Parshat Breish’t 5775: Contrasting Breish’t with the Aging Process of Man

Shalom Friends;

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Breish’t 5775: Contrasting Breish’t with the Aging Process of Man

by Moshe Burt

Somehow, not being rabbinic or a Talmud Chacham, it has always seemed difficult to put a true and deep meaning of Hashem’s Creation to words to express the continu’um that is the end and the beginning of Torah. And it is hard to envision and aptly express the creation and constant re-creation of everything, and potentiality for everything from nothingness — from a void.

And it seems hard to get a grip on on the contrast between the end and the beginning of Torah, and the beginning of life and aging process of man, and the suffering which often accompanies that aging process, particularly when it occurs close to home, i.e. parents, spouses, siblings, etc.

Speaking in the first person, as I rarely if ever do, in a weekly Parshat HaShevua, I have found two vorts on our Parsha: one from Rabbi Mordechai Katz in his sefer, “Lilmod U’Lamed” (page 16) and Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in her sefer, Torah Tapestries on Sefer Breish’t (Parshat Breish’t, pages 3-4) which seem very pertinent regarding the aging process, particularly as they relate to issues affecting my family regarding my Mother’s (aged 91) medical problems.

R’ Katz cites both Rabbi Akiva and the Rambam who were confronted by heretics who, by their questions and linguistically crude responses, stood in stark, stubborn denial of Hashem, HaKadosh Borchu, Creator of all: the universe, the world, land and sea, man and animal, vegetation and all potentiality.

After the heretic demanded of Rabbi Akiva definite proof of Hashem, the Divine Creator, Rabbi Akiva asked the heretic, the atheist, who made the garment that he was wearing?:

“The weaver, of course,” replied the the startled heretic.

“I don’t believe you,” said Rabbi Akiva. “Prove it to me.”

The heretic looked at him scornfully and responded, “Isn’t it obvious that the weaver was the one who made this garment!”

“And yet you do not realize that the Holy One Created the world!” retorted Rabbi Akiva.

The heretic departed, but Rabbi Akiva’s students, who heard this exchange, said to him, “How is your answer a clear proof?”

Rabbi Akiva replied, “My students, just as the presence of a house testifies that it was constructed by a builder, and the garment testifies to the weaver, so too, does the presence of the world testify to the fact that Hashem, the Creator, formed it.” (citing Meshech Chochmah, Vayikra Perek 19, posuk 18)

In the case of the Rambam’s moment with a heretic, R’ Katz writes:

When the Rambam taught that the world was Created by Hashem, a heretic disagreed. Instead, said the heretic, the world had existed forever and no one had created it. The Rambam then asked the heretic to leave the room for several moments. When the heretic re-entered, a beautiful painting appeared on the wall. The heretic admired the painting and asked who had painted it. The Rambam answered that he spilled some paint onto a canvas and that the painting took shape by itself.

The heretic laughed mockingly and said, “That is impossible. Just by looking at the perfect design of the painting, anyone can tell that someone painted it carefully and purposefully.”

The Rambam responded, : The same is true of the world. When examining how perfectly all of its features exist and interact, anyone can tell that it was formed by an All-Knowing Creator.

R’ Katz also cites a posuk from Iyov:

From my body, I deduce the existence of Hashem (Iyov 19)

Rebbetzin Smiles writes citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 3, posuk 24 and Perek 4, posuk 16 respectively, as well as the Kli Yakar:

When Adam is expelled from the Garden of Eden, he is sent “mi-kedem leGan Eden.” When Kayin (Cain) is punished for killing Hevel (Abel), he is sent to wander, eventually settling in “kidmas Eden.” The literal meaning of kedem [root word from which kidmas is derived] is east, or eastward. East is where the sun rises, with its promise of a new day. The Kli Yakar… explains that on a symbolic level, the sun resembles the life of a human being. It rises in the east, continues to rise toward its fullness in the sky and slowly fades into the west. Life begins in darkness, rises, reaches an apex and sets at its end.

…. They both “went east,” in the opposite direction of their [respective] sin, indicating their correction of their course [indicating their teshuvah, their rectification of their respective sins].

The point of these two vorts it seems is to indicate life’s span seems to flow from east to west. As Ole’ Blue Eyes would sing near the end of his classic; “It Was a Very Good Year”:

But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs and it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year

Or as the great comedian and pianist Jimmy Durante would sing in his famous tune “September Song”:

Oh, the days dwindle down, to a precious few.
September. November.
And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.
These precious days, I’ll spend with you.

One’s continued life, as we see and daven for on Rosh Hashanah, and fervently hope to be sealed for on Yom Kippur, is in Hashem’s hands alone for each of us, notwithstanding even the doctor’s care and diagnosis, etc. And Torah teaches us that all of everything is created and re-created by Hashem in the minutest, fractions of mili-seconds.

And so I return to the Rosh Hashanah Vort where Rabbi Asher Baruch Wegbreit, in his sefer “The Power of Aleinu” (pages 35-36), cites Rav Chaim Freidlander, Sifsei Chaim on ”Aleinu” and the Malbim:

… The World generally doesn’t apply the term “great” where it truly belongs — with Hashem.

Their reasoning begins with a flawed… assumption that the Creator of the Universe Who is lofty enough to create the universe would never “lower
Himself” to become involved with the lower world that He made…. They don’t feel that the Creator relates to his creations.

We [the Jewish people] know that the Creator does relate to his creations (Rav Chaim Freidlander, Sifsei Chaim,”Aleinu.”) This recognition makes the Jewish people unique and obligates us “to ascribe greatness to the One Who formed Creation.” (Malbim on Tehillim 34:4)

The sum total of the contrast mentioned above is that while Hashem relates to, and with each of us and with all of His Creations, we are still finite, whereas Torah is infinite. We hope and pray for ultimate Ge’ula Shlaima, where our lives are no longer finite. But in our current finite state, what we do here on earth is critical, for when we are no longer here, our Mitzvot, our kindnesses that we do, because they are needed, whether for family or for the Kehal — they live on, attached to the collective memory of the do’er by his/her friends, family, the Kehal and beyond.

My family davens intensely for improvement of my Mother’s condition, for a Refuah Shlaima for, and continued tefillot for Chaya bat Malka. May we, her husband, her son, her siblings have many more days with my Mother in our midst, notwithstanding the hundreds and thousands of miles which, more often than not separate most of us from her.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint. May our hearts yearn that Hashem see sufficient merit in all of us to justify Jonathan Pollard’s and Sholom Rubashkin’s liberation and return to us, and may the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!

Good Shabbos!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.