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Parashat Beresheet


Once again, we begin the cycle of the weekly Torah reading from the beginning of the Humash. Once again, we have the opportunity to draw the precious waters from the eternal fountain of knowledge, to learn the wisdom of the Almighty and incorporate its messages into our daily lives. We must never forget, however, that any knowledge we acquire is but a needle in the haystack compared to the knowledge of our Torah leaders, and even their proficiency constitutes but a minute fraction of the entire corpus of Torah wisdom.

A classic example of our limitations in understanding the Torah arises already in the very first parashah of the Humash. As we know, the spaces that appear in the Torah in between the different sections in the Torah (represented in our Humashim by the letter "peh" or "samech") were inserted in order to allow Mosheh time to think and study that, which was taught to him. The pause after a section afforded him the opportunity to go deeper into that section and summarize it for himself. Now some parshiyot continue for dozens and dozens of pesukim without a break. And yet, when the Torah lists the generations from Adam through Noah in this week's parashah, a break appears every three pesukim. Each generation featured a different mentality; each period introduced new developments, so much so that Mosheh needed a pause after each generation to study it in depth. The generations of Kenan and Mehalalel could not be properly understood all at once. Indeed, in Kabbalah these ten generations between Adam and Noah correspond to the ten "sefirot" which contain therein the entire universe. Needless to say, we have no idea of any of this, other than an appreciation of the vastness and sheer magnitude of the divine wisdom of the Torah.


When our redemption will arrive, speedily and in our days, we will return to man's primordial condition in Gan Eden. In the meantime, as it was decreed, we must eat only with the sweat of our brow, we must work and labor for a livelihood. If was further decreed, " will eat it [the produce of the land] in sadness, all the days of your life." This decree posed a difficulty in the eyes of Rabbi Shelomoh Efrayim, the author of, "Olelot Efrayim." True, the work invested in making a living becomes painstaking and often involves intense suffering. But the fruits of one's labor are eaten joyously! As the pasuk says in Tehillim, "Those who plant with tears - harvest with euphoria!" Furthermore, it may be argued, the more difficult the process, the greater the joy when the labor has passed and all that remains is to enjoy the results. What, then, is the decree of, " will eat it in sadness"?

He introduces his answer with a parable found in the writings of the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim volume 3, chapter 8).

A king once sat in his chamber of justice where various subjects awaited trial. The prosecutor explained to the king that a strong, strapping horse was brought to the capital to be sold. The king's advisors went to purchase the horse for the royal stables, but the officer on trial bided a higher price and bought the horse for himself.

"Really?" exclaimed the infuriated king. "And how about this slave? Why was he brought here?"

"He is one of the workers in the palace and was caught sleeping during work hours," was the response.

"Well then, they should both be placed in the royal stables where they will work all day clearing the manure and filth from the stable," ruled the king.

The officer's face dropped in anguish. Could there be any greater shame for such a dignified officer of the king? The slave, by contrast, was elated. He had been sure he would be sentenced to flogging or imprisonment. Instead, he received a light, easy punishment.

And so, the two were immediately led to the stables, given shovels and baskets, and were ordered to start shoveling the manure. The officer held the equipment ever so gingerly, holding on by his fingertips, and carried them to a concealed location in the barn, where there would be little chance of being seen in his moments of disgrace. He tried, to the best of his ability, to keep his hands and clothing clean. He scooped just a little manure to as close a place as he could, just to fulfill his duties. He waited with intense and unbearable anticipation for the sun to set so he could be freed from this prison, so he could shower and wash off the filth and stench.

The slave, on the other hand, was on cloud nine. He was overjoyed at how easy and simple the work was, and he went about his work openly and enthusiastically.

Similarly, suggested the Rambam, a person can relate to his physical needs in two different ways. An intelligent person focuses his attention on the eternal wisdom of the Torah, and the rest of his existence, the necessary involvement in physical and material pursuits, seems to him as nothing more than a necessary evil, so-to-speak, a condition of our state of being which is indispensable for proper living. He approaches his physical needs as a decree of the king which he tries to minimize in any way he can, not to mention that it never becomes his primary pursuit. The central component of his life lies in the moments of spiritual growth. Rabbi Yehudah Halevi zs"l referred to prayer as the "fruit of the day." The rest of his daily activities were merely the peel, the external covering of the critical element, the "fruit." For such an individual, the Torah class at night constitutes the apex and primary experience of the day, Shabbat the primary experience of the week, and the Yamim Tovim the primary experience of the year.

