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by Daneal Weiner
|From the orchards of Jerusalem
I would like to dedicate this issue in memory of the members of the Taback family so quickly and tragically taken from our small community due to a car accident. And for the swift and complete
recovery for the survivors, one in critical condition.
At the beginning of the Torah, on the first verse, Rashi asks why the Torah begins with Breishis. Since the purpose of the Torah is to teach us the ways of Hashem then the best way to begin is with the first commandment, mitzvah, which is the declaration of the new moon, found a few parshas into the second book, Shmos?
I'm going to go off on some major tangents, yet, they all are actually to the point of the completion of the book of Breishis with this weeks
The first tangent is why I just said "to teach us the ways of Hashem"
instead of "to teach us the commandments of Hashem" because, in fact, Breishis is excellent for learning Hashems ways. It is because of a tremendous parable I heard from Rabbi Zev Leff in understanding exactly what the commandments, mitzvos, are all about. An excellent question, by the way. What do you think the mitzvos are all about?
What Rav Leff said was to imagine you have a lightbulb. The brightest lightbulb. About a gazillion watts. Someone asks you to describe it. Could myou? Ok, let's say it's ON and there isn't an off switch. If you looked at
it even for an instant you'd go blind. No ultra violet rays, just the sheer brightness of it. And did I mention if you get too close youd burn up? Now msomeone asks you to describe it. What would you do? It's an incredible lightbulb. Unimaginable and yet there it is! What do you do?
Rav Leff says put a specially built box over it. One that can protect you mfrom it's brightness and heat. Now poke a pin hole in the box. You're first view! But how much can you see? So you poke another hole. And another. You write a computer program and you determine that the optimum number of holes to give you the most comprehensive view of the light, is 613 holes.
These are what the mitzvos are. In order for us to comprehend the
incomprehensible, G-d cloaked himself in a box we call the universe and He poked through 613 commandments in order to give us an understanding of Who ,mHe is. Since we really will never understand Who He is, the mitzvos are for us to understand His ways. So since the Torah is the blueprint for the universe which is the box to be able to understand G-ds ways, then why doesnt the Torah start with the first hole, declaring the new month, in Shmos?
This warrants another question which will take us off on tangent number ,mtwo. There are 3 mitzvos in Breishis! Be fruitful and multiply, circumcision and not to eat the gid hanasheh. And the first one is found in the first parsha, Breishis! So how does Rashi ask why dont we start with the first mitzvah "hachodesh hazeh lachem" which seems to be the fourth?!
What do we have that no other religion has? Credibility is a good answer but can you be more specific? What we had that no other religion had was a simultaneous nationwide revelation/prophecy. Pick any Jew in the world and ,he can be traced back to a grandpa and grandma standing at Mt. Sinai. Take ,any other person from any other religion and you can trace him back to a grandpa and grandma who told some missionary, Yeah, sure. Ill believe that. Where do I sign?
What was the purpose of the simultaneous nationwide revelation/prophecy?
Shmos 19:9> And G-d said to Moshe, Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud in order that the nation will hear Me speak with you so that they
will also believe in you forever. Our belief in the Torah stems from the fact that every living Jew at Mt. Sinai heard G-d basically say that Moshe ,was the main man! What Moshe says, goes! And, although before Mt. Sinai, the very first mitzvah that was heard from the mouth of Moshe Rabbeinu was the declaration of the month. And only afterwards when Moshe taught and wrote the entire Torah did Sefer Breishis become part and parcel of the 5 books of Moses! That name has a whole new dimension now, doesnt it?
I do realize I need to be and am trying to be very careful with my words.
It is absolutely true that all our forefathers knew, taught and acted
according to all the Torah. I would also venture to guess without
hesitation that even without the revelation of Mt. Sinai we Jews would still be Torah bound as passed down to us from Avraham Aveinu. The way I understand Rav Wolfson, its like the question, why did Moshe go to Pharoah and say he represents the G-d of Avraham, Yitschak and Yaakov and not the G-d Who created the universe? The answer is because Pharaoh doesnt know who created the universe but he knows about Avraham, Yitschak and Yaakov.
