Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bereishit - The Utopia That We Must Regain

We learn in the beginning of Parshat Bereishit that the "spirit of Hashem hovered over the surface of the waters". (Bereishit 1:2)
The Artscroll Torah Treasury wrote that the Midrash Rabba said that the spirit of G-d was the spirit of Meshiach. "G-d created the world exactly as it was meant to be when the Meshiach comes. The entire Messianic dream is nothing more and nothing less than the world that G-d originally envisioned and created."
It is a goal of mankind, and especially the Jewish people, to go forward to rediscover the past glory that we once knew.
While bentsching (saying the blessing after a meal) tonight, my husband mentioned that the words of the birkat hamazon are so magnificent.
"Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who nourishes the entire world, in His goodness - with grace, with kindness and with mercy. He gives nourishment to all flesh, for His kindness is eternal. And through His great goodness, we have never lacked, and may we never lack, nourishment for all eternity. For the sake of His Great Name, because He is G-d Who nourishes and sustains all, and benefits all, and He prepares food for all of His creatures which He has created. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who nourishes all." (Translation from the Artscroll Women's Siddur)
"Isn't that amazing?" my husband said. "Hashem provides food for every single person and every single creature. There is no person or creature for which Hashem doesn't provide what he needs."
"Reallly," I said. "So why are there so many poverty stricken people in Israel and the rest of the world? Why are Chinese or African workers forced to labor for $1 a month? Why are tens of thousands of Jews in Israel standing on line for food every day? Why are there no more beasts in Israel? I'm happy that there are no lions or bears to attack people, but why aren't they left in the wilderness? What happened to the leopardess of Ein Gedi and are there any deer left in the wadis of Gush Etzion? If Hashem provides for all of His creatures, where are they?"
I answered my own question. The parsha says that the "Spirit of Hashem hovered over the deep", and this is the Utopia we once knew and for which we much strive again. This is the way Hashem created the world, and the way He wished it would continue.
In His perfect world, there is food for every person and creature - great and small. In the world that Hashem planned and designed, there is no lack, there is kindness and sustenance for all. But in our world, this is not so.
My husband said, "Maybe Hashem made some people poor so that others could act toward them with chesed (loving kindness) and help them."
I told him that that was a good thought, and that I also had another.
G-d's world was perfect until Man messed it up. He messed it up back then, and he has done the same generation after generation. G-d created a perfect world, but man exploits his fellow man. He hunts and exterminates species after species of G-d's creatures. In his greed, man does not pay enough to his workers to live sustainable lives.
Yes, Hashem's Spirit once hovered over the deep, and wishes to do so again. But man, and particularly the Jewish people, must help make this possible by following G-d's original blue print, by living lives of chesed (loving kindness) and Torah. Man should not just live and let live. He should live and enable others to live - whether human or creature. By providing for our fellow human beings and the world's creatures, we are helping Hashem "nourish the world" and we are bringing Hashem's Spirit one step closer to where it belongs.

Bereishit - For the Sake of Israel

We learn in the very first word of the first chapter of the Torah, Bereishit, that the world (and everything in it) was created B' Reishit, for the sake of Reishit (the first). Reishit, the first is the Land of Israel, and the Torah and the Jewish people. 
While reading the Artscroll Torah Treasury today, I came upon a marvelous comment.
"When the train tracks from St. Petersurg, Russia to Berlin were built, R' Chaim Soloveitchik commented, 'This train line was built for the yeshivah students so that traveling to Volozhin be made easier. Everything in t he world is for Torah and those who learn it.'
His son, the Brisker Rav, continued with his father's perspective. 'Over a period of decades, the cruel czars of Russia had the peasants lay the Trans-Siberian railway. Fantastic amounts of money and a great many lives were invested in order to run the railway through the most inhospitable parts of Siberia all the way to the port at Vladivostok which faces toward Japan and the Far East. At the time, the project seemed to make no sense and many wondered exactly why it was done. Only years later, when the students of the Mirrer Yeshivah escaped the European inferno and arrived in Shanghai, China, by way of Siberia and the Trans-Siberian railway did the whole thing become clear. The railway, and all the funds and labor that went into it,w ere justified for it was for the sake of Torah and the Jews that G-d created the world and its history.

All this made me think of Jerusalem's Light Rail System. Launched in 1995, the Light Rail was to debut many times over the years, but was delayed again and again. The signs are still up in places proclaiming the scheduled completion of the Light Rail in 2008. Meanwhile after 16 years and 3.8 billion NIS the Light Rail is finally running and will go all the way to the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
I guess the time was not yet right to start the train to the Old City over the past few years, but it's right now. Meshiach is very close, BE"H, and so is the rebuilding of Our Holy Temple. When the Temple is rebuilt and the Jewish people begin their visits to Bet HaMikdash by the hundreds of thousands and even millions, surely traffic will be bumper-to-bumper-impossible in Jerusalem. We will need the Light Rail, IY"H, to bring us quickly and comfortably to the Holy Temple.
Perhaps those who planned the Jerusalem Light Rail thought it would be provide faster, less polluting transportation to the Holy City. But when the time comes, IY"H, may it be soon, everyone will understand that the Light Rail was created to make transportation to the rebuilt Third Temple more accessible.
Everything was created for the sake of Hashem's "first" - Am Yisrael, Torat Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael.
May the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our day.

New Year, New Beginning

Just about every Jewish person looks at the Jewish New Year, and particularly Parshat Bereshit, as a new beginning. Why should I be different?
In our home I am privileged, B"H, to hear many divrei Torah (Torah thoughts) around our table. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to have a thought worth repeating myself. But if you asked me what Torah thoughts I've had over the past many years, I probably wouldn't remember many or any.
So, I decided to try to write down the thoughts I shared on Shabbat.
B"H the Jewish people are blesed with many brilliant women scholars. Unfortunately I'm not one of them. I'm not a Torah scholar. I'm a mother. I'm a writer. I'm a performer. I'm a videographer.
But I love learning Torah and I love sharing anything I learn.
I hope this blog will be a meaningful one.

Shema Beni Musar Avicha v'Al Titosh Toras Imecha

For our next generation's pleasure. Share Savta's Torah memories: