We begin the 5 Books (written Torah reading cycle) this Shabbat. The Torah begins with the letter “bays” and not with Aleph. Aleph represents G-d, aloneness, oneness. Finite beings cannot fully comprehend what infinity is. And so, we are told we start learning from Bais – the second letter of the alphabet that has its back against the Aleph and its opening to everything that comes after it. It signifies that we can really only comprehend from creation of world, not anything before that. We cannot try to understand what came before, etc. Knowing the limits of the human mind.
Six days of creation, seventh day is designated for spirituality. G-d created the concept of rest from creativity, too
On the sixth day, G-d created man. This was the ultimate end of creation. All that was created before was created to be used by man in his mission.
What is the first thing Adam, man, was told to do? If you guess is that he was told not to eat the forbidden fruit (which was NOT an apple, just to set the record straight), then you’d be wrong. Look at Chapter 2, verse 16: First commandment was to enjoy all that was allowed. That was Adam’s first mistake – when we focus on the one thing we are not allowed, instead of enjoying the things that are allowed, we end up sinning. Second commandment is not to eat the forbidden fruit.
Chapter 2, verse 25: Man and woman were naked and not ashamed. Remember this as we will revisit this idea once we talk about their sin.
Adam messes up and tells woman not to even touch the tree. We don’t add to Torah. G-d said not to eat. Adam decided to be stricter than G-d’s command. Serpent convinces Chava to eat, she does, and then feeds it to Adam.
After the sin, [chapter 3, verse 7] their eyes get “opened” and they realize they are naked.
What changed? What did the sin do to this couple? We are told that the evil inclination was outside of the man’s psyche before they ate the fruit. Once, they ate it, the evil inclination became embedded, part and parcel of their reasoning. What knowledge did the tree of knowledge impart – we are told “koach hadimyon” the power of imagination. Imagination is what gets us to mess up. Before the sin, man and woman saw right and wrong as clearly as 1+1=2. It was fact, not something to be argued. They did not note their nakedness because without imagination and fantasy world, body parts are nothing to be ashamed or aroused about. However, once you introduce fantasy, body parts become entire objects of worship. Think of ad campaigns – they sell a car with a hot model in front of the car. The average consumer will allow that fantasy into his reasoning – if I buy the Ferrari, it will bring to me that hot chick, too. That is the power of imagination and that is what the eating of the fruit brought to mankind.
When G-d asks the couple why they are hiding, they say because they are naked. Then, G-d questions how they had that clarity. Adam then blames his wife. And worse, he is ungrateful. He tells G-d it is G-d’s fault – [Chapter 3, verse 12] – “the woman you gave me…” If you hadn’t given me a wife, I wouldn’t have done it. Look carefully at the verse and see how it ends – Adam says, “v’ochel”. If he would have wanted to say he ate it, past-tense, he would say, “va’achaltee”. V’ochel means I will continue eating it. Adam says, not only did I sin, I enjoyed it and will continue that way. All too often, we get ourselves entrenched in our mistakes.
Woman also takes no responsibility for her actions. She blames the serpent. Everyone wants to blame others for their issues. Their mom, dad, abusive teacher, hard boss — it is always someone else who causes our messes. That is a sign of immaturity, not taking full responsibility for our actions. Yes, the serpent persuaded her. But she decided to do the wrong. And she should have ‘fessed up. Years later, King David did just that – when confronted by G-d with his sin, he bows his head, blames no one but himself and says, “chatasee” – sorry I messed up. G-d always accepts that kind of repentance. But when we try to hang the blame elsewhere, that is when punishment comes harshly. Man and woman are banished immediately from Gan Eden and they are cursed until the Messianic age will fix up what they messed up.
Adam and Chava have two sons, Kayin and Hevel. Both decide to try to offer a gift to G-d Kayin brings the worst of what he has, Hevel brings the best. G-d shows favor to Hevel’s offering, and Kayin becomes jealous and kills Hevel. Question: why didn’t G-d save Hevel? Hevel was the stronger one and had the upper hand. We are commanded that when someone comes to kill us, we must kill that person. Hevel had Kayin pinned to the ground and when Kayin begged for mercy, Hevel let him go, whereupon Kayin killed him. Misplaced mercy is not a virtue.
Kayin is confronted with his sin – again, he takes no direct responsibility – when asked where his brother is, he tells G-d, [chapter 4, verse 9] “am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, the answer is we are our brother’s keepers. We not only cannot kill our brother, we need to know where and how our brethren are faring!
With all that, when Kayin begs for mercy in his sentencing, G-d gives it. At times, G-d defers punishment…and even within the punishment embeds kindness. Kayin is given a dog as a companion to protect him.
Eventually, Kayin is killed by a great-grandchild (when the grace period G-d gave him is up).
Then Adam and Chava decide to go ahead and try populating the world with better people. They go ahead and have a child they name Shais which they decide will replace concept of exploring the “big bang” of what “banged” and some say the whole thing that started our world was a noise/sound. Hmm, vayomer Hashem — and G-d said. Isn’t that what our Parsha reports?
Time marches on. G-d waits patiently. We are told, “ba’asara ma’amaros ni’vrah ha’olam” with ten utterances the world was created (go back if you want and count how many times it says “vayomer Hashem” and you will see the ten.) Ten generations is what G-d allows to see whether good can come out within the world. The world made with ten utterances only hosts wickedness fora maximum of ten generations. Ten generations from Adam to Noach…and no one decides to focus the world on spirituality. There were individuals who had G-d centered lives, but they did not sway others. They did not proclaim their belief, did not share, did not sway the world. Those in power were corrupt. Folks lied, cheated, slept around. Ten generations later, there is Noach. He’s a good guy, but totally ineffective in swaying the folks to do good. G-d says, we cannot have a world so corrupt. Time to wipe it out (erase, so to speak, the dirty board and start drawing again).
And so ends our first parsha – it spans ten generations. Next parsha will span the next ten generations.
To wrap up this short round-up, I want to do a riff on one of my interests, quantum physics– there is the string theory that talks of the vibrating strings of the world. Love that theory on many accounts — love the thought of Perek Shira put into physics. But, there is another concept that totally clicks for me on Shabbos Braishis. There is also the