Moshe was presenting Hashem to him in a way he had reference to. We certainly have reference to our forefathers but when all of us where standing at Mt. Sinai and heard G-d speaking to Moshe, that embedded in us more than a belief- it was an awareness that Moshe emes vTorahso emes-
Moshe is truth and his Torah is truth.
In Maimonedes 13 Principles of Faith he words it with #7) I believe with complete faith that Moshe Rabbeinu, oh, was truthful, and he was the father of all prophets, those preceding him and after him. And #8) I believe with complete faith that the Torah found in our hands today is that which was given to Moshe Rabbeinu, oh.
These two principles mean at least two things. Moshe received/learned the Torah from H through prophecy. And his prophecy was clearer then that of any other prophet. This means that when Moshe prophetically learned the prophecy of another, Moshe understood more of the prophecy than he/she who
received it in the first place! (Or in the second place for those who came after him.) Secondly, (from a Gemorah in Bava Mitsia) for every law, Moshe received 49 arguments supporting it and 49 arguments against it. One could take out the name of every Rabbi in the Talmud and replace it with Moshe Rabbeinu and it would be exactly the same! (Granted, a little more confusing to follow.)
The same holds true for every commentary on the Gemorah and for all the Rabbis down through the millennium who involved themselves in halachic extrapolation. If its true Torah, even if it was said tomorrow, Moshe learned it first. 49 ways for and 49 ways against. (Unfortunately, there are even more ways for those outside the Torah framework to twist words and meanings to claim the Torah also supports whatever debasement they fancy at the time. Hashem yirachem!) Needless to say, which we never mean and say
anyway, if Moshe learned it, it came from Hashem Himself. When I had first started learning and was having trouble appreciating Tosofos as more than just some guy who kept trying to confuse things by constantly running off on tangents (I now someone like that...? l'havdil elef havdalos). A Rav suggested that when I look at the Tosofos, instead asking myself, What does Tosofos say? I should try, What does G-d in the name of Tosofos say? It did wonders!
Finally, getting back to Rashis question on why the Torah doesnt start with the first mitzvah in Shmos, he answers quoting a verse from Psalms (111:6), He declared to His people the power of His works in order to give them the heritage of the nations. Rav Wolfson brings the words of Rav Boruch from Madjeivuzh who says What a wonderful reason for the Torah starting with Breishis. All we have to do now is understand it.
Plagiarizing from something I wrote Sukkos time; Vayikrah, 23:40, "And you shall take yourselves on the first day the fruit of the Hader tree, of the date palm, the leaves of the hyssop and willow..." (close enough anyway) Before the blessing on these 4 minim most siddurs have a prayer, Y'he Rotsone, in which ask of G-d, "...the letters of Your Name You should bring close, one to one, and unite them in my hand and to know how Your Name is called upon me..." The problem is that the Arizal says the 5 books of Moses parallel the FIVE parts of G-ds name; the last 4 books to the 4 letters and the first book to the inscribed crown on the letter yud! The question is, if G-d's 4 letter name is really 5 parts, then why aren't there 5 minim???
Rav Wolfson says the answer is already revealed in understanding, "...and to know how Your Name is called upon me..." G-d's Name is on the 4 minim and on us too! WE are the missing species paralleling the sublime crown over the yud!! After elevating ourselves with the month of Elul and Rosh Hashanah and repenting the 10 days till the spiritually cleansing service of Yom Kippur we have perfected ourselves, just like the other 4 species we drive ourselves nuts over, searching for the perfect ones. And this brings us back to the Arizals explanation of the verse in Vayikrah, "Take yourselves, the fruit, the palm, etc." Not for yourselves, YOU yourselves! We are species #1!!! Next time someone puts out their hand, give them a
real shake! (Careful not to poke the person behind you.)
Even more than this, (some of us dont get to elevate ourselves as much as we hope and there are some Jews out there who have never even seen an elevator, let alone been on one) there is a facet of the soul of every Jew which is non-taintable. Incorruptible. That is really our essence. The command of all indentured servants going free on the Jubilee year is the pinhole to the understanding of a holiness that can never go bad. G-d is this and, being created in the image of G-d, there is that part of us in which G-d implanted a relative degree of this holiness. One that can never be bound, never be made a servant to lusts and cravings of the body. It may look like it, even for 50 years. But the truth is, the essence of the person is that he will be freed from his bondage. This is the idea behind the crown of the yud of G-ds name. Just as we are this crown, so is Breishis this crown. What better way for the Torah to describe His works
then to show us the comings and goings of our holy ancestors. People whom externality emulated that internal spark. The people who formed the make up of our spiritual genes.
