21st Century P’shat: 1-2 minute divrai Torah for each aliyah

Bereshit

  1. There is a critical line: “And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which God in creating had made.  “And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which God in creating had made.” Hashem hallowed the seventh day by resting from his work. Holiness requires two things – creative work and divine rest. This is why Adam’s job is to work and guard the garden.
    1. The first word of the Torah is “In the Beginning.” Countless books have reflected on this in many ways. Implied in the word is that there is a beginning to time. There is a start. Time, in other words, is created. This one concept separates our world fundamentally from Hashem’s. Why not say time was created? Any phrase describing the creation of time would be senseless. Perhaps this is why there is a word vo’u that has no context and no other uses. It suggests incomprehensibility.
  2. There are two creations – a source of endless Bible criticism. Let’s look at the dual creations of plant life. In English, they seem identical – but the words for vegetation don’t match up in Hebrew. The first has deshand eisev mazriah and eitz pri. Roughly translated these are sprouted vegetation, seeded grasses and fruit trees that make fruit of their own kind. They are reproducing plants. The second has siach hasadeh and asev hasadeh. What is different? Hasadeh – a field, nominally one for human needs and a place for human creation. The second set of vegetation has a purpose beyond itself and its own reproduction. It waits for man to work it. Now let’s look at man. The first creation has man in the likeness of G-d. And man is commanded to rule the earth and eat from it and reproduce. Rest is not included, the seventh day hasn’t happened yet. And, bundled with everything else, man is very good. He fits. But the second man is different. It is the second creation that sees spirit blown into man and an animal with soul created. Like the vegetation, this human has a purpose beyond himself and his own reproduction. The importance of spirit is emphasized by his humble physical roots from the dust of the ground. Looked at evolutionary – perhaps there was man without soul before homo soulus builds upon him.
  3. Adam and Chava are not creators. They aren’t living up to the role of soulful beings in the image of Hashem – creators who rest with the divine. Instead, they are all Kadosh rest and no creative good. Just like a spoiled kid needs to experience difficulty to start creating with his/her life, they need to evil to be driven to do the good. The snake is the catalyst for this.
    1. One opinion argues the fruit is the etrog. No amazing characteristics are required for this to be true. Chava judges good with her eyes and expected taste. She is not a creator of the good like Hashem. She sees the fruit and to her long-range sensors (eyes and nose) it would seem good – even wonderful. But when she eats it, she will realize it is not good at all. She will know evil. And with it she will recognize that her perception of the good was limited. Hearing – hearing the voice of Hashem – is the way to true goodness.
    2. Midrashim argue the snake had the appearance of a man. Then it lost its arms and legs as described in the text. Perhaps the snake was that prior man – man without soul.
  4. It is fascinating that Hashem doesn’t seem to punish Cain. He marks him, but for protection not death. Why? The answer comes earlier. Hashem says “you can improve… you can rule over [longing for sin].” Hashem is trying to give Cain a chance to improve himself. This is like our governments giving Iran or North Korea another chance after they commit an atrocity. We want punishment to be unnecessary and so does Hashem.
  5. We have three brothers. And they progress down a path. First is Yaval who was the first to live in tents and herd cattle. yaval means income.Herders are pushed from the best land and make use of large amounts of inferior land – but they aren’t nomads who follow their flocks. They separate themselves in order to make an income. Next is Yuval who grasps the harp and ugav (a shoresh that implies promiscuity as well as a flute). The form of yuval implies more urgent income – perhaps income based on entertainment involving sex and music. The third brother is Tuval Kain. It could be translated as “you acquire acquisitions” – the strongest of the three. This family relies on sharpened blades.
  6. At the beginning of this reading, lemech takes Hashem’s gesture towards Cain and totally misunderstands it. He sees reward for murder. I’m reminded of my triplets – give one a pass and the next will totally take advantage of it. Perhaps in response to this trend, Adam gets a second line Shait. This son makes it common to call to Hashem and by the end of the reading his descendant Enoch is walking with G-d.
  7. But the swordsmen of Tuval Kain are still there. Perhaps they are powerful. And perhaps their sons are those who take ‘good’ daughters from the mass of people. These sons who didn’t even create their own power steal the good rather than creating it. In a way, these men are living in an Eden and taking the good. But instead of pursuing knowledge or life, they take the good for reproductive urges. Going back, these seem like pre-soul men; programmed to conquer and reproduce. Hashem’s response is to say His soul will not yadon (from the root dinan) in man forever because he is flesh. He stops the approach he took with Cain and drops the limitless hope and forgiveness. His soul can not stay in these people. This is the only use of the root dinan  in Torah. It seems to mean ‘encouraging through forgiveness’. In the run up to the flood, this sort of encouragement is gone. It is a phase change from a world where evil exists to encourage the good to one where suffering can also exist because not punishing evildoers produces more evildoers.