Dvar Torah Parshat Bereishit 5776 2015 – Thank You Hashem!

In the Midrash Tanchumah we find an interesting question, one that at this day and age we take for granted. The question raised was, if one builds a new house, what Berachah does he recite. The answer is he recites the Shehechiyanu.

The Midrash continues to show that even Hashem blessed what He created. The Torah states Hashem blessed the seventh day: וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹקִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי. (Gen. 2,3) When He created the animal kingdom and the birds He blessed them: וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם אֱלֹקִים. (Gen. 1,22) When He created Adam and Eve He blessed them: וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם. (Gen. 1,28)

Of course, the blessing of Hashem is not the same as when man blesses. Hashem blessed them for their success. When man blesses Hashem it is for thanks for His gifts to us.

The main message that the Midrash wants to convey is that we owe appreciation to Hashem for His kindness to us. We can take a lesson form this. Often people do us favors which we may appreciate but we fail to give them the proper thanks for what they do for us. We must be ever mindful to offer our thanks and appreciation to anyone and for anything that is done for us as a kindness.

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Shabbat Bereishit 5774 – Simchat Torah

After Chavah and Adam ate from the tree that was forbidden for them, we are told: וַיִּקְרָא יְקֹוָק אֱלֹקִים אֶל הָאָדָם וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אַיֶּכָּה, “Hashem called out to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ ” (Gen. 3,9) The Torah is not a history book. It was given for all generations and for all people.

This question of “Where are you” is something which is meant for us also and we should take it seriously as if it is being asked of us at all times. We should constantly take an accounting of where we are, what do we look for, and how do we try to obtain it.

The first question we should ask ourselves is, “What we seek, is it really what we need and what we want?” The Book of Proverbs tells us: מַיִם גְּנוּבִים יִמְתָּקוּ, “Stolen waters are sweet…” (Proverbs 9,17) We often feel that we must have something only because we know we shouldn’t.

That is what Hashem asked Adam: הֲמִן הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לְבִלְתִּי אֲכָל מִמֶּנּוּ אָכָלְתָּ, “…have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen. 3.11) Adam ate from the tree, not so much because he needed it, but because it was forbidden to him.

We must be careful to seek that which we need and not what we feel we want simply because others have it or we are challenged because it is there.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bereishit 5773 2012

Before creating man, the Torah tells us Hashem said: נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם , “…let us make man…”. (Gen. 1,26) This seems to be a dangerous and misleading statement. To whom was Hashem speaking? The impression is that there was someone or something else that existed with whom Hashem was consulting and who would help Him in creating man.

Chazal saw this danger and they make an amazing statement. Rashi on this verse quotes their reaction and tells us that although the use of the plural may give heretics an opportunity to error, yet the verse “does not refrain from teaching proper conduct and the virtue of humbleness; that the greater should consult and take permission from the smaller”.

This virtue of not considering oneself so mighty and so much above everyone else is so highly essential, that the Torah did not hesitate to teach us this moral even though it could give heretics the potential likelihood to be mislead in their eagerness to disprove our basic belief in monotheism.

We can recognize how important is the virtue of humbleness and humility that the Torah was not concerned that someone may misunderstand its meaning and go astray.

We are being taught that no individual is so brilliant that he need not take advice from others and can act alone. We can all learn from each other and must not feel so superior that we need not seek advice from others.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bereishit 5772

As we start reading the Torah anew we cannot help but notice that it starts with the letter BET. Many Drashot have been said about this fact and also about the shape of the letter. There is, however, a very interesting Drasha that a Magid or preacher once gave.

He pointed out that the Talmud starts with the letter Mem. The first Mishna in the first Gemorrah, Berachot, starts with the words: ME’EMATAI KORIN ET HASHEMAH, “From what time may one recite the Shema?”

Hence this Magid calls to our attention that the Torah SHEBICHTAV, the Written Torah (the Bible) starts with a Bet and the Oral Law (the Talmud) starts with a Mem. Together these two letters spell the word BAM. This word is found in the Shema where we read: VEDIBARTA BAM, “…and you shall speak of them…” (Deut. 6,7)

The emphasis here is that every Jew should be able to converse freely in the Written Torah as well as in the Oral Law. Unfortunately this is a difficult order to fulfill. That does not free anyone from making the effort to try to meet this goal.

Every Jew should set aside time to study Torah and Talmud to the extent that he is able. No one is exempt from this responsibility. The good news is that, through the advent of new technical means and new publications, it has become easier to accomplish this goal and more people today are studying Talmud and the Torah than ever before in the history of our people. There is no excuse for anyone to avoid fulfilling this great responsibility of “you shall speak of them”.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bereishit (Bereishis) 2009 5770

In describing the creation of light on the first day Hashem says: KI TOV,” …it was good”. (Gen. 1,4) On the second day, when Hashem divided the waters, it does not say that it was good. Traditionally, the explanation given is that when there is a division, it is not good. Since on the second day there was such a division the Torah does not mention that it was good.

The problem with this explanation is that there was also a division in the first day between light and darkness and we do find the words “that it was good.”

There is a difference between these two divisions. In the first day the division was between two different things. One was light, the other was darkness. They can and should be separated. This division was good. The second day deals with a division between two things that are the same. This is not good.

We can make a distinction between Jews and non-Jews since these two believe in two different religions. However, among Jews there should be no division since we are all Jews of the same faith even though we may interpret the religion differently. We are, nevertheless, all Jews and are responsible for each other and should live in peace with each other.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bereshit 2008 5769 דבר תורה פרשת בראשית

When man was created we are told that Hashem formed man and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life VAYEHI HA’ADAM LENEFESH CHAYAH, the literal translation of which is “…and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2,7) Onkelos in his Aramaic translation, however, gives a different translation. He explains it to mean that Adam became “a soul that speaks”.

This means that Hashem instilled in man a special ability that distinguishes him from animals in that he is able to speak. What is so significant about speech that only man was granted this gift? By being able to speak man can convey his experience to others.

Animals have experiences and they remember them but it is only useful to the individual animal as long as it can remember what happened. Man can convey his experiences to others so they do not have to go through the same experience to know about it. He can hear it from others and proceed accordingly.

This is why man has progressed in his path along civilization. Every generation can learn from the previous one and can build upon it and progress. That is how science and technology have developed. Sometimes what we learn and chooses to accept is the evil and not the good. That brings the misfortunes upon the world. Man must be wise enough to pick the good of other generations and add upon it.

Dvar Torah Bereshit 5767

Every year, after the holiday of Simchat Torah, we turn the Torah scroll back to the beginning and start anew to read BERESHIT, “In the beginning…”. This embraces a beautiful implication. It tells us that we can get another chance. All year we read through the stories of the families and travails of the Patriarchs. We read how they ended up in
Egypt and how they were redeemed from bondage. We learn about their wanderings in the Wilderness and how the law of the Jewish people was given to us from Hashem through Moshe Rabbenu.
On Shabbat Bereshit it is also customary to start reciting Psalm 104 and others after the Mincha Service. This particular Psalm is one of the nicest ones in the Book of Tehillim. It speaks of nature and how wonderfully Hashem has created the universe and instilled in it the skillful workings of the natural world.
All this is to strengthen our belief in Hashem and our faith that though we do not live perfect lives we can always come back, start anew, and enjoy the blessings of this world that were granted us. There are some who see nature as functioning on its own with no divine guidance. Judaism teaches us that it was Hashem who created the world and gave nature its direction. The creation of the world is not an accident but the work of the Almighty and it can survive only through adhering to His teachings and His moral laws.