Category Archives: Bereshit

Mortally Mocked (Bereshit)

Mortally Mocked (Bereshit)

Ridicule often checks what is absurd, and fully as often smothers that which is noble. -Sir Walter Scott

God created the Garden of Eden, a divinely organized habitat where Man wanted for nothing. Adam and Eve enjoyed a blissful existence. There was only one law to maintain their pristine lives: don’t eat from the forbidden fruit. Simple. Straightforward. The punishment was also fairly easy to understand: death. Any sane, rational being would do everything in their power to stay far away from the forbidden fruit. Yet the serpent managed to convince Eve to partake of the fruit. He convinced Eve to doom herself, her husband, and all of future humanity for that matter, to millennia of pain, hardship, suffering, and mortality itself.

How did the serpent manage to overcome the natural sense and self-preservation of a human being? The Chidushei HaRim on Genesis 3:1 explains the serpent’s methodology. The serpent mocked. It is as simple and as powerful as that. He merely mocked God. By talking about God in a mocking tone, in a mocking language, he succeeded in completely disarming Eve of any defenses and inhibitions that would have kicked in for her self-preservation.

The power of mockery and ridicule is such that it can cause a person to completely ignore logic, good sense and even suppress their own survival instinct. The Chidushei HaRim highlights that mocking easily turns someone from serving God, from pursuing what is right and what is noble, and instead turns one away from God, towards what is wrong and ignoble.

Joking has its place, but when it mocks what is good, what is healthy, what is noble, and what is sacred, the ridicule can easily destroy those precious commodities and supplant them with the exact opposite.

May we guardedly reserve the dangerous weapons of mockery and ridicule for those few things that truly deserve it. One banishment from the Garden of Eden was enough.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the memory of Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler z”l.

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,



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

Sacrificing to God (Bereshit)

Sacrificing to God (Bereshit)

For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice — no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service. -John Burroughs

Cain, the first child of Adam and Eve is the first person recorded as bringing a sacrifice to God. He brings from the fruit of the land. Abel, his younger brother, follows in his brother’s footsteps but brings an animal from his flock as a sacrifice.

God accepts Abel’s sacrifice but rejects Cain’s. The question is why. What difference was there between Cain’s fruit to Abel’s animal that God should reject one and accept the other?

The Meshech Chochmah states that it had to do with each sibling’s respective efforts. To merely pluck fruit off a tree and sacrifice that to God is not truly a sacrifice. It is not a sacrifice of time, effort or resources. To sacrifice an animal that you fed and cared for is a significant sacrifice of time, effort and value.

Cain’s sacrifice was insignificant and God, therefore, rejects it. Abel’s sacrifice was significant and God accepts it. This connects to the same rationale as to why in times when sacrifices were offered there was a prohibition to offer grains or honey (date honey). Both grains and honey are unprocessed; very little human effort has gone into them. This is as opposed to bread, wine, olive oil or animals all of which require significant human work and investment and are accepted as sacrifices.

It seems that when we offer something to God, even if it’s voluntary, God wants us to make a serious effort. He doesn’t want a shallow display. It shouldn’t be just marking off a box to say “we did it,” just to get some onus off our backs. He wants us to mean it. He wants our sacrifices to be meaningful. He wants us to pour our heart and soul as well as our hands and our wallets into anything we offer to Heaven. It shouldn’t be cheap or superficial. It should be deep, valuable and meaningful. It should be an investment of thought, time and effort.

God accepts real sacrifice. He values and cherishes it. And He reciprocates in multiples of whatever we ourselves invest.

May we make correct and worthy sacrifices.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the memory of Ronald Joseph Sassoon z”l, who passed away on Tuesday; and in honor of his great-grandson, Eitan Aryeh Eliezer Gilat, whose Brit Mila was on Wednesday. Condolences and Mazal Tov to the entire family.

Grab the fleeting inspiration (Bereshit)

Grab the fleeting inspiration (Bereshit)

Stung by the splendor of a sudden thought. -Robert Browning

The beginning of the Torah, the beginning of the Book of Genesis, starts with the creation of the cosmos, of our Earth, of humanity and the Garden of Eden. It tells of the generations of Man, of the successes and failures of our ancestors and lays the canvas for how we got from the Beginning, to the story of our Patriarchs and the proto-nation of Israel.

The Berdichever on Genesis 2:4 expounds regarding the phrase “And these were the “Toldot” (generations, account, progeny) of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” The Hebrew word “Toldot” comes from the root “to give birth.” The Berdichever explains the phrase from a spiritual perspective, vis-à-vis God’s relationship with us, and how that relationship is renewed or reborn on a daily basis.

