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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Bereishit

Parshat Bereishit

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Bereishit                                                               Print Version
26th of Tishrei, 5782 | October 2, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Your Life Makes You

The concept of hakaras hatov, gratitude, is one that is well known. But what is truly means besides recognizing the good is to the ability to see something and thank Hashem for it even during the worst moments of your life.

If I hadn’t gone through what I did when I was a young boy, who I am and what I do now would not be what it is. I would not have accomplished all that I have. The seminaries, high school and ranch which Hashem has helped me build and develop for Jewish girls would not be here. I don’t do it because it makes a living or because my daughters went to any of these schools I opened. So, if I’d think about it, why would I do it? I’m not making a living off of it, so what is propelling me to spend time on it? My friends have asked me this time and again.

The answer is because I experienced trauma in 3rd grade and 10th grade, and I’ll never forget how I felt when I went through it. And because of it, I am very sensitive to those who go through abuse and who are surrounded by people who don’t believe in them.

Years after a very traumatizing 3rd grade, I finally found a rebbe who I trusted and looked up to, and then one day, I got in trouble and was called in by this very rabbi. He looked at me and said, “Wallerstein, do you know what you’re going to grow up to be?”

This was the rebbe who had picked me up after I’d been through so much earlier. I loved him. Asking me this question, I wondered what he intended for me to respond. He’s trying to inspire me, I figured. “Moshe Rabbeinu? I’ll grow up to become like him! Or Dovid Hamelech!” I couldn’t figure out what he would say.
I’ll never forget it. He picked up his finger and pointed it at me. “You, Wallerstein, are going to grow up to be a sewer rat!” Imagine it. The rebbe I loved, the rebbe who had gotten me through so much and whom I trusted, said these words to me. I was 16th years old at the time and a tough boy. But this was beyond. This broke me. I ran into the bathroom, closed the stall and started crying and heaving uncontrollably.

That feeling of deep embarrassment has stayed with me. I know what it feels like for someone to give up on you. Thank G-d, my parents never did, but I had teachers who did. By far, the least likely to be successful in teaching students would have been me. If you would have seen me many years ago, you would never, ever have guessed that I’d be a rebbe. I didn’t know how to spell ‘Gemara’ when I applied for my first job. When I wrote it
incorrectly, the rabbi looked at me as if I’d just been introduced to Torah. He should have said, “I’ll look at your resume,” and then call me back and let me know I didn’t get the job. But I still went for it, and I became a rebbe.

I became sensitive to kids being embarrassed and feeling unwanted. I decided I would become a rebbe and make sure no one under my watch ever received this kind of treatment. But my friends were taken aback. “You, a rebbe!” When I got married, I told my wife that I would be teaching half a day and working half a day. Why do I want to teach? Why would I want to do it? It wasn’t particularly the job that would bring in a lot of money and I had my own challenges as a student. Why then would I want to teach myself?

The answer is because those students who I would have, they would be completely under my care and no one would experience the treatment I received. I would care for them like no other. No one would embarrass them. Not at all. I wouldn’t change the system, but I would care for those students I have like no one else.

I taught 8th grade boys for 30 years. Every single day, from 8 a.m. to noon, I taught, and over those 30 years, some 750 boys went through my class. If any of my boys would be embarrassed by anyone, I would stand up for them. The fact that I myself was told that I was a sewer rat has stayed with me, and my hakaras hatov for being where I got to and wanting to give these students the experience I didn’t have was something that fueled me forward. I felt on fire to help these students.

If I hadn’t gone through what I did, I would not have been a rebbe and I would not be where I am today. Not even close. If Hashem would come to me today and say, “I will give you your life back and I am going to spare you these traumatic
experiences, I wouldn’t take it.” If I could have my life over again, my childhood repeated without any of the pain, I wouldn’t want it. Because who I am is the result of what happened to me.
Our life makes us who we are. We just need to be open to our experiences and use them to leverage us to the great things we can accomplish.

Rabbi Efraim Stauber
Inspired, Humbled and Proud

At the moment you are going to a Simchas Beis Hashoevah, there is a lot that you can experience and feel. In reflecting on this, let me share with you the following.

The Gemara (Eruvin 19a) tells us that there are three openings to Gehinnom (purgatory). One is in the ocean, one is in the desert and one is Jerusalem. It is understandable that the ocean and desert could be such a place fit for Gehinnom, but what about Jerusalem? How can that be?

