Simchas Torah/Breishis – Kavod Shabbos vs. Kavod HaTorah

 On Simchas Torah we conclude the reading of the Torah and immediately start it again with the reading of the seven days of creation in the Torah portion of Breishis. The creation culminates with the Shabbos; yet the obvious question is, why did Hashem rest on the 7th day and declare it a weekly “holiday “ in perpetuity?
 The Medrish Tanchuma in the second paragraph for the portion of Breishis answers this question based on a Shi’iltos di’Rav Achai Gaon, that was added into the medrish, and says that “Jews are obligated to rest on the day of Shabbos for Hashem created the world in six days and rested on Shabbos. He blessed [that day] and sanctified it, just as a person who builds his own house, and upon finishing it would throw a party. They would have a feast commemorating the conclusion of building, so that is what ‘By the seventh day G-D completed His work’ (Breishis 2:2), means. Hashem says you shall rest on Shabbos just as I rested on Shabbos, as it is written, ‘And He rested on the seventh day therefore Hashem blessed etc.’ (Shemos 20:11).” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
The medrish goes on to discuss various things we do differently on Shabbos than during the week, for example not fasting, eating and drinking fancier food and drinks to delight on Shabbos, as well as dressing up in fancy, clean clothing. One shouldn’t talk about the same subjects or in the same way as they do during the week; neither shall they walk the same way as they do during the week, for mundane matters. (The Radak in Yeshayahu 58:13 adds that one should even eat his meals at different times than during the week, before or after the normal weekday times).
 The medrish then asks, “However we have to figure out, if a person is going to do a mitzvah, or going to pray, or to learn in the beis medrish, is it permitted to take big steps on Shabbos [as they would during the week]? (Big steps are defined by the Anaf Yosef as more than an amah. A normal step is an amah, meaning a half an amah between each foot when taking a step, and the sole of the foot is about a half an amah as well. An amah is 21.25 inches.) Is a mitzvah better or is honoring Shabbos better?” (The Be’ur Ha’amarim explain the question is, is honoring the Shabbos more important or is kavod HaTorah, honoring the Torah and it’s mitzvos when performing them more important? Meaning, are you considered in violation of the pasuk in Yeshaya 58:13 which says one should walk differently on Shabbos if one’s steps are too big when going to perform a mitzvah, or does it only apply to doing personal tasks?)

The Medrish answers, “Come and listen, for Rebbe Tanchum said in the name of Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi that a person should always run to do any matter of a mitzvah and even if it is on Shabbos. And Rebbe Zeira said that originally when I saw rabbis running to a Torah class on Shabbos, I said to myself that these rabbis are profaning Shabbos. When I heard what Rebbe Tanchum said, I also ran, and I concluded in my learning that the reward for going to a Torah class is in fact for the running.”
The Etz Yosef brings two reasons why the reward in Heaven for going to a Torah class is for running:

  1. According to Rashi, the reward for most people listening to a drasha [speech] from the rabbi is in fact the actual running to the lecture, as most of them cannot follow what he is saying, and even if they can, they won’t be able to repeat the lecture after a short period of time from when they got the reward for learning.
  2.  According to the Maharsha, this is referring to the rabbis who show up but don’t need the shiur, for they already know halacha, but nevertheless they are rewarded for running to the class. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

How could Rebbe Zeira think his fellow rabbis were desecrating Shabbos and what was it that Rebbe Tanchum said which made Rebbe Zeira change his mind so emphatically?

On the one hand we see how respecting Shabbos is so important to the degree that we have to do many things differently, like what we eat and drink, when we eat, how we dress, talk, and even the way we get from one place to the next. They should be different on Shabbos than during the week in order to acknowledge our belief in The Creator and appreciate His handiwork.
On the other hand the importance of respecting Hashem’s Torah can be emphasized by the opening statement of the Medrish Tanchuma on this Torah portion, which is the beginning of the entire book when it says, “’In the beginning G-D created’ this is what the pasuk writes, ‘Hashem with wisdom laid out the foundation of the land’ (Mishley 3:19), and when Hashem created His world, He inquired into the Torah and created the world.” The Torah is the blueprints of creation and handbook for mankind, so in showing honor to the Torah by running to fulfill its mitzvos and learning from it, it does not take away from the sanctity and honor of Shabbos as both are for the purpose of honoring Hashem.

