Dedicated in Honor of Lauren and Eli for Their Upcoming Wedding
by Morris and Melissa Chehebar
Torah is Emmet
Before we can begin to understand Parashat Beresheet, we must believe with complete faith that the Torah is emmet, truth! The first passuk in the Torah 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, and Elokim, end in the letters taf, alef and mem, which re-ordered spell emmet!
At the end of the creation of Shabbat on the seventh day, “Hashem blessed the Seventh Day and sanctified it because on it He abstained from all His work, which Hashem created to make (2:3).” The last three words in this passuk, bara, Elokim, and la’asot also end with those same three letters: alef, mem, and taf, which together also spell emmet! This is just one of many hints to show that the Torah is TRUTH!
We must also remember that Hashem created us with only a minimum capacity to even begin 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.”
When Hashem created the world, everything He created was rounded or with curves, such as the sun, the moon, the trees, and the animals. There isn’t anything in nature that Hashem created that’s perfectly square, or with straight, inflexible lines. The reason for this is because rounded things are constantly moving, and the shape is fluid and imperfect. However, Torah and mitzvot, like tefillin, tzitzit, and Shabbat are all square: permanent and fixed! This metaphor teaches us that in the material world, nothing remains the same, but in the spiritual world, every word of Torah that is learned, every dollar that is given to tzedakah, and every act of chesed done is permanent and eternal in Olam Habah!
As Hashem was creating the world, the Torah tells us, “Vayar Elokim ki tov—G-d saw that it was good.” Ki tov applied to the land and seas, plants and trees, sun and moon, and insects and animals. All the creations 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 this 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 and every 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.
Rabbi YY Jacobson told over a story originally told to him by Dr. David Pelcovitz, Professor of psychology at Yeshiva University and a therapist for 30 years, about a 16-year-old boy from Brooklyn who walked into his office many years ago. His father had said the boy needed to go to therapy because he had been kicked out of nine yeshivot already. Sometimes you see someone and after only a few seconds, you know he or she is a good, well-rounded person. The doctor decided the boy is fine, he doesn’t need therapy. If anything, the family does.
Dr. Pelcovitz told him “Next time you come, bring in your family. Bring your parents, your siblings, even your grandparents.” The boy asked, “Why do I need to bring in my grandparents? Therapy is a luxury for the younger generations. Kids often complain they have issues with their parents, but the older generation are grateful if they were lucky enough to even have had parents.”
The doctor understood the boy’s articulate and intelligent point, but he had a hunch and he wanted to follow his gut and meet everyone.
The next week, the whole extended family came to the office, including the boy’s grandparents. Dr. Pelcovitz asked the father to start talking about his concerns. The boy’s father started, “I have a wonderful family and amazing children. This son is a Rosh Yeshivah, this son is the biggest baal hessed, my daughters are educated and refined…” And he goes on to list all his other children’s accomplishments. He continues, “And then I have one 16-year-old who is a couch potato, always on his phone, plays video games all day, and wastes his mind and his life. He has silly passions and can’t sit still. He is an embarrassment to me, my wife, my whole family, and even to himself.”
The grandfather gets up and interrupts, “I was born in Poland. I was the ‘black sheep’ of my family. If I grew up in this generation, I would’ve been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, PDD or many other disorders. In Poland, there was ‘treatment’ for any misbehaved kids. A smack on the face, a tug on the ear, a locked closet. I was one of those kids, and no stranger to those punishments from my father and teachers.
In 1938, I found a book, and I read it from cover to cover. The book was Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler yemach shemo. I went home to my father and told him Poland is going to be taken over by this man in a few years. My father told me to go be productive and learn Torah like my brothers. I argued with him back and forth, until I told him, ‘I’m sorry, if you won’t listen, I will have to go myself.’ I said goodbye to my father, my mother, and my siblings. I left Poland and crossed the Atlantic; I was just a teenager. After World War II, I found out that I was the sole survivor in my family. I went on to channel my energy to build a successful business and a large, beautiful family. I look around at all my dear children and grandchildren, and I see this young man who is a replica of me in character and personality. Do not ever berate him for being different. It is a child like this to whom you owe your entire existence, your entire ability to learn, to be baalei chasidut, to be successful. If not for a child like this, none of you would be alive today.”
