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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Bereishit

Parshat Bereishit

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Bereishit                                                                  Print Version
29th of Tishrei, 5781 | October 17, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rebbetzin Tamar Taback
Two Types of Circles

As we leave the auspicious days of Sukkos behind us and embark on the new Torah cycle with the Creation of the World, there is something very profound that intertwines the two… Let us travel back just days ago to when we read the Book of Koheles, authored by the wisest of men, King Solomon…

Why is Koheles read on Sukkos? For the festival that is dubbed “Zman Simchaseinu”, the Time of our Joy, our Sages couldn’t have chosen a more seemingly depressing sefer. In fact, it is recorded that the Sages considered keeping the scroll of Koheles under lock and key, and while reading it, there is something different about it…. It doesn’t feel like Torah. Torah is filled with hope, with meaning, with spirituality, with relationship to the Divine, and not so this scroll, at least on the surface.
Here are the first few lines.

“The words of Koheles (also known as Shlomo), son of David, King of Jerusalem.

Futility of Futilities! Said Koheles – Futility of futilities! All is futile! What profit does a man have for all his labor which he toils beneath the sun?

A generation goes and a generation comes… the sun rises and sun sets…. The wind goes around and around…. All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full….
Whatever has been is what will be…. There is nothing new beneath the sun!”

R’ Nir Menussi calls Koheles the poison in the medicine chest. There are times when the patient is so sickly that the doctor needs to call out his most toxic medication, the “Schedule 6” prescriptions that would nearly kill a healthy person. Since Torah is the ultimate healer, there are times when the other books of Tanach aren’t enough to drive home its message and create a turnaround for spiritual health. That is when and why Koheles is read.

What is its message? Why do we need it on Sukkos? How does it tie into all the other themes of the Sukka and why does this make any sense when we are in the peak of our joy, newly-born after the intensity of Yom Kippur and the thorough spiritual cleansing that we have undergone?

And moreover, why is Koheles considered to be a Megilla? What even is a Megilla?

Distinct from the other books of Tanach which are written and stored on a double scroll, the Megillos are written and stored on a single scroll. Hence, the word “Megilla” means to unroll and reveal its contents. The other Megillot of the set of five are Esther (which we read on Purim), Ruth (read on Shavous), Shir Hashirim (Pesach), and Eicha (Tisha B’av).

When looking at the other four Megillot, it is clear that the theme “woman” traces through all these other scrolls. In Esther and Ruth, the main protagonists are women, and in Eicha and Shir Hashirim, the allegory of the Jewish people as Hashem’s bride follow this theme. It would then appear that Koheles is the odd one out, as there appears not to be a theme relating to womanhood.

However, sometimes a correlation is even deeper than we realize and surpasses a specific character playing a particular role in a story. And that is because Koheles is all about womanhood, or rather, the lower feminine archetype or un-redeemed aspect of womanhood. Sukkos is about the “higher feminine archetype,” a hint to the femininity that is emerging as we approach our Messianic future. Let me explain.

“In the beginning, Hashem created the Heavens and Earth…”
In the entire first section of the Torah, there is one letter that is mysteriously missing. The “ס” or samech. Its first appearance is with the creation of woman, well into the second chapter of the Torah, in the verse, “ותסגר הבשר תחתנה” – “and He closed the flesh beneath her.”

Yet this letter, the “ס”, features quite prominently in Koheles, right from the beginning in the verses quoted above. סובב סובב – round and round, the world turns on its axis, the sun rises and sets, the winds blow and waters flow.

The sefer closes with it as well. In fact, the reason why the sages decided not to hide Koheles from us is because its second to final verse, סוף דבר הכל נשמע… “The sum total of the matter is that you must fear G-d, because that is all of man…” The tradition determines that the letter “samech” of the word “sum total, סוף” is written bigger than any other letter in the whole Megilla. The samech is clearly “the letter” of this sefer.
Why is the samech missing in the creation of the world in all the six days and only surfaces with the creation of woman? The commentaries explain that the “ס” is the letter where the Satan slipped into the world, and is in the fact the first letter of the name of the Satanic Angel, “Sama-el”.

Why did this occur with the creation woman?