Rebbe Zeira must have understood all this but thought that if the pasuk in Yeshayahu went out of its way to emphasize that one must walk differently on Shabbos, then that must be in all situations. Therefore since performing a mitzvah with alacrity or learning diligently with understanding, or praying with deep intent, suffices to bring honor to the Torah on Shabbos, the speed of travel to begin that mitzvah can be slowed for the sake of honoring the Shabbos, for both can be accomplished. Indeed, it is uniformly a show of respect for Hashem; therefore it must be those rabbi are disrespecting Shabbos by running to do the mitzvah!

However when he heard Rebbe Tanchum’s statement that at all times, even on Shabbos, one should rush to perform mitzvos or listen to Torah being learned, he realized that the ultimate respect to Hashem is in showing one’s interest and passion to hear and perform the “Word of G-D,” even if one does not understand what he is listening to or knows it already and doesn’t gain anything. The rush to acknowledge the importance of listening to Torah and trying to perform His will is the ultimate show of honor to the King Of All Kings and is not a sign of lack of respect to the Shabbos, because it is all one thing, serving Hashem, The Creator Of The World, and showing excitement in performing His will.

Breishis – Beyond Even the Shadow of a Doubt

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The Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer (chapter 12, 20) says that Adam HaRishon was created on Har Hamoriah, the Temple Mount. In chapter 11, the Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer says that in the 10th hour of the 6th day of creation, Hashem placed Adam into Gan Eden.

The pasuk in this week’s Torah portion of Breishis states and Rashi comments:

Now Hashem, G-d took the man, and He placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it. (Breishis 2:15) טווַיִּקַּ֛ח יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּנִּחֵ֣הוּ בְגַן־עֵ֔דֶן לְעָבְדָ֖הּ וּלְשָׁמְרָֽהּ:
took: He took him with pleasant words and enticed him to enter. — [Gen. Rabbah 16:5] ויקח: לקחו בדברים נאים ופתהו ליכנס:  

 The Gur Aryeh, wondering what it means that Hashem took Adam with words and why He did so, explains that for a person it is not possible to just physically take him or her, since the essence of a person is the fact that he or she is an intellectually thinking organism, and it is not possible to physically take them. For even though one’s body could be taken, one cannot just take one’s mind or intellect. Therefore Rashi explains the word “took” to mean that He took with words, and it therefore makes sense that He took also his mind, meaning with permission, through talking to him. So too, anytime the Torah writes the word “took” in reference to a person, Rashi explains it in this fashion; that he was convinced through words, so that the taking would be with the consent of the person. For the mind is the main essence of a person, and if this is not done then a person really isn’t taken, since the main essence of a person is his or her mind and intellect. 

Based on this Gur Aryeh, it would seem that if a person is captured, he or she is not willfully taken away unless he is convinced to go where he or she was taken, that is why Hashem didn’t just take Adam and place him in Gan Eden, He also told him what He was doing. However, Rashi also says that He had to manipulate, or literally seduce, Adam to enter Gan Eden. The Gur Aryeh asks why Adam had to be enticed to enter Gan Eden? However, he answers that this enticement was just to tell him he is entering Gan Eden; Hashem would not have taken him and brought him into Gan Eden without telling him because it would not be considered him going willfully. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Wouldn’t you trust your loving father if he told you that you are moving to a new beautiful place? Now what if your father was a very powerful and wealthy king; you would be even more excited about where he was going to take you! All the more so if He is the King of Kings, All Powerful, All Loving, and only does good. Shouldn’t it be then obvious to Adam that Hashem, Master Of The Universe, would bring him to the most delightful place that would be perfect for all his needs and desires? Furthermore, Chaza”l say Adam was created by Hashem already an adult, with not just mature understanding, but on such a level that the angels mistook him as G-D, being that he was literally the son of G-D, formed by Hashem Himself, without any intermediaries helping Him. Hashem had to put him to sleep in order for the angels to realize Adam wasn’t the all-perfect G-D that Hashem is. Someone on such a level with such a relationship with Hashem, why would it need to be spelled out that he was being placed in Gan Eden as if he needed convincing that this is right for him?

It is true that it was very obvious that Hashem would only want and give Adam what would be best for him, and Adam knew that, however Hashem wanted to make sure Adam accepted with crystal clear, authentic clarity what he was getting himself into.

We see from here that there is a difference between the obvious and real clarity.