Parshas B’reishis 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas B’reishis, the first parsha in the Torah. This parsha is packed with many Sodos HaTorah (Secrets of the Torah). It is said as a general warning in Chazal (Chagigah 11b) that one who investigates what is above, what is below, what was before Creation and what comes after the world is finished should never have been born. Rabbeinu Chaim Vital says in the name of the Arizal that this only applies to those things that are beyond the world of Adam Kadmon, which is the general heter to be osek in Kabbalah. Considering this is not a good medium for discussing these things, not all my thoughts – drawn from the Zohar HaKodosh, various places in Chazal, sifrei Chassidus and the meforshim – will be shared here. Iy’H there will eventually be a compilation of the mekoros put together with my thoughts on how they can be brought together to show several ways we can understand this fascinating parsha.

The Sefer Yetzirah gives a very exact description as to how the world was created through the letters of the Alef-Beis, what planet was created through such a letter, what organ etc. The Midrash Rabah on B’reishis says that the Torah was used as a blueprint of sorts for the Creation, and that Hashem looked into the Torah then created the world. The Zohar confirms this. The interesting thing about the Sefer Yetzirah is that there are two different ways of reading it, one being as a description of Ma’aseh B’reishis, the other as a practical manual of how to utilize the letters to manifest our own world in accordance with the Torah Hashem gave us. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt’l presents both of these approaches in his English translation and commentary on Sefer Yetzirah. We could understand this through internalizing what it says in the Tanya, that every Yid has a Chelek Elokah Mima’al mamash (literal piece of God) within our souls; so just as Hashem created all through the Torah, in the same way we can influence our own reality through His holy Torah. This could be the real reason the Baal Shem Tov is quoted as saying that the portion in Olam Haba of poshute Yidden (simple Jews) who say Tehillim regularly will be beyond anyone’s imagination, since those people are involved in saying Tehillim to influence reality and being like Hashem, as we are directed to in Parshas Kedoshim תהיו קדושים כי קדוש אני (Be holy for I am holy). Midrash Vayikra Rabah brings that this means we can be like Hashem, so to speak. Chazal state in Maseches Sota 14a that walking after Hashem means to go after His middos, after his traits. Various examples are given there, and we can easily say that being involved in this area of Torah, whether through simply saying Tehillim with kavana or even through engaging in the profound meditations implied by the Sefer Yetzirah we can be like Hashem in shaping reality around our will, which should be one with Hashem’s will as explained in Pirkei Avos.

The Kedushas Levi zy’a says much on this parsha. One of the most interesting things he speaks of is the connection between the words שירה חדשה שבחו גאולים (A new song of praise is sung by the redeemed) and the process of התחדשות הבריאה (Renewal of Creation). He describes there that everything in our lower world is a manifestation and reflection of the same objects in the higher worlds, and it falls from the top in Atzilus down to our world in Malchus. This process continues itself at all times, when Hashem chooses to continue projecting His Shefa (influence) into something in this world, it continues in a sort of channel from the ideal image above until it is a physical object. Though I am not a scientist, I think that in time with our advances into various aspects of physics we will see how accurate these statements of the Kabbalists have been.

The most important thing this parsha is meant to teach us though is that there is one God who Creates everything and decides who has a piece of land, according to Rashi. Rashi says this specifically in regards to Klal Yisroel having claim to Eretz Yisoel. Even if there was no Eretz Yisroel, the most important thing is that there is a universal God without any limits whatsoever, beyond any human rational understanding. The Ateres Tzvi in Sur MeRa criticizes those who take Kabbalah less literally and says that it all literal; my understanding of what he means is that the sifrei Kabbalah are all describing genuine patterns and exchanges of spiritual energy, whether or not the terminology is perfect is a matter of debate, but the fact remains it is the way of speech that is most comprehensible to our simple human minds.

Aside from the revelation of One Universal God, the next most important thing is the description of creating Shabbos. We say in Lecha Dodi that Shabbos was last to be created but the first thing in Hashem’s thought to create. The text Vay’chulu (said by Kiddush) is in and of itself fascinating, seeing as it is all written in לשון יהיה (future tense). In short, we can see that in the “Seventh Day” after Moshiach comes all the Creation will be gathered together into the Ain Sof just like in the beginning, where we will all delight in the incomprehensible.

Hashem should bless us that we can learn His Torah, that we all be freed from all gezeiros koshos v’raos (hard and wicked decrees), and we should merit to behold the face of Moshiach soon, and from there become dissolved into the Ain Sof in the end of days.

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