Dedicated for the Refuah Shelemah of Moshe ben Rachel, Yehudah ben Rachel, Miriam bat Rachel, Leah bat Rachel, Daniel ben Rachel, and Rav Eliyah Dov Ben Chavah Esther
The Torah begins and ends with chessed. In Parashat Vezot Haberacha, the last parasha in the Torah, Moshe Rabbenu passed away, and the passuk says, “Vayikbor oto—And He buried him (34:6).” We learn from this that anonymous chessed is an extremely holy thing, and we must emulate Hashem, Who did not take credit when doing the ultimate chessed. He buried Moshe in private, and Hashem’s name is not written.
However, Rabbi Frand explains that there is also another kind of chessed, where we must emulate Hashem and actually make our names known. In Parashat Beresheet, after Adam and Chava sinned, it says, “And Hashem Elokim made for Adam and for his wife clothing, and He dressed them (3:21).” It explicitly says Hashem’s name here, to show that even after a terrible sin that would change the world forever, Hashem showed Adam and Chava, “Yes what you did was wrong, but I am here, and I will take care of you.” When our friends and family are in need, even after doing something wrong, we must show up without judgement and express to them that we are there to help them no matter what.
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.”
Ezer K’negdo—A Helpful Mate, Opposite Him
The Torah says, “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make for him an ezer—helpful mate, k’negdo—opposite him (Beresheet 2:18).” The gemara clarifies that if a person merits finding the right wife, then he will have a spouse who will be his helper. If, however, he does not have that merit, he will have a wife with whom he is constantly arguing.
Rabbi Frand brings down an interesting explanation on this gemara by Rabbi Reuvain Katz. He writes that this passuk is not referring to two different types of wives. The passuk is explaining that a good wife must perform two roles for her husband, even though the two roles are sometimes opposite in nature to one another.
If a person is doing the right thing with his life, then Hashem wishes that his wife helps him reach his goal. However, there is another aspect to why Hashem created wives. Chazal explain that when Hashem took the rib from Adam and created Chava, a Binah Yeterah—extra level of intuition was given to women. The word binah comes from the word ben—between, which means women have an intuition that helps them distinguish between two opposing matters (k’negdo—opposite him). Sometimes it is the function of the wife to use her binah yetera to tell her husband “Excuse me my dear husband, but this is NOT the way to go!”
The classic example of this is the famous gemara that states, “The wife of On ben Pelet rescued him (Sanhedrin 1090b).” Even though he had initially joined Korach’s rebellion against Moshe, he didn’t follow through with his plan. Why? His wife, who used her binah to understand exactly how to convince her husband not to join Korach, pointed out to him the folly of his ways. She said, “What does it matter to you? Now, Moshe is the leader and you are a follower. If Korach is successful, he will be the leader and you will still be a follower. Stay home.” Even though this wasn’t a compliment to On ben Pelet, she spoke to his logical side and saved him from destruction.
Mrs. On ben Pelet was not playing the role of the dutiful wife who always reinforces her husband’s decisions and choices. She was not playing the role of the “helpful mate;” she was playing the role of his “opposite.” She saved him with her binah yeterah, with her extra intuition, in this world and in the next! This is the exact role of ,“if he does not merit.” Meaning, if a husband is not acting in the meritorious way Hashem would want him to act, then his wife should stand up in opposition to him and save him from his foolishness!
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 Haba!
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.
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.
Rabbi David Ashear told a story about a man named Daniel who had excruciating back pain for 12 years. He went to doctors in Israel, America, he went to specialists, holistic doctors and even surgeons. His pain would not let up. He couldn’t sit in a chair, or learn with his son, he couldn’t pay attention to his wife, or hold a job. He became very depressed. Harav Menachem Stein saw how broken he was, and he gave him a few words of chizuk. He said, “Every year on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem creates a whole new world. Everything on earth is created anew, even people! There is even a halacha that says that if you didn’t see someone in over a year, you would say a beracha with Hashem’s name. The beracha of Mechayeh hametim.
Daniel said, “Mechayeh Hametim? But he didn’t die!” Rabbi Stein continued, “The Chafetz Chaim said that when a person goes through Rosh Hashanah, he’s given new life, it’s as if he was brought back from the dead. We read about Sarah Imenu on Rosh Hashanah because Sarah literally did not even have a womb. When Rosh Hashanah came, she prayed with all she had, and Hashem created her anew. She had a baby at 90 years old.” Daniel was so inspired, that when Rosh Hashanah came, he took upon himself to fast and did a taanit dibbur. He didn’t eat or talk for 48 hours. He prayed with everything he had for Hashem to create him anew.
After Yom Kippur passed, Daniel was still in a tremendous amount of pain. He went to his back doctor to get a refill on his pain medication. His doctor had an emergency elsewhere, and a very young doctor, fresh out of medical school, saw Daniel that day. The doctor saw Daniel’s history, and was very hesitant to give him a refill for his medicine. Daniel said, “Please, I’ve been taking this for 12 years. I’m in excruciating pain, please just fill it so I can go home to lie down.” The doctor said, “Did you ever think about checking your kidneys? I’d like you to go get an ultrasound to check them. After that, I can refill your prescription.”
Daniel knew they wouldn’t find anything. He had been to over 20 doctors in 12 years, and this guy was a rookie. Plus, he didn’t even have any kidney symptoms. Daniel had no interest. But the doctor was holding his prescription hostage, so he had to go. When he got to the ultrasound, the technician found that his left kidney had a 20% blockage. Not enough for there to be kidney symptoms, but enough to cause severe pain when left untreated. Daniel couldn’t believe it. It was an easy fix, and after a small procedure his back pain was gone!! He thought back to Rabbi Stein’s words, and realized that after his intense prayer, Hashem created him anew, and put the words into this young doctor’s mouth to cure his supposedly incurable disease.
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, written by Jack Rahmey
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