This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Bereshit (5762)
This opening chapter of the Torah deals in detail with the creation of the world.
At first glance, why is the Torah telling us this? What do we care what day the fish or the stars were created? Or that creation took seven days? Or that it happened five thousand seven hundred some years ago? Shouldn't the Torah be dealing with more spiritual, religious subjects?
Even more....hasn’t science proven that the world is at least millions of years old? How can the Torah deny this?
But the biggest question is WHY did G-d create the world? What was He lacking?
G-d is not just one of the characters in the Bible, the G-d of Israel is infinite and lacks nothing; He is the source of all being and constantly creates all existence from nothing. So He doesn't need to make a world. What did He do it for?
I’d like to try to answer all this with a story that occurred some 300 years ago in the Ukraine.
It seemed like Mr. Groisboich's (pseudo name) millions weren't going to help him now. He was on his deathbed gasping for breath, surrounded by family and friends. The best doctors and professors in Europe and Russia had unsuccessfully treated him, and now it was only a matter of minutes.
Suddenly the door burst open and his son-in-law entered the room leading a very distinguished-looking man.
"This is the King's personal doctor, Professor Zaritzki," he announced anxiously. It was a miracle that I found him….."
The Doctor approached the sick man and motioned for quiet, so he moved the family to a side of the room and continued in a whisper.
"The Doctor was passing through our town. I was really lucky to get in to see him. At first he refused. I really had to talk fast, but finally he agreed to take on the case as a challenge."
"It is very serious," Said the professor worriedly, bending over his patient. "Maybe a day ago I could have done something, but now, I think it's too late." He thought for another second and continued. "I'm taking a big chance but...."
He took out a pad of paper from his coat scribbled something on it, gave it to one of the boys standing in the room and said,
"Here! Take this and run to the apothecary as fast as you can, every second counts. Run!"
The boy dashed out the door and down the stairs, while the Doctor returned to the dying man to check his pulse. But as soon as he did, a look of surprise came over his face. He ran to the window and called to the boy and motioned to him.
"Young man!! Come back up. Yes. Come back immediately!"
All eyes were on the professor as he wrote a new prescription, took the previous one from the boy, and threw it away and told him to run as fast as possible. "Strange" he mumbled to himself as the boy dashed out the door. "Very unusual."
He returned to the patient once again, lifted one of his eyelids, suddenly gave another startled look, ran to the window and recalled the boy again.
"Quite remarkable! He seems to be improving," he said aloud. In fact it did seem that Geltman was breathing a bit easier.
The same scenario repeated itself five times. Each time a different prescription was written, and each time the condition of the patient improved before the boy reached the street.
After a half hour Mr. Groisboich actually asked for water, and in less than an hour he was sitting up in bed and drinking soup.
"I don’t believe my eyes" Said the doctor wiping his brow, obviously shaken to the essence of his being. "I've never seen the likes of it in my life! Why, the man was as good as dead less than an hour ago."
"Thank you doctor. You saved my life," whispered Mr. Groisboich to the professor, "Thank you."
"I? I saved your life? My friend, I did nothing! I don’t even understand what happened here. It's most incredible! I just stood here and watched a miracle. I can’t explain it."
"I can!" Said Mr. Groisboich weakly, "There is only one explanation. It a holy Jew called the Baal Shem Tov."
No one in the room had the faintest idea what he was talking about.
He sat up even straighter and continued. "It was over ten years ago. I decided to visit a Jew called the Baal Shem Tov. Probably you never heard of him, but there was a lot of talk. Some said he was a miracle worker and a holy prophet, but others said that the whole thing was a bluff. So I was curious.
"I traveled to the city of Mezibuz where he lived, and the next day I was standing before him in his study. I tried to see something unusual, but I have to admit that I wasn't very impressed. True there was something about his eyes, but nothing worth getting so excited about.
"What brings you here?" Asked the Besh't (initials of Baal Shem Tov).
"I just came to hear a word of wisdom." I replied in a friendly tone.
"So he looked at me and said:
"Just remember that G-d gives every doctor an angel. A small doctor has a small angel and a big doctor has a more powerful angel. And that angel is the one that does the healing."