The Maharal writes that Judaism is based on three precepts: Belief in Hashem; Hashem gave us the Torah; Hashgacha Pratis. Hashgacha Pratis, at its core, means that Hashem is genuinely invested and interested in us on a personal level. And corresponding to these three concepts, writes the Maharal, are these three locations of Gehinnom. They are places which can lead us to lose our belief in either Hashem, that He gave us the Torah or that He is intimately invested in the details of our lives.

The Maharal notes that Jerusalem holds the power of swaying us to believe that Hashem does not have Hashgacha Pratis over us. But how can this be? Of all places, Jerusalem would seem to be the most appropriate and likely place for us to feel that Hashem is taking care of us.

The explanation is predicated on understanding Hashgacha Pratis and what it means for Hashem to truly care for each of us. It doesn’t just mean that there is a big world and Hashem pays attention to the small causes and little details. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 37a) rather tells us that we are to feel that the whole world is created for each one of us. All that goes into the creation of the world is for each of us individually. As a result, everything that occurs in the world is for us, because these events happen so we can carry out our mission and purpose in this world. It is with us in mind. This redefines Hashgacha Pratis into a new framework.

Now imagine walking into the city of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem, as it should be, is the ultimate civilization. It is the city where its inhabitants are being shown how to live by G-d Himself. It is the location where Hashem has His house, the Beis Hamikdash, and the life surrounding and within the city is a spiritual existence. Kohanim, prophets and holy scholars fill the city, and the laws of purity and impurity are in force and must be kept conscientiously. With all this occurring, you would be bound to feel that this is a very special place, and you may be inclined to feel that it is too much. The degree of spiritual sensitivity and refinement required to live in the city could be overwhelming. It could be difficult to look at the Beis Hamikdash and all the holiness that it contains and still say, “Bishvili nivra ha’olam,” all of this spiritual holiness was created for me. It is to help me grow. That, says the Gemara, is the opening to Gehinnom. It is a big nisayon (test). The challenge to live up to this magnitude of responsibility is awesome. People will look at true greatness and say, “I can’t do that. It’s too much.” For this reason, Jerusalem is a place where one can fall into Gehinnom.

During such occasions of the Simchas Beis Hashoevah, the Rambam writes that the great tzaddikim would dance in joy, and the simple people would observe the revelry and take to heart that these great men would be acting this way to inspire them.

The simple people who would witness this tremendous outpouring of simcha were intended to draw inspiration from it. In that moment, these witnessing individuals would feel humbled. However, it was not meant to be humility that led to shame and feeling less about oneself. It was not meant to have them turn away. Rather, it was meant to inspire them to grow closer to Hashem and tune into the potential within the Jew.

Whatever has been experienced over Sukkos, place yourself in holy places and experience uplifting moments. And if you feel humbled, don’t let it bring you to shame and the feeling that you don’t belong there. Take to heart the opposite. Realize and appreciate that all the holiness is there for each of us. Sukkos is here to strengthen us that the entire world is created for us, and we are worth it and deserve it. Each and every one of us. So see the greatness and holiness in the world, and take to heart that it’s all there for you.

Rabbi Hillel Feldman
Created to Enjoy

Adam was created last as part of the creation of the world, the Torah tells us. This was because the entire world was created for Adam. And yet, there is something ironic about Adam. When you look around at the world, observing the animal kingdom, you can be led to conclude that this world is about enjoyment. Animals, aside from spending their time gathering food, do not have the same worries that plague man. Their life is to be enjoyed! A human being, on the other hand, has obstacles and must face all the challenges and ups and down of living. Why is this so?

Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l writes that, in truth, just as the animals were created to rest and enjoy this world, it must be that man too was created with that intent. But where is the place of this enjoyment? The World to Come. This world is a temporary stage where we are challenged to overcome our obstacles and thereby earn the blissful existence that Olam Haba is. Man was also created for pleasure, which will be experienced not within the confines of a limited world, but within an unlimited world, of Olam Haba.

With this perspective, knowing that this world is about working towards eternity, the difficulties which come our way can be reframed.

Imagine a parent and child walking down the street. The parent wells up with pride at the work they put in to raise the child. Now imagine a different parent and child. This child had a very difficult upbringing, and now he or she is walking down to their chuppa.

That simcha knows no bounds, because it is the result of days and nights of hard labor. Commensurate to the effort is the joy.
When we arrive in the World to Come, the immense pleasure results from the tremendous work we put into this world. No worldly pleasure, in this world, can come close to the deep feelings of satisfaction and pleasure of the Next World that will result from our efforts in this world. In this world, we work, and in the next, we will enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Why Were You Created?

Hashem created a glorious world and placed Adam in this world, within the magnificent Garden of Eden. But Adam violated the rules of the Garden and he then began hiding. Resultantly, Hashem uttered His very first word to mankind: Ayeka, where are you? Of course, Hashem knew where Adam was. G-d is omniscient.

