improve then the chain reaction of sin will dominate his life.  Hashem gives him the choice!  Note that Hashem in no way, shape, or form, makes reference to Hevel.  Hashem knows what Kayin is thinking but must let him choose how to deal with his brother.  Will his brother be a source of inspiration, showing how that which Hashem asks is not too hard because “my own brother was able to achieve success” or will Kayin use his brother as a way to avoid the challenge of self-improvement?
The answer is contained in verse 8 where we find Kayin speaking to Hevel.  Rashi tells us that the reason Kayin is the one speaking to Hevel is because Kayin was looking for a way to start a fight and we know that Kayin kills his brother.  Kayin was unwilling to face himself!  Indeed, Seforno points out that the setting Kayin chose for the quarrel was the field because it was away from the presence of their mother and father.  Parental presence increases family awareness and kinship and would have most probably avoided the tragedy.  Once gain, mankind chose to corrupt that which Hashem had intended: a partner, a wife, a brother, and by extension, all humanity is there so that we all may grow from one another and not over one another.
Having freshly emerged from the days of judgment, we certainly are in awe of Hashem!  Recent events have indicated that mankind is still hard at work on itself.  Have we improved?  Have we grown?  In large measure, we can answer this question in the affirmative.  However, there may be an equal amount of improvement left to be made.  How can there be beings that appear to be human, yet act like animals?  Obviously, Hashem feels that the greatest potential for “good” can only be achieved when different people work together and learn from each other.  Hashem is waiting for the world’s continued efforts in this regard.  He has been waiting for a long time.  Shlomo Hamelech said it best in Kohelet, his book on Hevel, which we just read last Shabbat.  In chapter 4 verse 10 we are told that two people are better than one because if one falls, the other will pick him up, and how terrible it is to be alone with no one to lift you up.  How beautiful a scene it is to behold one human being helping another!  When we increase our acts of Chessed we confirm that which Hashem intended for our own “good.”  If a part of humanity is failing, then it carries with it some type of message for all of us!  There can never be enough effort expended in the area of Maasim Tovim.  As we pray and eagerly await the messianic era and rebuilding of the Bait Hamikdash, let us not forget that Hashem is also eagerly awaiting our return.
 

And Hashem Created It All - Then Why Didn't You Say So?
by Mr. Baruch Speiser

The narrative in which Hashem creates the universe is, superficially, straightforward and simpleAfter thousands of years of exposition and expounding, we know this not to be the caseThe complexity and subtlety of the first section of the Torah and of the universe’s history have well been established.
While reading through the narrative of even the first day of creation, we find the most perplexing verses, as the first thing that Hashem creates, light, seems to have been superceded by darkness.  While Hashem proclaims, “Let there be light,” there seems to be no indication that He proclaims the existence of darkness
Hence, in the very next verse, it appears as though Hashem is separating His creation, light, from that which seemingly He did not create, darkness, which preexisted!
One also discovers that the first day lacks the active participation of Hashem’s craftsmanship
On almost all of the other days of creation, the Pesukim explicitly state,
ויעש, “He made,” or ויברא, “He created” (see 1:14, 16, 20, 21, etc.)On the first day, it is merely a passive participation, where Hashem wills it and it then comes into beingThis implies that while Hashem ordered the creation of the light, the Almighty might not have fashioned itThis raises a second question: why does Hashem choose to record the creation of light and darkness in a manner that depicts Him as a passive participantThe first day is the ultimate demonstration of the Almighty’s power, the day in which he makes order from chaos; it seems most significant that Hashem is not recorded as decisively being the sole creator of all that is and all that is not.  Why?
It is possible to suggest that because darkness was a part of the mess and undefined state of pre-creation – “Vehaaretz Haytah Tohu Vavohu Vechoshech Al Penei Hatehom” (Gen. 1:2) - it did not need to be created; but this only exacerbates our question - did not Hashem create this confusion, this "Tohu Vavohu Vechoshech?”  Surely He had crafted this mayhem; it is impossible, unthinkable, and certainly untenable to suggest otherwise.  So to reiterate, why does the Chumash present darkness as a lack of creation?
Allow us to turn to another of Hashem’s great volumes of wisdom given to mankind: scienceThe themes of light versus darkness echo throughout literature, but as proven by physics, darkness is merely the absence of lightWhile this piece of information may not startle the average educated individual, its application to the reading of this passage produces a remarkable insightThe absence of light, a void, a vacuum, nothingness is so extraordinary that it can only be part of the pre-creation worldIt is unfathomable for the human mind to perceive a total void, bleak and empty to all meaning and organizationThe Torah was created for the sake of human understandingThe active creation of darkness would undermine the significance of nothingness; nothingness as we perceive it is still a concept, an idea; in the world of pre-creation there could be no such notionThe fact that Hashem does not depict the creation of darkness does not present us with something that existed before creation, it instead serves to emphasize that nothing would or could even be if it was not for creationThe concept of “Tohu Vavohu Vechoshech Al Penei Hatehoam” is absolutely meaningless without creation.  Nothingness is only known to exist because of the creation that contrasts itIt is therefore clear that the first day of creation truly did mark the beginning of existence; because there could be nothing before the act and will of Hashem that defined everything that is and that is notSo the Parsha continues: “Vayavdale Elokim Bein Haor Uvein Hachoshech” as we say in Havdala, Hashem provided us with the ability to discern the difference between light and darkness, therefore on the first day He created the very concept of darkness; which would have a completely different meaning if subject to an actual declaration or creationThat would only rob humanity of the truth, leaving us with the impression that darkness and void is an entity in itself, and that pre-creation had meaning and structureSuch a notion would defeat the entire significance of creation.
We see from here the complexity and subtlety that the narrative of the Torah presents to us.  It is our obligation to scrutinize it until we find the answer to our questions, in which we will only find that the Torah is not in contradiction to what we know, nor is it proof, but that it is the source of all knowledge; as Mishlei 8:22-31 tells us, that Hashem looked into Torah and then created the universe.
 

