Parshat Bereishit -Welcome to the Beginning
Shabbos Bereishit – Shabbos mevarchim - Rosh Chodesh r’m
Welcome to the Beginning: "Bereishit Bara Elokim – In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth." We wish you a wonderful new year of Torah learning and living b'simcha. I wish to welcome and bless our new and former participants to this new cycle of learning the weekly Parsha. May Hashem bless our learning to be sweet for all of us, for my children and for your children, always. It is my pleasure to learn together with you and I hope that b'ezrat Hashem it will be meaningful and joyous for all of us throughout the year.
Torah study is much more than an intellectual pursuit; it’s about being in a very special and deep relationship with Hashem. The more joy- the deeper the relationship. It is a Jewish custom to kiss the sefer [or the page] we are learning, both before and [especially] after learning from it.
IN THE IMAGE OF G-D HE MADE HIM
1:26 G-d said, "Let us make man in our image, as our likeness, and let him dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the heaven, the animals, all the earth, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
1:27 And thus G-d created man in His form. In the form of G-d, He created them.
Reb Shlomo once asked, "What do you think it means that man is created in the image of G-d? Do you think that if you took a picture, Hashem looks like you?" Here is one of the explanations that he taught us:
Our Rabbis teach us that the First Holy Temple was destroyed because the Jews of that time were guilty of the three cardinal sins: idol worship, the spilling of blood, and sexual immorality. And what about the Second Beis HaMikdash? Why did it fall to the Romans? Because the Yidden hated each other without reason. And so, our Sages conclude, senseless hatred is as terrible a thing as the three worst sins in the world.
Why do we hate other people? Because we think we know everything about them – who they are, why they do what they do. Parents think, “These are my children, so I know what’s going on with them.” But, sadly enough, much of the time we’re totally wrong…
We so misjudge each other. That’s why the Torah says that if we hate people, or even if we’re only angry – we have to try to find a way to tell them, to talk to them about it. Because, really, it might only be a misunderstanding.
Sometimes we meet people who seem to us a little bit crude, a little bit impure – certainly not holy. So we want to knock them off. But the truth is, we have no idea what a Yidele might be doing when we’re not looking. So the Holy Baal Shem Tov tells us that, even when we see others doing wrong, we have to believe that in the inside of their insides they’re really the holiest of holy – and deserving of the greatest miracles..
Everybody is created in G-d’s Image. What does this mean? That just as G-d is so Deep, so Hidden – just as we can’t see G-d – so too we can’t really know what’s going on in the depths of other people. And unless we love them with all our hearts, we’ll never know…
In this Video, Rabbi David Rosen talks about bringing people together.
ויאמר אלוקים יהי אור
G-d said "LET THERE BE LIGHT"
In honor of the yahrtzeit of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zt"l which was observed on the 25th of Tishrei, I wish to share with you my 'free translation' of but a small portion of the opening teaching in his sefer Kedushat Levi:
"In the beginning Elokim created the heavens and the earth."
The general principal (that we must know) is that the Creator blessed be He created everything and that He is everything; and that His radiance is never interrupted, for at every moment He radiates abundant life to all His creations, to all worlds, to all supernal chambers and to all angels and to the 'chayot hakodesh'.
That is why we say "yotzer or u'vorei choshech" – He creates light and He creates darkness, and not He created in the past tense, rather He creates in the present tense, for at every moment He is creating, for at every moment He radiates life to all living things (to all that is in existence); and everything emanates from Him, baruch Hu, and He is shaleym- complete.
He consists of everything [and beyond], therefore when a person reaches AYIN-no-thing-ness, and he knows that he is nothing and that it is Hashem who is giving him his life energy, then he refers to Him as the One who creates. But when a person sees himself [as the reference point] and does not perceive his no-thing-ness then he is on the level of a YESH- [a separate self] then he refers to the Creator b"H, as the One who created- past tense, that is that He already created him (as if now he exists on his own).