The real question was a deep question, a soul searching question. It is a question that Hashem not only asked Adam, but asks all of his descendants, throughout all of history. He asks you and me. Ayeka, where are you?

Every person in this world is put here for a reason. You were created for a reason. There is a reason for when you were created and where you were created. There is a reason you are where you are in time and place. And in the place we are, it is up to us to figure out what our goal is and where we are going. What are we meant to accomplish in this world? What are we meant to be doing? Every day, Hashem looks to us and asks, “Where are you?”

We didn’t come into this world with a little tag or manual that says, “This is exactly what you need to accomplish in life. This is what your talents are.” We don’t know. But what we do know is that we are not here for ourselves. We are here for others. We are here for the world. If we take this as our path, if we make that our goal and we constantly develop who we are and what we can do to make the world a better place, then we are fulfilling the reason we were created. And then we have an answer to that very, very deep question: “Where are you?” And our answer is, “I’m right here.”

Rabbi David Yosef
Torah is Our Life

According to Chazal, before Adam ate from the Tree of Life, He had everything. The weather was like the perfect Spring, and the angels provided him with anything he needed. He was like a king. After he ate from the Tree, Hashem told him that he would need to work for his life. This could be understood as a commandment to make a living. To study Torah all day is trumped by the need and commandment to work.

But in truth, according to the Torah, our need to work is a curse. Hashem created us to study Torah and perform mitzvot. The time we must spend working, to make a living, is not a blessing. To this end, Chazal say that the main purpose of a person is to make Torah study his primary focus. We must begin our day with praying and studying Torah and we must end our day the same way.

I know of a man who did not come to a Torah class for one week. When I later met him, he told me that he was not feeling well, which was the reason for his absence. “I hardly went to work,” he said. As he said this, I replied, “If you hadn’t gone to work, and your boss asked you where you had been and you said, ‘I hardly studied Torah,’ I could understand. But as it stands now, what happened that you were unable to study Torah?

Torah is to be our primary focus. It is why we are in this world. When we do so, our life will be filled with the very purpose for why we are here.

Rabbi Reuven Hoff
The Truth

What comes to mind when you heard the word, “Truth”? We say, “Moshe is truth and the Torah is truth.” The word Emes, truth, is a part of our Torah lexicon.

The last three letters of the first words of the Torah, “Bereishis bara Elokim,” spell out the word ‘Emes.’ The Or Hachaim asks, why is the word ‘Emes’ spelled out at the end of these words as opposed to the beginning? The answer is that two types of things happen to us on a daily basis – good things, and things which we perceive as not good. The good things we appreciate right away. On the other hand, the not so good things, they can bring us down. But, in fact, everything which occurs to us is good, and at the end it will be revealed that it was for the good. Not right away, not at the beginning. At first it will seem not so good. However, at the end, in hindsight, we will see that Hashem had a plan in mind and it was for our good. Therefore, ‘Emes’ is hinted to at the end of the letters.

Take a moment and appreciate that everything Hashem does is for the best. Ask your family this question. What are some ways we can appreciate that everything Hashem does is for our very best? And then listen carefully and take those words to heart.

Mr. Harry Rothenberg
Happy Wife, Wealthy Husband

Rava once gave advice to those who lived in the city of Mechoza: Honor your wife, so you will become wealthy (Bava Metzia 59a). Why did Rava tell them that he should honor their wives so they will become wealthy instead of saying that they should honor their wives because it is the right thing to do?
I remember how I sat my sons down before they got married and told them that until this point, the most important people have been their mother and father. But now, the most important person will be their wife. Before my daughters got married, I prayed that my future sons-in-laws would take good care of them.

Perhaps Rava felt that if he would merely say that honoring your wife is the right thing to do, it would resonate, but not to the same degree when he would say that the benefit would be wealth. But, even so, the bigger question is what connection is there between honoring your wife and becoming wealthy?

When we finish the Torah, we start it again. Early on in the Torah, the Snake convinces Chava to eat from the Eitz Ha’Daas, who in turn convinces Adam. The consequences are enumerated in the Torah, which are truly consequences to all men, women and snakes for all of time. In this scenario, Adam honored his wife by listening to her, who wished for him to eat from the fruit. As a result, Hashem lessened Adam’s consequence by saying that I will grant you wealth. When you work, you will become wealthy. You honored your wife, and therefore although you must receive a consequence, it will result in wealthy. Hence, you honored your wife… you will be wealthy.

Hashem is exact in every measure. He rewards us for how we treat each other; not just how we relate to Him.

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