Tag Archive for Adam
This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Baruch Dopelt, Yossi Bilius, Pinchas Winston, Asher Hurzberg and Dr. Abba Goldman
In our illustrious glorious past we’ve often yearned for the mashiach. When we were in grade school we had to recite that “we believe whole heartedly that Mashiach is coming”. Mashiach this and Mashiach that. There have been many songs sung, manypsalms read, There even was a period where many of our people were killed for they thought that time had come and were careless, where they’re usually very careful, in dealing with gentiles arousing their hostility and Anti-Semitism only to be disappointed with a false prophet.
How ironic it is then, the proud Jews that we are, with our glorious past, the beautiful temple both past and future, that the Mashiach signs in through an undignified manor. We would never write a Hollywood script like this. Here, there is no poor or rich young couple who loves each other, have a baby (Mashiach), is allergic to kryptonite, and can’t keep him etc. It’s quite different script. One cannot complain “this movie is predictable -same formula”.
Let us take a look at the relevant places in the Torah and perhaps, dig deep, learn some insights into the mashiach
This is where the Jewish monarch and the Mashiach comes from……..
Uncharacistaly, Yehuda, leader of the tribes visits a prostitute, who is his daughter-in law in disguise. The Sages, say that the cohabitation of Yehuda, Tamar, his daughter in law, resulted in the inception of the Mashiach……Go Figure!! (Please see highlight section for full synopsis)
One may ask, how can the Mashiach come in such a degrading way?
Wait there is more!
*The seed of the Mashiach was also implanted in a bazar way by Lott, Avrahams nephew, After the destruction of Sedom, Lott’s two surviving daughters believed that the world was destroyed. They devised a plan to seduce their father on back to back consecutive nights after getting him drunk where they will procreate and populate the world once again. Ruth, is a descendant of this union The oldest son/grandchild Moav is where Ruth, the grandmother of king David, comes from.
* Boaz, a widower, a leader and descendant of the tribe of Yehudah marries Ruth, the convert, a widow herself to the childless son of Elimelech, a descendant of Yehuda as well. The courtship was strange, Ruth appear that night on the threshing floor to be as close as possible to the fields at a critical time in the harvest. Niomi, her mother in law, instructs Ruth to uncover Boaz’s feet so as to wake him and set the process of “yibum” in motion. Pretty odd isn’t it. The union between Boaz and Ruth was in question for A Israelite is forbidden to marry from Moav. Boaz died the next morning after their wedding night and Ruth gave up her child to Niomi to raise.
*King David marries Bat-Sheva in one of the most controversial union in our history. Did he usher Bat Sheva’s husband to the battlefield in what was presumably a death wish? The marriage between David and Bat-Sheva produced King Shlomo
This is our royal past?
In our current mindset or Western mentality we, perhaps, will entertain the thought of the Mashiach having that kind of introduction for we have grown accustom to a very promiscuous nature. The media has etched in our minds the kind of sexual provocation daily. Car commercials, game shows and even real estate ads come with a door prize and a smiley attractive female or male model. Television, no matter how PG it is full of sexual innuendos. Let’s not forget the advancement of the internet….GOODNESS GRACIOUS!!
Furthermore, as we Jews moved around the world we are constantly reminded through our neighbors about their immodest appetite way of life. We were the only Jews living on the block, in my childhood home in Rego Park. It was a predominantly Irish neighborhood and it was difficult to stay focused even as a very young Yeshiva grade school student with the immodest dress of my non-Jewish neighbors. What’s an orthodox boy doing living in this part of the world?
Interestingly, if one notices our biggest test growing up before entering our young adult, where then we are introduced to inflated egos, pursuit of money, keeping religion, is to watch our brit. There is a tremendous insurgence or wave of desire where hormones are flying uncontrollably when entering the teenage years.
This is our mundane life of today where the western culture has a tremendous influence. However, why has the Torah have to introduce the Jewish monarch and future Mashiash in a degrading way. Golden Yerushalayim and its purity should be left alone. Why drag it to such shmutz?
Furthermore, why is the topic of Erva- promiscuity associated with the kingdom. Why not murder? Jealousy?
Lets examine an aspect of brit milah where then perhaps we might understand the topic of mashiach a little more clearer.
Adam HaRishon was created circumcised, as it says, “God created man in His image …” (Bereishis 2:5). Avot d’Rav Nossan 2:5
Rav Yitzchak said, [Adam] caused his foreskin to be extended [and cover his circumcision]. Sanhedrin 38b
Interestingly, this is what the Greek Jews were a custom to do in the time of Chanukah. They were ashamed that they were different then the Goyim. The sexual revolution was influencing the world….sounds familiar. It was custom to remove your cloths entirely in many social functions. The Greeks believed in exposing the beautiful body. However the Jews, because of their brit had a different look, were ashamed.
The Greeks put a spiritual barrier between the Jews and their G-d. In Hebrew the growth of foreskin is called Orlah. This was the mistake of Adam. For, whether we are talking about “Orlat HaLeiv” (uncircumcised heart), “Orel S’fataim “(uncircumcised lips), or “Orlah” from a tree (fruits of the third year), the word Orlah always implies a spiritual “barrier” between man and God which has to be removed.
There are two aspects of the mitzvah referred to in the verse. Firstly, Milah is a sign of the covenant between Avraham and God; secondly, Milah is to take place on the eighth day from birth. We should take note of the point in the Parsha at which the Mitzvah is commanded after Avraham’s successful routing of the Canaanite kings. It’s no coincident that saving Lott, his nephew, who holds the seed for part of the Mashiach, is a precursor for brit milah.
When Avraham placed his faith in G-d for his physical sustenance, he demonstrated his unwavering commitment to live above nature. As a result, he was provided with the means to remove all the Orlos Adam’s mistake had brought to mankind. This is the Bris Milah which is performed on the eighth day (eight always symbolizes the spiritual, supernatural realm, as we see through Chanukah as well).
Why was Bris Milah so important to history? As the following reveals, it is the source of Malchut (of kingship), and therefore, the Final Redemption.
