IMREI SHEFER BY RABBI SHLOMO KLUGER
Bereishis
Imrei Shefer - Parshas Bereishis
   

Why did Hashem not begin the creation of the world with the letter Aleph?

(1,1) “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.”

The Midrash teaches that the letter Aleph complained to Hashem and asked why He did not begin the creation of the world with him. Hashem replied that in the future He would begin the Torah (the ten commandments) with him. But we still don't know why Hashem only began the Torah with him and not the creation of the world.

But we can learn this from what the Midrash taught earlier, that Hashem started the Torah with the letter Beis because it is the first letter of the word ברכה (a blessing) and so bears that connotation, and not with the letter Aleph which is the first letter of ארורה (a curse). And we know that tzaddikim can change the attribute of justice into the attribute of mercy.

Therefore in the beginning when the world was first created and the Torah had not yet been given it was necessary to start with the letter Beis which has a connotation of a blessing and not with the letter Aleph which has a connotation of a curse. But later, at the giving of the Torah through which the attribute of justice could be changed to mercy, Hashem was able to begin the ten commandments with the letter Aleph. Because from then on even a curse can be changed into a blessing.

Why did the Torah not write “G-d created in the beginning”?

(1,1) “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.”

The Midrash also teaches that the Torah started with the letter Beis because it has two points. Thus, if he is asked who created him he will demonstrate with his upper point, as if to say: The One who is above me created me. And if he is asked what is His name, he will demonstrate with his lower point - pointing downwards.

This Midrash is very obscure, but it seems to me that it is coming to explain why in the beginning of the Torah it writes “In the beginning created G-d” - mentioning Hashem’s name later in the posuk, and does not write “G-d created in the beginning”, which would be more normal. The Midrash answers that it is the way of humility to write like this, but it seems to me that we can offer a different explanation which we can learn from the Midrash on parshas Shemos, which teaches that Hashem said: According to My actions I am named. What this Midrash means is that it is impossible to use any name to describe Hashem Himself. Instead, the names which we call Him are a reflection of His actions. Therefore, it was not possible to say “El-him created in the beginning”, because as long as He had not yet done anything, He did not yet have the name El-him. But “In the beginning created…” - when He had already created, then He had the name El-him, in accordance with His actions of that time.

Therefore, if one asks the letter Beis who created him before the creation, it would be impossible to give Him a name, and so all he can do is to point upwards, to hint that the One who is above created him. But if he is asked for Hashem’s name, then he hints by pointing downwards, as if to say: Above it is impossible to describe Him with any name. Only below does He have a name, according to the actions that He does.

How do the double-letters of the Aleph-Beis correspond to the five books of the Torah?

(1,1) “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.”

The Midrash teaches that one stormy day the Rabbis did not come to the House of Meeting, but there were some young children there and they decided to conduct the House of Meeting themselves. They said: Why does the aleph-beis have two of the letter מ - a normal letter and a final letter, two of the letter נ, two of the letter צ, two of the letter פ, and two of the letter כ? It is to teach us ממאמר למאמר (from saying to saying), מנאמן לנאמן (from faithful to faithful), מצדיק לצדיק (from the righteous to the righteous), מפה לפה (from mouth to mouth), מכף לכף (from hand to hand).

The Midrash itself goes on to explain these comments, but we wish to understand why they mentioned the letters in a different order from that which they appear in the aleph-beis. One possible explanation is that they were also hinting that these five double letters correspond to the five books of the Torah. Thus, “from saying to saying” corresponds to sefer Bereishis which speaks about the creation of the world, and every creation was created with a saying, as it says “and He said”. “From faithful to faithful” corresponds to sefer Shemos which discusses the redemption of Yisrael from Egypt which happened in the merit of their faith in Hashem, as Chazal said on the posuk “and the people believed”, and therefore Hashem also showed His faithfulness to keep His promise that He promised to Avrohom to redeem Yisrael. And corresponding to sefer Vayikra is “from the righteous to righteous”, because it speaks about the sacrifices that Yisrael brought for their sins, through which Hashem granted Yisrael atonement and made them righteous, and there is no righteousness greater than this that Hashem receives the sacrifice of an animal to atone for the sins of man.

The phrase “from mouth to mouth” corresponds to sefer Bamidbar because Chazal taught on the posuk in Devarim 2:16 “And it was when all the men of war finished dying, that Hashem spoke to me, saying” - to me was Hashem’s speech. That is, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) usually spoke from the throat of Moshe. But during those thirty-eight years in the wilderness that Yisrael were under a ban by Hashem, the Shechinah did not speak from the throat of Moshe. Only after that generation had all died did the Shechinah return to speak from the throat of Moshe, and this is what they meant by “to me was Hashem’s speech”.

