BEREISHIS (Genesis 1:1-6:8) — “Let the SON Shine!”

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:

“Our G-d, and G-d of our forefathers, preserve this child for father and his mother, and let his name be called in Israel ____ son of _____.  May his father be happy… may his mother rejoice… 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 from Rabbi Benjamin Yudin of Fair Lawn, NJ, quoting his teacher Rabbi Soloveitchik.

In this week’s Torah Portion, we read the account of the creation of the world.  G-d spent the first three days setting up and defining the borders of Heaven and Earth, and the seas.  He put in landscaping, will all types of plants and trees.

On Day 4 it was time to install the lighting:

And G-d made the two big lights; the big light (Gadol) to rule the day, and the smaller light (Kattan) to rule the night, and the stars.  (Genesis, 1:16)

A Gadol and a Kattan.  A big light and a little light.  Rabbi Soloveitchik suggested that that we can gain an insight into the prayer for the recently circumcised child from the similar wording in this verse.

What is it about the sun that makes it greater than the moon, other than the obvious difference in size?  (Goliath was a lot bigger than David, but we all know who was the greater of the two!)

The moon is a magnificent luminary that enhances the beauty of the night. But all it takes is an eclipse, when the earth gets between the sun and the moon, to demonstrate where the moon’s light comes from.  The moon is merely a mirror that reflects the sun’s light.  Without the sun, the Gadol, the Big Light, to shine upon it, the moon, the Kattan, the Little Light, is nothing but a burnt-out bulb.

We raise our children with the hope and prayer that they will live lives that reflect our own values.  We teach them Torah.  We guide them and instruct them to be kind and honest.  We support them and instill in them the love of G-d.

And if we are successful, we will see that they are emulating our values and walking in the path of Torah.  But that is not what makes a Kattan, a small one, into a Gadol, a great one.

Young children, when they start out, are merely reflections of their parents.  If their parents have done a good job, their children imitate and reflect the positive values of their parents.  But at one point, the child needs to be more than just a mirror.  He needs to give off some light of his own.

In our prayers, we refer to the Almighty as “the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob.”

Why don’t we save a few words and call Him “the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”?  Why repeat that He is the G-d of each one?

The answer is that Isaac’s relationship with G-d was more than just being Abraham’s son.  Isaac became a great man of G-d in his own right.  G-d wasn’t just the G-d of Isaac’s father Abraham.  He was the G-d of Isaac!

Contrast that with Isaac’s own children.  Our Sages tell us that when Jacob and Esau were young boys, they were both righteous young men, following the teachings of their father Isaac.  It was only as Esau grew that it became clear that he was headed down a different path.  He reflected the teachings of Isaac, but only when he was in the presence of Isaac.  As Esau grew, and was no longer in the presence of the sacred glow of his father, the true colors of his dark and cold soul were visible for all to see.  Jacob, on the other hand, not only shined from the light of his father, but he himself became a luminary, and light of Jacob continues to shine till this very day.

And that is what we want from our children.  We want to see the Kattan, the little moon who starts off by reflecting our light, to become a Gadol, a great sun who will brighten the lives of his own children, and inspire his SONS (and daughters!) to become SUNS who will brighten the path for future generations.

The trick is that we have to make sure that we ourselves are bright enough to get our children started.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz


From the Archives

 “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.


“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.


“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.


 “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 LochNess 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.


“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.


“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.


 “‘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   Copyright © 2000-2016 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel ( 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 on October 28, 2016 at 10:36 am  Comments Off on BEREISHIS (Genesis 1:1-6:8) — “Let the SON Shine!”  
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