In the "Asher Yatzar" blessing we say "Blessed are You Hashem… who created (past tense) the man with chochma-wisdom" for chochma is the level of YESH-some-thing. It is appropriate to say created [past tense] in this blessing, rather than creates (since He created us with chochma which is this the level of YESH, therefore we perceive ourselves as YESH- some-thing that has been created).
In the writings of the Ariz"l it says that when we say "HASHEM MELECH" - Hashem is the King, this is the aspect of AYIN- no-thing-ness and we are proclaiming that it is Hashem who is giving us life energy at this very moment. We are really nothing; we exist only because Hashem is providing us with energy.
The aspect of AYIN- no-thing-ness is above and beyond nature. The YESH- some-thing, functions within nature. However we join the YESH to the AYIN through Torah and Mitzvot. . . . for the Torah and the Mitzvot are both "concealed and revealed." The concealed is the aspect of AYIN and the revealed is the aspect of YESH. . . . . The delight we provide Hashem in doing a mitzvah is concealed, whereas the benefit we bring to ourselves in doing a Mitzvah is revealed.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
"And the earth was 'tohu and vohu' [in a state of confusion and emptiness] and there was darkness upon the face of the firmament, and the Ruach spirit of Elokim was hovering upon the surface of the water. And Elokim said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Bereishit 1:2-3) In the Midrash Rabbah, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish interpreted that the words 'tohu', 'vohu', 'chosech' and 'tehom' are references to the four exiles of the Jewish people. [We are presently at the end of the fourth and most bitter of all, exile. The Ruach Elokim is the spirit of Moshiach, that is hovering "upon the surface of the water," drawn closer by our Tshuvah. "And Elokim said Let there be light, and there was light," is the coming of Moshiach and the complete and final redemption, when "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d."
The Yefei To'ar comments that in this Midrash we learn that the goal of Creation is the ultimate redemption that will take place in the Messianic era with the coming of Moshiach. Then everyone will 'know' and be conscious of Hashem. In between the beginning and the end we have to go through the four exiles, but it's all leading to the ultimate redemption. Rebbe Nachman taught that we must always remember the future. That is the secret of Jewish life; no matter how great and how many the hardships, "Ani Ma-amin b'Emmunah Shleimah – we believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Moshiach." We don't lose sight of the beautiful world that we will live in when Moshiach will arrive. B'ezrat Hashem we'll get there very soon.
YOU ARE IN THE STORY !
Reb Nachman z"l taught that when you learn the stories of the Torah, you must realize that these are not stories about someone else! They are about you and me! Each one of us has to find ourselves in these stories. We must examine where we are in the story, what we have to fix and where we have to get to.
It Is Not Good That Man Is Alone
Adam was alone.
"Hashem Elokim said, " lo-tov heyot ha'adam levado- IT IS NOT GOOD that the "Adam" is alone, I shall make for him a helpmate against him." [Bereishit 2:18]
Compare the above translation with the following one:
Ad-noy El-him said, "IT IS NOT GOOD FOR THE MAN to be alone. I will make a helper for him."
For whom is it not good and why is it not good? According to the second translation, it is not good for man. Why not? The usual reasons offered are psychological, social or economic, all quite utilitarian.
However Rashi says:
IT IS NOT GOOD FOR, ETC. So that they [the heretics] not claim that there are two dominions; The Holy One blessed be He, Who is single, [is the ruler in] the supernal realms, and He has no mate : and this one [Adam, is the ruler in the lower realms] and he too has no mate.
Nechama Leibowitz z"l considered Rashi, as the best reader of the Torah text, from among all the commentators. She demonstrates this point throughout her published Torah studies. Here is but one example.
According to Rashi it is not good that man is alone,
Let's read the text carefully: "lo-tov heyot ha'adam levado." Some translate this as follows- 'it is not good for man to be alone.' Others translate, 'it is not good 'that' man is alone,' without specifying for whom exactly it is not good.
