Before we can begin to understand Parashat Beresheet, we must believe with complete faith that the Torah is Emmet, truth! The passuk begins with the words, beresheet barah elokim et ha-shamayim ve-et haaretz. "In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth." The first three words, “beresheet bara elokim,” end in the letters ‘taf’ ‘alef’and ‘mem’, which together spell “Emmet!”
We must also remember that Hashem created man with only a minimum capacity to comprehend His ways. The first principle of Rambam's “Thirteen Fundamental Principles” of the Jewish faith is “Belief in the existence of the Creator, who is perfect in every manner of existence and is the Primary Cause of all that exists.”
As Hashem was creating the world, the Torah tells us, vayar elokim Ki Tov. “G-d saw that it was good." The Ki Tov (it was good) applies to the insect, the elephant and all the creatures apart from man were accorded the words ‘Ki Tov’. Hashem looked at his handiwork after each creation and declared that it was good. But when He made man, no declaration was made that man was a good creation. Rabbi Yosef Albo explains that every element of creation, apart from man, was a finished product. From the insect to the elephant, they will remain as they are and will never rise or fall in stature. It is for that reason that those creations can be evaluated as "good".
Man, however, is a work in progress, a tremendous bundle of potential whose final form is not yet determined. Man is given free will and the responsibility for his own development and improvement. Will he rise in spirituality to the great levels of his potential or will he sink to mediocrity? These questions must be answered by each one of us throughout our lifetime. Now we understand that there can never really be a time when man can be considered a finished product, and therefore humans cannot be declared "good". Man is and always will be in a state of potential. As we read in passuk 26: vayomer elokim naaseh adam betzalmenuu kedmutenu. "And G-d said, let us make man in our likeness".
The question is asked, why is this written in plural? The Sefat Emmet answers that each one of us is a partner with Hashem in his own creation. Hashem gave us immense capabilities to develop our minds and refine our characters to their fullest potential. Hashem says in the passuk, and to each person: “naaseh adam”. By this he means, Let us work together. I have created you, and now it is your job to make yourself the very best person that you can be! We learn in perashat Va'eira (6;26)..."This was Aharon and Moshe to whom Hashem said...". The undercurrent question that pops out here is that the Torah usually mentions Moshe's name first but in this pasuk it lists Aharon's name first and Moshe's name second. Rambam comments that this teaches us that both were equally great, although the Torah itself testifies that in the level of prophecy, Moshe was the greatest who ever lived. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein adds that Aharon achieved the absolute maximum of his potential, just as Moshe did. In Hashem's scales, achievement is measured by how well one fulfills ones own personal mission. We learn from this something very profound and that is that we can all reach the level of Moshe Rabenu just as Aharon did by reaching his potential. We can all reach the potential that Hashem has established for us and because we obviously don't know what that potential is, we must continue to strive to always grow with the ultimate goal to reach our potential in our lifetime! Considering this concept there is a famous beracha that the Rabbis would wish upon one another: "May you see your world during your lifetime". In other words, may you achieve during your days in this world the full realization of all the potential that Hashem has invested in you.
In the 2nd perek it says...“These are the products of the heavens and the earth when they were created on the day of Hashem G-d’s making of earth and heavens. Now any tree of the field was not yet on the earth and any herb of the field had not yet sprouted, because Hashem had not sent rain upon the earth and because there was no man to work the soil.” (2:4-5)
There’s a very important Rashi on this pasuk that teaches us two important ideas: On the words “Hashem had not sent rain”, Rashi comments: “And what is the reason that He had not sent rain? Because ‘there was no man to work the soil’ and there was none who could recognize the goodness of the rain.” Up until this point, there was no vegetation because there was no rain and there was no rain because there was no human being to appreciate the rain!