R’ Moshe Shapira (as documented in the work of his student, R’ Shlanger in Ohel Rachel) explains that the woman is inextricably linked to the sands of time. She keeps time with her very body, and like the moon, the tides and all the cycles of life, she fundamentally understands the rhythms of life. The repeating motifs of life and survival – or life and thriving, hopefully – are her domain. They are not meaningless or futile when they are serving her goals of nurturing Jewish continuity and making Torah possible. This is the rectified woman, the Aishes Chayil. But without a holy orientation, life in the essential lower feminine nature starts to feel futile. We could easily play on the Koheles theme with something like this: “And she shops. And she cooks. And she serves. And she washes the dishes. And she shops again….” What is it all for?

Indeed, later in the work, Koheles lists the famous 28 “times” of contrasting experiences.

“Everything has its season, and there is a time for everything under the Heaven: A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot the planted. A time to kill and time to heal…”

Life, death. Laughter, tears. Closeness, distance. Silence, speaking. Love, hate. Peace, war. Everything and its opposite are included to create a rich tapestry of experience which is the fabric of every life. Such are the cycles of life… and the trap of femininity.

The teaching of so-called “circles versus lines” is foundational for an understanding of the special mission of the “Pre-Messianic Woman.” Our Sages teach us that the world is approaching a circle reality and that this shift is deeply related to our ability to dip into our feminine gifts and share them. This is a special piece that we have to bring to the world at this time, but of course, first we need to know what they are.

There are two kinds of circles. This first kind encloses and suffocates spirituality, and the second kind is spirituality itself. The former can be called the lower feminine nature and the latter, the higher feminine nature. As pre-messianic women, we are reaching up towards the higher expression of our femininity and as such we have an affinity with the second circle. And if you haven’t figured out already… the higher feminine is expressed through a different sort of “ס”, samech, not the one that is the first letter of the Satan, but the samech that is the first letter of the word Sukka. Hence, the Sukka is an icon for femininity redeemed.

In fact, the Vilna Gaon equates the entire work of Koheles with a verse you know well. שקר החן והבל היפי אשה יראת ד’ היא תתהלל – Charm is false and beauty is vain, a woman who fears G-d, she shall be praised. The Vilna Goan sees through the never-ending cycles of life depicted in the verses of Koheles and compares it to a woman. Just like the whole book of Koheles is justified with its second to last line, “The sum total… fear G-d! Because that is all of man!”, the verse in Aishes Chayil that speaks about her vanity continues, “A woman who fears G-d, she shall be praised!” In both cases, there is a bemoaning of the futility of beauty and the pursuit of a temporal happiness, and then the remedying statement regarding the injection of the fear of G-d.

What is going on?

Now for the central teaching that will unlock the puzzle and answer our questions. The mystics take us back prior to the creation of the world in order to help us understand how an Infinite Being, Hashem, was able to create finitude as the platform for life, and how it is precisely through our mortality that Hashem interacts to us. Two stranger lovers you couldn’t find if you tried – Hashem in His Divinity and ourselves in our utter and feeble humanity. And yet there can be no greater love. How did Hashem do this? How are we simultaneously a part of Him while enclothed in bodies that are so distinct from Him?

The mystics teach that originally, only G-d’s presence filled existence. In order for Hashem to create man, He needed to first create a “womb.” This is what our Sages refer to when they speak about “tzimtzum” – the act of constriction that Hashem employed to suck His light out of a predesignated area that would become the universe. Hashem contracted His essence so that this circumscribed place would become a vacuum and could ultimately contain a world that appears separate from G-d.

Imagine this area of clearing as a womb, feminine and circular. Once there was a place that was not filled with Him, He used a kav, a line, or beam of His Light, to reoccupy the profoundly empty space of the primordial hollow and inject its sustenance, sort of like an umbilical cord. This enabled just the right amount of G-dliness to permeate the space and conceive creation.

Once creation was “conceived,” human beings could encounter the Divine within the world of nature through one thing only: Torah. Torah is like the ultimate umbilical cord leading out of the circle of the natural world. In fact, the very word for nature, teva, is a similar word to the Hebrew “טבעת,” ring. Imagine all of nature and everything you can perceive with your five senses lining the internal periphery of the circle. It goes round and round ad infinitum and leads you only to more of itself. The inside of the circle are the verses of Koheles!

However, there is a catch phrase, that, thanks to Rashi, Medrash and our Sages, provide the key to the book of Koheles and reveals its true essence as one of Torah and as such, blasting the concept of “futility” right out of the water.

