Points to Ponder

Berashis 5776

Shabbbos Berashis – Many have the custom to attach this Shabbos to the Yamim Noraim season. Why? Rav Moshe Wolfson Shlita suggested that the answer can be found in the idea that Shimon HaTzaddik noted that the world is based on 3 pillars. This means that even when the Anshei Kneses HaGedolah died out, there would be a future for Am Yisroel. This is the job of the Yamim Noraim and carried beyond.

And he placed Adam in Gan Eden to work it and guard it (2:15) - Adam was given a dual task – to open and yet also to preserve mother earth. On the one hand, man is not meant to be ruled by nature but at the same time he is obligated not to waste it. Rav Dr. Benny Lau Shlita notes that we  find the duality split between Adam’s children Kayin and Hevel – the former one who developed and opened the land up while the other worked to protect flocks already there. Kayin ultimately abuses the land to conceal Hevel and is ultimately punished. His future generations repeat history with Adah’s 2 sons Yaval and Yuval who work on opening themselves up more than the land while Tuval Kayin works the equipment and develops weaponry as well. Rav Lau notes that Kayin’s progency continue to mix with those of Sheis to guarantee that the duality of LOvda U’L’ Shomra continue to be fulfilled.

And Adam did not find a mate for himself (2:20)  – From the language of the text it sounds as if Adam was supposed to find a match among the other animals. Based on this, the English philosopher Milton suggests that man’s tendency for beastiality needed to be checked. However, Rav Schachter Shlita suggested that this was preposterous. Instead, he cited the Raavad (intro to Sefer Baalei HaNefesh) who notes that humans mate differently than animals do. Man seeks a fulfilling commitment forever while the animals only mate temporarily. Rav Schachter added the comments of Rav Yerucham Gorelik ztl. who added that the reason why man was created with woman attached was to demonstrate to man that his mate was NOT a foreign matter to him.


The Nachash was cunning (3:1) – Rav Nissan Alpert ztl. notes that animals in general do not desire to live beyond their biological capabilities. In other words, normally a bear does not aspire to be a lion etc. for it was endowed with different talents and tools for living. There are 2 exceptions to the rule: The Nachash and Adam himself. The Nachash represented a barrier buster whose very existence toppled barriers of identity between lions and tigers and bears and the like. That nichush – was destructive in creation and ultimately led to a different definition of creature limitations – that of the end of life. Man uses the same Nichush to create and expand knowledge. But his role is not to be limited nor destructive – he is to use his abilities to expand the world based on his unselfish awareness of his capabilities.

Through the sweat of your brow you shall consume bread (3:19) – Rav Chaim Shmuellevitz ztl. explains that man’s curse here is not in the toil and hard work. Rather it is in the potential to err that he lives by his hand alone. Prior to sin, everyone could see Yad Hashem. After sin, there was a gap in that awareness with the potential for the widening of that very gap. Man needs to live with the understanding that Hashem is involved in his every move.

Adam called his wife Chava for she was the mother of all living (3:20) – Why is she named here – after the sin? Rav Pam ztl. suggests that the ability to overlook mistakes and failures and highlight the positive are critical elements of successful marriage and living. Adam saw that Chava had just brought death into mankind. She would never be able to recover from that punishment. Still, Adam chose to gloss over that and name her – based on her positive virtues. In essence his message was clear -  don’t amplify errors, don’t even talk about it unless there is constructive value in the conversation. This, said Rav Pam is a great segulah for shalom Bayis.

 And Adam lived 930 years that he lived (5:5) – Why does the Torah add the modifier  “Asher Chai” here more than with any other person? Rav Chaim of Volozhin quotes the Gra who explained that Adam didn’t live out all of his days as he dedicated 70 to Dovid Hamelech.

Haftorah: When you pass through water I was with you and when you pass through rivers they did not flood you out. When you walked through fire, you were not burned (Yeshayahu 43:2) – Rav Shimon Schwab ztl notes that this Possuk serves as the basis for the long V’Hu Rachum. It seems that 3 Talmidei Chachamim were to be tested by the Romans to see if they’d be saved in the same manner that Chananya Mishael and Azarya were. One dreamt a possuk with 2 keys and a lo. Another, who was a tanach expert, recognized it as this possuk. The men realized that they’d be saved and when they were, they composed V’Hu Rachum.