The Maharal in the Gur Aryeh elaborates: Why not bring rain anyway (even though there was no one to appreciate it)? The answer is because it is forbidden to do a kindness for a person who does not recognize it as a favor. Therefore, as long as there was no man, then no rain fell. It is not worth giving a gift or favor to someone who does not even have the ability to appreciate what you are doing for him. Most of us would have assumed the opposite from the Maharal. Our natural instinct would be to say, “No, give the favor anyway, even if it will not be appreciated. The Maharal infers a principle of proper behavior from this Rashi: Do not do a favor for a person who cannot appreciate it. Rashi then presents another idea: “When Adam came and realized that the rains are a necessity for the world, he prayed for them and they came down, and the trees and all types of vegetation sprouted.” Rav Shimshon Pincus, z”l, in his wonderful sefer, She’arim B’Tefilla, makes the following comment: All this vegetation was right there – the shrubs, the trees, the grass, the plants, the flowers, the beautiful earth – but it was necessary for someone to pray for it. Once Adam prayed for it, then that tremendous favor (of rainfall) comes automatically.
The lesson we learn from this is that sometimes when Hashem is ready to shower a bounty upon us, unless we pray for it, we will not receive it. That was the situation over here. Hashem intended that there should be a creation with plants and trees and shrubs and grass and flowers, but He was not prepared to “release them” until someone was there to (a) appreciate them and (b) actually pray for them. There are tremendous favors from Heaven that may await us, but we need to ask for them and we need to pray to Hashem that those favors be “released” to us.
Later in perek (3;9), after Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, Hashem calls out to Adam, ayecha, "Where are you"? Aderet Eliyahu comments that Hashem was not of course referring to Adam’s physical whereabouts, but rather to where he had fallen in respect to his exalted spiritual level, now that he had eaten from the forbidden fruit. Baal HaTanya says that Hashem was not just speaking to Adam, but to all his descendants. Hashem is asking us, “Where are you in your life?” We all live in our own little world and have our own purpose in life, and things we want to achieve. Hashem is asking us, “What have you accomplished in all your years so far? Have you come any closer to fulfilling your purpose in life?” Where are you, is a question which Hashem asks each one of us and a question that we should be asking ourselves every day! Hashem did not just put us in this world to exist without a purpose. We were all put here with a special purpose and potential to grow and Hashem gave each and every one of us the precise tools to achieve our potential. Its our job to constantly ask ourselves: "Where am I in relation to reaching our own personal potential?"
When our great Rabbi, Chacham Ovadia Yoseph was a young boy in Yeshivah, his father wanted him to come to work in his grocery store after school. When Chacham Ovadia's Rabbi, Chacham Ezra Attia heard about this and saw that Chacham Ovadia had tremendous potential to become a great scholar, he went to his father's grocery store and put on an apron to work. When Chacham Ovadia's father saw Chacham Attia working in his store, he asked "Chacham, what are you doing?" Chacham Attia answered, "I'm working in place of your son Ovadia because I see in him great potential that he will be a great Rabbi one day, but it won’t happen if he spends his time working in a grocery store, so I decided to take his place so that he can learn.” Chacham Ovadia’s father got the message and told Chacham Attia that his son Ovadia didn't have to work and could continue learning. Imagine if Chacham Ezra Attia didn't make this protest on behalf of his student Ovadia Yoseph, we might have missed out on probably the greatest Rabbi of our generation who has showered us with hundreds of volumes of Torah that will benefit us for many generations to come!
We all need to know that we are made ‘betzelem elokim’ in the likeness of Hashem. If we believe that, we will understand that we all have profound self-worth and a goal in this world of reaching our potential as Aharon Hakohen and Chacham Ovadia Yoseph did, so that when we leave this world, we can also be declared by Hashem as ‘ki tov’!
May we all continue to ask ourselves the question ‘Ayecha’? So that we can constantly reevaluate our spiritual status in our lives and strive to grow continuously. May we use this question to propel us to reach the potential that Hashem has set for each and every one of us! Amen!
Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of
Rabbi Amram Sananes
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Malka Bat Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Shulamit Bat Helaina Meir Ben Latifa
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Esther Bat Sarah
Rav Haim Ben Rivka Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Yitzchak Ben Adele Rafael Ben Miriam
Chanah Bat Esther Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal
Avraham Ben Garaz Ovadia Ben Yosef
Yaakov Ben Rachel
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