And Yosef said to his brothers, ” ‘Please come near to me,’ and they came near to him and he said . . .” (Bereishis 45:4). Why did he call them if they were already next to him? Because when he told them, “I am Yosef your brother” (Ibid.), they were in shock to see his royal position. He told them that his royalty was a direct result of this. (Zohar 1:93b)
What was Yosef referring to? The Zohar explains:
” ‘Please come near to me,’ and they came near to him”: He showed them that he upheld Bris Milah, saying, “By keeping this intact, I was able to attain royal status.” From here we learn that whomever keeps this sign intact will merit royalty. (Ibid.)
In other words, Yosef was saying that his royal status had been conferred upon him by Heaven for having resisted the advances of his master’s wife, Aishet Potiphar. Such intimacy would have been forbidden to him, and though he had been tempted at the time, in the end he had overcome his yetzer hara and had run out of the house, risking her vicious retribution that followed.
However, the Zohar is not finished yet, and backs up its statement with the following:
From where else do we know this? From Boaz, as it says, “As Hashem lives, lie down until the morning” (Rus3:13). His evil inclination was enticing him, so he made this oath to keep his bris intact. (Ibid.)
In other words, while he was secluded with Ruth, he desired her then. However, intimacy with her then was improper, and therefore he made the oath to safeguard himself against a sinful relationship. If she was to be his wife, Boaz reasoned with himself, it had to be after all the halachic conditions had been satisfied. Thus the Zohar concludes:
The world is called an OLAM. Interestingly OLAM means hidden. What is hidden? G-d is hidden and he is hidden throughout the world. Interestingly the more we do G-d’s commandments the more vision and clear the world looks.
This OLAM is like a game. A game similar to “Wheel of Fortune”, where one has to turn over the puzzle board and therefore making the entire board clearer. The board is pretty large it encompasses the entire world. The mission of the Jewish people over the last 3,300 years, the Jewish role in history and the essence of the concept of the Chosen People – a people chosen for the responsibility of teaching the world about one God and absolute morality. But there is much left to do before the vision the Jewish people saw at Mount Sinai becomes a world reality. The Jews have always believed that they have a key role to play in bringing this vision to fruition. We are to create a society based on a God-given standard of morality that will serve as the model for the rest of humanity to emulate – to be “a light unto the nations.”
When we look back on the vast sweep of the last four thousand years we see how significantly the Jewish people have directly and indirectly affected humanity.
The Jewish monarch represents the Jewish people. He rules with justice and mercy. It’s his mission to guide and to turn over the most impure part of life and manifest it to a source of kedusha. G-d chose the very organ that is the source of life, which can also be chosen to use for the basest acts, as the site to be sanctified with circumcision. This gives us the profound message that we can use every physical drive for holy purposes.
Chanukah always falls out during this time of the year where days are short and nights are at its longest. It is our mission to light the candles, to bring light in to the darkness, to see things more clear, to flip the puzzle board, to transform an illicit moment to the spiritual.
Interestingly the menorah is lit by Jews in public showcase all over the world….may we, the chosen people continue to make this world more clear.
This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Henoch Leibowitz z’l, Mordechai Aderet, Yossi Bilius, Pinchas Avruch and Mr. Avner Aminov
They’re standing in line in pairs waiting to enter the Arc knowing their future lies with going with Noach. The giraffe, the lion and the chimpanzee, the Arc is the place to be! The animals know it; this is the move to take in order to survive! Yes, it’s animal time, however, we – humans – learn a valuable lesson of life from the secondary being, one has to have foresight; meaning, for every step man must ask himself “What is my action going to result in?” “Where am I going?” This undertaking is a sign of maturity and considered a responsible train of thought.
In this week’s parsha we find the animals playing a glaring role. King Shlomo knew the language of the animals well, he actually never mentioned if any of the species have a sense of humor. It’s funny that over the course of history man has always learned from animals. Do rabbits really hate ducks-RABBIT SEASON-NO DUCK SEASON–OOH!! Bugs bunny has smarts making a mockery of those around him, well aside from Hollywood rendition of animals at the helm and manipulating society, the Torah which preceded Loony Tunes and Hanna Barbera, provides the barometer of the wisdom of the animals. It encourages us to examine their qualities…We should exhibit an almost animal-like intensity in our zeal to fulfill G-d’s will. Leopards are not the largest of the big cats, but they have a ferocity found in few of the great hunters. So too, we should serve G-d proudly, almost fiercely, not being embarrassed to be different from others or to stand up for what we believe in!!
Further teaching from the Torah, the lightness of an eagle implies not being earthbound by physical pleasure or human sluggishness. The swiftness of a deer implies the oneness of purpose and quickness of reflex to follow G-d’s will. Also, the strength of a lion implies possessing the resolve and conviction to withstand temptation and to hold firm to commitments and obligations. As far as the cat goes, Rashi, a major 9th-century commentator says we should learn about modesty from the cat, interpreting the cat’s “modesty” as referring to her habit of burying her feces.
Why do we need this lesson from our furry friends? We tend to gravitate towards learning from them. Let’s just leave them alone. After all they’re just animals.
Interestingly, for those who inquire into the world around them in order to learn how to behave like human beings, and not like animals, the improbability of refined behavior in a bestial habitat will cry out for explanation. The existence of even a tiny minority of animals that act in a non-animal-like way will force the question—Why do they act that way? There is no apparent reason, no prohibition on animals against promiscuity or immodesty or theft. And yet some of these animals possess such traits that can make us humans look bad. The Sages are telling us that the answer that would have come is that nature does have a lesson to teach us, and it is a single lesson—that just as there are animals which exhibit non-animal behavior, we too, although we are also much like animals in our physical make-up, there is an essential something within us that is superior to the animal. Therefore, we have to exceed those good qualities certain animals possess. If they can do it, we surely can do it too!
There are two which I would like to focus on that provides such a valuable lesson on life that it’s vital to peak into their world.
