This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Bereshit (5761)
This week’s section introduces and contains the theme of the entire Torah; G-d wants man to be His partner.
That is why He created the Heavens and the earth (spiritual and physical) and all the obstacles that come from both.
I want to illustrate with a story.
About two hundred years ago lived a very righteous Tzadik called Rabbi Naftoli of Ropshitz. In addition to having mastered all the works of the Great Rabbis of all generations, including the mystical, he was a great ‘baal Tzdaka’; he loved to help others. His custom was that every morning he would return home from prayer, put down his Tallis and Tefillin, and immediately leave his house once again going from door to door collecting charity. Only after distributing it to the poor people that gathered each day at his house would he sit and have something to eat. It wasn’t easy work, the rich didn’t easily part with their money and the less rich didn’t have much to part with, but he was happy that he could serve HaShem through this all-important commandment.
One day after he finished his rounds, handed out the money, and was just about to wash his hands to eat, he heard someone knock. He turned around and saw that there was another poor man that had pushed the door open a crack and was peeking through. The Rabbi went to the door, opened it and said, "I’m sorry, you’ll have to return tomorrow, my friend, I’ve got a lot of Torah learning to do today, and I’ve just handed out all the money." But the sad look on the poor man’s face made him put down his towel and set out to collect money again.
However this time he really had problems. At each door he got an angry stare and sometimes a few words to boot "What, all day you just wander around collecting money? You were just here, did you forget? Tell me, are you going to other houses or just to me? Etc."
He collected only a fraction of what he usually got but he happily returned home, gave the grateful man the money bade him good day, and again took the towel and went to the sink to wash for bread.
But, just as he was about to pour the water on his hand he heard the unmistakable sound of someone standing behind him loudly clearing his throat.
He turned around and there was yet another man who had let himself in, "I know, Rabbi, I know. I came late, right? Well, I know you are busy; I don’t want to bother you, G-d forbid Rabbi. No, no, I’ll come back tomorrow. I only want someone to tell my problems to. I won’t take long. I promise."
The Rabbi nodded. "My wife is not in good shape, the doctors say that soon her life will be in danger. My daughter is getting older and I have no money for her a wedding. And finally my entire house fell in yesterday," At this point the man began weeping and Rav Naftali again put down the towel, told the man to sit down, put on his coat and went again collecting.
But this time it was completely different. When the owner answered the first door (for the third time that day), instead of cursing Rav Naftali, he greeted him with a smile and open arms. "I’m so sorry that I gave you that bitter look before." He apologized, "Now I see that you must be a real Tzadik if you are willing to visit me again after what I did to you, you must think only of the poor and not of yourself at all! And instead of giving the usual ruble I’m giving you ten rubles!"
So it was at the next house and all the houses thereafter. But this time when he arrived home he wasn’t so happy. He gave the man the money and said with a bit of a frown, "Listen, my friend, the money is yours, I’m not going to take it back, I promise. But tell me the truth. You were lying weren’t you?! Your wife isn’t sick and that story about your daughter and your house falling in, it’s not true, is it."
The poor man hemmed and hawed and finally answered sheepishly.
"Well, not exactly lying, Rabbi, maybe I exaggerated a little, but not lying. I mean my wife is pregnant and it says in the law books that when a woman goes to give birth her life is in danger and you can even brake the Shabbos."
What about your daughter’s wedding?"
"Well, it’s true that now she is only five years old, but I always say ‘why wait till the last minute, you never know what may happen’ right Rabbi? And about my house; well to tell you the truth not exactly the entire house collapsed. But my rocking chair that I found in the garbage last month broke completely, which made me feel just terrible!"
Then the visitor thought for a second and added, "Tell me Rabbi, How did you know? How did you know I wasn’t telling the truth, and if you knew then why did you go collecting for me?!"
Rav Naftali answered simply. "Every time I go collecting money it is always with difficultly because there is always some obstacle to holiness. But this time, when I collected for you everything went so easy, in fact too easy. I thought to myself, ‘something is wrong here, somehow or other I must not be doing a Mitzva’ so I figured the simple solution is that you must be lying." Really there are two big problems that creation makes for serving G-d Spiritual and Philosophical-Physical but they can be dealt with though a little straight thinking about this first sentence of the Torah.
The Spiritual is Idolatry. For instance the one and a half billion people that believe in Xianity. Once I was approached by three missionaries. I waited for them to pause for breath and then I asked them, "Tell me, do you believe that G-d is spiritual?"
They looked bewilderedly at one another and then turned to me and answered in unison with great compassion, "Why yes, of course He is! He is the spirit and He is the way blah blah."
I looked at them with pity in my eyes and shook my head from side to side saying, "Why I’m surprised at you! Don’t you know the first sentence of the Bible?"
I saw they were more confused than before, so I continued.
"It says ‘In the beginning G-d created the Heavens and the Earth’. ‘The Earth’ means the physical, and ‘The Heavens’ means all the spiritual worlds."
"So", I continued, "Our G-d isn’t spiritual, He CREATES the spiritual! Or, in simple terms that even you can understand," I concluded, pointing first at myself and then at them,
"Our G-d Creates your god!"
They looked again at each other, turned around and walked away. The second problem with creation is philosophical-physical. Mostly the ‘Scientifically proved ideas’ that the world really exists, took trillions of years to develop and certainly not six days as the Torah says.
Once I was speaking to a Physics major who ridiculed the Torah’s version of creation. I asked him if he could tell me what he thought existed before the original matter. He explained that there are many theories but he believes some form of energy perhaps even spiritual energy, and before the energy, a vacuum or some form of nothingness.
So I asked him what he thinks would be more difficult; to make a complicated universe from simple energy, or to create simple energy from nothingness?
"Obviously the latter" he answered.
"And how much time would it take?"
"Obviously it would take no time at all."
"So", I concluded, "the question on the Torah is the opposite, ‘Not how did G-d create the universe so quickly, but why did it take so LONG? Why did G-d drag out the creation for six days? When He could have done it instantly." (The answer to this is explained at length in the works of the Chabad Rebbes called ‘Chassidus’)
Furthermore, if G-d or whatever the Scientists call it, really created something from NOTHING, and He did it in no time, it follows that the basic building block of the entire universe is really... ‘nothing’!
It’s something like having only zeros in your bank account no matter how many you have you still have nothing. If so, what power constantly keeps creation looking like ‘something’?
It reminds me of a joke I heard about the foolish wise men of Chelm who when the first locomotive train entered the town, explained to the astonished populace how it works without horses. "The first car is pushed by the car behind it," they explained to the grateful crowd. "But what pushes the second car?" asked an impudent young man from the back. After a brief consultation they patiently announced that the second is similarly pushed by the third, and the crowd applauded once again. This same scene of course repeated itself ninety nine times (there were 100 cars in the train) until finally at the last car, the wise men and the entire crowd lost their patience with the troublemaker saying, "Listen here young man! We’ve answered ninety nine percent of your questions if that isn’t sufficient nothing will be!"
This and much more is all contained in the first sentence of the Torah. (In fact there is a Mystical book called ‘Tikuni Zohar’ that has seventy explanations on just the word ‘Breshis’!)
That is one of the main reasons we are waiting impatiently for the revelation of Moshaich ANY SECOND. Moshiach will explain and make real, much more than even what has been understood till, now (as Rashi comments on the second sentence of Shir HaShirim ‘He will kiss me with the kisses of His mouth’).
Anyone who wants a taste of this ‘New’ Torah that the Moshiach will teach, please ask your local Chabad Rabbi for details about Chabad Chassidus.
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