Weekly Reading Insights

Bereishit 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Bereishit
To be read on 29 Tishrei 5763 (Oct.5)

Torah: Genesis 1:1-6:8;
Haftorah (for Erev Rosh Chodesh): Samuel 1 20:18-42
Shabbat Mevorchim - Blessing the New Month

: Bereishit, 1st out of 12 in Genesis, contains 1 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot.
It is written on 241 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 9th out of 54 in overall length.

The Torah opens with G-d's creation of the world in six days - plus Shabbos. G-d planted a garden in Eden, with the Tree of Life in the middle, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. G-d told Adam that he may eat from every tree except for the Tree of Knowledge. The serpent persuaded Eve to eat from the tree, and she gave some of its fruit to Adam. G-d punished each of the three, then clothed Adam and Eve, and banished them from Eden. Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel, and subsequently Eve gave birth to Seth. The Torah then lists the ten generations from Adam to Noah. When Noah was 500 years old, he fathered Shem, Ham and Yapheth. G-d then decided that man should live only to 120. G-d saw that the world was evil, and decided to obliterate it, except for Noah and his family.


"G-d blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it." (1:28)

The birth of a Jewish child brings joy not only to his parents and extended family but to the entire Jewish people. And it signifies a step closer to the coming of Moshiach.The Talmud states that Moshiach will not arrive until "all the souls in waiting in Heaven have been born. The birth of a Jewish baby therefore hastens the Redemption and brings closer the blessings of the Messianic Era.

(Lubavicher Rebbe)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

"Am I my brother's guardian?" (4:9)

The purpose of man's creation had been to have the body as perfect as the soul, the body to be the, "Sanctuary," whereas the soul would be the, "the inner Sanctuary." Both body and soul would have enjoyed a life of intelligence. All other creatures on earth would have shred in a "higher" existence'; there would not have been any trees that failed to produce edible fruit, for instance. When you look closely at the instruction issued by G-d to the Earth on the third day, you will find that the trees were meant to be edible themselves, i.e. the trunk, not just the fruit (Gen. l,11). Earth did not comply with G-d's command completely, since it was aware that G-d would have to hide the Original Light due to the eventual emergence of wicked people. This prompted Earth to withhold some of its goodness also.

The reason that the tree itself was to taste the same as its fruit is to elevate the, "peel," exterior, to the level of the essence, i.e. the fruit. When the level of spirituality is such that the klipah (shell or husk) has become insignificant, then the function of the tree of life has been fulfilled, i.e. every tree will be a Tree of Life...

In the present world the shell always precedes the fruit, even in the sequence in which man's children were born. This is the reason that Cain, who represents the klipah, was born before his brother Abel, who represents the fruit. The former said to G-d after having murdered Abel: "Is it my function to serve as the klipah for my brother?" Our sages understand this comment as Cain referring to this function in his life, because they understand the meaning of the word shomer (guardian) to be the same as shomrei hapri, "the protective shell around the fruit." The letter 'hei' in front of the word hashomer indicates Cain's ongoing amazement. He cannot get over the fact that the evil urge within him, i.e. the klipah, so overpowered him. His reaction was similar to ours when we acknowledge having sinned, blaming the evil urge within us.

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(W:01-63 Bereishit)

Notwithstanding the fact that we are after the High Holidays, Chassidut teaches that how we spend Shabbat Bereishit, (referring to the first Shabbat after the holidays and the first parsha of the Torah) will have a qualitative effect on our entire coming year. Therefore, it is logical to expect that in this portion are more core messages than might be in any other portion.

Rebbe Michil of Zlotchuv chooses a verse about marriage as the paradigm for how to face the challenges in our lives. "And G-d said, it is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helpmate k'negdo-for him" (2/18). Interestingly, the word k'negdo can also be translated as 'against him'. The commentary in the Talmud, Yevamos, 63a explains the term 'help against him'. If a husband acts properly, his wife helps him. If a husband does not act properly, his wife becomes his adversary.
Now, this explanation is really quite a radical jump, and others suggest that the dichotomy is not really supported by the verse. They suggest a more mystical approach that fits more with the words according to the Arizal, the great Kabbalist of Safed. The Ari said that when G-d created this physical world, it became necessary that the world should recognize G-d's greatness. As part of this process, before a soul is born into a body, it is taught the entire Torah. Just before birth, an angel comes and taps the baby under the nose and all that has been learned is forgotten.
If so, why was everything learned, only to be forgotten? The answer is that even though forgotten, an impression still remains that will eventually be a key to allow the person to reach a higher spiritual level. Only from the difficulty caused by our forgetting Torah, will we eventually arrive at the full knowledge and recognition of G-d's greatness. This is the secret meaning of the verse in Psalms, (37/33) "G-d will not abandon what is in his hand"-G-d will not completely take away the knowledge that was originally given to the soul, and "He will not allow (His people) to be judged badly", i.e. even though G-d has given us this knowledge, He will not allow us to be judged as though we were independent and fully responsible for all of our actions. This is what the Ari meant when he said that the world should recognize G-d's greatness. We recognize things we already know and can identify, when we come upon them again.

And so the verse, "It was not good for the man to be alone," means it was not good for man to be alone without any obstacles. Personal growth only comes with struggle. G-d makes a 'help against' evil with which to struggle, so we will come to the eventual good. This is also the explanation in Yevamos-if he merits, she is a help, if he does not merit, she is an obstacle.

And finally, this is what is meant by the verse, and "the Land was chaos (tohu v'vohu)" (1/2). Where there is chaos, you have 'vohu'-literally, "He will come." This teaches us that "He," G-d, "will come," as it is written (Talmud, Megila 29a), into every place that the Jewish people are exiled the Divine Presence is exiled with them to help them. And this should lead to the biggest good of all, the arrival of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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