King Shlomo writes if one wants to learn chochma – intelligence – he shall look at the Ant in how she conducts herself, her motives, her actions.
Let’s explore and discover what we can learn from her.
First look how she stores her grains. She makes a three story house. The most valuable of her collections she stores in the middle layer. The top is susceptible to inclement weather and the bottom can be vulnerable to dirt.
Interestingly, the Ant only lives for six months. Yet, she stores food for approximately three hundred years and she does it in the most efficient manner.
Why is she so busy accumulating and storing food?
Shlomo HaMelech writes that the Ant reasons, perhaps G-d will grant me longer life so I need to store food, just in case.
However, there has never been a case where the ant lived longer than 6 months. And, even if she did manage to scrape up a month or two more years, at the most, of precious life, the amount which she feverishly collected is incomprehensibly disproport
We see how much hope and tenacity the Ant has, even though there has not been an Ant that has lived longer than six months in history.
The question is asked on King Shlomo: Why does he advise “If you want to learn chochma – intelligence – you can learn it from the Ant. It should be if one wants to learn zeal, after all, look how fast and meticulously diligent the Aunt is. Why does Shlomo’ emphasis the Ant intelligence?
We learn here that zeal and tenacity comes when one who realizes the significance of potential. In order to value that potential, one needs chochma -intelligence, which is based on the sensitivities of the heart.
The Ant works her entire life thinking maybe G-d’s going to grant me longer life, knowing it would be against human nature. However, the Ant believes in miracles. She believes a miracle can take place.
Even more so, the Jewish nation that believes that we’re building for the next world, for Olam Haba, that is a basic fundamental concept of Judaism. There are much mitzvot, much brownie points to accumulate in a life time… If one says, let me take it easy, I have enough for this world; there is no need to do more mitzvot. He doesn’t have the hope, the belief and the understanding that he’s building for the future.
We see another example of a chacham that is one who is sensitive about his future. After Pharaoh’s dream was interpreted by Yossef that there will be seven fat and prosperous years then seven lean years, Yosef then used the word chacham when referring to what kind of leader Pharaoh needs to carry out the mission and save the world from hunger.
However, the hard part is over and done with. The impossible dream was interpreted. Now all what’s left to do is find someone who is a good organizer, someone who has zeal. Gathering the excess grains, storing the food supply, making sure everything is persevered correctly, consists a person who has a gift of being meticulous. A chacham is not needed anymore. Why did Joseph’ emphasis chochma?
The reason why Chochma is needed is because one has to be sensitive enough to gather all the grain during the fat years and the only way one can execute that task is if one is able to transform himself to the future and imagines that he’s living in the lean years. Then he will be able to collect all the amounts and not miss a grain… It’s quite difficult to gather for lean years when there is abundance.
This is a feeling which comes from the heart which enables us and gives us the ability to transform ourselves to the future. This is not taking away from the concept “let’s live today to the fullest”. However, it’s a little tricky; one has to have the ability to switch gears, change tunes.
Unfortunately, it’s against our nature to do so. Short-sightedness is a natural part of the human condition. We see Avraham making us aware of this when he gathered an army for he was forced to go to war to free his nephew Lot. The Talmud (Nedarim 32b) teaches that they were armed with gold; Tosafot explain that they were armed with wealth so that they would maintain their focus on their lifesaving mission and not be distracted by precious stones and pearls.
Implicit in this commentary is the lesson that had they not been given this wealth in advance they would have become distracted by riches and compromised their mission to save Lot. But these were the righteous students of the Patriarch Avraham.
Chidushei HaLev explains that in the heat of battle one becomes very focused on the ultimate short term goal – victory – and loses sight of the greater mission, the greater goal – in this case, to save Lot’s life. When caught in the throes of this inherently human short-sightedness, even the righteous can lose sight of their mission. With the ultimate objective out of mind, any and all distractions become possible. Thus, Avraham gave his warriors riches in advance, to preempt the power of this great distraction.
The mouse according to a legendary midrash (midrash- is the body of exegesis of Torah texts along with homiletic stories as taught by Chazal (Rabbinical Jewish sages of the post-Temple era) that provide an intrinsic analysis to passages in the Tanakh) fell victim to this short sightedness.
There is a midrash composed by Rabbi Mosh HaDarshan.
Long before Tom and Jerry and Sylvester the cat. Perhaps, one can say might be the source, the root of the cat and mouse deep hatred toward each other.
Both the cat and the mouse were working for Adam who purposely employed many for the sake of unity. A reference to the harmony which Adam wanted to impose is found in the introductory prayer of the Friday evening prayer for Shabbat. LECHU N’RANENA L’HASHEM – let us all sing before G-d. This would bring a tremendous Kiddush Hashem. G-d loves unity and this attempt by Adam would have raised the level of spirituality in the world.
However, the mouse had other plans. The selfish and competitive mouse wanted the glory of serving man himself and approached Adam with a complaint that the cat stole from the house of man.
Adam realized the mouse’s intentions and cursed him, stating “you came speaking evil about someone, which is equivalent to killing someone (the violation of loshon harah) – now the cat will pursue you for the rest of time in order to kill you”.
And so it came to be, the mouse was pursued, caught and killed by the cat. The children of the mouse saw the tragic end of their father and were ever in hiding in different holes in the ground and corners in the walls.
Years later, as all the animals were lined up paired, male – female waiting on line to enter the Ark build by Noach, the male cat said to the female cat “you see those mice, pointing to the ones on line, when I was little, my father killed a mouse and brought it home for dinner and it was delicious”. The cat then stared at the male mouse licking its paw and started to chase after it. The mouse luckily found a whole where it narrowly escaped the claw of the cat and jumped in.
The cat stuck its arm in the whole to fetch the mouse where then the mouse bit it, however not before the cat scratched and ripped the lip of the mouse.
After an hour the mouse went to Noach and said “you’re an Ish Tsaddik – a righteous man, can you please stitch my wound”. Noach answered “go to the cat when he’s sleeping and pull out one of his whiskers, for the whiskers are considered medically very sterile, and I’ll stitch it….And so it was. This is one of the reasons Noach is said to be an Ish Tsaddik.
