BEREISHIS (Genesis, 1:1-6:8) — “The Right Tools”

It is axiomatic that the right tools make the job much easier to do.  Did you ever try to use a flat screwdriver on a Philips-head screw because you didn’t have what you needed?   It just doesn’t work right.

Before you start a job, it is very important to get what you need.  Yes, you can improvise, and sometimes it will come out ok.  However, the extra time you take to make a quick trip to the hardware store will yield worthwhile dividends.

The same can be said about education.  If you want to be a good doctor, go to the best medical school and learn as much as you can.  The knowledge you will gain there will be a most valuable tool.  If you want to be a good computer geek, take the appropriate courses, and read the appropriate books.  And, if you want to be the best garbage collector in town, make sure you learn from the best!

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The world was brand new.  G-d created a planet, and filled it with animals and vegetation.  He set the sun, the moon, and the stars in the heavens to illuminate the world.  He created the seas, and the fish, and the insects.  Now He was ready, on that first Friday afternoon of Creation, to welcome the guests of honor.  Now, Humanity, the ones who were going to pull it all together, were to make their entrance:

G-d created Humanity in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.  G-d blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the bird of the sky, and everything that moves on the earth.” (Genesis, 1:26-28)

In the world BEFORE sin, the earth was to be a smoothly-run place that would effortlessly yield ample blessings for its human citizens.  Later, after the sin in the Garden of Eden, Adam would have to deal with the curse of, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread…” (Ibid, 2:19) But for now, Adam was not yet “blue collar.”  He was “Management.”

Now earth had a manager.  G-d had created Adam and Eve and charged them with running the world.  But, how do you run a world?  What tools would Adam and Eve need?

Let’s look back to before they were created:

These are the chronicles of heaven and earth when they were created…the shrubs of the field did not yet exist on the earth, and the wild plants had not yet sprouted.  This was because G-d had not yet brought rain on the earth, and there was no man to work the soil.  A mist rose up from the earth, and watered the entire surface of the ground.   (Ibid, verses 4-7)

Before G-d created man, the earth was on “automatic pilot.”  Since “there was no man to work the soil”, a mist watered the earth.  Later, after man would be created, it would be different…

Wait a minute!  What does the Torah mean by “there was no man to work the soil”?  What sort of work was he supposed to do?  This was BEFORE Adam and Eve sinned.  The earth had not yet been cursed.  Man did not yet have to earn his keep “by the sweat of (his) brow.”  So how was he to “work the soil?

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin  answers that man was to “work the soil” through “work of the heart”, i.e.; prayer.  (This is easier to understand when you realize that the Hebrew word “Avodah” can be translated to mean “work,” or to mean “religious service.”  The Yom Kippur Service in the Temple, for example, is sometimes referred to as simply “The Avodah.”) Before the decree of “By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread. . .” Adam still had “work” to do.  He had to serve G-d.

The Torah tells us that … G-d had not yet brought rain on the earth, and there was no man to work the soil.  What it means is that … G-d had not yet brought rain on the earth BECAUSE there was no man to work the soil!  Rain is something that comes about as a result of several meteorological factors, and one theological factor – prayer.  There was no rain because there was no man to pray for it!

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There, you have it.  You must have the tools you need.

Go out there and conquer the world.  Negotiate that contract!  Build that better mousetrap!  Heal that patient!  Hit that grand slam home run!

But before you do, make sure you are prepared.  Do your homework.  Sterilize your surgical instruments.  Go to spring training.

One more thing.  Pray.  G-d was willing to let the world run itself before we got here.  But that was when “there was no man to work the soil.”  That was before we were able to ask G-d for help.  Now that we can, we must.

Prayer is not limited to Hebrew phrases in prayer books.  (Although it is well worth your while to learn how to use that tool as well!)  It can be simply, “Please help me, G-d.  I can’t do this by myself.  I know I can’t succeed without Your assistance.”

Prayer is the right tool for every job.  Without G-d’s help we are powerless.  With G-d’s help we are limitless.

Doesn’t it behoove us to ask?

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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From the Archives

“Let the SON Shine” (2016)

A baby boy is born.

His proud and hopeful parents bring him to the synagogue on the eighth day of his life, whereupon he is surgically and spiritually ushered into the Covenant of Abraham.