Which is the more accurate translation? Nechama Leibowitz points out that if it would have said [in Hebrew], "lo-tov L'ADAM LIHYOT levado," then it would be correct to translate: IT IS NOT GOOD FOR MAN. But since it says "lo-tov heyot ha'adam levado," the correct translation is "it is not good that man is alone."
For whom is it not good? For anyone ! As Rashi explains, for he might think that he is god. This would not be good for anyone, neither for man, animal nor for the universe. And so Hashem made the woman to both help him and to be opposite to man. To help the man know that he is not god, that he is not to lord it over anyone.
The Rebbe zt"l says that Hashem could have made man to be more self sufficient; there is no particular reason that man should be any less capable than animals that manage to survive alone. Hashem specifically designed Adam to be dependant. In creating the woman, Hashem provided Adam with both a spiritual helpmate- so that he should not think he is god, and with a physical helpmate, for he cannot manage alone and by facing that reality he must realize that he is not god!
HAKARAT HATOV-BEING GRATEFUL: A teaching from Reb Shlomo zt"l
What was Adam Harishon’s biggest failing? Reb Shlomo taught that worse than eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, worse than blaming Chavah [Eve] was the fact that Adam did not ‘cover up’ for her. This was his deepest transgression. From Moshe Rabbeinu we learn, that instead of blaming someone else when things are not as they should be, [and as we so often do], we need to learn to be so close to one another, we must know how deeply intertwined we are! We must learn that the deepest thing in the world is to take responsibility for one another. Adam unfortunately missed this point and thus he had to leave the Garden of Eden.
THE TRAGEDY OF CAIN AND ABEL Reb Shlomo zt"l In Concert. This video clip is awesome – look at it after Shabbos please. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvWWBK91lSg
A'YEH'KAH - WHERE ARE YOU?
The Alter Rebbe had been imprisoned by the Czarist government, having been falsely accused of treason. While he was in prison the Czar's Minister of Education came to visit him a few times. Being a learned and intellectually curious man himself he made use of his captive audience to learn more about Judaism and the teachings of Chassidut from the Rebbe.
In the Torah we learn that after Adam and Chavah had eaten of the forbidden fruit of the Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil, they became aware of their nakedness and their transgression and they sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loincloths. When they heard the sound of G-d, Almighty G-d moving about in the garden they fearfully tried to hide among the trees of the garden. "G-d, Almighty G-d, called to the man and said to him, "A'YEH'KAH' - WHERE ARE YOU?"
Among his many questions the Minister of Education asked the following: Surely G-d must have known Adam's whereabouts, why then did He ask A'YEH'KAH' - where are you?
The Alter Rebbe explained that by asking this question, Hashem put the question into the universe - so that every so often man will ask himself "Where am I? Am I heading in the right direction? Am I accomplishing my mission and goals?" Ever since Hashem asked this question - "Ayehkah? Where are you? - it continues to reverberate through time and space. Whenever we hear the question resonating within our selves, it is good and important to know and to realize that it is Hashem Who is asking the question.
SINGING TOGETHER ON SHABBOS.
Reb Shlomo zt"l, would admonish us not to allow any talking during the singing of 'Shabbos zemirot'. He explained that the 'fixing' of the eating of the fruit of the 'Tree of Knowledge', is accomplished by our eating together at the Shabbos meals. And the 'fixing' of Kayin (Cain) and Hevel (Abel), is accomplished by our singing together, particularly on Shabbos.
What was Hevel's responsibility in his brother murdering him? When Hashem accepted Hevel's sacrifice, but did not accept Kayin’s, Hevel should have approached Kayin, and said “ my precious brother, i see how much it hurts you, not being as close to Hashem, as you want to be. please please allow me to share with you whatever little i know about how to serve Hashem”.