There are many lessons one can derive from this interesting Midrash. One that pertains to our subject is the mouse was short sighted. The mouse wasn’t able to foresee the importance of Adam’s mission. His greed ruined the cohesiveness of what Adam had intended and as punishment is pursued by the cat till the Mashiach arrives.
There are people who are considered very calculating. That seems to have a negative connotation;
Adam was shown the soul of King David and the fact that he was destined to live only 3 hours. Adam was very grieved at this loss of potential. He inquired whether he was allowed to bequeath some of his own years to David. The Almighty answered that Adam was destined to live for 1000 years, but that he would be allowed to give up some of those years to David. Adam then bequeathed 70 years to David, so that Adam lived for 930 years and David lived for 70 years.
As we all know in the business world the more one thinks of a deal that he made, that he signed, sealed and delivered, that he signed mazal u’bracha on, the more he second guesses the transaction. The Sages teach that when Adam was about to turn 930 years old, he regretted his earlier generosity and wanted to back out of the deal. G-d urged Adam to keep his word.
The Rokeach cites an even more startling version of this Medrash: When Adam originally agreed to give over 70 years of his life to the future King David, he signed a document to that effect. The document was “co-signed”, so to speak, by the Master of the Universe and by the Angel Matat. In the Rokeach’s version of the Medrash, when Adam turned 930, he tried to deny that he ever made such an agreement. At that point, the Almighty pulled out the document proving that he had made the deal!
The Medrash in Tehilim cites in this vein, that King David’s comment in Tehilim [146:3]: “Do not trust nobles nor sons of man (ben Adam), for he holds no salvation”, refers back to Adam’s attempt to retract his gift of the 70 years.
In our world of business if someone negates on a business deal he is looked down on. He actually, to some extent, black listed in the industry. Honoring a transaction is one of the basic laws in business. I once bought an expensive ruby my first year in the Colored Stone business. My Father was shocked that I bought such an expensive stone; he was even more shocked at the lousy choice I made. He ordered me to bring back the dealer and negate the transaction. It was one of my most humiliating experiences in the industry. It is something that had never happened again. My father explained to the dealer that “he’s young and inexperienced”, which I apparently was, and luckily he accepted and took back the stone. However, he never did business with me again. I learned, from then on, to be real sure before I utter the word “deal-mazal!!” and to be an expert in the merchandise I buy.
One of the methods a businessman conducts himself is using the shock system. He says in a stern voice: “I’m buying this product at this price and that’s my last offer, take it or leave it!! Make a decision quickly or I’m leaving now, there is another place I saw a similar product; is it yes or no?!!” One businessman used the shock treatment a bit too much and it cost him dearly. On a colored stone buying trip in Bangkok, Thailand one individual took the stones in his left hand and stuck it out the open window and threatened if you don’t agree on this price and not say “mazal” I’m throwing the stones out the window. They agreed, and the transaction took place. The natives, the Thai people are a very honorable people and would never negate on a transaction that they shook hands on; however, they don’t like to be threatened, so when he left their building, there in the courtyard, they broke the very arm he threatened to throw the stones with.
Astonishingly, Adam was not rebuked by G-d for trying to turn back on the deal. As a matter of fact, incredibly, he was praised. How can that be?
This desire to retract, in this particular special situation, does not stem from evil or shortcomings on Adam’s part. On the contrary, it stemmed from his greatness and his understanding of the value of life…….How is it possible, one may ask?
In order to understand why G-d not only did not punish Adam for wanting, having chutzpah to negate on the deal, but praised him, we must explore why G-d chose for the first man the name “Adam.”
The most popular reason why man is called Adam is because man comes from the ADAMA – the ground. However, there are other various names that Adam is called by; some are ISH, ENOSH and GEVAR. Why it is that ADAM was the name chosen to represent man? We just finished a month long of holidays and the one underlying theme throughout the month – or I should say two months – is TESHUVA – repentance. During this period, we pound our hearts and we recite the thirteen attributes of G-d. As we said in our High Holidays issue, G-d guarantees us that if nothing else works, that if no other method of prayer is accepted, the thirteen attributes will go through. What is it about this particular prayer that has that kind of ability? The philosophy behind the recitation is we have to strive to be like G-d, and by reciting His attributes, we affirm our commitment to work on ourselves to have just the right measurement of kindness, mercifulness, temperament, etc. This is the reason why ADAM, the name, represents man the best. We learn in the Prophets – Nevi’im – ADAMEH LE ELYON – we shall be similar to G-d. This is man’s mission in life. So our goal is to be like G-d, ADAMEH.
The Ibn Ezra asks why we must honor the elderly by rising before them. The Ibn Ezra answers that people who are elderly have learned to appreciate the value of life. They deserve honor for that recognition. For appreciation is a fundamental feature in the Jewish philosophy. A person acts differently, thinks differently, and has a different perspective on life when he is in his fifties and sixties than when he is in his twenties and thirties. He is a different type of person. We need to honor that perspective and attitude by rising before such people.
When Adam was “born,” and was told he had 1000 years in front of him, it was tantamount to someone coming to a millionaire and asking for $1000 donation. The millionaire is prepared to flippantly give over the 1000 dollars. It means very little to him. But if this same millionaire loses all his money he will be greatly aggravated over the fact that he gave away 1000 dollars.
Rav Chaim Zaitchik interprets that Adam — as with all Tzadikim — cherished life so much that as he was approaching death he could not bear to forgo the opportunity he had to accomplish more with those extra years. The potential to live and be like G-d is a burning desire in all of us, and it’s awakened only through age and life’s experiences. There is so much that a righteous person, one who appreciates life can do with even one more year, with even one more month, with even a single day. Life is so precious that when he realized that his time was up, he became so distraught and irrational that he forgot his promise or was willing to retract the promise (depending of the varying versions quoted above).
