Home : Torah Online : Parsha : Bereshit : 5764

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 (5764)

This week we learn of the creation of the first man; Adam. The Torah tells us that G-d brought all the animals before Adam and he gave them names.

This, at first glance, was very nice of G-d to let Adam participate and make up names… something like a mayor allowing his citizens to name their streets of their town.

But if we look more deeply we will see it wasn't so simple.

According to Kabala the name of a thing comes from the essence of its being and attaches its soul to its body (that is why calling a person's name can awaken him from unconsciousness).

And according to the Midrash (B'reshes Rabba chap. 17:4) when G-d created man the angels contested saying it was a mistake to make a creature so apt to sin, G-d answered "You will see that his wisdom is greater than yours; can you name the animals?" G-d brought out the animals, the Angels couldn't name them, Adam did, and they retracted their complaint.

So we see that names are very deep and spiritual things.

Now we can ask two questions: Why didn't the angels, who are certainly more spiritual than man, know the names of the animals? 2) What was so important about giving them names? If the name connects the soul to the body then the animals must have had names already, if not how could they keep living?

To understand this here is a story.

The Maggid of Mezeritz (the successor of the Baal Shem Tov) was an unusually gifted Talmudic scholar in fact there was no book in Judaism that he had not set to memory. But on Shabbat he would only speak and teach spiritual ideas of Chassidut.

One Shabbat, however, he unexpectedly gave a long and complicated Talmudic dissertation unifying several apparently contradicting legal passages. This was a great wonder to his pupils who nonetheless dutifully repeated and memorized every word.

The day after Shabbat the Maggid told one of his pupils, Rabbi Zusia of Annipoli, to set off on a journey without giving him any destination or even telling him in which direction to travel. Rab Zusia dutifully packed a small knapsack and set off, certain that his feet would take him on the right path.

A week later he stopped for the night at a small inn near the city of Hamburg only to find that "Well," said the owner of the inn wincing at Rab Zusia's dusty garments, "there is one bed available but you can't have it. The room is being occupied by the great (Talmudic genius) Rabbi Refoel and I'm afraid I can't put you together with him."

This Rabbi Refoel, a devoted follower of the foremost enemy (Mitnaged) of the Chassidic movement; the 'Gaon of Vilna' (a grandmaster of Talmud and the undisputed leader of Lithuanian Jewry), was on his way to Hamburg to vie for the position of chief Rabbi of the city which became vacant when the previous rabbi died some weeks ago.

The rules were that every candidate had to present a 'Pilpul' (Talmudic dissertation) before the elder scholars of the city and then answer all their questions satisfactorily; the one that most found favor in their eyes would be chosen as the next chief Rabbi.

Rabbi Refoel was a sure thing. His genius and erudition were almost unmatched as were his credentials, especially his closeness to the Vilna Gaon. Now he was sitting in this simple hotel room repeating the Pilpul to one last time before he went to sleep. It was very long and complex and he wanted to make sure it would go smoothly tomorrow in Hamburg.

Meanwhile, in the lobby, Rab Zusia was trying desperately to convince the owner to just let him have a peek at the great Rabbi Refoel; he felt that this certainly had something to do with his mysterious mission, and finally the owner agreed… but only for a moment.

He quietly opened the door (Rabbi Refoel was so deeply involved in repeating he didn't even notice) and was startled to hear that the Rabbi was reciting was the same exact subject that the Maggid had unexplainably spoken about on Shabbat!

Then suddenly Rabbi Refoel stopped. He remembered a commentary in the Talmud; a Tosefot which he hadn't thought of that completely destroyed the entire line of reasoning of his presentation! Not only would his 'Pilpul' not succeed, even worse.. it was wrong… he was wrong!! He let out a groan "OY! The Tosefos in Ksuvos!! It wrecks the entire thing!!" He was talking aloud to himself.

Rab Zusia immediately offered his help. Rabbi Refoel, turned around surprised to see this beggarly looking Jew and his first instinct was to refuse, but then again… he was desperate! He agreed.

