Torah Weekly - Parshat Bereishet

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Parshat Bereishet

For the week ending 29 Tishrei 5761 / 27 & 28 October 2000

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    In the beginning, Hashem creates the entire universe, including time itself, out of nothingness. This process of creation continues for six days. On the seventh day, Hashem rests, bringing into existence the spiritual universe of Shabbat, which returns to us every seven days. Adam and Chava -- the Human pair -- are placed in the Garden of Eden. Chava is enticed by the serpent to eat from the forbidden fruit of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil," and in turn gives the fruit to Adam. By absorbing "sin," Adam and Chava render themselves incapable of remaining in the spiritual paradise of Eden and are banished. Death and hard work (both physical and spiritual) now enter the world, together with pain bearing and raising children. Now begins the struggle to correct the sin of Adam and Chava, which will be the main subject of world history. Cain and Hevel, the first two children of Adam and Chava, bring offerings to Hashem. Hevel gives the finest of his flock, and his offering is accepted, but Cain gives inferior produce and his offering is rejected. In the ensuing quarrel, Cain kills Hevel and is condemned to wander the earth. The Torah traces the genealogy of the other children of Adam and Chava, and the descendants of Cain until the birth of Noach. After the death of Sheith, Mankind descends into evil, and Hashem decides that He will blot out Man in a flood which will deluge the world. However, one man, Noach, finds favor with Hashem.




    "And the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight to the eye..." (3:6)

    Obesity is a uniquely human affliction. Overeating animals are unheard of. An animal eats as much as it needs and stops. Another thing. G-d created the world in such a way that an animal finds appealing that which is necessary to sustain him: Lions like gazelles. They're not too interested in tadpoles. Frogs love tadpoles but rarely attempt to eat dogs. The Creator has blessed every animal that whatever his heart desires -- his stomach requires.

    With one exception. Man.

    Man is the only animal who can eat things that aren't good for him. There's no such thing as lion "junk food." Elephants don't have cookie cravings in the wee small hours. Only man can eat -- and over-eat -- things that are damaging to his health.

    "And the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight to the eye..."

    I remember a supermarket in LA whose apples were impossibly shiny from the wax coating they had received. Micro-fine water jets were suspended above them to give them a little squirt of water every ten minutes or so, making them look totally mouth-watering. I always think of those apples when I imagine the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

    Man cannot rely solely on taste and appearance in his choice of diet.

    G-d told Man that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil contained a deadly poison. Eve insisted on listening to the voice of the snake -- the voice of her animal side -- saying: "If it looks good and it tastes good -- it must be good."

    G-d created Man different from the animals. When we react to sensory stimulus without engaging our brains, when we let our desires dictate our diet -- we are behaving like animals. It's fine for an animal to behave like an animal, but when Man says to himself "Just do it!" he just applied for membership to his local zoo.

    • Rabbi S.R. Hirsch as heard from Rabbi Dovid Kaplan

    Haftara Machar Chodesh

    Shmuel I 20:18 - 42


    This Haftara has been selected to be read on the Shabbat whose morrow is Rosh Chodesh. It begins with the words "Tomorrow is the Chodesh" which Yonatan, the son of King Saul, said to David at the outset of his plan. King Saul had demonstrated hostility towards David, whom he viewed as a competitor for his throne; was it safe for David to remain in the royal entourage? Out of his great love for David, Yonatan assumed responsibility for alarming David if the tense situation ever reached a danger point.

    To avoid the king's ubiquitous spies, Yonatan devised a secret method to inform David of King Saul's reaction to David's absence from the Rosh Chodesh feast. The Haftara ends with David's flight from Saul's anger, and the covenant David and Yonatan reiterate which will forever bind them and their posterity. David and Yonatan's mutual affection is cited by our Sages as the model of selfless love between two people.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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