Interestingly, King David had fallen victim to the same desire to live. Towards the end of his life, he knew that he is destined to die on Shabbat. David also knew that if one learns Torah, the Angel of Death cannot harm him. He then devised a plan, when his seventieth year was approaching, he would learn constantly without stop from when the Shabbat begins till it ends twenty five hours later where then he will be safe.
This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Mayer Glazer, Yisschar Frand, Baruch Dopelt, Jay Shapiro, Uri Sklaar, Yossi Bilus, Dr. Abba Goldman
Hey, Jews are smart! Did you know that? In fact throughout the course of an ordinary day we practice brain exercises by negotiating contemplating issues with, out of all people, ourselves. For example, any child will think twice about eating meat, no matter how appetizing it is, for he knows he can’t have dairy for the next six hours. So the calculations start. He says “If I eat the hot dog now, will I be clear and free to eat the Carvel ice-cream when it comes my way later tonight? Perhaps if I consume the frank quickly and not waste time and maybe the ice cream which I will be receiving will be delayed by traffic, I could, then, conceivably pull off eating both. Or maybe, perhaps, I shouldn’t take the chance”. “Or perhaps I can sandwich bag the hot dog then I can eat it later after the ice cream”
These are the negotiations that any red blooded observant Jew has to go through daily. Granted, it’s a challenge but we are committed……aren’t we?
Baker Bob was one of the finest bakers in the Catskills. Not knowingly, one individual arrived at an event where Baker Bob’s desserts were on display; however, he had a meat for lunch. Anybody who knows anything about baking knows that the best deserts and chocolates are made with butter and milk. It’s very hard to resist Baker Bob’s cakes and pastries. After a half an hour the individual too succumbed to the cakes, even though the time allowed to eat dairy did not arrive, rationalizing, “although my ancestry custom is to wait six hours, I will adopt the German Jews custom of waiting three hours”. As time passed on, he began to be more lax eating dairy right after meat justifying his actions even more, saying “it’s not so bad…at least I’m not eating the two together”. This is a frequent problem among many, where one thing leads to another and the individual degenerates. We have to explore why this is so? Where and how did he develop his brazen authority to feel he’s capable to make such decisions?
Our people like to exercise, often, the ability to “rationalize”. It’s what we do best. The Jewish cup (brains) is one of the finest in the business; we are not robots; we are known to be thinking machines. Does this precious Jew have the power of decision making? What tends to happen is him saying, “perhaps I’m not so careful about keeping milk and meat laws but I’m careful in other areas; nobody’s perfect”.
Let’s explore the ability to rationalize and how we can use it to our benefit. One has to realize that at times it can backfire and we can get in trouble. The first time we learn of someone rationalizing was the first woman, Eve.
“And she saw that the tree was good”(2:6 Bereshit) It seems like Eve rationalized the tree was good to eat, even though she was told otherwise.
In the second of this week’s parshiot, Bechokotai, G-d threatens us (26:14) “if you do not listen to Me and do not do all of these commandments”…then……Hey! There are very un-pleasant curses written as a result of not keeping them. One has to ask why G-d is so rigid. So I don’t observe all, however, I keep most.
Furthermore, when do we exercise our famous gift of brainpower? It seems like the Torah is limiting our “say power” by demanding that we observe all the commandments or else.
In a few weeks we will celebrate the receiving of the Torah. If one examines the whole courtship of us, the Jews, receiving the Torah there is one important expression that we, our ancestors uttered that elevated and separated us above the other nations. When approached by G-d, we answered “NA’ASEH V’NISHMA”-“we will DO, then we will hear”. It was a tremendous act of faith on our part, it was what HE wanted to hear, where then G-d rewarded us with His Torah. We did not say “what is in it”? It was for the very reason why we uttered the words “NA’ASEH V’NISHMA” we were chosen. However, by picking and choosing what commandments to keep and how to keep it, we are violating that breach of trust which G-d put so much faith in us to be labeled the “chosen ones.” We are violating the statement that made us famous.
By picking and choosing what commandments we feel have to be observed, we are creating our own mandate. It’s not G-d’s Torah, it seems like it’s the individual’s own contraption. Is it our morality or is it G-d’s morality? Is it our laws of Shabbat we are observing or is it G-ds. If it is G-d’s, then we have to abide by his rules.
Many are mistaken to think that if it’s not logical, if it doesn’t make sense, then one is not obligated to perform it. This mindset goes against the main principle of “NA’ASEH VENISHMA” which got us on the map!! This is what made us an attractive commodity in G-d’s eyes.
A story is told of a college student who made a commitment to start keeping Shabbat. Exited, he had a Shabbat meal by an observant family nearby his dorm room. He got an unpleasant surprise, after the meal, as he entered his dorm room. His roommate, who had left town for the weekend, forgot to close the lights which were glaring bright throughout the entire room. G-d doesn’t waste any time in testing people. His first Shabbat was a painful and tiring experience; however, he mentioned it made him stronger. Besides the commitment he had to G-d and His commandments, he learned to be disciplined. This is an incident that- if successfully passed – separates the men from the boys.
An interesting question arises so when and how can we rationalize our actions? When can we use a little “brain power”?
Let’s return to the first woman, Eve. She saw it was good, rationalizing, to eat from the tree. The problem at hand, it was without authority. We have to ask what argument the snake presented to enhance the tree’s attractiveness persuading Eve to go against her husband, Adam’s command. The snake said “if you eat from the tree you will have tremendous knowledge like G-d”. Acquiring G-d’s knowledge had such an appeal that Eve would circumvent and jeopardized not only her residency in Gan Eden, but her entire existence?!!
What, then, is G-d’s knowledge that is so appealing? The Torah. The Zohar says that the Torah was created first and the world follows the Torah’s cue. When we pray to G-d, we are talking to HIM. When we learn his Torah, HE is talking to us. One, who learns, adjusts his thinking to the Torah. That is tremendous!! He becomes, not only closer to G-d, but speaking through HIM. He, who learns, becomes a changed man, a superior man! However, the learning of G-d’s work must be consistent; a regular connection is required. One of the main questions they will ask after one departs this world “did you learn Torah daily”.
