October 11, '96
The Torah begins with creation and the story of mankind. From the start, man's story describes error and downfall. He is commanded not to eat of the forbidden fruit, but he does eat. His life is suddenly changed; his eyes are "opened" -- opened to profit and gain, desire and lust.
At the end of chapter two, the Torah states that the man and his wife were naked but unashamed. In verse seven of chapter three -- after eating the fruit -- it states that their eyes were opened, they perceived that they were naked, and clothed themselves.
The actual context of these verses is a debate. Maharal (Ba'er Hagolah, Ba'er 5, see Peirushei Maharal al Hatorah) refers to various commentaries who explain that man's physical nature is in itself shameful. He takes issue with these commentaries; man is Hashem's handiwork; there is nothing innately unpleasant with man's nature. Why was there shame in the end? The shame was produced due to the introduction of something external -- non-essential -- associated with excessive lust and desire.
In a similar way, Ramban (Nachmanides) explains the effect of the forbidden fruit: It increased desire and lust, so that a person would desire one thing and its opposite... The same language is used by the Ramban near the end of the Torah (Deut. 30:6), in describing the "circumcision of the heart." From creation man would chose good by nature; after the incident of the fruit, man would desire one thing and the very opposite... In the Messianic Era, there will again come a time when man will not be pressured and compelled by the evil inclination...
The sefer Peleh Yoetz, under the category "Ger," begins an amazing digression on economic theory. A person makes his livelihood his main effort in this world. In order to cover enormous expenses, he has to earn more income. The whole thinking is based on a fallacy! It is only because he put his priority on work that he had so many expenses. If he would place his priority on essential matters, he would find many "necessities" to be mere luxuries. He wouldn't need such a vast income, because he wouldn't have such enormous expenses. (Haven't you heard this story? "When I worked in the office, I had time... Now that I went on my own, I'm working night and day to cover the overhead...")
At great length, the Peleh Yoetz, describes the importance of avoiding "mosros" -- excesses. Without the expensive lifestyle and lavish habits, life would be drastically simpler. Without dangerous and expensive excesses, we would avoid bankruptcy and a variety of maladies.
What does this have to do with "Ger" -- Convert or Stranger? The word cannot only refer to converts, because the verse states: "You know the soul of the Ger because you were Gerim in Egypt." This must refer to being a stranger, a wanderer in a foreign land. The Torah commands us to love the Ger. Thus, we should be extremely kind to converts and strangers of all types. If we make ourselves to be strangers -- then we shall become beloved in Hashem's eyes, for He is the first to show love for the Ger. We become strangers by seeing this world as a passing stop for wayfarers. We are only visiting. We must travel lightly, or the journey will become too cumbersome.
If all the above sounds too familiar, it is because this is the very story of mankind. Man was placed in the Garden of Eden; he had whatever he needed. Only a certain amount of labor was necessary; food was there for the taking. The forbidden fruit was unnecessary, dangerous -- the epitome of excess. Once he ate of it, he needed more and more, his lust could not be quenched. He was sent from the Garden as a lesson. Now he would have to work -- "You will eat by the sweat of your brow." But how much does he have to eat? Yaakov only asked for bread to eat and clothing to wear!
The Sefas Emes (Parshas Behar 5663 -- 1882) explained that "Man is born for trouble (or labor)" Job 5:7, could either refer to labor in earthly work or in spiritual service. After the forbidden eating, man was cast from the Garden to work the land. The prohibitions of labor on Shabbos, Shmittah and Yoveil are to remind us of the main existence of the Jewish People.
Man is comprised of body and soul. If the soul would overcome the body entirely, he would be an angel. Hashem gave the Jewish People the soul of the world and the internal nature of the world. This is the Torah, which is the soul of creation, as the medrash states, "He looked into the Torah and created the world."
The Torah is the soul and potential of all existence. At Mount Sinai, the Israelites reached the level of pure soul (only to fall from their height at the incident of the Golden Calf). When man was cast out to work the land, he became a Servant. The Servant of the King takes care of the government. The Prince, however, works directly for the King. This is the idea of the soul; Shabbos is the day of the soul. The "Servant" refers to service of mitzvos (the commandments); the "Prince" refers to the service at the source of the mitzvos (apparently Torah study)...
[The Vilna Gaon, by the way, declares that working for a livelihood is a mitzvah; since it is incumbent on the individual, it precedes Torah study (commentary to tractate Peah).]
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein -- PC Kollel
1 Babbin Ct. Spring Valley, NY 10977
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© Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Genesis, '97