HomeOctober 2012Brave New World

Brave New World

ParAshaH Bereshit begins with creation, hope and optimism but ends with despair, hopelessness and gloom.  It documents the creation of the world and mankind; man’s early life experiences and conflicts; and the rise (and fall) of civilization.  As Nechama Leibowitz elaborates, “The Torah shows us how civilization and economic progress brought with them an erosion in human behavior to the point where mankind’s very existence was endangered.”
Rabbi M. Miller (Shabbat Shiurim) raises an interesting question about Adam’s transgression.  At the moment of his confrontation with God where he confesses his wrongdoing, he uses the word “V’O’Chal” (“And I did eat”).  This verb, however, can also read in the future tense, leading the Midrash to see within this confession a suggestion of more sinning.  Adam is declaring his intention of repeating his sin in the future!  Since Adam is regarded as being above the norm in moral stature, how can we reconcile such brazenness at a time of such shame and exposure?  The crux of the problem lies in the deeper significance of the sin of eating of the forbidden tree.
According to the Ramban, Adam’s nature before this act was to do good and to perform nothing but the will of God.  He lived in a state of purity and integrity in which shame or modesty were irrelevant.  Rashi explains that even though Adam was gifted with the power to give names, there was still one discernment that was denied him: the power to differentiate between good and evil.  Only after his sin did he know that difference.  Before the sin he had free will, but his choices were entirely good or entirely evil and nothing in-between.  Eating of the tree resulted in an intermingling of the two forces.  And once this new sensation of freedom had entered into man, he would never again be able to eat with the single-minded devotion of the period before his sin.
This was the futility of Adam when he came before God and despondently declared that the evil was now within him.  In total despair he knew that the evil was a part of him now, that the sin would not be an isolated event, but would be a cause of estrangement from God.  “Now that I have known the sensation of sin, now that I have tasted the fruit, I shall never again be able to eat without this sensation recurring.”  It was not brazenness on Adam’s part but a simple recognition of the unexpected power of evil.
The reading gives us a look back and a look forward.  It gives us a chance to face our human behavior, frailties and conflicts.  It offers us the opportunity to change ourselves for the better and to save the world.  Bereshit is the first day of the rest of our new and better lives.

From the Torah to Your Table
Rabbi Avigdor Miller in his sefer,  Ye’He Or, comments on Bereshit by saying that the tragedy of Cain and Abel “would not have occurred if not for the words that were exchanged.  Had nothing been said, or had Abel not replied, the crisis would have passed.  But when Cain spoke and Abel replied, and the passion was inflamed, the catastrophe happened.  Here the Torah teaches the urgency of refraining from words at a time when emotions are inflamed.”

October 2012
Tishrei-Cheshvan 5773
Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions

Friday, October 5
Light candles at 6:11 p.m.
Saturday, October 6
Torah Portion: Chol Hamoed Sukkot
Friday, October 12
Light candles at 6:02 p.m.
Saturday, October 13
Torah Portion: Bereshit
(Genesis 1:1-6:8)
Friday, October 19
Light candles at 5:54 p.m.
Saturday, October 20
Torah Portion: Noah
(Genesis 6:9-11:32)
Friday, October 26
Light candles at 5:45 p.m.
Saturday, October 27
Torah Portion: Lech Lecha
(Genesis 12:1-17:27)

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