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Bereishis 5783


dvar Torah for parashas Bereishis 5783

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃

“Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the waters.” – Genesis 1:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

“The throne of Divine Glory was standing in space, hovering over the face of the waters by the breath of the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, and by His command, even as a dove hovers over its nest.” – Rashi,

In the beginning of Creation, “when G-d began to create heaven and earth” (Genesis 1:1, JPSN), the earth was tohu vavohu (formless and empty). “At the beginning G’d created a minute amount of matter out of absolute nothingness. This contained within itself the potential and energy to expand into what we call “heaven and earth” (R’ Bachya on Genesis 1:2, Prior to the 1950’s, science adhered to the Aristotelian belief that the Universe always existed. When scientists discovered that the universe was expanding, science proffered that there was a distinct beginning, ex nihilo – something out of nothing. So, it took several thousand years for science to “catch up” with the creation account in Torah, as R’Bachya explains (circa 1255 – 1340).

“With the beginning of the manifestation of the King’s will, that is, when the King desired to emanate and create the world, a hard spark made an engraving upon the supernal light. This hard spark [matter], which emanated from the most concealed of all concealed things from the secret of the Endlessness Light took a shapeless form. The spark was then inserted into the center of a circle [from here, it expanded outward]” (Zohar 15a, That spark is called reishis (first).

“And the spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the waters.”

– Genesis 1:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

Rashi comments upon the Ruach haElokim (the Spirit of G-d), that hovered over the surface of the waters upon the earth, that this phenomenon was akin to “a dove hovering over its nest.” The primordial material, according to R’Bachya is called tohu, while the first formations of that material into something distinct is referred to as vohu. Yet, essentially, “the earth had been in a chaotic state,” and the Ruach haElokim hovered over the mayim (waters) that may have represented the so called primordial soup from where all life began. It is clear that a divine force was at work, in conjunction with the elements of the universe that would become all life on earth.

Later on in Torah, in the second account of creation, man is formed “from the dust of the earth. And the L-RD G-d “blew into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7, JPS). And, man became a nefesh chaya – a living being. Clearly, the account of creation in Torah testifies of a divine influence at work, in all that was created within the heavens and earth, including mankind. What is notable as well is the understanding that when G-d finished the work of creation at the end of the proverbial sixth day, His resting on the seventh day did not signify his retreating from creation to let everything run on its own. His influence is continuous, and denoted by two specific terms, having to do with His divine guidance.

Hasgachah peratis concerns His guidance of every human being on the face of the earth, in ways mostly unclear to the individual. Hasgachah kelalis refers to G-d’s guidance of the natural forces upon the earth. To speak of Him as sovereign, means that everything happens according to His will, or is permitted to happen by him. Additionally, the role of the Ruach haElokim (Spirit of G-d), otherwise known as the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is still at work, as explained by chazal (the sages), who infer that King Solomon was inspired by the ruach, in writing the Song of Songs. Even more explicitly, Kings and prophets were always anointed and inspired by the Ruach HaKodesh, also referred to as Shechinah.


Hidden Presence

Torah portion: Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44; Numbers 29:12-16

Although the Torah reading for the second day of Sukkot is the same as the first day, the haftorah is different. The haftorah for the first day of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:1-21) concerns the events leading up to the Final Redemption of Israel, and the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom. All of the peoples who are left on the face of the earth, after the Battle at Har Megiddo, will be required to send a delegation every year to Jerusalem, during Sukkot, in order to bring offerings for H’Shem. As is written, “All who survive of all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make a pilgrimage year by year to bow low to the King L’RD of Hosts and to observe the Feast of Booths” (Zechariah 14:16, JPS 1985 Tanach).

Haftorah: 1 Kings 8:2-21

“Now when the kohanim came out of the Holy Place, the cloud filled the House of the L’RD, so that the kohanim could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the L’RD filled the House of the L’RD. Then Solomon spoke: ‘The L’RD said that He would dwell in the thick cloud. I have surely built You a magnificent House, a place for Your dwelling forever.”

  • 1 Kings 8:10-13, TLV

The haftorah for the second day of Sukkot is about the event described as the inauguration of the first Temple (Beis HaMikdash), built by Solomon in Jerusalem, and inaugurated during the seven day festival of Sukkot. During the inauguration, the kohanim (priests) are overwhelmed by H’Shem’s presence, in the form of a Cloud that fills the sanctuary, Solomon’s words convey a deep understanding of H’Shem, no only a description of the physical phenomenon of the cloud: “The L’RD said that He would dwell in the thick cloud” (1 Kings 8:12, TLV). When did H’Shem say that He would dwell in the thick cloud? It is written in Torah, “And the L’RD said unto Moses: ‘Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee” (Exodus 19:9, JPS 1917 Tanach).

At Sinai, H’Shem appeared to Moses within the midst of a thick cloud visible to the people, encamped at the base of the mountain. This connotes the mystery of H’Shem’s presence, hidden within a cloud, unseen to those who stand outside of the cloud. However, Moses entered into the thick cloud, in order to commune with H’Shem. Elsewhere, it is written, “Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalms 97:2, JPS 1917 Tanach). Thus, both the passage, concerning Moses at Sinai, and the verse from tehillim (psalms) may be understood to convey a profound mystery.