Category Archives: Bechor Shor

Choosing Real Estate (Lech Lecha)

Choosing Real Estate (Lech Lecha)

Of neighborhoods, benevolence is the most beautiful. How can the man be considered wise who when he had the choice does not settle in benevolence. -Confucius

Upon Abraham’s and his nephew Lot’s return to the land of Canaan from their stint in Egypt, laden with wealth, their respective shepherds start to fight. Abraham (still called Abram at this stage) suggests they put some distance between themselves. Lot sees the area of Sodom. It is a lush and beautiful land (before God destroyed it), watered by the fresh waters of the Jordan River and compared to the highly fertile land of the Nile Delta. Lot chooses to move to the area of Sodom. He takes all his wealth and invests in the area, building for himself a home, raising a family, and marrying off some of his daughters to local Sodomite men.

The Bechor Shor on Genesis 13:10 finds in this account a critique of Lot. Like any savvy businessman, Lot checks out the prospect before he invests. He sees a rich, fertile, productive land. He sees wealth and opulence. From a purely superficial, material, financial perspective, it was likely the best neighborhood in the area. However, the Bechor Shor states, Lot didn’t check out the neighbors. He didn’t bother to determine the character, the kindness, the benevolence of his fellow residents of Sodom. He saw nice fields and nice houses and that was enough for him.

The fate of Sodom is well known. God found the Sodomites to be degenerate, abhorrent, evil. Lot himself was not nearly as bad. God sends angels to save Lot and to destroy Sodom with fire and brimstone. Lot is saved, but literally with just the clothing on his back. He went to Sodom because of wealth and left it a pauper.

The Bechor Shor warns that when seeking a place to live, definitely check out the land and the physical conditions, but don’t forget to check out the neighbors.

May we be good neighbors, as well as be blessed with having good neighbors.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the US elections and a peaceful aftermath.

Planetary Casualty (Noach)

Planetary Casualty (Noach)

We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and, I will say, the love we give our fragile craft. -Adlai Stevenson

The Generation of the Flood was pretty bad. They were so bad that God regretted creating them. However, instead of wiping the slate clean and starting completely from scratch (as the Midrash states happened multiple times before), God famously saves Noah and his family, as well as a male and female of every animal on the ark, which Noah was conveniently commanded to build. God subsequently drowns the rest of humanity, the animal kingdom, and the world in what most ancient civilizations referred to as “The Flood.”

The Bechor Shor on Genesis 6:13 wonders as to why the rest of the world needed to suffer if it was primarily man who was guilty of doing evil in God’s eyes? Why did almost all of the animal life on the planet need to be destroyed? Why was the earth ravaged by the destruction of the Flood? Why not just punish man exclusively?

The Bechor Shor explains that the rest of the world, in fact, the entire planet, has only one reason for existence: Man! The world was created for man. The world was created to support and provide sustenance, shelter, and resources to man; and man was enjoined by God to eke out a living from the earth, to cultivate the earth, to develop it, to conquer it, to mine its riches and build himself and civilization (as so eloquently articulated by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik when describing “Majestic Adam” in his monumental “The Lonely Man of Faith”).

As such, when God punishes humanity, the devastation of the world is merely collateral damage. The planet along with all of its minerals, flora, and fauna, has no reason to exist without man. Therefore, when man is punished, the planet suffers as well.

As much as man needs a healthy planet, the planet needs healthy man. It needs an ethical, moral, spiritual man who will remain worthy of the planet’s munificence, but who will also not overexploit its bounty. Man who will not pollute and toxify its air and water resources, who will not mine and dig and drill and blast without a care as to the repercussions, be it to the land, the animals, as well as to the native human populations.

May we enjoy the beautiful planet God has created for man, responsibly.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the speedy recovery of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu among all those in need of recovery.

The Tree of Eternal Health (Bereshit)

The Tree of Eternal Health (Bereshit)

The healthy, the strong individual, is the one who asks for help when he needs it. Whether he has an abscess on his knee or in his soul. -Rona Barrett

God creates the world. He creates Adam and Eve. He places them in the Garden of Eden. He commands Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Thanks to the incitement of the serpent and the prompting of his wife, Eve, Adam eventually eats from the Tree. God confronts Adam, Eve and the serpent, pronounces their eternal punishments, including mortality, and banishes the human couple from the Garden, lest they eat from the Tree of Life and somehow achieve the immortality God had just pronounced that they had lost.

This raises the question as to why Adam and Eve didn’t eat from the Tree of Life in the first place. They had been warned that eating from the Tree of Knowledge carried a death sentence. Why not immediately eat from the Tree of Life after their crime and perhaps save their eternal existence?

The Bechor Shor on Genesis 3:22 explains the workings of the Tree of Life. It wasn’t that you partook of the fruit of the tree and it granted you eternal life from that moment forward. Rather, it was a tree of eternal healing. If one became sick, eating from the tree healed them. If one felt weak, the tree strengthened them. If one felt the onset of ageing, the tree would rejuvenate them. However, if one were healthy, strong, and young, it would have no effect.

Therefore, Adam and Eve must have known that in their young, strong and healthy state, eating from the Tree of Life would have no effect. That too is the reason God had to banish them from the Garden. If they would continue to live in the Garden, when they eventually did age or get sick, they would have a quick remedy within easy reach, thereby prolonging their lives forever.

Another interesting point is that the Sages state that the Tree of Life is none other than the Torah. The verse in Proverbs states that the Torah is “A Tree of Life to those who grasp it.” The Talmud expands on the healing properties of the Torah and gives a whole list of ailments that it can heal.

May we partake of our easily accessible Tree of Eternal Health, the Torah.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the memory of Mrs. Lucy Stelzer z”l.