This week we begin in new cycle of Torah readings. It is always fascinating to see how each year we can discover new insights into the Torah. The Torah’s source, G-d’s word – is infinite and thus His Torah bears the stamp of infinitude, an infinite capacity to reveal new insights.
Dvar Torah for Parshat Bereishis
Based on Likutey Halakhot, Shomer Sakhar 4:2
“In the Beginning….” (Genesis 1:1)
Rashi comments: Why does the Torah commence with “In the Beginning” rather than with the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people? “Koach maasav higid l’amo, latet lahem nachalat goyim” (He told His people of the strength of His deeds, to give them the inheritance of the nations; Psalms 111:6). Should some united nations accuse the Jews of forcibly occupying gentile lands, the Jews are to answer: The entire world belongs to God. He created the land and gave it to the one He wanted. When He wanted, He gave it to them and when He wanted, He took it from them and gave it to us.
By our believing and showing that God created the world, the Sitra Achra (forces of evil) is unable to claim that we are oppressors. Everything is ours because everything was created for our sake (Bereishis Rabbah 1:1). When God wants, He gives it to them and when He wants, He takes it from them and gives it to us (Likutey MoHaran II, Lesson #78).
When a fruit grows, the first part of it to grow is the kelipah (shell). So too, when some “fruit,” something good, comes to the world, its kelipah precedes it (Likutey MoHaran II, 5:10). However, even after the “fruit” has come to one’s hand, the kelipah 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 (plural of kelipah). 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 (Solomon) tells us twice, “Prudence [i.e., Torah] will protect you….” and “when you lie down she [Torah] will watch over you” (Proverbs 2:11, 6:22).
When one has sufficient faith to observe the mitzvot of the Torah and indeed observes them, he is revealing—proclaiming—that God created everything and that everything is under His jurisdiction, as the Torah starts, “In the Beginning God 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.”
When the “fruit” is something that belongs to the entire Jewish people, then not only as individuals, but also as a community and as a nation we must strengthen our observance in order to purify the “fruit.” If, God forbid, we ourselves abuse the “fruit” and treat its innate sanctity and specialness with contempt, the kelipot are empowered and become more vociferous and violent in their attempts to wrest it back from us, God forbid.
God created everything. It’s all His. 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 God wants us to have.
At the end of the sixth day of creation the Torah states, “And God saw all that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Bereishis 1, 31). In Bereishis Rabbah, Chazal say (9,9) that the phrase “it was very good” is referring to the yetzer horah (evil inclination). It is difficult to understand the concept of “good” when discussing the yetzer harah.
A person once approached the Chofetz Chaim zt”l, lamenting that the constant pressure of his yetzer harah gave him no rest. The Chofetz Chaim responded that man should rejoice because of his yetzer harah, for without it, man would have no purpose on earth.
The Chofetz Chaim compares the yetzer harah to a watch. A watch works by the internal chains pulling against each other, causing the hands to move, and thereby keeping accurate time. Similarly, man’s yetzer tov (good inclination) pulls him towards good and his yetzer harah pulls him towards evil. This “tug of war” keeps man focused on the fact that Hashem created us to conquer the desires, which pull us away from Him. By reestablishing Hashem’s dominance over our lives, we have fulfilled our purpose on earth.
A person once praised a talmid chochom by saying that he possessed no yetzer horah at all. Upon hearing this, the Chazon Ish zt”l declared that, on the contrary, this talmid chochom is a bal mum (blemished soul), since true praise is for one who conquers his yetzer harah.
Since the yetzer harah is part of the process that is necessary in crowning Hashem upon ourselves, the word “good” can apply.
The yetzer harah gives each Jew the potential to reach levels above an angel. On one hand, an angel is a purely spiritual being who always performs the will of Hashem. However, the angel has no free choice and no power attempting to distract him from his mission. How could an angel ever sin? Conversely, in order for a person to discharge Hashem’s will, he must overcome a very powerful force that impedes his desire to do good. Therefore, if man fulfills a command of Hashem, he has actually raised himself to a new level by conquering his yetzer harah. With each additional triumph, one attains even higher spiritual planes. Man is given the opportunity from Hashem to continually defeat the yetzer horah and soar to levels above angels. In responding to the snake’s question regarding the permissibility of eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden, Chava said “Of the fruit of the tree which is in the center of the garden God has said: ‘You shall not eat of it and you shall not touch it, lest you die’ ” (Bereishis 3,3). Since Hashem never commanded Adam or Chava not to touch the Tree of Knowledge (only not to eat from it), Rashi comments, “She (Chava) added to the commandment, therefore she came to detraction.”
