Volume 31, Issue 1
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by DovFurer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על פני תהום ויאמר אלקים יהי אור
“In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heavens and the earth, and the earth was formless and empty, with darkness over the depths…and G-d said: ‘There shall be light.’” (1:1-3)
QUESTION: The word “Torah” is derived from the word “hora’ah” – “teaching.” What lesson do these very first words of the whole Torah teach us?
ANSWER: In a letter to a Bar Mitzvah boy, the Lubavitcher Rebbe once wrote that these opening words of the Torah teach the approach all Jews should take in serving Hashem.Every Jew should always remember the three lessons he or she can learn from these three verses:
- It was Hashem Himself who created heaven and earth, and therefore He alone is Master of the world and of everything within it.
- At first, the world is dark and empty of Hashem’s light, but every Jew has his own share of the world, which he has to improve and illuminate.
- The way to brighten his share of the world is through “and G-d said” – fulfilling the word of Hashem by studying Torah and keeping mitzvot. Through this, the Jew accomplishes his purpose in the world and “There shall be light” – the world becomes illuminated with the light of G-d’s Torah. (Vedebarta Bam)
ויאמר אלקים תדשא הארץ דשא
“Hashem said, ‘let the earth sprout grass…’” (1:11)
The word deshe – grass, is comprised of three letters – daled, shin and alef. These letters stand for: din, sholom, and emes. To substantiate this, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (PirkeiAvos1:18) wrote: the world exists on three things: on din – in the merit of the just and lawful decisions of our judges; on emes – truth when dealing with others; and on sholom – peace among mankind and nations of the world. (Vilna Gaon)
ויאמר ה’ אלקים לא טוב היות האדם לבדו אעשה לו עזר כנגדו
“Hashem said, ‘It is not good that man be alone, I will make him a helper against him…’” (2:18)
What does the verse mean when it says a “helper against him”? The verse in Mishlei(21:2) states: כל דרך איש ישר בעיניו – Every person thinks that the path he chooses is correct. How is one to know if he is on the right path or not? Eizer k’negdo. If a person is on the right path, his wife should help him (eizer) along that path. If he is on the wrong path, his wife needs to oppose him (k’negdo) and tell him that he is on the wrong path. Why specifically a wife? A wife is the only one whom a man might listen to. She loves him like herself, yet she can be objective enough to see all of his faults. (Netziv)
לזאת יקרא אשה כי מאיש לקחה זאת
“This shall be called woman, for from man she was taken…” (2:23)
The Gemara in Sotah(17a) states: דריש ר”ע איש ואשה זכו שכינה ביניהן לא זכו אש אוכלתן – Rabbi Akiva expounds: If a husband and wife are worthy, then the Shechinah dwells between them; if they are not worthy, fire consumes them. Rashi explains that the letters of the Name of Hashem are in the words איש and אשה; the yud is in איש, and the hey is in אשה. If the Name of Hashem is removed from their names, it leaves both the man and wife as אש, fire. When there are two fires, they consume each other. (Torah Treasures)
“And cling to his wife…” (2:24)
The verse, spoken “by the holy spirit” (Rashi), contains the first commandment of the Torah and proclaims the law of marriage. This law is formulated in precise, definite terms and is irrespective of time, place, or race. It is of universal application and implicitly covers the sexual prohibitions binding on every human being, on every descendant of Adam and Noach (Sanhedrin 56b).
Marriage is a Divine institution. Its sacred character dates back to the beginnings of human society. It is part of the plan of creation. Monogamy is the prototype of marriage instituted by G-d – it is written “he shall cling to his wife” and not “to his wives.” The word ודבק, to cling, implies a permanent union permeated with fidelity. Although physically the stronger, it is man who must “cling” to his wife, whom he will respect as the greatest treasure he possesses on earth. In this way, the bonds of love which unite the couple will remain indestructible.