A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Bereishit 29 Tishrei 5764 October 25, 2003 Vol.13 No.7
In This Issue:
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
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A Life of Torah
by Willie Roth
As we begin Sefer Bereshit, it is unclear what the purpose of this Sefer is. As Rashi, quoting Rebbe Yitzchak, asks, why does the Torah not start with the first Mitzvah in the Torah, “Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem” (Shemot 12:2)? He answers by quoting the Pasuk found in Tehilim “Koach Ma’asav Higid Liamo Latet Lahem Nachlat Goyim” (111:6). The strength of Hashem’s actions in Ma’aseh Bereshit is described in order to give them support for their claims against foreign nations. When other nations claim that Eretz Yisrael is theirs, Bnei Yisrael can simply point to Sefer Bereshit, which clearly shows that Hashem created the world and that He promised to give Eretz Yisrael to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Sefer Darash Moshe, suggests another answer. He explains that the purpose of Sefer Bereshit is to be a basis for all Mitzvot. He says that a person only fulfills a Mitzvah when he believes that Hashem created everything, because without Emunah the fulfillment of Mitzvot does not matter. Similarly, the Rambam in Hilchot Milachim 8:11 says that only a Nochri who follows the Sheva Mitzvot Bnei Noach because he knows that Hashem commanded Moshe that Nochrim follow them, is considered to be a wise and righteous Nochri. However, a Nochri who just follows the laws without a specific reason is not regarded as such a righteous person. Therefore, in order for Bnei Yisrael to properly fulfill the Mitzvot, they must first recognize and understand that Hashem created the world as described in Sefer Bereshit.
The Chafetz Chaim, in his Peirush on the Torah, gives a similar answer. He quotes a Pasuk from Tehilim, “Ma Gadlu Maasecha Hashem, Miod Amku Machshivotecha” “[Hashem,] Your actions are amazing, and even better are Your thoughts” (92:6). All of Hashem’s creations and Mitzvot have great purpose and meaning, but even more meaningful is the way that these creations act and work. Therefore, the Torah starts with stories of Hashem’s creations and the ways they act so that one can fully understand the basis for the Mitzvot and be able to do what Hashem wants of him.
The basic idea that both Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Chafetz Chaim express is that before one learns something or does something, one must understand what it is he or she is doing, and what the basis is for these actions. However, one question that still remains is why it is so important to understand the basis for the Torah and the Mitzvot; why can’t a person just do the Mitzvot without this whole introduction?
The Vilna Gaon, in his commentary on the Torah, has a beautiful idea that can be used to answer this question. He says that the Torah is our life, and just like the fish cannot live without water, even for a moment, Bnei Yisrael, too cannot live without the Torah. As it says in Devarim 30:20, “…Ki Hu Chayecha Vi’orech Yamecha…” “…because He [Hashem] is your life and your length of days…” The Vilna Gaon also shows how the Torah consists of life’s fundamental ideas that a person uses everyday. Every letter of the word Bereshit represents one of these ideas. The Bet stands for Bitachon or confidence. The Reish stands for Ratzon or desire. The Aleph stands for Ahava or love. The Shin stands for Shtika or silence. The Yud stands for Yirah or fear. Finally, the Taf stands for Torah. These six ideas are the most basic ideas that one uses in everyday life. In addition, Rav Menachem Baker, in his Sefer Parpeparot Latorah, quotes the famous idea of Chazal that the first letter of the Torah is a Bet, and the last letter of the Torah is a Lamed, which combined together spell the word Lev or heart. This again shows how the Torah is our heart, and just as we cannot live or breathe without our heart, so too we can not live without the Torah. Therefore, because the Torah is our life and has all of our life inside of it, it is important to know the background information of the Torah before one begins to practice the Torah. This is the purpose of Sefer Bereshit: to be an introduction to the Torah and all of the principles of the Torah.
by Simcha Tropp
In Perakim 4 and 5 of this week’s Parsha, the Torah records all of the descendants of Adam’s sons, Kayin and Shet. It is interesting to note that many of their descendants have very similar names. Kayin’s descendants include Chanoch, Irad, Metushael and Lemech. Similarly, Shet’s descendants include Chanoch, Yered, Mitushelach and Lemech. The Lemech who descended from Shet gives birth to the famous Noach, and the Lemech who descended from Kayin gives birth to Naama, who, according to the Midrash, was Noach’s wife. A close examination of this family tree will indicate why this occurs.
Kayin’s descendants are the great builders and workers. Kayin himself builds a city, which he names after his son Chanoch. Also, his descendant Lemech is a great hunter. In contrast, Shet’s descendants are very spiritual people. For example, the Torah describes Chanoch as “Vayithalech Chanoch Et Haelokim,” “Chanoch walked with God” (Bereshit 5:24). Another of Shet’s descendants, Noach, is described in the same way.