When we are singing holy song together we are helping each other come a little closer to Hashem by opening heavenly gates for ourselves and for each other. When we sing together, we can hear each other's 'neshama'. Everyone is providing their support and love to help you come close to the place that you are yearning for, to come closer to your 'higher self', to come closer to the home of your soul, to come closer to Hashem. Imagine what it could have been like if only Kayin had listened to Hevel's song. Imagine what it could have been like if Hevel would have bared his heart and soul before his brother Kayin.
REB SHLOMO zt"l TAUGHT:
The only way to get rid of anger from your heart is to fill it with joy.
Our holy Rabbis teach us that a sad person is considered as if he was dead. Someone who commits suicide does so only once but a sad person is committing suicide many times, every moment.
THE SOUL OF SHABBOS
by Reb Shlomo Carlebach, New York, 5751.
Shabbos is back in Paradise. Paradise is a place where everything is good, everything is holy, everything is beautiful. Paradise is a place where suddenly it's clear to me that I can fix all my mistakes. And even more so, everything I thought was a mistake, every street I thought was the wrong street was the only way to get there.
Shabbos has two faces. There is keeping the Shabbos holy, the thirty-nine laws of Shabbos, the withdrawing from the world, a non-power kind of like. But then there is the bliss of Shabbos, the inside of Shabbos, which is a gift from Heaven. The bliss of Shabbos is even deeper than Paradise. It's a secret between G-d and me, between me, and the people I love so much.
Shabbos is peace because peace is secrets, secrets of the depths, of the deepest depths. Secrets are the deepest G-d revelation. A true Shabbos person is someone who walks the streets of the world and every human being he sees, he shares a secret with. But with those he loves it's the secret of all secrets.
Shabbos is the strongest vitamin pill. On Shabbos, new energy is coming down from Heaven. But the energy refuses to be received in dirty vessels, so one second before Shabbos purity and holiness also descend into the world. Happy are those who fill their heart with it.
Friday night is the fixing of jealousy. Jealousy comes from thinking that someone can take your place or your portion. And in the deepest depths it's my own emptiness, my own incapability to retain what G-d is giving me. But Friday night, when my heart becomes so full, so overflowing full, like the wine from the Kiddush, jealousy is wiped out from my heart, and hopefully, eventually, from the heart of mankind.
Shabbos morning is the fixing of grabbing. Because what G-d gives me I don't have to steal and I don't even have to take; it's given to me. A slave takes, a king receives.
The third meal of Shabbos is the fixing of self-esteem, of honour, of giving up hope. The third meal is like the World to Come, when the world will be filled with G-d's glory, with the glory of every human being, when the honour of a child is enough to fill the whole universe with the deepest of G-d's honour.
Shabbos is the deepest healing in the world. Our holy rabbis teach us that a doctor can only heal a foot or a hand; he cannot give you a new one. But Shabbos, on the spiritual level, gives you back your hands and your feet. It gives you new brains, new eyes, new ears -- what a gevalt, Shabbos.
Friday night is the time of seeing, of discovering the unbelievable beauty and sweetness of the world of the Torah, of people, and above all, those I love the most. Shabbos morning is a time of tasting. It's even deeper than seeing. Most people love each other. But tasting each other's soul, each other's depths -- that is Shabbos morning.
The third meal, and, finally, Havdalah, is smelling, inhaling the fragrance, the beauty which is beyond seeing and tasting, the kind of depth which only my soul can fathom.
Happy are those who walk the streets of the world with the fragrance of Shabbos.
RENEWAL: A TEACHING AND A STORY
Renewal---Starting again. Reb Shlomo zt”l, once told us the following story:
Our Rebbe, Reb Shlomo zt”l was once flying to upstate NY for a concert and sitting next to him on the plane, was a holy non-Jewish brother. Reb Shlomo got into a conversation with him, and he told Reb Shlomo that in his community, about 40 families, had broken away from the church in order to form a community that was wanting to really pray, to really learn.