And so until sefer Bamidar, when Hashem Himself spoke from the throat of Moshe, it was not relevant to say from mouth to mouth. But in sefer Bamidbar when they sinned with the spies and consequently the Shechinah ceased to speak from the throat of Moshe, the speech was only from mouth to mouth. Therefore, corresponding to this sefer they said “from mouth to mouth”.

Sefer Devarim was not from Hashem’s mouth but rather Moshe himself taught again to Yisrael that which he had already received and learned from Hashem, and since he had already had the Torah in his hand, the review of the Torah was like transferring from one hand to the other. Thus “from hand to hand” corresponds to this sefer.

Which of Hashem’s creations first acknowledged that there was a G-d in the world?

(1,2) “And the earth was empty and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit (רוח) of G-d hovered over the face of the water.”

Behold, it says in the Midrash on parshas Bereishis and in several places that only the water praised Hashem, as it says in Tehillim 29:3 “the voice of Hashem is upon the waters”. And behold the word רוח can mean intellect, as it is written in Parshas Pinchos (Bamidbar 27:18) about Yehoshua bin Nun, “a man who has רוח (intellect) in him”, and in Mishlei 29:11 it says “every fool lets out his רוח”, and there are many posukim like this.

And this is what it is saying here, that before the creation of the world there was no creation to acknowledge that there is an all powerful G-d in the world, and this is called empty and void and darkness. Thus it says here “and the earth was empty and void and there was darkness upon the face of the deep, and the רוח of G-d”, that is, intellect that there is a G-d in the world, “hovered over the face of the water”, that only the water knew this, as it says “the voice of Hashem is upon the waters”, but not any other creation.

Why does it say “and there was light”, and not “and it was so”?

(1,3) “And G-d said: Let there be light. And there was light.”

Behold, the reason why it doesn’t say here “and it was so” as it did by the other creations, is because with the other acts of creation, as he created them so they remained forever. Thus it says “and it was so”, which indicates the continued existence of the thing in the world. But Chazal taught that Hashem saw that the world was not fitting for this light that He created, and so He hid it away for the future for the tzaddikim. Therefore it does say “and it was so”, but rather “and there was light”.

What separation did Hashem make between the light and the darkness?

(1,4) “And G-d saw the light that it was good. And G-d separated between the light and between the darkness. And G-d called the light day, and the darkness He called night.”

Behold, it says that Hashem separated between the light and the darkness, but does not mention what separation He made! But behold, Chazal taught that Hashem does not associate His name with evil, as it says “and G-d called the light day, and the darkness He called night” - He only associated His name with the light and not with the darkness. And this itself was the separation, that He gave honour to the light by associating His name with it since He saw that it was good, but did not mention His name together with the darkness which was not good. Thus the posuk does in fact clearly tell us what the separation was.

Why did Hashem create the primordial light in the first place, if He knew that He would immediately have to hide it away?

(1,4) “And G-d saw the light that it was good. And G-d separated between the light and between the darkness. And G-d called the light day, and the darkness He called night.”

The Midrash comments on the posuk in Mishlei 15:23, “There is joy to a man in the answer of his mouth, and a word at the right time how good is it”. “There is joy to a man” - this is Hashem, as it says in Shemos 15:3 “Hashem is a man of war, Hashem is his name”. “In the answer of his mouth” - “and G-d said: Let there be light”. “And a word at the right time how good it is” - “and G-d saw the light that it was good”.

It seems that the meaning of this Midrash is according to what we wrote above, that Chazal taught that Hashem saw that the world was not fitting for this light, so He hid it away for the future for the tzaddikim. But we need to understand the reason for all this, because surely everything is already revealed before Hashem, and so since He already knew that the world was not fitting for this, why did He create it in the first place?

We can answer this the same way R.Akiva answered the heretic, who asked him that if Hashem knew that Yisrael were destined to make the golden calf, why did He rejoice in the giving of the Torah? He replied to him: Was ever a son born to you? The heretic said: Yes. R.Akiva asked: And what did you do? He replied: I rejoiced and made everyone rejoice. He asked: But did you not know that he was destined to die? He replied: At the time of joy, joy; at the time of mourning, mourning. R.Akiva concluded: So to it is with the work of Hashem.

Here also, at the time of the creation of the light Hashem rejoiced in its creation. And even though afterwards it would be necessary to hide it away for the tzaddikim, nevertheless, for the time being, at the time of the deed, there was joy to Hashem in it. And for this very reason He created it in order to start the creation of the world with joy, because it is a good omen to start a thing with joy.