Earlier in Perek 4, Kayin kills his other brother, Hevel, and is punished by Hashem. Hashem says, “Lachen Kol Horeg Kayin Shivatayim Yukam,” “All who kill Kayin, before seven generations he will be punished.” Sure enough, Rashi on 4:24 and the Bereshit Rabbah tell us that Lemech, the sixth generation from Kayin, kills Kayin and his son, Tuval Kayin, who is the seventh generation, while hunting. Now that Kayin’s Aveirah has been reciprocated, the world could be improved with the help of Noach and Naama. The Torah writes, “Vayikra Et Shemo Noach Lemor, ‘Zeh Yinachamenu Mimaasenu,’” “He called his name Noach saying, ‘He will comfort us from our deeds.’” Even Noach’s name describes his ability to improve things. Also, Noach’s wife’s name is Naama, which means ‘comfort’. The marriage of Noach and Naama demonstrates the joining of two families and two ideals. In order to make the world better, it must contain some creativity and work and some spirituality. These are also the best ideals to have when rebuilding the world.
by Moshe Blackstein
The Torah starts with the words “Bereshit Barah Elokim Et Hashomayim Viet Haaretz. Vihaaretz Hayta Tohu Vavohu…” “In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth, and the earth was empty and void.” Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green explains some valuable lessons that can be learned from Maaseh Bereishit. If everyone would realize that without Hashem there would be no heaven and earth, then people would think more about their existence in this world. Just like Hashem is the cause of the world’s existence Hashem is also the cause of our existence.
Another important lesson can be learned from the Pasuk of “Vayomer Elokim Vayehi Ohr,” “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” Whenever a person is in a dark situation, or having a troubling experience, all that is needed to escape the darkness is a little light. This light represents the Torah itself. Therefore, when a person experiencing trouble finds that little bit of light, he can slowly escape from the darkness. A third lesson is learned from “Vayihee Erev Vayihee Boker Yom Echad,” “And it was evening (first) and (then) it was morning; one day.” This teaches us that night represents pain and suffering and day, represents light and all good. Since we know that day follows night, when a person is experiencing a difficult time, there is a “good” tunnel coming one’s way. Also, this is why Shabbat is at the end of the week. After a whole week of work and possible suffering comes some good.
Having just gone through the Yamim Noraim, the days of awe, and Sukkot, the Chag of happiness, may we all use the light from those days to shine upon the rest of the new year.
The Infinite Light
by Mitch Levine
In the opening Pesukim of Parshat Bereshit the Torah states that the earth was covered with darkness. Hashem said, “…Yehi Ohr Vayehi Ohr. Vayar Elokim Et Haohr Ki Tov Vayavdel elokim Bain Haohr Ubain Hachoshech” “…Let there be light and there was light. Hashem saw that light was good and he created a seperation between darkness and light” (Bereshit 1:3-4). These statements are at first glance providing us with simple narrative facts about creation. However, upon deeper reflection, important lessons about the greatness of Hashem and how we should conduct ourselves today become evident.
Rashi comments on this Pasuk that when Hashem saw that the light was good, He did not want light and dark to commingle, so He separated them into two distinct spheres of night and day. Why would Hashem create darkness and light together, comment that the latter was good, and only then separate them? Why did Hashem not create two distinct entities from the very beginning?
For man to appreciate what is good and positive around him, the contrast to what is harmful and negative becomes necessary. In the opening Pesukim of the Torah, the concept of the duality of life is already introduced, and Rashi states clearly that light and darkness should not be interwoven in the essential construct of the world and man.The phrase “Vayar Elokim Ki Tov” is repeated several times in the first Perek of the Torah. This is not to point out self-evident observations by Hashem, but rather to teach us to be rooted in what is good as we live in a world where the competing forces of good and evil surround us.
The Chofetz Chaim states that these verses in the beginning of the Torah serve as a tremendous inspiration in times of darkness. In the beginning of creation the world was completely dark without even the faintest hint of light, yet one statement from Hashem “Vayehi Ohr”- is sufficient to light up the world. On a spiritual level, when we are confronted with dark, threatening times, one can be strengthened by the knowledge that Hashem’s “light” can be instantly comforting and uplifting.
Food For Thought
by Jerry M. Karp
1) The Torah records in Bereshit 4:20-22 that Lemech’s sons originated several professions. Yaval was the first shepherd, Yuval was the first musician and Tuval Kayin was the first blacksmith. Why are these seemingly historical facts recorded in the Torah? (Note that no other historical “firsts” seem to be recorded in Torah.)
2) Metushelach had the longest recorded lifespan in Torah – 969 years. However, the Torah records nothing remarkable about Metushelach’s actions. Why, then, did he merit such a long life?
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