However, when one stops learning the Torah on a consistent basis, he, then, does not grow with G-d and therefore, locks in to what makes sense to himself, therefore, stumping his growth. He makes up his own self style following his internal compass. He develops an arrogant attitude of “whatever feels right is right”. He rationalizes that it’s okay to eat milk soon after meat.
If one wants assurance that the curses above will not take effect, he has to have complete faith that all the commandments are important to keep. To be able to succeed in the mitzvot that G-d designed, one has to make time to learn His masterpiece, the Torah, and apply it to everyday life.
Sometimes we forget the meaning of a world without Torah. A world without Torah is just a matter of the thickness of the veneer. It is literally a situation of “each man is prepared to swallow up his fellow man” [Pirkei Avos 3:2]. The line between a human being and a wild animal – without the guiding moral force of Torah – is indeed very thin.
On Shavuot, which we are anticipating in a few weeks, we read the story of Ruth and Orpah. Ruth and Orpah were sisters, daughters of Eglon King of Moab. They were from royalty. They had to choose between going back to a strange land with a woman, Niomi, who was an old widow without a possession in the world or returning to their father’s palace. Who really made the rational decision?
Rabbi Frand learns out that if we look at the situation with a cold calculating eye, Orpah clearly was the one who made the logical decision. Ruth made an irrational decision. Why follow Naomi? It does not add up.
Ruth realized the difference between a life with Torah and a life without Torah. When the dilemma was put into those stark terms, Ruth had a relatively easy decision. Life without Torah is not worth living. This is the essence of Shavuot.
Its not a coincidence that we learn that Ruth grandson, King David danced uncontrollably with tremendous happiness and vigor in front of the Torah. How can a king not have his controlled demeanor? That behavior might not be fitting for a king; or perhaps it does!! King David was ecstatic because he knew, like his Grandmother, how Torah can transform man to a much elevated status. He knew that it is the true “brain power” where it is permissible to rationalize, as long as its studied daily. He knew having faith in G-d, proclaiming NA’ASEH V’NISHMA and doing all of G-d’s commandments is the ticket to a better life.
This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Pinchas Winston Yossi Bilus and Paysach Krohn
In 2011, a group in San Francisco opposed to male circumcision has collected enough signatures to put the issue to a vote in the November elections; violators would be subject to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. In Europe, “human rights” groups have mounted a grass roots campaign opposing circumcision, comparing it to the brutal mutilation of African women. The Netherlands Institute of Human Rights wants to outlaw Brit Milah.
WHY AVRAHAM AND WHY THE FORE SKIN?
The first man, Adam, was created circumcised, as it says, “God created man in His image …” (Bereishis 2:5). Avot d’Rav Nossat 2:5
Rav Yitzchak said, [Adam] caused his foreskin to be extended [and cover his circumcision]. Sanhedrin 38b
Adam made a mistake with the growth of the Orlah (foreskin).. For, whether we are talking about “Orlat HaLeiv” (uncircumcised heart), “Orel S’fataim “(uncircumcised lips), or “Orlah” from a tree (fruits of the third year), the word Orlah always implies a spiritual “barrier” between man and G-d which has to be removed.
When Adam ate from the tree, he plunged mankind into the world of nature. By depending upon the physical world to develop himself and his relationship to God, he in fact created a barrier between himself and God. He hardened his heart (Orlas HaLeiv), he reduced his G-dly power of speech (Orel S’fataim), he made the tree a barrier (Orlah), and abused his creative potential (symbolized by the Orlah removed by Bris Milah).
Avraham was well known for his trait of kindness. The Zohar says the “giving” trait found in cheesed-kindness, if taken to an extreme, would inevitably cause one to succumb to illicit relations. Anyone with that super kindness trait is susceptible. As of matter of fact, Yishmael, Avrahams other son, inherited that trait from his father but was not able to control it.
The Sages say Avraham was shalom (perfect/full/complete.) He perfected all his traits except this one. As one naturally realizes, concentration can be most difficult. By commanding Avraham to perform Brit Milah it now made him perfect. Limitation was set on this organ. There is a certain segula, or spiritual merit, found with the ceremony of brit milan, where one’s understanding of Jewish wisdom is increased. Everytime Avraham looked at his circumcision he would realize the limitation on the trait of chessed. It was not only a sign, a covenant with G-d, but a deterent. This courageous act led to having his one true heir, Yitzchak.
When Avraham melodramatically expressed his complete dependence on God for his physical sustenance, he demonstrated his unwavering commitment to live above nature. As a consequence, he was provided with the means to remove all the Orlot Adam’s mistake had brought to mankind. This is the Brit Milah which is performed on the eighth day (eight always symbolizes the spiritual, supernatural realm, as we see through Chanukah as well).
The Mystics say by having the brit and its ceremony spiritual energies are infused into the boy. These are the tools necessary to be able to comprehend the Torah in a different realm..There are also thirteen times, in parsha Lech Lecha where G-d mentions his covenant with Avraham. This is to offset the thirteen attributes of G-d. The Thirteen attributes of G-d is mentioned on Yom Kippur and is a focal point in our quest for forgiveness. It can only be applied if the Jew is circumcised. Rabbi Pesach Krohn teaches us with the infused energy that the boy gets at the brit comes a name. A name defines the task that this boy will do in life. This is the reason Avraham’s name was changed the day he was circumcised.
Korban Pesach is a Biblical commandment of the highest order, with the command repeated and amplified to us in three different places: Exodus 12, 3-12, Numbers 9, 1-13 and Deuteronomy 16.
Just as circumcision, the first commandment imposed on an individual Jew, our forefather Abraham brought us into the covenant as individuals, the commandment of Korban Pesach, the first commandment imposed on the Jewish People as a collective–obligating men, women and even children–brings us into the covenant as a People.
Rava asked: What is the reason for the prohibition against taking bribes even if the judge is sincerely trying to render a fair judgment?
