Yashresh Ya’akov - Parshas Bereishis

Why were the lower waters mentioned before the upper waters?

(1,7) “And G-d made the firmament and separated between the waters which were beneath the firmament and between the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.”

Why were the lower waters mentioned first - would it not have been more fitting to mention the upper waters first?

But the Midrash says that the lower waters cried when they were separated, and crying and brokenheartedness is very beloved in the eyes of Hashem. Therefore they were mentioned first, because the person who is small is great.

Another explanation is that with all the separations that Hashem made - between the holy and the profane, between the light and the dark, between Yisrael and the other nations, and between the seventh day and the six days of work - He separated for Himself that which was beloved in His eyes, that is, the holy, the light, Yisrael, and the seventh day. Therefore they are mentioned first.

But the separation of the water was not for Hashem but for the needs of the world, and so the lower waters are mentiioned first since they are the main purpose of the separation.

Why can’t man be called "good" if he is alone?

(2,18) “And Hashem G-d said: It is not good that man should be alone. I will make for him a helper opposite him.”

The meaning of this posuk is that when a man is alone in the world, without a woman, he is not called good even if he is good, because then it is easy for him to serve Hashem since he has no challenges. Therefore, “I will make for him a helper opposite him”, and if then he is good, he is truly good.

How can man crush the evil inclination?

(3,14) “And Hashem G-d said to the serpent: …He will crush your head (ראש), and you will bite him in the heel (עקב).”

The meaning of this posuk is that when a person embraces the teaching of the posuk in Tehillim 111:10 “the beginning (ראשית) of wisdom is the fear of Hashem” and Koheles 2:14 “a wise person his eyes are in his head (ראש)” - when he fears Hashem and learns Torah, then “he will crush your head” - he will crush the evil inclination.

But “you will bite him in the heel” - you will get the better of him, G-d forbid - if he succumbs to the precept of the posuk in Tehillim 49:6 “the sin of my heel (עקב) surrounds me”.

How was the way Kayin brought his offering less acceptable than the way Hevel brought his?

(4,3) “And it was at the end of days that Kayin brought from the produce of the ground an offering for Hashem. And Hevel, also he, brought from the firstborn of his flock and from the fattest of them. And Hashem turned to Hevel and to his offering.”

The reason why Hashem rejected the offering of Kayin was because he served Hashem only in deed. This is hinted to when it says that he brought “from the produce of the ground”, which alludes to the sphere of doing. Therefore the upper, spiritual lights did not become clothed because his service was a non-spiritual service.

But Hevel brought “also he” which alludes to wisdom, and he brought from “the firstborn of his flock” which alludes to the thoughts which are called firstborn. And this is the principal divine service - service of the heart which is wisdom and service of the brain which is the thoughts. Therefore, “Hashem turned to Hevel and to his offering” because he merited through this to draw the upper lights from above to down below.

And this is the meaning of what Hashem said to Kayin: “If you improve, you will elevate” - the upper lights, “and if you do not improve, at the entrance the sin crouches” - because deed alone cannot subdue the evil inclination, only with service of the heart and with holy thoughts, like the service that was done by Hevel.

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