30 Sep 2021 Bereishis: Creation and the Middah of Truth
Bereishis 5782. The excitement of a new cycle of Torah. New beginnings for the new year. Opportunities to review insights we already know, and b’ezrat Hashem, to glean new insights we are not yet familiar with.
Bereishis. “In the beginning Elokim created the heavens and the earth” (Bereishis 1:1). In regard to Torah learning, we are never done, and so, as soon as we complete Devarim on Simchas Torah morning, we begin Bereishis all over again. “And it was evening, and it was morning, one day” (ibid, v.5).
While the account of Creation is amongst the most – if not the most – esoteric parts of Torah, there are certainly many lessons, messages and teachings we can learn and apply to our own lives.
In regard to the creation of man, the pasuk tells us:
“And Elokim said: נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ – let us make man in our image and in our likeness” (ibid, v.26). Rashi teaches that in His great humility, keviyachol, G-d consulted with the heavenly angels before creating man.
A fascinating Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 8:5) provides us with further details:
אָמַר רַבִּי סִימוֹן, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לִבְרֹאת אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, נַעֲשׂוּ מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת כִּתִּים כִּתִּים, וַחֲבוּרוֹת חֲבוּרוֹת, מֵהֶם אוֹמְרִים אַל יִבָּרֵא, וּמֵהֶם אוֹמְרִים יִבָּרֵא… חֶסֶד אוֹמֵר יִבָּרֵא, שֶׁהוּא גּוֹמֵל חֲסָדִים. וֶאֱמֶת אוֹמֵר אַל יִבָּרֵא, שֶׁכֻּלּוֹ שְׁקָרִים. צֶדֶק אוֹמֵר יִבָּרֵא, שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֶׂה צְדָקוֹת. שָׁלוֹם אוֹמֵר אַל יִבָּרֵא, דְּכוּלֵיהּ קְטָטָה. מֶה עָשָׂה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא נָטַל אֱמֶת וְהִשְׁלִיכוֹ לָאָרֶץ… רַב הוּנָא רַבָּהּ שֶׁל צִפּוֹרִין אֲמַר עַד שֶׁמַּלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת מִדַּיְּנִין אֵלּוּ עִם אֵלּוּ וּמִתְעַסְּקִין אֵלּוּ עִם אֵלּוּ בְּרָאוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא. אָמַר לָהֶן מָה אַתֶּם מִדַּיְּנִין כְּבָר נַעֲשָׂה אָדָם
Rabbi Simon said: At the time when The Holy One Blessed Be He (HKB”H) created the first man, the heavenly angels formed groups with each other. Some said man should not be created, and some said he should be created. (The angel of) Chessed said that man should be created, for he will do acts of loving-kindness for others. (The angel of) Emes (Truth) said that man should not be created, for man is entirely falsehood. Tzedek (Righteousness) said he should be created, for he will do acts of righteousness. And Shalom (Peace) said he should not be created, for he will be full of quarrel. What did HKB”H do? He took Emes and threw him to the ground… Rav Huna said: While the heavenly angles were arguing with one another, HKB”H created man! He said to them: what are you quarreling for? Man has already been created!
What was so wrong with what Emes said that it had to be cast down to the ground? “The angel of Emes (Truth) said that man should not be created, for man is entirely falsehood.” What was the root reasoning of his argument that was so perverse it had to be immediately silenced?
Rav Yaakov Bender shlita, Rosh Yeshiva Yeshiva Darchei Torah, provides a beautiful and piercing answer, and he writes, “The middah of Emes simply spoke up when it was asked to, offering an opinion (as to why man should not be created). Why did it deserve a punishment for being true to its essential mission of speaking truth?
“Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz z’l (1886-1948) shared a powerful answer.
“Emes argued that the world would not work – that it could not work – with man at its center. Man is a creature of sheker, deceit and falsehood, Emes proposed, and Creation, as envisioned by the Master of the Universe, could not endure with such a creature at its center.
“This argument – ‘it cannot work’ – is itself the biggest sheker, falsehood, possible. To view human beings through eyes shrouded in negativity and pessimism is inherently false, so the middah of Emes was not worthy of its own reason for creation!” (Rav Yaakov Bender on Chumash, Artscroll, p.39).
What a tremendous insight. To claim that man is full of sheker, that existence cannot work with the grandeur of man at its center, to say “it’s impossible,” to claim “it won’t happen,” to cry out “man will never succeed!” is in itself the greatest sheker, falsehood, there is. To view our fellow human beings – and more specifically – our brethren, with negative eyes and a suspicious heart is unacceptable before the RS”O.
There is a very famous children’s book, “The Little Engine that Could”, originally published in 1930 – almost 100 years ago – whose message rings true even today. It is a book that I used to read to my children when they were young (and I am sure many of you are familiar with). It is a story about a little train that needed to get over a mountain, and despite any obstacles in her path and opinions to the contrary, her mantra was always, “I think I can, I think I can.” And when she finally got over the mountain, her mantra became, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”
L’havdil, this should be our outlook into, first and foremost, our own growth as ovdei Hashem, and the lens with which we view – not only ourselves – but those around us. From our children, who struggle mightily in todays confusing world, to one’s students, to our friends, spouses and any Jew we encounter.
We must see, and believe, that there is always hope for improvement, room for growth, possibility for change, and reward in the end. With much effort, prayers and tears, and emunah in G-d, ourselves and our fellow Jews, we always must live by the belief that “I think I can.” And so, when it came to creation, Emes – who claimed that man was entirely sheker and would certainly fail – was cast down.
As we move forward into a new year, let us internalize this message as we forge new paths ahead.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,