There were many notable rabbis who were vying for this position. However, one of the highly regarded and wealthy congregant who was on the board of directors took a strong liking toward the young Rabbi Halberstam and campaigned for him vigorously to win the position. The businessman was relentless in his quest to secure Rav Chaim to be” thee Rabbi” and eventually he succeeded.
However, after a few months the Rabbi was put in an awkward situation to say the least when someone approached him claiming that the same wealthy businessman who singled handily got him the position, owed him money. He intended on taking him to Bet Din-Jewish court.
It was Rav Chaim responsibility, since he was the chief Rabbi, to customarily send a messenger to the defendant and order him to court to face charges. Although the rich businessman helped him tremendously nevertheless Rav Chaim proceeded with the necessary protocol.
The messenger, though, returned and answered the Rav with a respond of “he is too busy to come”.
The Rav sent the messenger again and that he should insist that the businessman should come right away; it’s a matter of urgency!
However, once again the response from the businessman was “I do not have time to come, my apologies.”
Rav Chaim send the messenger again with a very stern message “I am following proper protocol and asking you for the third and last time; it is in your best interest to come. If you do not honor us with your presence I would have no choice but to put you in CHEREM-banishment.
The businessman realized that Rav Chaim was dead serious in his threats, had no choice but to came to court.
Rav Chaim asked both the accuser and the businessman to rise as he read the complaint. Rabbi Halberstam then suggested a fast day for himself the accuser and the defendant and each one should pray that the outcome should be a fair one. He then asked the businessman about the charges.
The response was “there are no charges. Everyone looked at each other. The people in the Judge’s chambers were bewildered by the businessman’s response. “I hired this man, the accuser to voice his grievance against me to see if you will honor the Torah and hold true to the court of law or perhaps you will be weak and be too embarrassed to act with me in the proper way, because you owed me a debt of gratitude. However, I see now that I was correct in pursuing you and insisting you to be the Rabbi. You held your grounds, were not impartial, and have proven to be the right choice.
The most popular reason why man is called Adam is because man comes from the “adama” – the ground. However, there are other various names that Adam is called by; some are Ish, Enosh and Gevar. Why is it that “Adam” was the name chosen to represent man? We just finished a month long of holidays and the one underlying theme throughout the month – or I should say two months – is teshuva – repentance. During this period, we pound our hearts and we recite the thirteen attributes of G-d. As we said in our High Holidays issue, G-d guarantees us that if nothing else works, that if no other method of prayer is accepted, the thirteen attributes will go through. What is it about this particular prayer that has that kind of ability? The philosophy behind the recitation is we have to strive to be like G-d, and by reciting His attributes, we affirm our commitment to work on ourselves to have just the right measurement of kindness, mercifulness, temperament, etc. This is the reason why “Adam”, represents man the best. We learn in the prophets “Adameh Le Elyon”, which means we shall be similar to G-d. This is man’s mission in life. So our goal is to be like G-d, Adameh.
After Adam sinned, G-d gave him a choice of punishments, a smorgasbord; pick you poison. Either, “From the sweat of your brow, you will make a living”. In other words, it’s going to be difficult. Dealing with moody bosses, long commutes, compact sandwiches for lunch, ridiculed by the wife for not bringing enough money on the table, are just a few highlights of this punishment. The second choice is to eat grass with the animals. Although man has no problem making a living, the humiliation and disgrace of eating the same food next to the animal is a punishment. As some of us are aware, man picked “sweat of your brow.”
The Gemarah asks why did Adam pick ‘sweat of your brow”? Wouldn’t it be more practical to pick the other? After all, what is the most cherished commandment G-d gave? G-d wants us to learn His Torah. Time is always a challenge. If we didn’t have the burden of making a living, then we would spend more time learning G-d’s Torah. So why did Adam pick “sweat of your brow”? Rav Henoch Leibowitz z’l teaches us that the humiliation of squatting down next to the animal will make it very difficult to learn. Man needs to be proud; his self-esteem has to be high in order to comprehend. Similarly, man has to be in a happy state to learn G-d’s Torah. Although “sweat of your brow” is difficult, even a minuscule amount earned will give man the confidence to learn Torah.
One should know, it’s very important to set aside time to learn. Without the learning of G-d’s Torah, even for a bit, makes a person lose its luster and confidence in oneself. Making a living is nourishment for the physical; learning Torah is nourishment for the spiritual. When G-d created man, the scripture says VA’YIETZAR – and He created – which is spelled with two yuds as opposed to one yud pertaining to creating the animals. The two yuds represent the physical and the spiritual. This is what sustains man and makes him complete.
* A very important lesson we learn from the beginning part of this Parsha is the unique task, in which, each part of creation is responsible for. The world is like a symphony where every individual, every creation has their and only their song, sound, expertise to add. Perhaps this is the reason G-d is also consoled, besides the immediate family, when someone passes away. When one says the kaddish, “nechemata”- “console” is referring to G-D. He just lost an individual sound which was part of the ensemble cast which cannot be replaced. If man can only realize that his contribution in this world matters, then he would pay more attention and sensitivity to what his gifts are and how he can allocate it to the best of his ability.
* Why did G-d start the Torah with the letter BET, the second letter of the alphabet? It should have started with ALEF, the first letter. After all, if we are describing the creation of the world, it’s only fitting to begin with the first letter. We put a tremendous importance on the letters; they are the building blocks of the world. In actuality, the sequence of events are indeed in order, the ten commandments which represents the Torah starts out with an ALEF. The Torah is the blueprint of the world; it came first. Therefore, it received the first letter while the creation followed.
* Interesting to note, it says in the first portion G-d created light – “OR”. However, in the fourth portion, the scripture informs us that G-d created two big lights, the sun and the moon. So what light, OR, is the Torah referring to? The sun or the moon? Neither. It’s a special highly spiritual light in which G-d took away and hid. Ever wonder why we read the Torah on a KLAF – parchment – skin of an animal. Skin is also called OR. Here, OR – skin – starts with the letter AYIN. We are in essence transforming the OR – animal skin which is the vehicle where the Torah is read, to OR – light, the hidden light. Apparently, the Torah is the hidden light. It is said in the commentaries with the hidden light one can see clear from one end of the world to the other. The wisdom of Torah, one opens up the mind and can envision concepts of the creation. This can only be accomplished through the OR – light of the Torah.
