Our Parshat HaShevua for Breish’t is being sponsored by Binyamin and Barbara Lemkin and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh and dedicated to Jews everywhere who are unjustly imprisoned for their beliefs, and specificably Jonathan Pollard. May he be liberated speedily both from prison and from the United States. To the Lemkin family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua.
Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Parshat Breish’t 5776: The Infinity of Hashem, Our Creator, and His/Our Torah
by Moshe Burt
And so, the Torah cycle renews itself yet again with Parshat Breish’t 5776. It has always seemed difficult for this author 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.
Rabbi Mordechai Katz in his sefer, “Lilmod U’Lamed” (page 16) 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)
The question has to be; how could it be that the universe, with its myriads on myriads of systems, sub-systems and intricacies, could just be there, could just eternally exist without having been brought into existence by a Creator? How could it be that a universe which just eternally exists, without a Creator, could have within it a part, a parcel of land — Eretz Yisrael — which only flourishes when one certain nation and people inhabits it, and lays totally fallow when any and all other entities occupy it? And how could it be that this one certain nation and people — the Jewish nation which had been persecuted, pillaged, murdered, mass-murdered or expelled by every other nation and “civilization” throughout the history of man would have survived and outlived them all and returned to that one parcel of land which only flourishes in their presence? Torah teaches us that all of everything is created and re-created by Hashem in the minutest, fractions of mili-seconds.
Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z”l, In the new Hirsch Chumash, renders the very first posuk of Torah (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posuk 1):
“Breish’t bora Keilokim eit HaShemayim V’eit HaAretz:”
“From the Beginning, Hashem Created the heaven and the earth.”
R’ Hirsch then comments (New Hirsch Chumash, pages 1-2):
Our verse, then means: “In the beginning of all existence, it was Hashem who Created”; or if we add to the predicate the two objects that follow: “From the very beginning Hashem Created the heaven and the earth.” …”Breish’t” proclaims that nothing existed prior to Hashem’s Act of Creation, and that heaven and earth were created only through Hashem’s Word. Scripture thus teaches… that the world was brought into existence from nonexistence. This constitutes the basis of the conviction that Torah seeks to instill within us.
The opposite notion is the belief in the eternity of the world, which is the cornerstone of pagan belief until this very day. This belief is not only a metaphysical falsehood, a misrepresentation of the origin of the universe, but… it undermines all morality, and denies all freedom in both Hashem and man. If matter had antedated creation, then the Creator of the universe would have been able to fashion from the material given him NOT a world that was absolutely good, but only the best world possible within the limitations of the material…. All evil — natural and moral — would have been due to the inherent faultiness of the material, and not even Hashem would be able to save the world from evil, natural or moral. Hashem would not be master over the material of the world, and man would not be master over his body. Freedom would vanish , and the whole world, including its G’d and the men who live in it, would be propelled by a blind, immutable fate.
This bleak conception is dispelled by the light of the Torah with its very first words: “Breish’t bora Keilokim”! Everything — the matter and form of all that exists — was Created by a Free, Almighty Creator… [Who] still rules freely over the matter and form of every existing thing [meaning animate, inanimate and living, including man], over the forces that act upon matter, over the laws by which these forces operate, and over the resulting forms.
The world that was Created “Breish’t”…. — with all its seeming flaws –corresponds with the wise plan of the Creator: He could have created a different world, had such a world corresponded with His Will.
And so this author returns 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 point here is that while Hashem relates to, and with each of us and with all of His Creations, we are still finite, whereas Hashem and His Torah are infinite. We hope and pray for ultimate Ge’ula Shlaima, where our lives may no longer be 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.
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, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two Chayalim from last summer’s Gaza war. 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!!
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.