He states that once a day, every day, God sends a call, an awakening, a spiritual blast of inspiration to each and every one of us. He explains that the divine inspiration is for just a moment, and then it disappears. It is fleeting. If we don’t pay attention, it is gone.

He enjoins us to grab hold of that momentary inspiration with all of our might, and in that split second perform a Mitzva, do a charitable deed or engage in Torah study. It is the most important thing we can do with that bolt of spiritual divine energy. If we don’t, we will have lost a special moment of particular grace and power.

By grabbing that inspiration, a curious effect occurs. The next day, when that moment of inspiration hits again, when that divine rebirth or reset strikes, it will do so with even greater force and duration. If we firmly take hold of that spiritual force, we can create a stronger bond with God. We’re given the opportunity, the channel, the conduit to connect with God in what has the potential to be an unbreakable bond of divine presence in our lives.

We’re given that chance to be reborn every day. We have the possibility to be reborn stronger every day. At that moment of rebirth, we have the opportunity to connect heaven and earth; to recreate the intense, ideal connection between the material and the spiritual. We just need to pay attention, be aware and then pounce on that flash of spirituality as if our life depended on it. Our eternal lives may very well depend on how well we grab those fleeting moments of inspiration.

Shabbat Shalom,



To our son Akiva, and the wonderful Orelle Feuer of Netanya on their upcoming marriage. Mazal Tov!

The Creation of Hell

The Creation of Hell

So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the burning marl. Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is – other people! -Jean-Paul Sartre

                                                                  Chart of Hell, Sandro Botticelli, circa 1485.

According to ancient Jewish sources, Hell was created on the second day of creation. The plain text narrates how on the second day of creation, God creates the firmament which separates between the upper waters and the lower waters. Rabbeinu Bechaye on Genesis 1:4 wonders why the second day of creation doesn’t end with the characteristic phrase “and it was good,” which other days mention. He quotes the creation of Hell as a reason; however, he adds that something else was created on that same unfortunate day: quarrelling.

The term for second in Hebrew, “Sheni,” already hints at the unlucky nature of the number two. “Sheni” is related to the word “Shinui” which means difference or change. There is something negative and even dangerous when there are unwarranted differences between things and people or even to just being the second and being compared to what came before. It sets the stage for quarrelling. Even nature itself seems to quarrel with God from the second day and onwards. None of God’s further commands to the inanimate world were correctly implemented. For example, on the third day, God commanded that the earth produce fruit trees, meaning trees whose bark would be savory and could be eaten, however, the land decided to produce only fruit-bearing trees, with inedible bark.

The concern with the number two was serious enough that even the Talmud mentions a superstition about bad luck in eating pairs of a food or drinking pairs of drinks. Nonetheless, Rabbeinu Bechaye’s main point is that whoever instigates a quarrel will be judged in Hell. There is a direct correlation between creating anguish, controversy and clashes between people, and experiencing Hell.

However, we also know that arguments for the sake of Heaven, which are handled with sensitivity, intelligence and respect, will eventually be settled well.

May we avoid unnecessary quarrels and stick to Heavenly arguments.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,



To the beginning of a new year of commentary. May it lead us on peaceful ways.

Why Creation Matters

Why Creation Matters

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

-Cecil Frances Alexander

creation-2The creation of our world, of our universe, lies hidden in the mists of time. The easy, simple belief was to believe that the world was, is and always would be. That there was no creation event, that there was no Prime Mover of time and space. That is the faith of those that would deny God.

However, since the advent of the Big Bang theory, which understands that ours is not a static universe, there is scientific support for the idea of some sort of beginning in time and space. This would seem to lend credence to the concept of a Creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) by a Creator independent of space and time. Nonetheless, scientists go to great lengths to seek some primordial cause to the Big Bang that would remove God from the equation. They have yet to make any convincing cases.

Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch (see here for biography), on his very first comments to the Book of Genesis, explains that belief in anything else than God as the be all and end all of the entirety of creation is the basis of all idol worship until this very day. That is the reason why the Torah starts with the story of creation, that God in effect brought existence into being. That is the foundation of correct belief. If we don’t believe that God is behind it all, responsible for all, we will be lacking in our faith and consequently in our actions and in our life.

God is the Creator. The Creator of Everything. That’s important.

Shabbat Shalom,



To our sons Yehoshua Simcha and Yehuda Ohr on the occasion of their Bar-Mitzvah.