A prayer is recited “…May this little one become great. Just as he as entered the Covenant, so too may he enter into the Torah, the Chuppah (marriage canopy) and good deeds.” 

Big plans for this little guy. “May this little one (Kattan in Hebrew) become great (Gadol in Hebrew, literally big).”

A prayer that the Kattan will become Gadol, the little one will grow to become big.  We look forward to seeing this little 6-pounder turn into a strapping 6-footer.

Being a Mohel, I get to eat a lot of bagels & lox, and hear a lot of speeches.  I heard a beautiful explanation of this prayer …

Read more.

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“How Many G-Ds Does It Take To Make A World?” (2009)

Moses was not happy.  There he was, taking dictation from the Author of the Torah, writing each word per G-d’s instructions.  They were up to Genesis, 1:21.  G-d told him to write, ” . . . and G-d said, let Us make man in Our image . . .”

.. OUR image . . . ???

Moses was troubled by G-d referring to Himself in plural.  A major tenet of the Jewish faith is that there is only one G-d, who has no partners.  “Master of the World!  You are giving an opening to heretics!”…

Read more.

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“Be a World Builder” (2008)

…G-d wanted Israel to be His partner in Creation.  But how could this be done?  G-d brought forth all His miraculous powers of creation in bringing the world into being.  What did we do?  Nothing! …

Read more.

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“Kindness, Torah-Style” (2006)

…  Was it really such a charitable act for G-d to feed Adam and Eve?  After all, He created them!  Doesn’t a parent feed and clothe and educate his child, and help him to become self-sufficient?

It was, in a sense, in G-d’s “best interest” to take care of Adam and Eve…

Read more.

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 “The Right Tools” (2005)

It is axiomatic that the right tools make the job much easier to do.  Did you ever try to use a flat screwdriver on a Philips-head screw because you didn’t have what you needed?   It just doesn’t work right.

Before you start a job, it is very important to get what you need.  Yes, you can improvise, and sometimes it will come out ok.  However, the extra time you take to make a quick trip to the hardware store will yield worthwhile dividends…

Go out there and conquer the world.  Negotiate that contract!  Build that better mousetrap!  Heal that patient!  Hit that grand slam home run!

But before you do, make sure you are prepared.  Do your homework.  Sterilize your surgical instruments.  Go to spring training.

One more thing …

Read more.

———————————————————————————-

“The Loch Ness Succah” (2003)

… A nice, upbeat prayer — a request that in the coming year, G-d will finally send the Messiah, ushering in a utopian era of world peace and mutual understanding.  A time when, as Isaiah says, swords will be made into plowshares, and war will be a defunct concept found only in history books.

But what if the Messiah doesn’t come?  What if next year isn’t perfect?  Would it not be appropriate to add a caveat to the above prayer?  How about something like, “Okay, G-d, I hope you send the Messiah.  But, if You decide not to, may it be Your will that my family all be together in good health to celebrate Sukkos together.”

Might it not make sense to have a “back-up plan”?  Why should we go for broke? …

Read more.

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“The Evolutionary War” (2002) 

Who’s right, scientists or the Torah?  On Rosh Hashanah, we began the year 5763. How can we believe that the world is less than six thousand years old when the scientific evidence indicates that it is BILLIONS of years old?

What about fossils?  What about carbon dating?  Can we, as intelligent people, really believe the Adam & Eve story?  What about dinosaurs?  What about all of the evidence of various life forms, leading to the advanced stage of development at which we now stand?  How can we believe in the Garden of Eden instead of Jurassic Park? …

Read more.

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“Cry ‘Uncle'” (2001)

… What could have caused such strife, such animosity that would lead Cain to destroy one seventh of the human race? …

Read more.

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 “‘Big Mac’ Strikes Out In the Garden of Eden” (2000)

… My son showed me an article last week (Total Baseball Weekly — October 18-24, 2000 — no link available) about some baseball fans that approached home run superstar Mark McGuire and asked him for his autograph.  Big Mac “graciously” offered to give his autograph to whomever would be kind enough to go to Starbucks and fetch him a cup of coffee.

…  Without his fans footing the bill, he would have to go out and get a real job and buy his own coffee.  Here is a man who has a lot to learn about appreciation.

Too bad.  He should have read this week’s Torah Portion …

Read more.

This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2016 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on October 28, 2005 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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