BEREISHIS (Genesis, 1:1-6:8) — “Be a World Builder!”

The final, 613th Commandment in the Torah is the Mitzvah to write a Torah. (Deuteronomy, 31:19)  Every Jew is obligated to write a Torah.  There are various ways in which one can fulfill this Mitzvah.  One way is to sponsor the writing of a letter, or to actually write the letter yourself.

There are 304,805 letters in a Torah scroll.  Typically, a scribe leaves the last few lines of the Torah partially unwritten.  Each letter is missing a little ink.  Different people take their turns either filling in the missing ink from the letters, or authorizing the scribe to act as their agent to write the letter.

This is a little hard to understand.  The scribe has, in most circumstances, invested the better part of a year writing this Torah.  He has put in several hours of work every day, painstakingly adding a letter at a time.  There are a few dozen letters left.  Why should a Johnny-come-lately get the credit for writing the Torah?

The answer, I believe, is that a Torah scroll with only 304, 804 letters is invalid.  It is only after the final letter is fully written that it becomes a fully valid Torah scroll, suitable for reading in the synagogue.  Each and every letter is equally important, and, as such, each and every writer has a share in the Mitzvah of making this Torah scroll a reality.

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Heaven and Earth and all their components were completed.  On the seventh day, G-d completed all His work that He had done.  He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had been doing.  G-d blessed the seventh day, and He declared it to be holy, for it was on this day that G-d rested from all His work which G-d created to do.  (Genesis, 2:1-3)

The above quotation constitutes a very important part of our Sabbath observance.  It is recited in the synagogue on Friday night as testimony.  By reciting these verses, we testify our unwavering belief that G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.  Once we come home from the synagogue, we pour a cup of wine, and proclaim these verses as the introduction to Kiddush before we begin our Sabbath meal.

By reading these words, we fulfill the Fifth Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.”  (Exodus, 8:8)  These words are so important that the Talmud (Shabbos, 119) declares that anyone who prays on Friday and says these words becomes G-d’s partner in Creation.

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin explains.  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!  What creative powers do we possess?  We are incapable of creating so much as a gnat!  How could we possibly have a share in Creation?

Let us look at the quotation again:

“On the seventh day, G-d completed all His work that He had done…”

“On the seventh day…”?  What does this mean?  Wasn’t all the work done from Sunday through Friday?  This verse seems to imply that some of the work, that which completed the job, was actually done on Shabbos!  What was this final act of Creation that G-d did on Shabbos? 

“…  He rested on the seventh day…”

Rashi explains that the one thing that was lacking in the world was rest.  Once G-d rested on Shabbos, Creation was complete.

No, we cannot create life.  No, the moon and the stars, the oceans and the mountains, are all beyond our capability to bring into being.

But rest?  Now THAT is something we know how to do!

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Remember that Torah scroll with the missing letters?  At first glance, it looks like a Torah — but it isn’t.  If a minute piece of the tiniest letter is missing, the Torah is invalid.  There is no point in taking it out of the Ark to read it to the congregation.

There’s a big world out there.  There are mountains and valleys, and rivers and oceans.  Without rest, without Shabbos, the world is incomplete.  When we engage in business and other acts of worldly creativity, we run the risk of allowing ourselves to believe the lie that we are in charge.  But we can’t create anything on our own.  All we can do is move around a few things that G-d already put there.

But there is one thing we can do.  We can state our belief that it’s all from G-d.  Once we acknowledge that He is the Master and Creator of the world, and emulate His restful seventh day, we share in that piece of His Creation.  Like the Torah scribe who left a few letters out, the Master Scribe left us a few pieces of Creation to fill in.  We fill in those pieces with our Shabbos rest.

Be G-dly.  Be creative.  Take a day off.  When we rest on the seventh day, we become G-d’s partners in the creative work He did on the other six.

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.

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“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 23, 2008 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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