Planetary Design



 It’s a good thing that when God created the rainbow he didn’t consult a decorator or he would still be picking colors. -Samuel Levenson


The Torah uses very broad brush strokes to describe the creation of the universe. In just one paragraph we are told about the setting of order within chaos, light within darkness, and life within an existential vacuum. How God went about determining the laws and the infinite details of nature are largely a mystery. Why does gravity work the way it does? Why does water have the magical properties that it does? Why are we at exactly the perfect distance from the sun to maintain comfortable conditions for life? Why are animals born with the instincts that they have? Why does our planet have the form and variety that it possesses?

There is an ancient Kabbalistic belief that the Torah was actually created before the creation of the physical universe (whatever that means). The Sfat Emet on Genesis 1, in his commentary for the year 5634 (1874) expands on this concept and explains that the world was actually created based on the Torah; that the Torah in some fashion was the blueprint for the physical world and therefore, one can find something of the Torah in all of creation. Every aspect of creation will contain secrets and lessons of the Torah, which is God’s instruction manual for us.

The more one understands both Torah and creation, the more one can decode the hidden messages God left in His world and in the instruction manual. King Solomon, 3,000 years ago, already noted lessons from the animal kingdom that we can take as values: the hard work of the ant, the cleanliness of the cat and so forth. In our day and age, as we have begun to unlock some of the basic forces and sciences of our world, chemistry, physics, biology, subatomic particles, genetic engineering and so much more, shouldn’t we be a bit wiser about understanding God’s directions?

May we appreciate the divine creation that is our universe and pay closer attention to its beauty, mystery and lessons.

Shabbat Shalom,



To Hope. Hope for our world. We can’t let the darkness and the death and the terror bring us down. We need to hope, plan and work for a better day, despite the enemies, obstacles and challenges.



Sabbath of Creation

First posted on The Times of Israel at:

Baal Haturim Genesis: Bereshit

Sabbath of Creation

What is without periods of rest will not endure.  -Ovid

The Zohar, the prime tome of Kaballah provides dozens of interpretations for the very first word and phrase of the Bible. Many of the interpretations involve wordplay, numerology and other tools of the esoteric world, combined with mystic philosophy, often building on Talmudic sources.

Many of the concepts presented seek to understand why the universe was created, what are the guiding principles, how man came into being and for what purpose.

The Baal Haturim on the very first line, Genesis 1:1 quotes several of these ideas. One of them is that the world was created because of the Sabbath.

Stating that the world was created because of a certain idea or concept places that concept in a central, fundamental role in our existence. The Sabbath is fundamental. Not only was the world created because of the Sabbath, but if we were to imagine a world without a Sabbath, we could imagine a world quickly disintegrating into chaos and anarchy. A world of non-stop work. A world lacking human contact and relationships. A world where families lose their cohesion and communities fall apart. A world filled with materialism and starved of spirituality. A world where we become pleasure-seeking and fulfilling automatons, not resting to consider who we are or why we are here. To live a life unexamined.

Next week, the global Jewish community has called on all of our people to celebrate and experience one Sabbath together. There is an ancient rabbinic statement that if the entire people of Israel were to observe one Sabbath, the redemption would immediately come.

It’s that close.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,



To Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein of South Africa for his inspired initiative of The Shabbos Project and for the professional implementation of this historic effort.

La Fragua de Música

Ficción Bíblica

ancientBlacksmithsLa Fragua de Música

“Yuval! Cesa ese ruido infernal!” Lamec bramó en la herrería.
“Mis disculpas, Padre,” Yuval respondió dócilmente, “el espíritu de la música se apoderó de mí una vez más.”
“Tonterías,” replicó Lamec,” ¿Eres un hombre? ¿O eres un animal que no puede controlarte a tí mismo? Tu constante estruendo me está volviendo loco”, continuó enfadado. “Además , se van a arruinar nuestras herramientas y es una distracción de nuestro trabajo.”
“Sí, señor,” Yuval murmuró, mirando hacia abajo mientras examinaba la moldura que se estaba poniendo. Se estaban preparando para la producción de ollas.
Lamec entusiasmado volvió a concentrarse en el cobre fundido en el horno, por lo que el color llegó a un tono rojizo. Lamec tenía la amplia construcción y oscurecimiento de la piel de un maestro herrero, y prácticamente podía fabricar el metal por el instinto. Sin embargo, aún tenía que inspeccionar el colorante. La tonalidad específica de rojo significó el momento ideal para verter el metal que fluye en el molde.
De repente, Lamec escuchó un sonido tocando con un ritmo desconocido. Cuando se dio cuenta de la fuente del ruido molesto, su sangre comenzó a hervir. No podía creer que su hijo continuara golpeando después de recibir tan fuerte amonestación.
Con los dientes apretados, Lamec se volvió a Yuval y susurró en un tono mortal: “Por aquel maldito – los trastornos son cada vez mas imperdonables.”
Lamec luego comenzó a verter el cobre del horno en el molde, pero ya era demasiado tarde. El cobre había pasado el color correcto. La ira de Lamec fue explosivo. “Tonto hijo!” Rugió, “nos ha costado un buen metal y un día entero de trabajo!”
“Tú eres bueno para nada!” continuó, su ira. Él levantó amenazadoramente la moldura con el metal líquido todavía en ella. “Para agregar nada más que la angustia y dificultades!”
Yuval apartó de movimientos amenazantes de su padre y tomó un pan cerca para permitir a sí mismo algún tipo de protección.
Lamec tropezó y la moldura, con su contenido al rojo vivo, se fue volando hacia Yuval.
Yuval instintivamente levantó la sartén para cubrir el rostro del cobre fundido. El cobre caía sobre los hombros y el pecho, inmediatamente se quemó la ropa. Sin embargo, parte del cobre rebotó a la derecha del pan de Yuval en la cara de Lamec.
Gritos estallaron desde el taller de Lamec.