This is the meaning of the Midrash, which was bothered by the same question that we raised earlier, why with all the creations it said “and it was so”, but here by the creation of light it says only “and there was light”? This implies that that light was hidden away. and therefore it was not appropriate to say “and it was so”. If so, why did Hashem create it in the first place? The answer, said the Midrash, is that “there is joy to a man in the answer of his mouth” - this is Hashem, to Whom there was nevertheless joy in the beginning with the answer of his mouth, when He said “Let there be light”, and at a time of joy there is joy. And afterwards “a word at the right time how good it is” - when “G-d saw the light that it was good”, wheh He saw that the world was not fitting at that time for this great light, He hid it away for the tzaddikim.

Which part of the day did each day's creation take place?

(1,5) “And G-d called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And it was evening and it was morning, one day.”

Behold, it says “and it was evening and it was morning” every day of the six days of creation, after the Torah has finished recounting that day’s creation. But at first glance the Torah seems to imply that everything was created on its particular day, that is, in the daytime, and if so, there was first the evening and the morning of that day, and afterwards the various things were created. Thus the Torah should have written the recounting in the opposite order - “And it was evening and it was morning, the second day. And G-d said: Let there be a firmament…”, and so too with the rest of the days.

Therefore, it seems that all the creations were created at twilight (Bein HaShemoshos), similar to what is taught in Pirkei Avos 5:8, that ten things were created on the eve of Shabbos at twilight. It is clear from there that those things were created specifically on the eve of Shabbos. So too we can say that all the creations were created on the eve of their respective days, during twilight. Thus, it now makes very good sense, that after the day’s creation at twilight, it says that the evening began and the morning began, the second day, and so too by all the days.

Why does the day follow the night?

(1,5) “And it was evening and it was morning, one day.”

Why with Yisrael does the day follow the night, but with the nations it is the opposite?

We can answer this according to Chazal, who said that with the righteous their beginning is suffering and their end is tranquility, but with the wicked their beginning is tranquility and their end is suffering. And it is well known from the Kabbalists and many scriptual and Rabbinical sources that the night alludes to punishment and the trait of Divine Justice, and the day alludes to the trait of Divine Mercy. Therefore, with Yisrael first there is night and then there is day, to allude that their beginning is suffering and their end is tranquility, but with the nations it is the opposite, that they begin with the day which is tranquility, and afterwards comes the night to allude that their end is suffering. This is a very good explanation.

And with this we can understand why we have our Shabbos, our day of rest, at the end of the week, to allude that first are the weekdays, the days of work, and then comes the rest and tranquility of the Holy Shabbos. Whereas they make their day of rest at the beginning of the week, to allude that they begin with tranquility but end with suffering. And therefore the fact that we make our Shabbos at the end of the week is a source of despondency for them - as Chazal teach, on Shabbos they are despondent because the Mazal of Shabsai (Saturn) rules it - because it teaches them that their end is suffering.

Where does the Torah allude to the stipulation that Hashem made with the Red Sea to split for Yisrael when they needed it?

(1,9) “And G-d said: Let the water that is beneath the heavens gather into one place, and let the dry land appear.”

The phrase “and let the dry land appear” seems to be superfluous, because it is obvious that if the water is cleared away then the land will appear!

However, on the posuk in Shemos 14:27 “and the sea returned לאיתנו (to its strength)”, Chazal expounded that it means that the sea returned לתנאו, to its stipulation, back to the state of being ready and waiting to fulfil the condition that Hashem stipulated with the Red Sea, to split before Yisrael when there was a need. And where do we find this stipulation alluded to? Here in our posuk! This is what Hashem said to the water: I command that the water to be gathered together to one place. And even though it is gathered together in one place, nevertheless, I stipulate “let the dry land appear” - at some time when it will be needed the dry land will appear in place of the sea. And so it says in 14:22 “and the children of Yisrael went in the midst of the sea on dry land”.

It seems also that there is a similar allusion by the creation of the luminaries, where it writes “and they shall be for signs and for appointed seasons and for days and years”. The meaning is that even though Hashem fixed them to govern the world according to the laws of nature, nevertheless He stipulated with them that when the time required it they should change their nature and they shall be for signs in an unnatural fashion. For example, in Egypt it says “and He put signs and wonders in Egypt”, and it says “and Hashem took them out from Egypt with signs”. And so too with Yehoshua, he said: “Sun, stand still upon Givon”. This is the meaning of “and they shall be for signs”, that at the time of need they shall change their nature and become signs. This is correct.

