“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu




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בס"ד

B PARASHAT HASHAVUA B

PARASHA :Bereshit

Date :29 Tishrei 5763, 5/10/2002

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)

Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori

Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l

Please respect the Holiness of these pages

These pages are also sent out weekly via the internet in MS Word format. Anyone interested in receiving them, please feel feee to contact me at the following email address: yarden@seliyahu.org.il - Arieh.

HhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhH

1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)

Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel

STARTING POINT: Going "With" or Going "Before"

by Rabbi Amnon Bazak

At the beginning of the Torah we are introduced to four main figures: Adam, Chanoch, Noach, and Avraham. All four are involved in the question of the place of man in relation to the Almighty, as a physical creation who is in danger of sinning, living in a human atmosphere of sin.

Adam was born outside the place where G-d wanted him to be, and he was placed there afterwards. "And G-d planted a garden in Eden, to the east, and there He placed the man that He had created" [Bereishit 2:8]. After he sinned, he lost the privilege of living in the Garden of Eden. "And G-d expelled him from the Garden of Eden, to work on the earth which had been taken from there" [3:23]. There is no room in the garden for sin or for a sinner, and therefore a man who sinned was sent back to the place from which he came.

Chanoch, the seventh generation after Adam (see Psikta D'Rav Kahana 23), was the second one to be taken away: "He is no more, for G-d took him" [5:24]. However, in this case, the taking was in the opposite direction. Ralbag explains that death is not mentioned in relation to Chanoch "because he completed his soul and achieved perfection." Perhaps his perfection can be seen in the symbolic number of years that he lived, "three hundred and sixty five years" [5:23], the number of days in a solar year. This is the opposite of Adam, who was taken (for a short time) into a physical world, where he was commanded "to work on it and to guard it" [2:16]. Chanoch, on the other hand, was taken into a metaphysical world that is not clearly defined. Adam's sin showed that man cannot live a physical life without sin, and therefore Chanoch, who achieved perfection during his life, was removed, to a life without physical reality, where there was no longer any danger of sin.

Noach's life shows a different attempt to decrease the conflict between physical reality and the service of G-d, in a way different from Adam and Chanoch. Instead of removing man from the world, what was attempted was to remove the world from man. Thus, Noach was not taken away, but he remained, while the entire universe around him disappeared. The way to resolve the conflict with the phenomenon that "all the intentions of his thoughts were evil, all day long" [6:5] was to try to create a better mankind, based on a few perfect individuals.

However, after the sin of the Deluge, the evil in the world is accepted as fact. "I will never again curse the earth because of mankind, for the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth" [8:21]. The way is then clear for Avraham, whose task is to be the father of a chosen nation. No longer will the goal be to find a single outstanding individual, but rather to create an entire nation, which will influence all of mankind. "I will make you into a great nation... And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you" [12:2-3].

Chanoch and Noach were the only men described as going "with G-d" [5:22, 6:9]. This seems to refer to a direct relationship to G-d, without any link to the surrounding world. Afterwards, the only expression that will be found is what G-d commanded Avraham: "And He said to him, I am G-d, go before me, and be perfect" [17:1 - see also 24:40; 48:15]. It was Avraham's task to move within the earth, among the other people, and as a result of intimate contact with the people, to go "before G-d."

SERMON OF THE WEEK: Two Examples of Creation

by Rabbi Yehoshua Magnes, a teacher in Yeshivat Mercaz Harav, and Rabbi of the Ulpanit, Tel Aviv

Our mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, gave us an important key to studying this week's Torah portion, based on the verse, "G-d spoke of one thing, and I have heard two" [Tehillim 62:12]. The rabbi always taught us to search for ways that the word of G-d can be subdivided into details. Based on this approach, he saw the Torah as divided up into units of double portions, where the first and second ones complement each other. We can use this approach to gain a deeper insight into the creation of the world and of mankind, as described in the portions of Bereishit and Noach. The two events of creation are basically different from each other.

In Bereishit, we are introduced to a Divine creation which we cannot understand, that took place through ten "statements" that are beyond our powers of comprehension. The high point of this activity is the creation of man. He is immediately placed in the Garden of Eden, created last in an effort to bring the entire universe into a state of perfection. All that was required of him was to refrain from sinning until the beginning of Shabbat. However, this Divine creature was not able to fulfill the great assignment. The end of the portion describes how the Almighty "regrets" having created man, the sinner.

As opposed to this, the process in the portion of Noach is much easier for us to understand. It does not entail creation out of nothing, there are no wondrous "statements." Everything exists, all that is needed is to provide the opportunity for natural development. And mankind does not have to reach the same high moral level as in the portion of Bereishit. A lower spiritual level is required, as is shown by the fact that Noach was given permission to eat meat, which was forbidden to Adam.