* G-d created five groups of angels: the Airalim, Malachim, Ofanim, Serafim, and Chashmalim.
* “It was evening, it was morning…” Here we find the source that according to Judaism the day starts at night.
* If one notices, at the end of the second day, G-d does not write KEE-TOV – it was good. The reason is that He made division between the waters. Every time there is division – MACHLOKET – strife, it cannot be good.
* There was a stream coming out from Gan Eden and flowing throughout the world. This is the reason the Torah puts such an importance to Mikvah. After a woman immerses herself in the purified water, she has the connection with Gan Eden and therefore more susceptible for child bearing. Also, it’s important to drink water from the sink on Motzei Shabbat after the Shabbat is over because that’s when G-d kicked out or escorted out Adam and Chava out of Gan Eden. So one should get a final last taste of SHABBAT-GAN EDEN to power himself for the week.
* G-d created woman, man’s helper. The scripture states “ezer kenegdo”– a helper opposite him. Why does it have to say “kenegdo” – opposite him? The reason is, she, the wife, should not be a ‘yes lady’, an obedient Stepford wife type. Man doesn’t need that; he needs someone with an opinion; he needs someone with backbone, although this doesn’t give the wife the license to be disrespectful. Respect is a very key ingredient to maintain marriage. A wife’s opinion is vital in man’s growth.
* The snake waited till Adam was asleep before going through with his plan to seduce Chava.
* The prohibition of touching the tree was not G-d’s instructions. It was construed by Adam to safeguard eating from it. Adam was so pleased with his idea that he neglected to mention to Chava this crucial footnote. This is the opportunity Evil was seeking, a slight shade of egoism displayed by Adam.
* After the sin, Adam and Chava were ashamed of their nakedness and sought out giant leaves to cover themselves. A high ranking officer committed treason. Although, the King should have killed him, since he liked him he decided to spare his life with one condition – he and three generations of his descendants would have to wear blue badges all their lives, as a punishment. At first, the children of the offender thought it was embarrassing for the family. Eventually, though, generations later, many of the descendants forgot what the badge was for; it even became a status symbol. They actually wore it with pride and honor; “look at our family”. We take pride in our designer clothes, even though it was a status of shame; hurray for Madison Avenue!!
* When Adam sinned, G-d asked “Ayeka?” Where are you? Didn’t G-d know where Adam was? Perhaps AH YEA KA comes to teach us something about human behavior. One should not go straight for the kill. If G-d would have approached Adam by accusing him right away of his wrongdoing, he would have been startled; he would have totally lost his composure. The approach was a bit more subtle. Eventually, after the preliminaries, G-d then questioned Adam if he ate from the tree. One should always ease into the news, whether good or bad. Man does not take startling news very well.
* Instead of admitting his guilt, Adam answered back, “It was the woman which you gave me,” insinuating the woman was a bad choice. G-d would have forgiven him if he would have admitted his guilt and said “I’m sorry.” However because Adam came across unappreciative of the gift which was given to him (his wife) he was punished. How important it is to appreciate what one has.
* Sweat of your brow you shall work” (see article).
* A number of punishments were given to the snake; two of which are: ” You will slide on your belly.” This is retribution for having brought death on mankind, causing people to walk, stooped in grief, and mourning for their dead. Secondly, all the food will taste like dust. The question is asked, why is this a punishment? It seems like the snake has an abundance of food; dust is everywhere. Prayer is an important part of getting close to G-d. When do we pray? When there is something lacking in our lives. G-d was so disgusted with the snake that the most cruelest punishment would be not giving the opportunity, the option for a prayer; for getting close to G-d.
* “He will dominate you.” “You will cling to him.” As punishment for the woman, it’s designed that man should always have the upper hand. Rav Henoch Leibowitz, z”l, discusses why is it 90% of grooms walking down the aisle are not sure if they’re doing the right thing or not. He says, it’s designed that way. The bride, though, has to be sure that this is the guy she wants. By wanting the guy more, the woman succumbs to his wishes, “She will cling to him”, therefore giving him the upper hand. Although man has to find his potential wife attractive, a good person, and potential mother to his children, however, the strong feelings of being sure has to come from the woman. If it’s the other way, the couple are doomed for disaster.
* G-d gave three commandments to atone for
Chava’s sin: She has the commandment to light candles before Shabbat. Chava extinguished the light of the world by inducing Adam to sin. It is, therefore, the woman’s task to rekindle the light which was lost. The woman has a commandment to separate challah from her dough since she defiled the challah of the world (Adam). The woman has to observe the laws of Nida, in order to atone for the sin of having caused Adam’s blood to be spilled.
* Kayin was the one who formulated the idea to give a sacrifice to G-d out of appreciation. Kol Hakavod to him. However, he did not give from the best of his lot. Therefore, it was not accepted. Kayin, though, did not react very well to rejection. He denounced G-d’s existence and killed his brother. Sometimes life is difficult causing one to fall easily and behave in a negative fashion; one can lose himself in despair every easily. It’s therefore very crucial to know how to deal with adversity. Here, Kayin was the first one to appreciate what G-d has done for mankind, though he did a complete about face when faced with the negative reaction from G-d.
Fifth and Sixth Portion
* Hanoch was a tzadik, a very righteous person among the wolves. G-d did not want him to be influenced by society, therefore, he took him away early. The question is asked, if he’s able to withstand the degenerate, derelict society till now, then kol hakavod to him! What makes you think he’ll falter now? One should never put himself in a challenging situation. At any given moment, a combination of an aggressive evil and a vulnerable you, and the balance of power is changed.
* The narrative is setting up the next chain of humanity, Noach.