27 Oct 2016 Bereishis: In the Beginning
Bereishis – In the beginning, Hashem created the heavens and earth; Bereishis – In the beginning, there was confusion and chaos, emptiness and nothingness, and the breath of G-d, the spirit of G-d, the presence of G-d, hovered over the face of the water… In the beginning, there was nothing; and then, in an instant, as G-d willed it, there was something – light, firmament, water, luminaries, vegetation, animal life… In the beginning, there was man and woman.
In the beginning is a beginning we cannot understand, as it is amongst the most esoteric parts of the Torah ha’kedosha (holy Torah).
Yet, we can understand the emotion of learning of the death of Moshe Rabbeinu once again, at the end of V’Zos Ha’Bracha – וּמֹשֶׁה, בֶּן-מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה–בְּמֹתוֹ; לֹא-כָהֲתָה עֵינוֹ, וְלֹא-נָס לֵחֹה – And Moshe was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye had not dimmed, and his vigor had not diminished (Devarim 34:7).
We can understand the excitement with which we finish the fifth and final book of the Torah and then declare: חזק! חזק! ונתחזק! Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened! Another year, another cycle of learning, another book of Torah closed… And then!
With great reverence, anticipation, humility, and passion, we remember that we are never finished, and we go back to בְּרֵאשִׁית – In The Beginning, and we begin all over again.
The world was created, and In the Beginning there was a perfection that can only emanate from the Borei Olam (Creator of the world), Who renews creation, in His goodness, each and every day. The heavens, the earth, waters, luminaries, trees, plants, fish, birds, animals, mankind! All was in order… and yet, “מַה הָיָה הָעוֹלָם חָסֵר? – What was the world lacking? מְנוּחָה, rest. בָּאַת שַׁבָּת בָּאַת מְנוּחָה, כָּלְתָה וְנִגְמְרָה הַמְּלָאכָה – Shabbos came, rest came. The work was (then) completed and finished” (Rashi to Bereishis 2:2).
ויכל אלקים ביום השביעי מלאכתו אשר עשה וישבת ביום השביעי מכל מלאכתו אשר עשה – And G-d completed, on the seventh day, His work which He had done, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done (Bereshis 2:2).
R’ Samson Rafael Hirsch (Bereishis 2:2) writes, “The visible world was completed on the sixth day; but only on the seventh day, with the establishment of Shabbos for the sake of man’s education, did G-d truly complete His work. Only with the establishment of Shabbos, ensuring the education of mankind, did G-d cease from all the work that He had made. With the establishment of Shabbos, all the work of the visible creation – not only man – attained final completion and perfection. Shabbos was the final touch that the Creator put on all His work. For the very existence and destiny of all the work of Creation depend on the realization of Shabbos among mankind.
“There is no gulf between physical nature and the moral world of man. Shabbos was placed in the very midst of the natural world as its goal and crowning perfection… The land blooms and rejoices with the moral blossoming of man; the land withers and mourns at the moral degeneration of its inhabitants… With man’s Shabbos, G-d completed the creation; the teaching about man’s Shabbos was the final touch that G-d put on all His work.”
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l says, “Once again, I return to my childhood memories. In Warsaw we lived three houses away from a Modzhitzer shteibel. Generally, I would go to this Modzhitzer shteibel for seudah shlishis (the third Shabbos meal). Poor Jews would be seated around the table in the shteibel. The Modzhitzer shteibel was located in a poor district in Warsaw. My father could not afford to live in a more affluent area. This was a neighborhood where many of the Jews worked as porters. There was a large iron gate in Warsaw where all the porters looking for employment gathered. I always say that in Warsaw I saw sights that I never saw since. You would see a large closet or a buffet that seemed to be walking on its own. The Jewish porter who was carrying the furniture was totally bent over. It seemed as if the furniture was walking along with feet coming out of the closet.
“I knew these Jews well and I constantly spoke with them. They were sincerely pious Jews who willingly sacrificed for their spiritual commitments. I once spoke with one of them who was frail and short. He constantly carried heavy metal pieces and I wondered where he got the physical strength to support this weight. His load was always tied around him with a thick cord. On Shabbos, I saw this very Jew and I did not recognize him. He came over to me in his tattered kapote. It was covered with endless patches, and even the patches had patches. Yet his face shone with the joy of Shabbos. I recognized in a tangible fashion that a person’s Shabbos countenance is totally different than his weekday appearance.
“So I asked him (one Shabbos after Seuda Shlishis), ‘When will we daven Ma’ariv?’ He answered: ‘What is with you? Are you already longing for the weekdays to being? What do you mean when will we daven Ma’ariv, are we lacking anything now?’
“…The Jews could not depart from Shabbos… They only wanted to remain with Shabbos…”
In the Beginning, the world was a perfect physical world: And G-d saw all that He had made, וְהִנֵּה-טוֹב מְאֹד – and behold! It was very good (Bereishis 1:31). And yet, without the spiritual dimension of Shabbos, wherein finite man reconnects with Infinite G-d, the world was lacking.
בָּאַת שַׁבָּת בָּאַת מְנוּחָה – Shabbos came; rest came.
בברכת שבת שלום,