However, in the end, even in the portion of Noach mankind faltered by turning to idol worship and building the Tower of Babel. As the Rambam wrote with respect to this era, "the world continued to roll along in this way" [Hilchot Avoda Zara 1:1]. This can be compared to a rolling ball, without any goal or direction. It was certainly not moving towards the goal of the creation. "Until the pillar of the world was born, that is, Avraham" [Ibid]. The appearance of our forefather Avraham is the appearance of the foundation of the nation of Yisrael. It is this event that gave the creation its full significance, providing hope that mankind might yet be able to bring about the completion of the world.

Thus, these two Torah portions, each with its own "creation," are not only an introduction to the Torah. Rather, they are the foundation of the entire Torah, because its main point is the choice of Bnei Yisrael as the nation of G-d, in order to be a light to the other nations, by living our special way of life, based on the holy Torah.

POINT OF VIEW: "The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" [Bereishit 2:9]

by Prof. Shalom Rozenberg

The first chapter in the story of the creation ends on an optimistic note: "And G-d saw all that He had done, and it was very good" [Bereishit 1:31]. After this, we see the appearance of evil. Adam eats from "the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil." Human evil enters the world, and ever since it has accompanied human history, bringing with it new surprises all the time. This might lead to a deep philosophical question, but it is relevant even for those who suffer "vertigo" from the study of philosophy. We have also been privileged to partake of a "Garden of Eden" of sorts, with the invention of the personal computer and word processors. However, why was there also a need for viruses, which multiply in the tens of thousands and threaten us all? How might we put this in modern language? Who are the creators of this evil?

I suggest that the answer to this question may be found in a classical passage in the Talmud, in the well known Mishna on the subject of "four main types of damage" [Bava Kama 1:1], which as we will see are really six types. For me, this discussion can be considered a voyage to the roots of evil and to the motives for such harmful actions.

Let us turn to the Mishna, guided by the Talmud. "There are four main types of damage, an ox, a pit, destruction, and fire" [Bava Kama 1:1]. The Talmud explains that "the ox" includes "three main categories: horns, teeth, and feet." These are the three "avot," the main categories of physical damage, and they are also the three main categories of evil. For example, "the teeth provide a benefit as a result of the damage." This "harmful object" represents evil performed in order to obtain a benefit, because of desire and interests.

Damage by "feet" represents something done "while walking," not on purpose, but without showing any consideration for another party. The final category is horns, referring to a goring ox, one that "intended to cause harm." This is evil that stems from anger, the beastly aspect of human violence. The Talmud also mentions the possibility of "a detached horn," that is, an artificial limb. And man is forced to prevail against two types of violence. One is artificial, fueled by incitement and rejection. The other one, "attached" in the words of the Talmud, exists "naturally" in the human soul. This is violence which is a constant threat, and which must be guarded against, to prevent it from becoming dangerous.

So much for the subcategories of "an ox." The Mishna also discusses other main categories. Fire (listed in the Mishna as "mav'er," igniting a flame), represents for me any human action which facilitates or permits conditions under which evil can occur. These are the dangerous collaborators of evil. The pit, on the other hand, represents negligence with respect to another person. This is passive harm, as opposed to the active nature of a fire. The damage of a pit is a result of oversight. The one who opens a pit does not push another person inside, but he also does not make a fence around it to prevent mishaps. Those who stand near a pit are the ones who see something bad happening but do not take any action to remedy the situation.

We are left with one category, "mav'eh," destruction. What does this mean? This is the subject of a disagreement between Rav and Shmuel. According to Shmuel, it refers to "teeth," as is written, "How was Esav searched, his hidden treasures revealed?" [Ovadia 1:6]. It refers to a wild beast about to bare its teeth. Rav, on the other hand, feels that the word refers to man, as is written, "The watchman says, beware of morning and also night, if you want to, pray..." [Yeshayahu 21:12]. Rav understands from this verse that the root beit-ayin-heh means to ask, to request, or to pray. In Greek thought, mankind is defined as a "talking creature," a living creature that has the power of thought and speech. Rav proposes a different definition: man is a "praying creature," a living being who is religious.

But this is a startling conclusion. Why should man, who knows how to pray, be transformed into one of the main categories of damage? The answer is that this is indeed a paradox. It is a category of evil that we have not yet come across in the Mishna. There are times when evil is a consequence of idealism, religious faith, or even fanaticism. One recent example is the prayers of suicide murderers before they set out on their missions. This is the essence of idol worship, which can transform a "praying creature" into one of the main categories of danger. And we must keep in mind that we too might under certain circumstances cause harm in the name of ideologies in which we believe, no matter how just they seem to be.