25 years passed, and today, the boy runs his grandfather’s company, and all his siblings are working for him!
We all need to know that we are made betzelem Elokim - in the likeness of Hashem. If we believe that we all have profound self-worth and we have a goal of reaching our full potential like this grandfather and grandson did, when we leave this world, we will also be declared by Hashem as ki tov!
Reaching Our 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 sentence written in plural? The Sefat Emmet answers that each one of us is a partner with Hashem in our 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 this concept in parashat Va'eira (6:26): “This was Aharon and Moshe to whom Hashem said…” The fundamental question here is that the Torah usually mentions Moshe's name first, but in this passuk 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 one’s own personal mission.
We learn from this something very profound. 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 is, we must continue to strive to always grow with the goal to ultimately reach our full potential in our lifetime! Regarding 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 the full potential that Hashem has instilled in you during your days in this world.
Appreciate Our Blessings
The Torah then goes on to say: “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 (2:5).” 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 elaborates in the Gur Aryeh. 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, no rain fell. It is not worth giving a gift or favor to someone who does not have the ability to appreciate what you are doing for him.
Most of us would have assumed the opposite from the Maharal. Our instinct would be to say, “No, give the favor anyway, even if it will not be appreciated.” However, the Maharal infers a principle of proper behavior from the rest of Rashi’s comment: “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 makes the following comment in his wonderful sefer, She’arim B’Tefilla: “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 Hashem is ready to shower blessings upon us, but unless we pray for it, we will not receive it. That was the situation over here. Hashem intended that there should be plants and trees and shrubs and grass and flowers, but He was not prepared to “release rainfall” until someone was there to (a) appreciate it and (b) pray for its arrival. 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.
Where Are You?
After Adam and Chava eat from the forbidden fruit, Hashem calls out to Adam, “Ayeca—Where are you (3:9)?” Aderet Eliyahu comments that Hashem was of course not 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 have our own little world, 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 we come any closer to fulfilling our 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 in life. Instead, we all have a purpose and potential, and Hashem gave each one of us the precise tools to achieve that potential. It is our job to constantly ask ourselves: “Where am I in relation to reaching my own personal potential?”
May we all continue to ask ourselves the question ayeca, so that we can constantly reevaluate our spiritual status in our lives and strive to grow continuously. May we always know that Torah is emmet and have Torah and mitzvot propel us to reach the potential that Hashem has set for each and every one of us! Amen!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
This week we are beginning the Torah again. We have another chance to start over. We must ask ourselves, ayeca – where are we in our spiritual growth, especially after the High Holidays – and strive to do good and reach our full potential in life!
The first three words in the whole Torah, “Beresheet bara Elokim,” end in the letters alef, mem, and taf. Torah is emmet—truth!
Hashem declared “ki tov—it was good” for all creations besides man. Man is a constant work in progress, and we can only be declared “good” when we reach our full potential.
Hashem created man with the words, “Naaseh adam—let us make man.” It is written in plural to teach that we, along with Hashem, are responsible for the creation of the best version of ourselves.
Hashem has a vault filled with blessings that are ready to be “released” for each of us. It is up to us to pray for them and to be able to appreciate the blessings when they arrive.
Eliyahu Ben Rachel
Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Avraham Ben Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah
Esther Bat Sarah
Avraham Ben Mazal
Shulamit Bat Helaina
Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Rahamim Ben Mazal
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther
Rafael Ben Miriam
Ovadia Ben Esther
Rav Haim Ben Rivka
Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Yael
Yitzchak Ben Adele
Avraham Ben Mazal
Meir Ben Latifa
Chanah Bat Esther
Yaakov Ben Rachel
Malka Bat Garaz
Moshe Ben Garaz
Avraham Ben Kami
Yaakov Ben Leah
Mordechai Ben Rachel
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
Saadia Ben Miriam
Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon
Margalit Bat Mazal
Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky
Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama
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