motzei Shabbos: Bereishis 5782

parashas Bereishis 5782

parashas Bereishis, plus a brief introduction to Noach.

G-d’s Divine Attributes, Imitatio Dei, mankind’s raison d’etre.

Middos (character traits); both negative and positive examples,

as exemplified within the narrative of the Book of Genesis.

Gan Eden Essentials

parashas Bereishis 5782

“The L-RD G-d took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it.”

– Genesis 2:15, JPS 1985 Tanach

Adam was given the responsibility to avdah (work) and shomer (guard) the garden of Eden. Yet, not until after Adam and Chava were expelled from Gan Eden, was he commanded to till the earth outside of the garden. The question may be asked, what was the essential difference between his responsibilities in regard to Gan Eden, and what comprised his role, once expelled?

A union with G-d (yichud, in Hebrew) constituted the existential nature of life in Gan Eden. Yet, that perfect relationship of oneness with G-d was broken by disobedience, having partaken from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When both Adam and Chava had partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they became self-aware, because the unity with G-d was interrupted.

As a result, existentially outside of Paradise, even before being officially expelled, their existence was disrupted by their own sin. In other words, they no longer were within the domain of perfect correspondence with the various components of Gan Eden. Sin, shame, and rebellion had entered into the picture, thereby disrupting peace and contentment.

Thus, within the garden, prior to the aveirah (sin), a G-d centered focus permeated every act, in regard to their endeavors. As explained elsewhere, that avdah refers to perfection of the soul, as per man being described as a nefesh chaya (literally, living soul; Ibn Ezra). Thereby, the refining of one’s personality is tantamount to the service that is concomitant with gan eden, when doing so under the guidance of H’Shem.

Yet, having been expelled, their lives subsequently encompassed, a self focused reality, wherein one attempts to improve himself, according to his own design, irrespective of the original blueprint. Having already given in to temptation, and partaken of the forbidden fruit, mankind was now subject to the challenges of dealing with his own unruly nature that had been unleashed.

The only way back to the garden is through acknowledgment of our own misguided attempts to continue on the path of independence from G-d; then to realize over time that these attempts are vain, and return to the original blueprint for our lives. This blueprint is known as the Torah, meaning “instruction.” All of kitvei kodesh (holy scripture) is of benefit for this endeavor, as well as listening to our conscience; for, G-d has given us an inner guidance system, with a homing beacon, called the soul.

In the Beginning

dvar for parashas Bereishis 5782

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃

“Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the waters.” – Genesis 1:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

“The throne of Divine Glory was standing in space, hovering over the face of the waters by the breath of the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, and by His command, even as a dove hovers over its nest.” – Rashi, sefaria.org

In the beginning of Creation, “when G-d began to create heaven and earth” (Genesis 1:1, JPS 1985 Tanach), the earth was tohu vavohu (formless and empty). As summarized by R’Bachya, “At the beginning G’d created a minute amount of matter out of absolute nothingness. This contained within itself the potential and energy to expand into what we call “heaven and earth” (R’ Bachya on Genesis 1:2, sefaria.org). Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Prior to the 1950’s, science adhered to the Aristotelian belief that the Universe always existed. Yet, when the discovery was made that the universe was expanding, science proffered that there was a distinct beginning, ex nihilo – something out of nothing. In other words, it only took several thousand years for science to “catch up” with the creation account in Torah, as R’Bachya so deftly explains. Incidentally, R’Bachya lived between 1255 and 1340 C.E.

A similar account is found in the Zohar:

“With the beginning of the manifestation of the King’s will, that is, when the King desired to emanate and create the world, a hard spark made an engraving upon the supernal light. This hard spark [matter], which emanated from the most concealed of all concealed things from the secret of the Endlessness Light took a shapeless form. The spark was then inserted into the center of a circle [from here, it expanded outward]” (Zohar 15a, sefaria.org). That spark is called reishis (first).

Rashi comments upon the Ruach haElokim (the Spirit of G-d), that hovered over the surface of the waters upon the earth, that this phenomenon was akin to “a dove hovering over its nest.” The primordial material, according to R’Bachya is called tohu, while the first formations of that material into something distinct is referred to as vohu. Yet, essentially, “the earth had been in a chaotic state,” and the Ruach haElokim hovered over the mayim (waters) that may have represented the so called primordial soup from where all life began. Thus, it is clear that a divine force was at work, in conjunction with the elements of the universe that would become all life on earth.

Action Potential

parashas Bereishis 5782


That inevitably fleeting moment of expectation, that seems even more tangible, right before the expectation bears fruit, so to speak, passes into oblivion upon the fulfillment of whatever one was anticipating in the first place. Alas, that feeling was only the means to carry a person forward, in a focused manner, placing the attention upon whatever it may be that a person held in anticipation. Once realized, the feeling that served as a catalyst of sorts, vanishes without a trace; this seems akin to the so called “action potential” of a neuron.

The seemingly interminable state of perpetuation, that may precede the prolonged expectation of something, only increases the fulfillment of that moment once arrived. However, in the case of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Chava were devastatingly let down by the lie of the serpent, that deceived them into thinking that upon partaking of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would achieve enlightenment, wisdom, and immortality. The exact opposite occurred.

True enlightenment is given from Above, and does not stem from our own expectations. The beginning of wisdom is fear, in the sense of awe, reverence, and respect towards G-d. And, immortality is only a possibility, when granted chayei olam (eternal life), after the Techiyas HaMeisim (Resurrection of the Dead), dependent upon our laboring for righteousness, all the days of our life. As the saying goes, there are no shortcuts in life.

Bereishis 5781

B”H

“And the L-rd G-d took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”

– Genesis 2:15, JPS 1917 Tanach

G-d had the foresight to provide a remedy before the ailment that still plagues man today. The first act of disobedience, on the part of Adam and Chava (Eve). Adam, whose Hebrew name means man, and is similar the word adamah (earth), is synonymous with the first man, created from the various elements of the earth, with one exception, his soul as mentioned in Torah. “Then the L-RD G-d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Eve, whose name means life, yet, as a result of her and her husband’s disobedience, brought death into the world. “‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17, JPS). Even so, Adam decided to focus on his wife’s role in regard to all of humanity. “And the man called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20, JPS).

Many questions may be asked in regard to the cryptic language of Torah; for example, what is the nature of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? The Targum, a complete rendering of the Five Books as a paraphrase of the original explains well: “But of the tree of whose fruit they who eat (become) wise to know between good and evil, thou shalt not eat” (Sefaria.org).

Sforno notes, that the Tree of Knowledge was placed in close proximity to the Tree of Life in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden). Sforno relates these trees to the choice given to mankind: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;” (Deuteronomy 30:19).