That is why the simple meaning of the verses sound foreign on Torah ears because, of course, they are not true. “Hevel Havalim, vanity of vanities…” This does not describe a life of Torah and mitzvot? How can this book be included in Tanach?

The answer is that “All is vain under the sun” – specifically in the world of nature – is true! It is a cycle that moves from birth to death, blossom to wilting…. and ends in the grave. “But!” say the Sages, “this is only true for those who live inside the circle, for those who live under the sun, vulnerable to the inevitable vicissitudes of life. Not so for the realm above the sun! For above the sun, that is the realm of Torah, and the home for all that is spiritual. There, nothing is Hevel, nothing is futile. Eternity is built by every kind word, every mitzvah, every word of Torah!

This is akin to drowning in nature and falling into the abyss of the circle and the lower feminine. It is why the Satan was created with woman, because a circle without a line is a physical world without Torah. The Aishes Chayil is married to the Torah scholar and the higher feminine is in relationship with the masculine, with Torah and with Hashem. Her circle is not futile. It is a circle with a line and is forever redeemed.

Once we grab onto the rope, the kav, the line leading out of the circle, we enter into a new world. Just outside the circumscribed space, the space that was the scene of Hashem’s tzimtzum and set the stage for reality to unfold, His infinite Light still exists. By grabbing onto the line of Torah, up and over into the realm of above the sun, we encounter another circle. It is a taste of the World to Come, a circle consciousness that is dripping slowly but surely into our beings as we approach the end of the six thousand years culminating with the arrival of Moshiach. Once we poke our heads above the clouds of the tricky illusions that seem so real, we are once again surrounded, this time, not by “Mother” nature, but by G-d Nature. We have stepped out of our homes of brick and mortar and find ourselves in a Sukka. The Zohar says that the Sukka is none other than Hashem’s embrace. It encircles us on all sides and becomes the new normal for the period of the days of Sukkos. Chassidic texts describe the infinite expanse outside of the circle that demarcates our physical world as the aspect of Hashem that is called סובב כל העלמין – the One who encircles all of creation. This is the “ס” at the end of Sefer Koheles, written in big, “The sum total of it all. Fear G-d!”

Grab onto the line that He has cast you and pull yourself up and over. Hashem’s embrace is the most eternal love of all.
Hevel, Vanity of vanities. This is a “Schedule 6” remedy for the soul. Shlomo Hamelech speaks with accuracy that we would rather not admit being the state of our human psyches without Torah. It jump-starts us to contemplate the true nature of our lives and our strivings. When we find the kav, the line, the ray of Light coming from the outside of the circle penetrating inside, we step into the reality that only what is above the sun is real, only the Sukka is real, only Hashem’s love is real. And that, indeed, makes us very, very happy. Our Sages couldn’t have chosen a better time to read the book of Koheles. It is hard to understand this with our minds only. But to our soul, it makes perfect sense.

Rabbi Zamir Cohen
Any Job Openings?

Currently, there are many individuals who are capable of working from home and whose job expertise involves careers which can be done remotely from home, yet they are without a job and do not know whom to turn to. To this end, if someone knows that one individual is looking for an employee, and someone else needs a job, he should attempt to connect them and see if an agreement for employment can be made. Such an act of helping a person find a job is greater than giving tzedakah. The Rambam (Hil. Matnos Aniyim 10:7-14) writes that assisting an individual earn money so that he does not need to ask for charity from others is the highest form of tzedakah.

In fact, the word for kindness – Chessed (חסד) – is a contraction of the words Chas Dal, meaning “Have compassion on the poor.” Similarly, the words Gemillut Chesed, acts of kindness, underline what true kindness entails. Gemillut stems from the word Gamal, which has two meanings. For one, Gamal means to give; while it also means to wean. In this sense, true kindness both gives and weans, for one is meant to give to another until they have weaned them off from the necessity of needing others for financial support. At that point in which he no longer needs others for charity, the other person has done true chessed.

Given this to be so, during these days, it is a tremendous mitzvah if an individual can help promote jobs which are available and make the necessary contact information accessible to those who are seeking employment.

The Gemara (Berachos 3b) recounts Dovid Hamelech’s remark when approached by the Jewish leaders of the time as, “Go out and support one another.” Jews were meant to create a network with Jews employing and being employed by other Jews. It is a wonderful thing when Jews can support other Jews in their line of business. It serves as a true source of real chessed, especially in our times, when many individuals are bound to stay at home and are in search of a job.

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