Parshat Breish’t 5783: Seeming Inconsistencies and Variations in the Torah’s Text?

Shalom Friends;

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Breish’t 5783: Seeming Inconsistencies and Variations in the Torah’s Text?

by Moshe Burt

After Succot, culminating with the siyum of Simchat Torah, the Torah cycle renews itself with Parshat Breish’t in this year 5783. And away we go!

The very first posuk of Torah in our Parshat Breish’t, you know, the one; “In the Big Inning”, provides added emphasis regarding our connection to Eretz Yisrael:

“Breish’t bora Keilokim eit HaShemayim V’eit HaAretz” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posuk 1)

“In the beginning of Hashem’s Creating the heavens and the earth” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posuk 1, as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary).

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his Sefer “Growth Through Torah” (page 18) cites Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz (Daas Torah: Breish’t , page 3) on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posuk 1:

…You become aware that there is a Creator and Ruler of the universe. This first awareness already makes a major change in you for the rest of your life. You realize that there is a reason for everything. The world has meaning and purpose.

While it may not seem politically correct in our current world of oxymoronic Western “political correctness” and “morality(sic)” mixed with both virulent and just-beneath-the-surface anti-semitism,The Sapirstein Edition The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary explains this first posuk of our Torah (page 2):

[Rashi asks:] “What is the reason that it [Torah] began with Sefer Breish’t?”

It began thus because it wished to convey the message… “The power of His acts He told to His people, in order to give them the estate of the nations.” So that if the nations of the world will say to Israel, “You are bandits, for you conquered the lands of the seven nations who inhabited the Land of Canaan,” [Israel] will say to them, “The whole earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed be He. He Created it — and He Gave it to the one found proper in His eyes. By His Wish He gave it to them, and by His Wish He Took it from them and Gave it to us.” It is to be understood as the Rabbis of blessed memory expounded it: For the Torah which is called “the beginning of His way,” and for Israel who are called, “the first of His crop.”

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text” on Sefer Breish’t offers a context, questions and approaches of Rabbinic commentators regarding Hashem’s “handiwork” in creation of the universe (pages 3-6):

As Hashem views His handiwork at various points during the process of creation, the Torah declares, “and G’d saw that it was good.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posukim 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 15)

This phrase is omitted entirely on the second day of creation, (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posukim 6-8) mentioned twice on the third day, (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posukim 9-13) and is conspicuously absent in association with the creation of man. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posukim 26-30).

Finally, at the end of the six days of physical creation, the Torah states, “and G’d saw all that He had created and behold it was very good.” (Rabbi Goldin renders to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posuk 31)

…An all knowing Lord… knows from the outset what will be built and how it will turn out. An all-perfect being cannot make mistakes. How can it be, therefore, that Hashem first creates and only afterwards determines that His creation is “good”?

Compounding the problem is the fact that the phrase [“and G’d saw that it was good.”] is not used consistently in the text.

The Ramban… emphasizes that Hashem continues to sustain each element of creation eternally. Were Hashem to withdraw His involvement for even a moment all would revert to nothingness. (Rabbi Goldin citing Ramban on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posuk 4).

Far from a gratuitous phrase, the words “and G’d saw that it was good” convey the concept of Hashem’s ongoing involvement in the world. Through this eternal involvement, the process of creation continues until the end of days.

Centuries after, Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik (…the Rav) explains the difficult biblical concept of hester panim (the hiding of Hashem’s face) in light of the creation narrative. The Torah prophesizes that at particular moments of history, Hashem, in response to sin, will take the radical step of “hiding His face from the world.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 18) During these tragic moments, such as the Holocaust, suggests the Rav, Hashem simply suspends His involvement and the pattern of creation is reversed. As Hashem backs away, the world reverts to tohu va’vohu, the primordial state of chaos which existed before Hashem began to create. Tohu Va’vohu, says the Rav, was not destroyed but continues to exist beneath the surface of the order imposed by Hashem during the six days of creation. Only Hashem’s constant involvement in maintaining that order — “and G’d saw that it was good” — saves us from destruction. (Rabbi Goldin citing Avraham R. Desdin, ed., “Reflections of the Rav”)

[Understanding] the basic significance of the phrase “and G’d saw that it was good,” we must now turn… to the variations that appear in the text, Why … is the phrase totally omitted on the second day and repeated twice on the third?

Rashi explains that the work of the second day of creation was incomplete at the end of that day. Something that is incomplete, says Rashi, cannot be referred to as “good.” The work of the second day was actually finished on the third day and another phase of creation was begun and completed on that day as well. The Torah, therefore, repeats the phrase “and G’d saw that it was good” twice on the third day to mark the completion of both of these stages of creation. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posuk 7)

Rashi’s explanation. however, raises a substantial problem. …A perfect G’d… can accomplish anything He wishes. How could it be that the work of the second day was not completed by Hashem within its designated span of time?

Perhaps Hashem wishes to teach us that the point of a task’s end is not always clear or uniform. Certain tasks, in human experience can be completed on one level yet remain incomplete on another. Hashem deliberately fashions the work of the second and third days of creation to convey this message… One one level, the job is done; the separation between heaven and earth, performed on the second day of creation, is complete. On… another level, however, the task of separation remains unfinished. Land and water must be delineated and that will only happen on the third day.

By leaving the work of the second day of creation finished on one level yet unfinished on another, Hashem reminds us to be aware of the complex tasks that confront us within our own lives…. Through the story of creation, the Torah challenges us not to be misled, but to carry each task before us to its true and full point of completion.

Although the phrase “and G’d saw that it was good” is mentioned on the sixth and final day of creation, its mention precedes, and therefore excludes, the creation of man, Why is man, according to the biblical text, not “good”?

The Torah’s omission of the phrase “and G’d saw that it was good” in association with man is, thus, essentially a challenge.

In contemplating the creation of the man and its challenge to us throughout time, this author recalls the vort from Rosh Hashana entitled “The Main Point” which is cited from the sefer, “Growing Each Day,” by Rabbi, Dr. Abraham J. Twersky, MD, Z”l:

Rosh Hashana marks the day on which man was created, and that was the sixth and final day of Creation….

To understand this…, one must understand what Hashem’s “works” really are. He did indeed will millions of details of Creation into existence for the five days preceding the appearance of man on the scene. But were these his “works?” If an artist spends a few days purchasing paints, canvases, brushes and easels, setting up his studio and adjusting the lighting, would one call these achievements his works? His works begin when he puts brush to the canvas.

Man is Hashem’s brush, with which He effects His Will in the world. Everything created before man, from the amoeba to the supernova, is there to enable him [man] to fulfill his Divine purpose — to put himself in the Artist’s [Hashem’s] Hands [as it were] and make himself an instrument of Hashem’s works.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (“Unlocking the Torah Text” on Sefer Breish’t, page 6):

We are challenged to complete the story, to determine whether or not, in the final analysis, the creation of man will be considered “good.”

May we, the B’nei 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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael and as he embarks on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of eight years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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 Al’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.