"I waited a few seconds for him to continue, and when he didn't, I got a bit angry;
"Excuse me!" I said, "Doctors? Angels? What is it supposed to mean to me? I'm no doctor. And I'm not sick either. What type of wisdom is that? It took me several days to travel here…… and now I have to return with this?! "
"But the Baal Shem just looked down, implying that the meeting was over.
"Thoroughly disappointed, I left the room, traveled home, and didn't even tell anyone about it for fear of saying Loshon HaRa (Slander). But it was pretty clear that this man was nothing to get excited about.
Years passed, ten years. I succeeded in life, became wealthy and famous, married off all my children, and totally forgot that meeting. Then, a few months ago I became ill.
At first the doctors thought it was nothing, but it got worse. I went to bigger and bigger experts but nothing helped until, well you saw my condition when you entered....I was dying.
But now, the whole thing came back to me; the Besh't must have been referring back then to what just happened now. He foresaw it all.
It was your angel that healed me, doctor. In fact it is your angel that has been healing ALL your patients."
The professor was dumbfounded. He felt like a little child. He didn't want to believe it but he couldn’t deny the facts. In fact he had done nothing, his very presence had succeeded where all the other doctors had failed.
He stood for a moment in deep thought and then asked. "Tell me, where can I see this holy man?"
He went to the Baal Shem and …………….activated his Jewish soul.
It seems that this professor was a Jew, who had left Judaism in order to succeed in life. But now that he had clear evidence that all along he had only been a vehicle for a power greater than himself he started rethinking his life.
That answers our questions: G-d created man to be a vehicle, a "partner" with G-d to "heal" the world and fill it with holiness.
The world was created mundane and void of revealed G-dliness. It is no accident that the Hebrew word for "void" (Chalal) is similar to the word for "mundane" (Chol) and also the word for "sick" (Choleh) because it lacks life.
Therefore, although the world seems to be finished it isn’t. Man's job is to improve it and make it holy; to reveal in it the source of life and infuse it with G-dly meaning and joy. For instance the Holy Temple; it was a physical building, but all those who went there were inspired with life, holiness and Joy.
That is the subject of this week's section;
G-d created a seemingly "finished" mundane world and put a fully-grown man in it so he could immediately begin "Working and Protecting the Garden" (2:15), And this is the total reason for man’s existence. Just like the Doctor in our story; G-d's angel couldn’t heal without him.
This also solves the problem of the age of the universe. Scientist say it is even billions of years old, while the Torah says it was created 5,775 years ago (at this writing). The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that there is no contradiction; Just as G-d created man complete and mature……. so also He created the universe and everything in it ready-made: apparently millions or billions of years old (the scientists themselves do not agree).
But what the scientists (like the Doctor in our story) totally fail to see is something much more essential which is what the Jewish people were chosen to reveal: the MEANING, of creation.
That is why, according to Judaism, G-d took seven long days to create it although He could have created it 'ready-made' in NO time (because 'time' is also a creation)! After all, G-d created everything from 'nothing' instantly (as He is doing constantly). Why did He take 7 days?
The answer is; because He created the universe and EVERY detail in it according to a deep mysterious plan, (explained in such esoteric books as the Zohar and the writings of the Ari z’l). The Seven days of the week, twenty-four hours of a day, twelve months of the year, in fact the details of each and every creation; the fish the stars etc. all point to deeply meaningful Kabalistic principles and to the Greatness and Goodness of HaShem. And this is revealed by the Jews every time they do a commandment to serve the Cretor.
So that is the practical lesson of this week’s section.
G-d created us to be His PARTNERS. And it is in our hands to bring Moshiach who will wake up all mankind to make this world a meaningful blessed place.
As the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested many times that even every non-Jew, especially the children in schools, should say the short "Modeh Ani" prayer in their native language every morning thanking G-d for keeping them alive and having faith in each and every human.
As partners with the Creator we must remember that the world is waiting for us to improve it. Every deed, word and even thought we do, say or even think has the power to make a GOOD world, tilt the scale and bring...
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.