Possessions
by Donny Manas

"Bereishit" “In the beginning....” (Bereishit 1:1)
Rashi, commenting on this Pasuk asks why the Torah commences with
בראשית rather than with the first Mitzva given to the Jewish people.  He answers כח מעשיו הגיד לעמו לתת להם נחלת גוים, He told His people of the strength of His deeds, to give them the inheritance of the nations.  Should foreign nations accuse the Jews of forcibly occupying their land, the Jews are to answer that the entire world belongs to Hashem; he created the land and may give it to the nation He wants to.
By our believing and showing that Hashem created the world, the Sitra Achra (forces of evil) are unable to claim that we are oppressors.  Everything is ours because everything was created for our sake (Bereishit Rabba 1:1).  When Hashem wanted, He gave it to them and when He wanted, He took it from them and gave it to us (Likutey MoHaran II, Lesson #78).
When a fruit grows, the first part of it to grow is the Kelipa (shell).  So too, when some “fruit,” something good, comes to the world, its Kelipa precedes it (Likutey MoHaran II, 5:10).  However, even after the “fruit” has come to one’s hand, the Kelipa possesses it until one “purifies” it.  For example, the last stages of “purifying” a walnut are cracking the shell and making the appropriate blessing.
Just as the “fruit” has different manifestations, so do Kelipot.  Though Kelipot are meant to protect the “fruit,” they may become agents of destruction, causing “fruit” to be lost, stolen, or ruined.  In virtue of their prior custodianship, the Kelipot have permission to withhold the benefits of the “fruit” until it is “purified.”  How does one protect, and purify, his possessions from Kelipot?  King Shlomo tells us twice, “Prudence [i.e. Torah] will protect you,” and “when you lie down she [Torah] will watch over you” (Mishlei 2:11, 6:22).
When one has sufficient faith to observe the Mitzvot of the Torah, and does, he is proclaiming that Hashem created everything and that everything is under His jurisdiction, as the Torah starts, “In the Beginning Hashem created the heavens and the earth.”  Once one has made such a declaration the Kelipot have no permission to claim that anything is theirs and certainly they have no permission to damage.  The more robust and broader one’s observance—the stronger one’s proclamation—the deeper and more thorough the “purification.”
The “fruit” is something that belongs to the entire Jewish people, not to individuals, and as a community, and a nation we must strengthen our observance in order to purify the “fruit.”  If, heaven forbid, we ourselves abuse the “fruit” and treat its innate sanctity and special status with contempt, the Kelipot are empowered and become more vociferous and violent in their attempts to wrest it back from us, heaven forbid.
Hashem created everything, and therefore, everything belongs to Hashem.  Our believing that and our living that belief is our answer to our enemies.  When we live that answer no one can take away from us that which Hashem wants us to have.
 

Landing Space
by Willie Roth

The first Rashi in Sefer Bereishit is a very famous one.  Rashi asks why the Torah starts with the creation of the world as opposed to the first Mitzva of the torah, “Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem? 
The Siftei Chachamim comment that Rashi is not questioning why all the material between the creation of the world and the Pasuk of “Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem” is included in the Torah, but why the Torah starts with the creation.  In other words, Rashi is suggesting that the creation of the world should be mentioned at another point in the Torah.
Rashi answers his question by stating that by beginning with the creation of the world, the Torah transmits the message of the Pasuk from Tehillim (111:6)
כח מעשיו הגיד לעמו לתת להם נחלת גוים.  Hashem tells us of His ability to give us the estate of nations.  In other words, if other nations come and say that we are wrong for conquering the seven nations who lived in Eretz Yisrael, we can say that the world belongs to Hashem and He chose to give the land to us.
You can also look at Rashi another way.  The reason why the Torah starts with the history and the development of the nation of Bnai Yisrael is so that we would not have a guilty conscience, that we unjustly took the land from the seven nations.
 

Halacha of the Week
It is a Mitzva to visit Israel (Ketubot 111a and Mishna Berura 248:28).  This especially true today when Jewish tourism supports the economy and bolsters the spirit of the Jews who have the great merit of living in Eretz Hakodesh.

 

Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Josh Dubin, David Gertler
Managing Editors: Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter
Publishing Manager: Zev Feigenbaum
Business Managers: Yehuda Goldin, Sam Wiseman
Staff: Noam Block, Ami Friedman, Shuky Gross, Simcha Haber, Oren Levy, Ari Michael, Effie Richmond, Dani Shaffren
Webmaster: Yisroel Ellman (whose fault it is that I had to put this issue online!!!)
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

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