The MAHARSHA explains that the two verses quoted by the Talmud in relation to the word "mav'eh" are both connected to Edom (Rome), the empire of evil. What is the inner significance of the government of Edom? Shmuel sees this as related to "teeth." Every crime is linked to personal interests. Rav, on the other hand, sees "mav'eh" as a man. There is a great danger in the possibility of changing ethical requirements, an evil transformation where bad becomes good and good becomes bad. Who is right? Perhaps it is Shmuel, and idealism is only for the sake of appearances, which may turn into idol worship.

The Mishna ends: "What they all have in common is that they cause damage, and you are required to guard against them." I am required to guard my brother - and the computer is in danger too...

THE WAYS OF THE FATHERS (Pirkei Avot): The Beginning of Pirkei Avot

by Rabbi Yehuda Shaviv

"Moshe received the Torah at Sinai, and transferred it to Yehoshua. And Yehoshua gave it to the Elders, and the Elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the Anshei Knesset Hagedola." [Avot 1:1]. This is the beginning of Pirkei Avot, the tractate that has become so loved by the multitudes of Bnei Yisrael during many generations. The opening sentence does not seem to have anything new to teach us. Evidently the goal is to present us with the chain of transfer of the Torah and to note some unique features.

Moshe gave the Torah to Yehoshua, who passed it on to the "Zekeinim," the Elders. This is a distinct change. No longer is an individual responsible for leading, the task has been taken over by a group of elders. Even though they were advised by the elders of the time, Moshe and Yehoshua had the ultimate responsibility for leadership, but this changed in the subsequent generation.

"The Elders transferred it to the prophets, and the prophets to the Anshei Knesset Hagedola. They said three things." [1:2]. From this point, we no longer see only a chain of transfer, we are given important statements by the wise men. And from here on, it is the advice of the sages of each generation that makes up the bulk of the tractate. We are asked to understand that the sages served not only as channels to transfer the Torah, but rather they were also sources of Torah innovations. It may be assumed that all of the sages made their own contributions, including the first ones, and that the quotes from the later sages are only meant as examples of the many things they taught. This would be the meaning of the common phrase, "He used to say..."

"How good and pleasant it is for brothers to sit together" [Tehillim 133:1]. In parallel with the renewed beginning of the Torah this week, we will also begin a regular column based on the words of our sages, the forefathers of the nation, as brought to us in Pirkei Avot.

TORAH, SOCIETY, AND GOVERNMENT: "And G-d Fashioned the Side into a Woman" [Bereishit 2:22]

by Rabbi Uri Dasberg

The above verse is the one and only time that it was permitted for a man (or at least part of a man) to be transformed into a woman. From this point on, such a phenomenon will be considered "an abomination" [Vayikra 18:22]. As is written by Ibn Ezra in the name of Rabbi Chananel: "If someone changes part of his body into the shape of a woman... this should be totally rejected by a holy soul."

A rabbi was asked about a woman who refused to accept her female identity from the time of childhood and who therefore underwent sex-change treatment, including surgery. After the treatment, should this person be considered a man, who can pray in the men's section of a synagogue and who can be called to the Torah?

The absolute and unequivocal answer is: No, never! None of the sages has ever permitted this. The only exception has been in cases where a child has conflicting signs, both male and female, and an operation has been performed to remove some of them. This is not at all like the present case, where a person wants to change sex on her own initiative!! Who has ever dealt with such a case? A woman remains a woman, even if the external signs have been removed. Checking her chromosomes will reveal her true identity, even after the most sophisticated surgery.

Refusing to accept the sex with which we were born is a mental aberration, and it is necessary to pray that this will pass. And when she does change her mind, who will be able to console this woman who has undergone surgery, for the fact that she can no longer bring children to the world? And all because of an irresponsible decision that she made early in life. There is no way that surgery could have suppressed the natural urge that the Almighty planted in her. "Your desire will be for your husband" [Bereishit 3:16]. This refers to the urge to have children and to give birth to the next generation.

It might be possible that there are cases of extreme mental illness, which reach the stage of mortal danger to the patient. In such a case it might be permitted to violate the prohibition of castration and to remove the patient's sex organs. But even if this is the case, such a woman can never be called "a man." She will always remain a woman, even if she is very sick, G-d forbid. The general prohibition, "men's clothing should not appear on a woman" [Devarim 22:5], is still valid for this woman. She should still be called by her original name (changing her name might lead to terrible mistakes). All that remains is to pray to G-d that He quickly send her a cure for her malady, both in body and in spirit.

Reference: Rabbi Yigal Shafran, "Techumin," volume 21, pages 117-120.

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