Besides the reward he receives for the actual hours of prayer and study, the observance of Shabbat and Yamim Tovim, such a person receives reward for his working hours, as well. "Yissachar and Zevulun" have merged within such an individual, and his entire life thus revolves around those moments of spiritual devotion, moments more precious than the entire World to Come.

Others, however, rejoice in their pursuit of fleeting pleasures and indulge themselves in physical activity. As such people are described in "Hovot Halevavot," they turn "their bellies into their gods, their Torah is their clothing [with all the intricate details of proper fashion and style] and their ethics are their home improvements." They indulge themselves in this fashion proudly, publicly, and enthusiastically.

Therefore, Hashem warned Adam upon his expulsion from Gan Eden and subsequent exposure to the dangers of the mundane world, you must work with the manure, so-to-speak, and ensure that you do not rejoice in this work. Rather, " will eat it in sadness." The joy must be reserved for the sanctity of Shabbat, the weekly parashah, prayer, and Torah study.


"The heavens, the Earth, and all their accessories were completed"

The "accessories" of the heavens, says the Ramban zs"l, are the angels, and the "accessories" of the Earth are the entire animal kingdom. How about man - to which group does he belong? His body is considered an accessory of the Earth, whereas his soul is an accessory of the heavens!

"The heavens, the Earth, and all their accessories were completed"

At first glance, this pasuk seems very problematic. The heavens, the Earth, and all creations thereof were created on different days. The Earth was created on the first day, the heavens on the second day, the vegetation on the third day, the luminaries on the fourth day, etc. Rabbi Ovadia Seforno zs"l explains that although each item was created on its respective day, once Shabbat arrived and all the work of creation came to a close, the entirety of creation received a general, overarching quality, and each individual component found its place within the overall structure. This is one of the special, unique qualities of Shabbat, as it allows us to look back at the week from a bird's-eye view, from a general perspective, so that we may distinguish between that which is central and that which lies in the periphery.

"The heavens, the Earth, and all their accessories were completed"

Rabbenu Behayeh zs"l notes that throughout the account of creation, the four-letter Name of Y-H-V-H is not used. Rather, Hashem is referred to as "Elokim," the Name which relates to Hashem's rule over nature - "powerful, all-capable, and governor over all the forces in the universe." However, the first letters of the phrase, "The sixth day, the heavens were completed" are the four letters of the Name of Y-H-V-H. This alludes to the fact that Hashem conceals Himself, as it were, within the natural order, and one who genuinely searches for Him will find Him.

"The heavens, the Earth, and all their accessories were completed"

The Alshich zs"l explains that during the six days of creation the physical world was created, whereas on Shabbat the Almighty gave the world its soul, so-to-speak, the spiritual quality without the which the world cannot continue. This is the meaning of the pasuk, "The heavens, the Earth, and all their accessories were completed," referring to the completion of the physical creation. The pasuk then continues, "On the seventh day, Hashem finished His work which He did," meaning, He completed His work by instilling within the universe its spiritual quality, as the pasuk continues, "...and on the seventh day He stopped working and rested." The word, "vayinafash" (he rested) relates to the word, "nefesh" (soul), suggesting that the Almighty gave the Earth its soul and spirit on the seventh day. Similarly, the Shabbat provides each person with the necessary spirituality for the coming workweek.

"The heavens, the Earth, and all their accessories were completed"

Rabbi Yosef Kanafo zs"l explains that although "vayechulu" (they were completed) means completion, the word here is written without the letter "vav" in the middle, and therefore relates to the word, "keliyah," destruction. The pasuk thus implies that Shabbat has the capacity to bring destruction in the advent of its desecration, but also has the potential, through its observance, to help one complete his work and see the fruits of his labor.


Rabbi Dido Hakohen zs"l

Rabbi Dido, the son of Rabbi Berechyah Hakohen zs"l was admiringly known as simply, "Rabbi Dido," and taught Torah to small schoolchildren in the famed city of Djerba. In this city, the position of schoolteacher was considered more distinguished than the position of head of the Jewish court. When the author of "Sha'ar Siyon," who was the head of the court, passed away, it was suggested to appoint in his place one of the teachers of small children who was a brilliant and proficient scholar. Rabbi Kalfon Moshe Hakohen zs"l strongly opposed the appointment, as the scholar in question was remarkably successful with small children, and removing him from his position would be too grave a loss.

