Torah Weekly

For the week ending 17 October 2009 / 28 Tishri 5770

Parshat Bereishet

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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In the beginning, G-d creates the entire universe, including time itself, out of nothingness. This process of creation continues for six days. On the seventh day, G-d rests, bringing into existence the spiritual universe of Shabbos, which returns to us every seven days. Adam and Chava - the Human pair - are placed in the Garden of Eden. Chava is enticed by the serpent to eat from the forbidden fruit of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil," and in turn gives the fruit to Adam. By absorbing "sin," Adam and Chava render themselves incapable of remaining in the spiritual paradise of Eden and are banished. Death and hard work (both physical and spiritual) now enter the world, together with pain in childbirth. Now begins the struggle to correct the sin of Adam and Chava, which will be the main subject of world history. Cain and Hevel, the first two children of Adam and Chava, bring offerings to G-d. Hevel gives the finest of his flock, and his offering is accepted, but Cain gives inferior produce and his offering is rejected. In the ensuing quarrel, Cain kills Hevel and is condemned to wander the earth. The Torah traces the genealogy of the other children of Adam and Chava, and the descendants of Cain until the birth of Noach. After the death of Sheis, Mankind descends into evil, and G-d decides that He will blot out man in a flood which will deluge the world. However, one man, Noach, finds favor with G-d.


The Jury Is Still Out

“Let us make Man…” (1:26)

Rosh Hashana marks the creation of the first man. "And He blew into his nostrils the soul of life…" (2:7). When G-d decided to make Man, He 'consulted' with His Heavenly Court, and what can only be described as an argument broke out.

Truth said, "Don't create him, for he is full of lies!" Righteousness said, "Create him, for sometimes he will behave righteously!" And so it went back and forth in the Heavenly Court. Some said "Create!" while others said "Don't create!"

In the middle of this melee, G-d said, "Man has already been created." Our Sages learn this from the phrase Na'aseh Adam, (Let us create man…) which can also be read as Na'asah Adam, "Man has already been created" — meaning that Man was created in the midst of an existential doubt. When man was created, the jury was, quite literally, 'out'.

Man came into this world in a state of din, of judgment – a judgment that was never resolved.

Every Rosh Hashana, on the anniversary of that Heavenly "argument", the same question is re-awakened, "Create/Don't create!" and each one of us is judged as to what extent we have answered that question — should man be created?

Shh! It’s Cheshvan

If you want someone to be quiet, if you want them to listen, you raise your finger to your lips and say "Shh!"

The sound of air flowing over lips is the universal sign to be still, to be quiet. The English word "hush" is connected with this sound. The same sound appears in the name of the month of Cheshvan, the month that begins this week. The root of the word Cheshvan is chash, which in Hebrew means quiet. The very name of the month commands us to be still, to be quiet. What is this stillness that is Cheshvan?

The month of Cheshvan says to us "Hush! Be still and listen to your heart! Listen to the quiet after the storm. Listen to the still small voice of the soul washed pure by the great storm of Tishrei!

In Hebrew the word for "the senses" is chushim, which is connected to the word chash — "silence." For the senses operate in silence. They are the silent recorders of reality. They record in silence and they play back their message in silence. And to decode what our senses tell us when they replay the soul's diary of the month of Tishrei, we must listen to the sounds of their silence and reflect to what extent have we answered that question of "Shall we make Man?"

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