Los ojos de Lamec no habían sido quemados por completo, pero lo suficiente para que él apenas pudiera ver sombras. Le tomó varias semanas a Lamec, poder recuperarse.
Yuval se había recuperado rápidamente de sus quemaduras superficiales y se había dedicado exclusivamente a la herrería. Ya había rumores sobre las creaciones de Yuval que eran incluso mejor que el trabajo reconocido de Lamec. Se informó que Yuval también había empezado a producir muchas más herramientas de madera y no se centró principalmente en metal, como Lamec lo había hecho. Sin embargo, también hubo rumores de que Yuval estaba creando herramientas que nadie había hecho nunca antes y que, al parecer no habían servido de nada.
El hijo menor de Lamec, Tuval-Kayin, se convirtió en sus ojos. En el transcurso de unas pocas semanas en la casa, habían desarrollado una relación. Con una orientación mínima por Tuval-Kayin, Lamec podía moverse y funcionar de nuevo. La gran prueba, sin embargo, llegaría en la herrería.
Cuando Lamec se acercó al taller, ya sabía que algo andaba mal. Los sonidos que no eran naturales de la metalurgia emanaban de la forja. No es el sonido del horno ardiente, ni la de un martillo sobre un yunque, ni siquiera el sonido de delicado trabajo de metalistería. Era un sonido diferente a cualquiera que Lamec no había oído nunca, y no fue producido por el hombre.
Tenía el ritmo de palmas, o incluso silbar o una canción, pero no fue hecho por el hombre. Sonaba como si hubiera sido hecha por una herramienta.
Lamec, de común acuerdo con Tuval-Kayin, se precipitó a la herrería.
“Yuval,” Lamec preguntó con una mezcla de ira y confusión.” ¿Qué es ese sonido?”
“¿Qué sonido padre?” Preguntó Yuval, sorprendido por la intrusión repentina de su padre.
“Ese sonido que acabo de oír.”
“Nada, padre. Sólo el viento sacudiendo algunas de las herramientas que cuelgan.”
“No te hagas el tonto conmigo, hijo. Debería matarte por tu insolencia.”
“Ya lo ha intentado padre,” dijo Yuval silencio, con miedo y resentimiento en su voz, “y no resultó tan bien para usted.”
Lamec estaba a punto de cobrar hacia el sonido de la voz de Yuval, pero se congeló de medio. Después de una pausa, dijo:
“Mi intención nunca fue a hacer daño,” explicó Lamec vacilante, “la paciencia tiene lo mejor de mí, y el resto fue un accidente desafortunado.”
Yuval permaneció en silencio.
“Mmm,” Lamec exhaló, rompiendo el silencio.” Pasemos a continuación. Muéstrame lo que has estado trabajando.”
Yuval colocó una nueva maceta en las manos de Lamec.
Lamec tocó y acarició el recipiente en sus manos gruesas, como joyero examinaría un diamante.
“Dame una de mis viejas ollas.” Lamec solicitada.
Lamec repite el procedimiento. Después de haber inspeccionado todos los nuevos elementos con admiración silenciosa, Lamec preguntó:
“¿Hay algo más que usted ha estado trabajando?”
“¿Cómo qué?” Yuval respondió defensivamente.
“Basta, Yuval! Deja de jugar conmigo. Sólo quiero ver lo que tienes.”
Por obediencia instintiva, Yuval le entregó un instrumento.
Lamec inspeccionó el instrumento con las manos por un largo tiempo antes de hablar. Se dio cuenta de un marco de madera cubierto con bronce plateado en los bordes. Lamec contaba con sus dedos diez cuerdas elaboradas a través del marco. La combinación de madera, metal y cuerda fue uno que nunca había soñado, y mucho menos entendido.
“¿Qué es?”
“Yo lo llamo una lira. Reproduce música.”
Lamec se echó a reír de la sorpresa. Era una risa retumbando profundamente que irradiaba de su torso.
“Verdaderamente, Yuval. ¿Qué hace este artilugio?”
“Padre, el instrumento que tiene en sus manos, cuando se toca de una determinada manera, hace notas musicales que no pueden ser copiados por el hombre. Cuando se juega en ciertas secuencias puede ser muy bella.”
Yuval tomó el instrumento y se pasó los dedos por las cuerdas.
Al principio tocaba una melodía suave, seguido de una pieza dramática llena de ira, el amor y la pasión. Terminó con una puntuación melancólica que hablaba de sueños incumplidos.
Lamec estaba estupefacto. Durante unos momentos no se movió en absoluto. Entonces grandes lágrimas saladas corrían por su rostro lleno de cicatrices. Él se puso a llorar. Se sentó en el piso de la herrería y comenzó a llorar incontrolablemente.
Después de unos minutos se recompuso. Levantó la imponente figura de nuevo, frente a Yuval.
“Yuval,” dijo, con una voz que nadie había escuchado antes.
“Sí, padre,” respondió Yuval a la aprehensión.
“Lo que haz creado es mágico. Yo era un tonto ciego y arrogante en no apreciar tu inclinación musical antes.”
“Lo siento padre también, por ser la causa de su ceguera física.”
“No lo sientas. Por fin soy capaz de ver claramente. Mis heridas son auto-infligidas. Pero eso es suficiente el tiempo dedicado al remordimiento. Tenemos trabajo que hacer.”
“Sí, padre. ¿Qué te gustaría hacer?”
“¿Por qué, tenemos un montón de ollas y sartenes, y martillos y azadones, lanzas y puntas de flecha y muchas cosas más que hacer.”
Yuval fue abatido por el veredicto y regresó al horno con resignación.
Pero Lamec continuó: “Y también me gustaría que me muestre la forma de hacer los instrumentos musicales inteligentes de los suyos.”