Rav Yaacov Kaminetzky zt”l points out that Chava did not know that the prohibition against touching the Tree was not legislated by Hashem. Had she been aware of this, the snake’s argument, that her not having died after touching the Tree proved that it was permissible to eat from the tree, would have fallen on deaf ears.
In supporting this assertion, Rav Kaminetzky cites Avos D’Reb Noson who says that Adam actually told Chava that they were not allowed to touch the Tree of Knowledge. His purpose in doing this was to make a “fence around” the prohibition against eating from the Tree of Knowledge, which Hashem did forbid. By telling Chava not to even touch the Tree, Adam reasoned that neither of them would even venture near the tree, thus assuring that neither Chava nor himself would eat from it.
It is clear from the text of the Torah that Chava was under the notion that the proscription against touching the Tree was divinely ordained (“God has said: ‘You shall not eat of it and you shall not touch it, lest you die’ “). Chava’s misconception provided the snake with the opening to convince her that it was not improper to eat from the Tree. When the snake pushed Chava against the Tree and she did not die, he was then able to persuade her that just as touching the Tree did not cause her to die, so too eating from it would not cause death. Had Chava known that the prohibition against touching the Tree was an “additional” fence accepted by Adam upon himself, she would not have expected to die when she came in contact with the Tree. With this knowledge, she would not have been induced by the snake’s reasoning and would not have eaten the fruit.
When Rashi states that adding to Hashem’s word caused Chava’s downfall, Rashi does not mean that it was improper for Adam to have placed a “fence around” the command of Hashem. The legislation of Rabbinical laws is for the purpose of keeping a Jew away from violating a divinely ordained precept. However, Adam’s transgression of adding “a fence” was his failure to inform Chava, in a clear and exact manner, the distinction between the prohibition mandated by Hashem and the “fence” Adam had accepted upon himself.
When a person is confronted with a chumra, which is difficult for him to follow, it may cause him to abandon his obligation of
fulfilling the Torah commandment as well. Therefore, issur (prohibition) and chumra (stringency or fence) must be clearly delineated and defined when influencing people in regard to their obligations in fulfilling a positive commandment or not transgressing a negative commandment.
FROM THE BOOKSHELF
(Thousands of seforim fill the shelves of a Beis Medrash. This section is devoted to highlighting seforim and their authors, so that every Jew can derive everlasting pleasure and benefit from the great Torah wisdom contained within them.)
(The Letter of the Ramban)
Although Iggeres HaRamban is not an actual sefer, but a letter, the wisdom and insights contained in it are more than many multiple volume works. The Iggeres HaRamban is a letter that the Ramban zt”l wrote while residing in Eretz Yisroel to his son, Nachman, who lived in Spain.
In the letter, the Ramban instructs his son to read the letter once a week “and neglect none of it.” The letter is aimed at inspiring humility and training youth in fear of Hashem. As the Chida zt”l states, “Ramban outlines a program for achieving the qualities of sanctity and humility. The Mussar Masters (Masters of Ethical Teachings) encouraged their students to study the letter periodically, as the Ramban’s holy words have the power to pierce the innermost recesses of the heart, filling it with a spirit of sanctity.”
The Iggeres HaRamban was first printed in 1579 in Venice, Italy, as part of the classic mussar sefer, Reishis Chochmo, written by Rabbi Eliyahu de Vidas. Though a second, expanded version of the letter was also printed, the version that first appeared in Reishis Chochmo has become the accepted version.
Not only did the Ramban’s son derive great benefit and strength from this letter, Jewish People wishing to attain humility and fear of Hashem have studied this letter throughout the centuries as well. In concluding his letter, the Ramban states, “Every day that you shall read this letter, heaven shall answer your heart’s desires – Amen, Selah.”
The Nesivos Shalom tells the Pearls of Life readership that Shabbat is inherently holy. It had nothing to do with how we prepared for Shabbat or what we did on Shabbat before the event of the Golden Calf. However, the Shabbat after the sin now requires that we must make every effort not to come into Shabbat encumbered with all of our sins that we did over the past week and we must leave that baggage behind. The Ten Commandments describes Shabbat with the words “Zachor” to remember, and “Shamor” which means to guard. Zachor refers to the Shabbat before the sin. Shabbat, we have never done before.
As heard from my Torah Masters