This parsha is the culmination of Sefer Breishis. Einstein was 2/3 right when he said space and time were relative. Space, time and soul are relative. Just as it takes 12 lines to make a cube (space), it takes 12 months to make time and 12 forces/tribes to make the Jewish nation. All aspects of that Divine spark and all revealed in the 12 parshas which make up Breishis.
Avraham and Yitschak teach us about msirus nefesh. Twice the Torah says they 'walked together' on the way to the binding of Yitschak. The first time was when Yitschak wasnt aware he was the sacrifice. Avraham walk 'together' with him. Just as Yitschak was eager and willing to fulfill the word of G-d, so too was Avraham, even at the seeming expense of his only son, born after 100 years of whom G-d said He was going to make into a
great nation. The second time was when Yitschak realized he was the
sacrifice. Now he walked 'together' with Avraham, maintaining that same willingness and eagerness we just attributed to Avraham to do the will of G-d.
When Yaakov picked up his household and left Lavans, Lavan came chasing after him and searched all of Yaakovs property in search of his idols. Yaakov yelled at him to present what he found before everyone to determine who is the rightful owner. How could he be so confident with 2 wives and 12 children after 20 years that no one accidentally took anything from Lavan?
Because they never even touched anything that belonged to Lavan!!! As Yaakov says, 100 times Lavan changed his wage on him. He would have left Yaakov with nothing if he could. And not so much as a needle did Yaakov even use of Lavan's so certainly nothing was taken. Unlike those of us who can agree to a wage and after a week of employment feel we deserve a bottle of white out and post-it-notes from the supplies cabinet.
When Rachel was to wed Yaakov, Lavan switched her with Leah. Rachel gave Leah the secret signals for Yaakov so she should not be embarrassed publicly should Yaakov realize it wasnt Rachel he was about to marry and stop the ceremony. And years later, in private, when Rachel asks Leah for some of the dudaim Reuven gave her, Leah says, Was taking my husband insignificant? And now you want my sons dudaim? Rachel was not only
silent about that comment but even told Leah that she could be with Yaakov that night. WOW!
Leah spent all her days crying not to have to wed Eisav. Something so far off in the future and she felt it and feared it as if it were later that day. (Try telling that to a smoker.)
Yoseph, every day for a year had to reject the advances of his masters wife. He was 17 at the time! In Egypt!! Had the full trust of his master!!! He was even tortured by the women!!!! She put hot irons under his chin because he would not even raise his head to look at her! He didn't even look at her, let alone touch her.
And finally, in this last parsha, we see that Yosephs 2 sons, raised in
the depravity of Egypt, were not only G-d fearing and Torah observant but achieved even the level of their uncles, of the previous generation. Yaakov
makes them two of the 12 tribes of Israel.
There is so much to be learned from all of our forefathers and mothers. And right now, in the middle of Teves, the peak of the forces of tumah, we are asked to reflect back on our ancestors and to look at ourselves. We all have that crown of the yud in us but the goal is to be able to wear it proudly. This introspection takes us into the first Parshas of the book of Shmos. The first letters of the first 6 parshas, the Arizal points out, spells Shovivim. In Yirmiyah, he gives Bnei Yisrael the message, Shuvu banim shovivim!- Return, wayward children! These 6 parshas have Hashem elevating Bnei Yisrael from the 49th level of tumah to the 49th level of keddushah, the revelation at Mt. Sinai.
Yaakov told Yoseph he couldnt imagine seeing his face again and here Hashem has shown him even the faces of Yosephs children. Our problem is we think well be seeing the faces of our great great grandchildren. Which is about the same time we plan on doing everything else we know we should be doing. May H grant us all the strengths of our ancestors and the days to bring those strengths to fruition. Blessed are You, Hashem Who desires penitence. And may we merit the coming of the Mashiach and the rebuilding of Your Temple and of Your holy city, Yerushalayim. Shabbot Shalom.
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