Reb Shlomo said that this man was a very special holy soul. A few minutes before landing Reb Shlomo felt that he wanted to share a holy Torah with this man. Reb Shlomo, who always had a sefer with him simply opened the sefer on his lap, and started teaching from the first Torah he saw on the page before him. (i believe the sefer was the Beis Yakov on Bereishit). And this is what he taught:
Everyone knows the famous question; why does the holy Torah start with the word 'Bereishit', which is usually translated as 'in the beginning'? Would we not otherwise have known when G-d created the universe? The Torah does not even have any superfluous letters, and certainly not any superfluous words! So then why does the Torah not start simply, "G-d created heaven and earth"? Should anyone ask you: 'when did Hashem do this'?, you would certainly answer 'it was in the beginning'.
There is an entire Kabbalah sefer, the Tikkunei Zohar, in which there are seventy different answers to this question alone. The Beis Yakov gives the following answer. This is a teaching from a rabbi who lived about one hundred and fifty years ago, the holy Beis Yakov.
The Beis Yakov says that the word 'Bereishit', 'in the beginning', is not intended to tell us when G-d created the universe. Rather the Torah is teaching us; "Bereishit", 'with the power of renewal', "bara Elokim es hashomayim v'es ha'aretz", 'G-d created heaven and earth'. Meaning that G-d put the power of renewal, into the creation.
Why is it that when you are feeling down, and you go for a walk in the forest, fifteen minutes later you find yourself feeling better? It is because of the power of renewal that Hashem put into the creation. Walking in the forest, connects you with the power of renewal, that is what is refreshing you. At this point the plane landed, and Reb Shlomo and this young man parted in friendship and love.
About two or three years later, Reb Shlomo was once again in Poughkeepsie, NY. At his concert Reb Shlomo noticed a very special couple with a young child, sitting in the front row. During intermission, the couple came over to greet Reb Shlomo. The woman said to Reb Shlomo, "I don't know if you remember my husband, but a couple of years ago, he was sitting next to you on a plane flying to Poughkeepsie and you taught him a teaching from a Rabbi who lived a 150 years ago?" Reb Shlomo immediately remembered the young man.
"You know, that teaching saved my husband’s life! At the time you met my husband he was a multi-millionaire. About six months later, something went wrong in his business and he lost all his money. It was very hard for him to live with his downfall and he decided to commit suicide. You know my husband is a very organized and methodical man. So he had everything planned out. On such and such a date, at 7:30 in the evening he was going to commit this final act.
"At 7:15 my husband sat down at his desk in the study, to write his last letter to us. He finished the letter five minutes before 7:30, signed it and put it in an envelope. My husband is a religious man, so he always kept a Bible on his desk. Since there were a couple of minutes left, he thought he would take one last look in the Bible. He flipped it open, and staring him in his face were the words, "In the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth". And he remembered you taught him, "With the power of renewal, G-d created heaven and earth.
"My husband closed the Bible and came up to my room. He said to me, "you know, a few months ago, I met a Rabbi on a plane, who taught me a teaching from a Rabbi who lived about 150 years ago, about the power of renewal, about starting again. Will you please help me start again, my holy wife?" And so here we are, thank G-d, and with all our hearts, we came to thank you."
A few years after hearing this story from Reb Shlomo, the story came up again in our conversation. Reb Shlomo zt"l, smilingly said to me, “you know the Beis Yakov probably knew that 150 years later, this teaching would save this man's life.
BEREISHIT BARA ELOKIM ET HASHAMAYIM VE'ET HA'ARETZ. IN THE BEGINNING G-D CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH.
Baal Shem Tov Al Hatorah: Bereishit #17
The Holy Zohar teaches: it is written "Truth will sprout from the earth." (Psalm 85:12) The general and specific foundation of everything is that every single Jewish person must believe and know that the great, almighty and awesome Hashem, is present in the world; that He is One, Singular and Unique. He always was present, before anything ever, He is and He will always be. He fills all space in the heavens above and on earth below. He fills a