Why did Hashem not punish the earth as soon as it sinned?

(1,12) “And the earth brought forth vegetation, seed yielding herbs according to its kind, and trees producing fruit, in which is its seed, according to its kind. And G-d saw that it was good.”

The Midrash teaches that the earth did not do exactly as Hashem had commanded it. Hashem had commanded it to bring forth “fruit trees”, trees whose wood would also have the taste of fruit, but instead it brought forth only “trees producing fruit”. Therefore, when Hashem cursed Adam, the earth was cursed as well, as it says: “cursed is the ground for your sake”.

The commentaries ask why Hashem did not cusre the earth immediately, but instead waited until He cursed Adam before He cursed it. We can answer this by first understanding what is written later concerning Chavah 3:6 “and the woman saw that the tree was good to eat…and she took from its fruit and ate”. The posuk implies that because she saw that the wood of the tree was good to eat, therefore she ate from its fruit. But what did she learn from the wood of the tree that proved to her that she could eat from the fruit?

The answer is that she learned the following logic: If by commanding us not to eat from the fruit Hashem is intending for our good - because this fruit is bad for us to eat, then it should not be superior to all the other fruit trees which are good for us to eat, because common sense tells us that if they are good and this is bad, then it should be inferior to all the other trees, or at least not better than them. Yet here it is the opposite - only the fruit of all the other trees are fitting to eat, but with the tree of knowledge even the tree itself is fitting to eat.

This logic caused her to err and say that perforce the contrary must be true and this tree is superior, and Hashem intends by His command only for His honour and not for our good, as the serpent said “for G-d knows that on the day that you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like G-d”. Thus “the woman saw that the tree was good to eat”, that it was superior to all the other trees and so the words of the serpent were true. Therefore, “she took from its fruit and she ate”. But if the earth had done exactly as Hashem had commanded it and all the wood of all the trees would have been fitting to eat, then there would have not have been any apparent superiority to the tree of knowledge, and Chavah would not have learned this mistaken logic and ate from its fruit. Thus it emerges that the earth was the main cause of her sin.

However, Hashem did not want to punish the earth immediately when it sinned by disobeying His command, because everyone has free will and perhaps Chavah will not listen to the words of the serpent. Then she would receive a much greater reward for not listening to him even though she had an opportunity to err from the fact that the tree was superior to all the other food trees. Thus the greater trial that the earth caused when he disobeyed Hashem and the greater reward would have been a rectification for the earth's sin had Chavah stood the test, and Hashem would rectroactively have been happy with the earth's disobeying of His command - as Chazal teach: Hashem wants to give merit to Yisrael, therefore He increased for them Torah and mitzvos.

And this is why Hashem said: “Cursed is the ground for your sake”, because you caused a greater punishment to the earth more than it deserved when it first sinned. Examine this explanation well, because it is correct.

Why did Hashem not bless the fowl directly?

(1,22) “And G-d blessed them, saying: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters of the seas, and the fowl will multiply upon the earth.”

Why did Hashem address the fish in the second person - “Be fruitful and multiply”, but the fowl He mentioned in the third person - “the fowl will multiply upon the earth”?

Behold, Rashi wrote that Hashem did not bless the cattle and the animals that they be fruitful and multiply so that the serpent who was destined to be cursed would not also be included in the blessing. But to my mind it is possible to explain differently according to what Rashi also wrote, that the blessing was needed because humans hunt them for food. Now, it was forbidden for Adam to eat meat, but it seems that he was only forbidden to eat meat which grows on the land, but fish were permitted to him. And the proof to this is that it was forbidden for him to eat the limb of a live animal, but nevertheless it was permitted for him to eat fish. And this is also apparent from the expression of the posuk 1:30 which says that Hashem gave all the vegetation to Adam for food, “and to all the animals of the land”, which implies that only the animals of the land were forbidden to Adam. If so, only the fish required a blessing since he was permitted to eat them and so he would hunt them for food. But the animals of the land which were forbidden to him did not need a blessing since he would not be hunting them.

Now, in our posuk Hashem was coming to excuse Himself for not blessing also the fowl, but He did not need to excuse Himself about the cattle and the animals since they had not yet been created at that time. But since the fowl were created together with the fish on that day, Hashem needed to explain why He did not bless them. Therefore Hashem said to the fish: You need My blesssing of “be fruitful and multiply” since you are in the sea and it is permitted for man to hunt you and eat you, but “the fowl will (automatically) multiply on the earth” since nothing will cause them to be lacking because it is forbidden to hunt them and eat them.

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