Rabbi Dido Hakohen zs"l devoted all his energy to the sacred education of his students, and he invested endless time and effort into the children in his class. He never kept records of which parents paid tuition and which did not, or whether or not the tuition was paid in full. Whenever someone would pay him, he would immediately put the money in his pocket without counting, so as to emphasize the point that the critical factor was the teaching of Torah, not his salary.

An admirer once asked the great rabbi what was his secret, why was he so successful as an educator while so many others had tried and fell short of his success? He answered that among all the grocers in the marketplace there is only one expert who determines the appropriate price of the produce. Why? Why is his word authoritative? Because he has the skill to look at a fruit and know immediately what lies inside, whether the fruit is sweet or sour, whether or not it has ripened. Furthermore, he can immediately determine the stability of the fruit, whether or not it will soon begin to rot. This is the entire work of the man in the market. The educator, however, has an added responsibility - he must strengthen the child's weaknesses, he must have his student stand on his own two feet. This is the most awesome responsibility in the world!


Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

(These halachot, together with the relevant sources and explanations, will appear in a major work which is forthcoming.)

Chapter 1 - The Laws of Waking in the Morning

The mishnah (Avot 5:20) cites, "Yehudah Ben Taima says, be daring as a leopard, swift as an eagle, fleet-footed as a deer, and strong as a lion to perform the will of your Father in heaven."

The expression, "...daring as a leopard" is employed because people are often prevented from performing missvot by the fear of others who would scorn him for having done the missvah. Therefore, the mishnah warns that one should be fearless in the face of those who oppose missvot. Yet, he should not argue with them, because brazenness is a negative quality and one should distance himself from it, even for the service of Hashem, lest he will become accustomed to such behavior.

"Swift as an eagle" refers to the eagle's sensational vision, as it can see over vast distances. Similarly, a person must exercise care with regard to what his eyes see, and one should close his eyes when inappropriate sights present themselves before him. Seeing constitutes the first step towards sin, as the eye sees, the heart desires, and the rest of his body commits the transgression.

"Energetic as a deer" refers to the use of one's legs, that they should constantly carry him towards missvot, as King David asks (Tehillim 119:35), "Lead me in the path of Your missvot."

"Strong as a lion" refers to one's heart, the seat of a person's strength. A person must always strengthen himself in the performance of missvot and overpower his inclination to commit aveirot. Therefore, a person must be particularly strong in the morning and wake up enthusiastically for the service of his Creator. Even if his evil inclination confronts him on a winter morning and urges him, "Stay in your warm bed, it is cold," or if the inclination tries to persuade him on summer mornings, "You have not yet slept enough, stay in bed," the individual must strengthen himself and get out of bed like a lion. However, one should not stand immediately, for this might be harmful to his health. Rather, he should wait a moment and then stand up.

One should wake up before the rays of the sun can be seen over the horizon, so that he may wake the morning, so-to-speak. Indeed, King David exclaims (Tehillim 57:9), "Wake up the harp and lyre, I will wake the morning," implying that he would wake up before dawn. Some rule that a person should "attach day and night" with either prayer or Torah study, both by morning and night. Meaning, he should either study or pray at the time of "alot hashahar," when the night comes to a close and the morning begins, and when the stars come out, which is the moment when the day ends and the night begins. Nevertheless, one who does not do so has authorities upon whom to rely, so long as he learns Torah both by day and night.

If one cannot wake up before daybreak, or if he fears that he will fall asleep during prayers if he wakes up so early, he may wake up later so long as he does not miss the public prayer service. It is not enough to recite the shema and the tefilah before their respective deadlines - one must also ensure to pray with a minyan. One should consider to himself what would happen if a human king would order him to arise early for service to the king, how great an effort the individual would make to fulfill the royal edict. How much more so should one be careful in this regard when dealing with the King of Kings, the Almighty!

To be continued...



All the dreams mentioned in the Torah are more than just simple dreams. They involve a dimension of prophecy. Nevertheless, as we know, one does not need to be a prophet in order to have dreams. Everybody has dreams on occasion.