"But only on one condition," said Rab Zusia. "The answer I'm giving you now I heard from my master, the Maggid of Mezeritz, I want you to promise that after you are chosen tomorrow, you will go to visit him."

Rabbi Refoel shuddered. The Maggid?! The head of the … heretics!!! But something made him hesitate. After all there really was no evidence for these charges. Perhaps they were empty. Not only that, but this was his only chance … he agreed.

Rab Zusia repeated what he heard from the Magid solving all Rabbi Refoel's problems and the next day Rabbi Refoel appeared in Hamburg, made a perfect impression and was chosen as chief Rabbi!

But he was afraid to keep his part of the bargain. So he traveled to Vilna to ask the Gaon what to do. "If you gave your word you must keep it." He answered. "You must go to this Maggid. But only on two conditions; first that you come back immediately and report to me everything you hear and see there and second that you swear before ten people that you don't tell anyone there who you are."

Early the next morning Rabbi Refoel put on the garments of a wanderer and set of for the Maggid and when he arrived he was very impressed with what he saw. The prayers of the Chassidim had fervor and depth he had never experienced and so it was the Torah learning. But he had never seen anything like the Maggid in his life; the man was simply G-dly!

Nevertheless he kept his head down, spoke to no one and, as Rab Zusia had not yet returned and he was certain beyond any doubt that no one here possibly knew him,

Later that morning a woman brought in a chicken with a doubt if it was Kosher or not and the Maggid called his pupils over to debate the law. The question was a difficult one that had already been dealt with by the Ramba'm, the Ri'f and the Raava'd but the Maggid's pupils concluded that the bird was permissible according to all opinions.

The Magid then explained the entire question according to the Kabalistic views of the Ar'i, the Rama'k and the Chayya't and also concluded that according to Kabala the bird is also kosher.

Then he added. "But standing right there in the corner is Rabbi Refoel, the chief Rabbi of Hamburg, let us hear what he has to say.

When the Magid called his name he felt something in his soul open up, he looked up in awe and immediately ran out of the room. His life had been changed.

But when he returned to the Gaon his enthusiasm was not shared.

The Gaon gathered ten of the elders listened to the entire report and concluded that it was all done through sorcery and evil.

"But how do you know that your refusal to even speak to the Maggid or listen to my report is not from evil?" He asked the Gaon and received no answer.

Rabbi Refoel did not dare travel to the Magid again from respect to the Gaon but he left the camp of the Mitnagdim completely and became a clandestine Chassid..

This answers our question. Sometimes calling a thing by its name can change its entire being. That is what the Maggid did with Rabbi Refoel and that is what Adam did with the animals.

G-d created man to 'Improve and protect' (2:15) the entire creation. In other words; although the creation was on a very high and pure level (it was called 'Gan Eden' which means 'heaven'; it had the same purity as the afterlife does now!) nevertheless it was Adam's job to improve it.

And what exactly does that mean?… It means to reveal the truth; G-d is ONE. Namely that creation is only a transparent facet of G-d's ONEness and there is, in reality, nothing other than G-d.

In short: to reveal G-d in the world.

This was begun by Adam when he called names to the animals and REVEALED the spiritual in the physical.

True, the animals were already alive and their individual names were already conduits for their life force. But all this is part of NATURE where the physical, the physical and G-d seem to be three separate 'things' (therefore the spiritual angels are burning for G-dliness)

Adam's job was to begin this process by REVEALING the spiritual in this world and this the angels couldn't do because they themselves are limited to the spiritual; only Adam had (and we still have) the ability to unite them.

At the giving of the Torah there was even a greater revelation; G-d, the creator of the physical AND spiritual was revealed on Mount Sinai (and afterward in the holy of holies).

But the final step is Moshiach.

The Moshiach will bring the complete and constant revelation of the Creator in the entire creation "On that day G-d will be ONE and His Name ONE".

That is why ADaM is the initials "Adam, Dovid, Moshiach; he began the process that will be completed when we do what the Lubavitcher Rebbe says and bring....

Moshiach NOW!!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

(5760- )
   Bereshit
576357715770
576957685767
576657655762
5761

   Parsha


   Festivals


   Other Essays

 send us feedback
more