Fuentes Bíblicas:
Génesis 4:17-21
“Y conoció Caín a su mujer, y ella concibió y dio a Enoc. El (Caín) se convirtió en un constructor de ciudades, y nombró la ciudad después de que su hijo Enoc. Para Enoc nació Irad, e Irad engendró Mehuyael y Mehuyael engendró Metusael, y engendró a Lamec Metusael.
Lamec tomó para sí dos mujeres; el nombre de una era Ada, y el nombre de la otra, Zila. Y Ada dio a luz Yaval, fue el fundador de los que habitan en tiendas y crían ganado. El nombre de su hermano fue Yuval, fue el fundador de todos los que tocan arpa y flauta.”

“Muy buena” Creación

Netziv Génesis: Bereshit

Muy buena” Creación

El trabajo en equipo es tan importante que es prácticamente imposible que llegue a la altura de sus capacidades o hacer el dinero que usted quiere sin llegar a ser muy bueno en eso.” -Brian Tracy

En un mundo perfecto, uno podría preguntarse por qué Dios no nos creó de una manera mucho más autosuficiente. ¿Por qué somos tan dependientes de los demás? ¿Por qué estamos siempre en la necesidad de la ayuda de los profesionales, los trabajadores, y un montón de gente especializada y no especializada, a fin de lograr casi cualquier cosa en nuestra vida diaria?

¿Es esto una falta en el designio divino? ¿Era esto un descuido en el plan maestro de Dios? Rabi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlín, también conocido como el Netziv, (1816-1893), implica que esta dependencia es exactamente lo que Dios quería.

En Génesis 1:31 Dios supervisa la totalidad de sus esfuerzos de creación al final del sexto día. Afirma que es “muy bueno.” El Netziv explica que cada componente individual de la creación era “bueno.” Sin embargo, es la combinación de los diferentes elementos que se complementan entre sí, que hace que la creación sea “muy bueno.”

Que siempre estaremos ahí para aportar nuestras capacidades particulares de la creación y con mucho gusto podemos aceptar la ayuda de otros cuando lo necesitamos.

Shabat Shalom y Jag Sameaj,



A todas las personas que nos siguen ayudando – se convierte en una “muy buena”  existencia.