SHABBAT BEREISHIT

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (1st Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
“When we truly observe the good side of every individual, it leads to our deeply loving our fellow man without our having to exaggerate his good traits in our mind. This is because taking an interest in the good that we constantly encounter genuinely conceals our fellow man’s negative aspects, even the most blatant blemish.” (Erpalei Tohar)


Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Israel is called “Adam””


At the conclusion of the Six Days of Creation the spiritual purpose of Creation was revealed: “G-d saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Indeed the purpose of Creation is the revelation of G-d’s beneficent will, as our sages said, “Whatever G-d does is for the good.” It is a fact that G-d created everything and He is the Master of all, and we must praise Him, as we say in Aleinu at the end of each service, “We must praise the Master of all.”

Discovering G-d’s beneficent will is man’s duty, as is hinted at by the words “it was very good”, in which very [me’od] has the same Hebrew letters as “adam” [man]. The purpose of creation is the fashioning of a good man through whom G-d’s beneficent will can be revealed, and in our lives and our world, the way to discover goodness is by learning and fulfilling the Torah, of which it says, “There is no good but Torah”. “I give you a good doctrine. Forsake not My Torah” (Proverbs 4:2). And who is the “man” [Hebrew “adam”] about whom the Torah is speaking? It is the Jewish People, as our sages taught, “You, Israel, are called ‘Adam’.”

The Jewish People today are the nation G-d chose from amongst all others, giving them His Torah: “The inner essence of the soul of Israel is their inherent proclivity for showing goodness to all, without any restrictions whatsoever, either in the number of beneficiaries or the amount of goodness bestowed. This is their ancestral inheritance. This positive proclivity has to be steeped in great wisdom and enormous fortitude in order for them to know how to reap its full potential in all its forms.” (Orot 139)

How fortunate our lot that we are called “Adam”, through whom is revealed the divine goodness in the world, for everlasting life G-d implanted in our midst. Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Be slim!”


Be slim! I’m not worried about beauty, for there is no arguing about appearances. Rather, I am arguing about health and life itself. Obesity causes all sorts of malevolent illnesses, amongst them heart disease, the leading cause of death in the world. So please, take off weight! Get off that fat! With every gram you take off, you add several hours to your life. That’s right. I’m not exaggerating. So please run away from tasty fast foods, full of salt, sugar and fat. They’re poison! They steal a lot of hours of life from you. Also don’t believe in wonder diets. They’re nonsense and a waste of money. Rather. Take off a bit of weight each day. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18). In the end, you will be slim.

Please keep a daily chart. Eat normally, and only at meal time. Avoid between-meal snacks, but water is good to drink. Drink at least eight cups of water every day. The best food in the world is fresh vegetables with peels. Eat a lot of delicious salad. Fruits are also something wonderful. Fresh fruit with a peel, dried fruits, prunes, carob and raisins -- but not a lot because of the sugar. Altogether, even healthy food should be consumed in moderation, apart from vegetables, which are unlimited. “On all other nights we eat all the other vegetables.” Grains are important. In other words, whole wheat bread, bulgar, spelt, oats, brown rice, millet, whole wheat crackers. Yet one should not eat white-flour products like bread, noodles, macaroni, cake, cookies, and all sorts of sweet and salted baked items. The meaning of “not” is “not at all”, or very little, and the less the better. Milk products, certainly, but milk, yoghurt and leben should be low fat, as well as white cheese and yellow cheese. The “meat and fish and every delicacy” of the Sabbath refers to lean meat, like poultry, and lean fish, but not fatty meat, organ meat, sausage or eggs.

There’s a story of a good-hearted soul who saw someone stranded with his car alongside a road, and made a great effort to extricate him from his plight. “I am very grateful,” said the driver, and took out a large sum of money from his wallet. “Perish the thought,” said the goodhearted soul. “In that case,” said the driver, “I’ll give you something worth more than money. I own a sausage factory, and I’ve got some advice for you: Never eat sausage if you want to live.”

You can get the fat you need from vegetables, such as soy, sunflower seeds and techina, but do so in moderation, because they have so many calories. Water! Drink lots! A quart or two per day. Stay especially far away from candies, chocolate, sweet drinks, cakes and snack foods. Don’t cry. I haven’t decreed that you must be an ascetic. I’ve left you a great many very tasty foods. And altogether, being slim is a delicious feeling.

Obviously, don’t smoke! It goes against the Torah, and it’s just plain poison. Do a lot of physical exercise. If your destination isn’t too far off, get there by walking fast on foot. Take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator. Keep daily tabs. Search your soul, and watch over your body. The two go together. “The soul is yours; the body is your handiwork.”