What are dreams? How are they significant for non-prophets? Dreams are naturally related to the process of sleep. When an individual falls into a deep sleep, it seems that all his senses sleep, as well. He cannot hear or see, and, when in a particularly deep sleep, a person cannot even sense pain. However, even during sleep a person continues to breathe, albeit at a much slower rate. Similarly, the heart continues pumping, only at a slower pace. The circulatory and digestive systems continue to function, as well, only the nerves and muscles relax and the body stops exerting itself. The brain, including one's intellect, goes to sleep as well. There remains, however, a part of the brain, which does not fall asleep, and this is the person's imagination, which has the capacity to trick the individual with all types of fascinating visions. While dreaming, the individual "sees" without his eyes, "hears" without his ears, and conducts conversation without moving his lips. The imagination presents before the person pictures and events, which seem, at the time of the dream, clear and sharp and which give the impression of being real and true. Is the dream thus to be considered totally insignificant, irrelevant, and pure imagination? Hazal say about the dreams of most people, "Dreams speak vanity," as dreams often reflect that of which the dreamer thought over the course of the day. Hazal also teach us that a dream is never bereft of nonsense. They add that the true interpretation of the dream corresponds to how it is interpreted. Therefore, one who feels distressed as a result of a bad dream should approach a friend and ask him to provide a favorable interpretation so that it will turn out that way in real life. In any event, it is preferable for one not to pay any attention to his dreams and not to afford them any actual significance. Should a dream disturb a person terribly, he can perform "hatavat halomot," which involves a specific text to be recited by three other people in the presence of the dreamer.

When a Jew conducts his life appropriately, when he goes to sleep in a home with proper mezuzot and recites the shema before going to sleep, he can sleep peacefully, confident in his trust that the Guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers.


Consider a case of two individuals walking together along the riverbank, near a mill. Suddenly, one of them slips into the water, and the current carries him towards the churning wheel of the mill. His life flashes before his eyes and his companion watches in horror. He wants to help his friend, but, alas, he cannot swim. May he jump into the water - thereby risking his own life - in order to try to save his friend?

It is a well-known question, whether it is permissible for one to put himself into a possibly life-threatening situation in order to save the life of one whose life will certainly be lost unless he is helped. However, that discussion relates only to a situation where it is guaranteed that the life-saving efforts will be successful should the onlooker put himself into the possibly life-threatening situation. However, no authority of halachah would sanction the risking of one's life in our case, where it is entirely possible that both will perish should the onlooker jump into the waters. Since his friend's rescue is far from guaranteed, it is clearly forbidden for him to risk his own life for only the possible saving of the other's.

To take a somewhat more exaggerated example, imagine if a shark suddenly appears on the scene. His fangs open wide, ready to devour the person. Should his friend jump in to try to save his friend?

It is no secret that the media is replete with reporters intent upon resisting the trend of return to our tradition, people who see as their mission the denigration of our heritage, to scorn that which is sacred and to offer a public stage to anyone ready to arouse anti-religious sentiment. All this lies under the mask of pluralism, openness, and the right of the public to know. This is well known, and we have grown accustomed to such reports. We have the ability to turn the dial to one of the religious stations.

These shows have infuriated many listeners who have called in to express their objection. Many times, they simply add fuel to the flame, as the host controls the microphone. He can turn the conversation in any direction he wants, he can cut off the caller at whim, and the listener walks away hurt and confused, suffering on account of his noble intentions.

Furthermore, nobody ever convinced the radio host by the force of arguments. The arguments are used a forum to reinforce their positions. The Mahari"l Diskin zs"l found an indication to this effect in our parashah. Hevel, the shepherd, quarreled with his brother, the farmer, Kayin. "Kayin spoke to Hevel, and when they were in field, Kayin rose up against his brother, Hevel, and killed him." What was Hevel doing in the field, in Kayin's domain? The Mahari"l Diskin explains that at first Kayin started an argument with his brother: "Kayin spoke to Hevel..." What should Hevel have done? He should have ignored his brother, but, instead, he decided to try to persuade Kayin of his own stance. He was therefore drawn to Kayin's field to continue the argument, unaware that arguments are ineffective. To the contrary, they reinforce the feelings of animosity, they push the participants into corners, arouse violence and force. As we know, tragically, the end was bitter indeed...

Let us learn our lesson from this parashah, as the parashah was written for no other reason than to draw the lessons from within the text. The majority of Jews in Israel are believers. They attend synagogue services, they connect themselves to our heritage, some more and some less. If the networks decide to schedule programs with the minority, who insist on desecrating that which is sacred, then so be it, and we have no business listening to their programs. Let them listen to their own venom, they can have their friends, whose opinions correspond to their own, listen to their shows. We have our own radio hosts, and plenty of listeners waiting to hear what they have to say.

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