Parshas Bereishis 5759 - '98
Outline Vol. 3, # 1
Regarding the familiar story of Adom and Chava (Adam and Eve), the Medrash and commentaries provide interesting information. Avos D’rebbi Nosson relates that Adom was told not to eat from the forbidden fruit; in telling his wife, however, he added an extra measure: "Do not even touch it."
This unexplained addition provided the snake with an opening. The snake was easily able to show Chava that there was no immediate harm in touching it. She was then easily convinced that there was no truth to the entire matter!
Adom was told that on the day they would eat of the forbidden fruit, they would die. We see that it truly did not mean that they would die right away, but that death would have to come eventually; or, according to one opinion [see Ramban], death would have to come earlier, as a result of this poisonous food. Obviously, they had understood literally that death would come at the time of the eating.
The Yishmach Moshe asked the following:
In spite of their faulty thinking -- they thought they would actually die on the day of eating -- how would they suppose that death would come about in a single instant? They were told that death would come on the day in which they would eat, not at the instant they would eat!
Rather, the snake explained that there was a doubt as to whether they were to die on that day. Either way wouldn’t make a difference: "Are you going to die today, or not? If the whole thing is a fabrication -- and you are not going to die -- then you might as well eat the fruit. If, on the other hand, you really are going to die today, then you might as well eat it and enjoy it while you can."
A subtle, meaningful explanation of the story can be found in the Meshech Chochmah of the Ohr Sameach. Hashem had said that they would die on the day they would eat the fruit. The snake convinced them that Hashem wanted them to eat and die -- as a sort of martyr’s self-sacrifice. "The goal is to come close to Hashem, isn’t it? Surely this cannot be accomplished through life. Hashem’s true intention is that you give your lives to Him and, in so doing, bring yourselves ever closer to Him."
After they ate, they hid themselves. Hashem then said: "Did you eat from the fruit of which I told you NOT to eat? It is not the way the snake convinced you into thinking; My desire was that you not eat from the fruit at all, and not die."
Was Death a Punishment, or Not?
The Yishmach Moshe refers to a commentary which maintains that, indeed, death was not a punishment, but a natural outcome of the eating. In order to attain total completeness, a person would eventually have to die. This will explain why it is that we find that Adom repented and was forgiven, and still had to die -- it had now become impossible to attain a thorough completeness before death.
However, this was a result of the illegal act of eating, and not the Will of Hashem. By bringing death upon themselves, they were trying to outsmart Hashem. Space does not permit further digression, but these commentaries are extremely applicable to our contemporary world...
Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 3, Part 1
The Calendar and the Wisdom of the Jews
An article published in Light, 5 Elul 5737 (‘77), concerns Chacham Dovid Nieto. In 5453 (about 1693), church authorities were unable to explain why Easter preceded Pesach by a month. In Livorno (Leghorn), Italy, they asked Rosh Yeshiva Nieto for help. He composed a book in Italian, which explained the calendar differences between the church and synagogue, the possible new differences that were to occur, and all the discrepancies that would arise between the Latin and Greek churches. His explanations were accepted and greatly appreciated.
Creation and the Calendar
We have discussed how the traditional estimate for the average lunar month, 29.53059 days, is exceedingly accurate according to modern standards (within six millionths of a day, according to NASA figures). What is the origin of the calculations?
On tradition, the first Molad after the appearance of man was v/yd (6, 14) -- the sixth day of the week, at the fourteenth hour. Man was created on the sixth day of the week of creation, the day recognized as Rosh Hashanah (according to Rebbi Eliezer). The previous days of the week belong to a theoretical previous year, which is referred to as Sh’nas Tohu. The previous year’s Molad, theoretically, would have been b/h/rd (2, 5, 204) -- the second day, the fifth hour, 204 parts of the hour.
The difference between these two figures, divided by 12 months, arrives at 29 days, 12 hours and 793/1080 parts of an hour, which equals 29.53059 days. Any Molad of any month can be determined mathematically, by multiplying the number of months that have passed by 29.53059 (as discussed elsewhere, there are certain rules that push off Rosh Chodesh for a day or two).
The Secret; Cosmic Clock
Rabbenu Bachaye, at the beginning of the Torah (Bereishis [Genesis 1:2]), describes a secret: The first theoretical Molad, coded b/h/rd (2, 5, 204), can be found in the Torah. Beginning with the first letter of the Torah, leaving a space of 42 letters, taking the next letter, again leaving a space of 42 letters, taking the next letter, again leaving a space of 42 letters, and taking one more letter, we have b/h/rd (2, 5, 204).
42, meanwhile, is the special Name of Hashem of 42 letters (actually 42 words), referred to in Talmud, Kiddushin 71. This refers to the attribute of Gevurah (might), associated with creation and nature. "Through many permutations, the actual name of 42 words emerges before the first letter of the Torah, alluding to Hashem’s work before the creation... An intelligent person will see that this is not by chance, but is a clear sign of creation... before there were mountains, or the time frame of b/h/rd (2, 5, 204), the attribute of Gevurah (might) was acting..." The Cosmic Clock was operating before there was sun or moon, but would not be counted until the birth of man, which came after the formation of sun and moon...
See the Arachim/Discovery text (original format), Nesivos El Hatorah for more information and sources.
Magid Harakiya shows that it is a debate as to whether these figures were calculated at a much later time -- in reverse -- or received through prophecy and tradition. The Vilna Gaon, who was expertly versed in mathematics and astronomy, concluded (in accordance with Teshuvas Ralbach) that the figures were known by prophecy and tradition. (See also Meshech Chochmah at the very end of the Torah, beginning with "vihenei.")
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.
Copyright © '98 Project Genesis, Inc.