Rabbi Ya’akov FilberGuest lecturer at Machon Meir
“The work that He created [leaving something for us] to do” (Genesis 2:3)


G-d’s world was not created at random, but with advance planning. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish [Resh Lakish] derives this from end of the world’s creation, for the Torah writes, “G-d saw all that He had done, and it was very good. It was evening and it was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31). The rest of the days of creation were written without the definite article “the”. On Friday is called “THE sixth day”. How as Friday different from all the rest? Resh Lakish asked this question in Shabbat 88a: “Why do I need the extra ‘the’? It teaches that G-d stipulated with Creation, saying, ‘If Israel undertake the Torah, you shall endure. Otherwise, I shall return you to chaos.”

His intent was that here the Torah is alluding to the most well-known Friday there ever was, the 6th of Sivan, the day the Torah was given to the world by Israel. Regarding this exposition a question is asked: Why is the world’s enduring – or being destroyed – dependent on the Israel’s agreeing or not agreeing to undertake the Torah? We could understood had the source stated that Israel themselves would be punished if they rejected the Torah, as the Talmud there does state: “G-d overturned the mountain upon them like a tub, and He said to them, ‘If you accept the Torah, well and good, but otherwise, here shall be your burial place’.” Yet why must the world return to chaos if Israel do not accept the Torah? What is the connection between Creation and the receiving of the Torah?

The connection can be found in another Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereshit 1): “The Torah said: “I was G-d’s tool.’ In our world, when a king builds a palace, he does not do it all on his own. He first hires an architect. Neither does the architect built it unaided. Rather, he has his blueprints and engineering manuals to assist him in planning the rooms and the hallways. “In the same way, G-d looked into the Torah and He created the universe. The Torah said ‘Bereshit’ [in the beginning], which we may read as ‘bi reshit’ – ‘Through me [bi] was the beginning [reshit]. And there is no ‘reshit’ but Torah, as it says, ‘G-d created me [i.e., the Torah] at the start [reshit] of His path’ (Proverbs 8:22).

Such is the way of the world. When one builds an edifice, one doesn’t first build it and then decide what its purpose is going to be. Rather, one first decides what its purpose will be, and then, in accordance with its purpose, one prepares blueprints and builds based on those blueprints. That is what G-d did in creating His world. First He created the Torah. As our sages said, “Torah preceded the universe.” The Torah is the blueprint and purpose of Creation, and G-d looked into the Torah and accordingly He created the world.

According to this explanation, Creation is not an end but a means of accomplishing the Torah’s goals. Therefore, if Israel do not accept the Torah, then without the Torah, Creation will have no use, and if something has no use, it has no right to exist. An object without a use must be restored to the chaos of before Creation. We thus derive that Creation had two stages: (1) the planning stage: “G-d looked into the Torah”; and (2) the stage of execution and fulfillment “and He created the universe.”

He we can ask yet another question: Was the result of creation in accordance with the planning, or does a gap exist between the planning and the execution? Seemingly there is no room for this question. If we were talking about flesh and blood, who are limited in their actions, there would be room for the possibility that the execution would not reach the level of the planning. Yet in the case of G-d, who is omnipotent, it would seem that the execution cannot less far reaching than the plan.

Even so, we see from the sources that indeed there is a gap between the blueprint of Creation and its implementation, as Rashi on Genesis 1:1, states, quoting from Bereshit Rabbah 12:15: “‘G-d [Elokim] created’: The first verse did not use the name ‘Hashem’, which connotes divine mercy, but ‘Elokim’, connoting strict justice. At first G-d intended create the universe using the yardstick of divine justice. Yet He saw that the world would not survive this, so He introduced the yardstick of mercy and incorporated it together with the divine justice. Thus it later says, ‘On the day that Hashem-Elokim made the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 2:4).”

Rashi likewise says in Genesis 1:11: “‘Fruit tree’: G-d commanded the earth to produce trees in which bark tasted like the fruit, but the earth did not do that. Rather, ‘The earth produced a tree that made fruit’ (verse 12), rather than ‘The earth produced a fruit tree’.

What is the reason for this gap? Why did G-d not created His world to perfection, instead leaving it incomplete? The answer may be found in the words, “the world that He created [leaving something for us] to do” (2:3). Had G-d created the world perfect, nothing would have been left for us to do in it. He therefore created our world lacking, so that we, mankind, could through our deeds fill in what was missing. Filling in this lacking element is accomplished through fulfilling G-d’s will, which is revealed to us through the Torah and its mitzvoth and philosophy. That is the connection between the giving of the Torah and world’s existence.

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