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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3

Jerusalem

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GENESIS — 1:1 began

Tradition teaches that G-d’s original intention was to create the world solely with the attribute of judgment. We can still see the results of this intention, because the fundamental laws of nature are themselves immutable.  If you put your hand in fire, it will be burned, no matter what you might say or think.  A world created according to the quality of judgment requires that everything be a specific way, with no deviation whatever. But we are told that G-d realized that the world (and especially people) could not survive if the world were set up so that strict justice was exacted instantly for every error or wrongdoing.  A world run only according to the principle of stern justice would leave no room for free will, learning, change, or growth, because mechanical rules would meet out the results instantly and without variation. To forestall such an insufferable rigidity, G-d included the attributes of compassion as an essential feature of creation, right alongside judgment. … G-d reflected, “If I create the world with only the attribute of compassion, no one will be concerned for the consequences of their actions, and people will feel impunity to act badly. But if I create the world with strict judgment alone, how could the world endure? It would shatter from the harshness of justice. So I will create it with both justice and compassion, and it will endure.”  Rashi.  Genesis Rabbah 12:15. MORINIS 77-78
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GENESIS — 1:26 image

At its core, the soul you are is already holy and pure.  How could it be otherwise, since we are told in no uncertain terms in the Torah that we are made “in the image” and “likeness” of G-d? Yet in the reality of our lives, that radiant inner being is often hidden. The holy light of the neshama would shine constantly in our lives and through us into the world, were it not for the fact that the condition of certain inner qualities, which are framed for us as our soul-traits at the level of nefesh-soul, obstruct the radiance.  MORINIS 19-20
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GENESIS — 1:26 us

Witness Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s statement about himself.  He said, “I know that I have the mental capacity of a thousand men.”  This was surely not arrogance on his part, just uncommon honesty and accurate self-knowledge. He followed it up by noting, “Because of that, my obligation to serve G-d is also that of a thousand men.” He knew his space and his capacity to occupy it.  MORINIS 51
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

Although the Torah tells us that we are made in the image of G-d, some rabbis see this not as a statement of our present condition but of our potential.  Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, for example, helps us identify just where we can locate that image of G-d in which we were made: “The image of G-d is in His character traits.  When you love kindness, you become the image of G-d.” MORINIS 191
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

The challenge that you and I face in our lives is nothing less than the developmental story of our species, which means doing what we can to free ourselves from the dictates of our primitive natures and establish the governance of our higher self, the soul.  “A man should always incite his good inclination against the evil impulse Berachot 5a is how the rabbis of the Talmud put it.  Every day many times a day each of us engages in this struggle.  … In every decision and choice you make, there will be an option that represents the way of the higher self, and another that answers the call of the lower self.  MORINIS 39
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GENESIS — 2:3 ceased

Among the spiritual disabilities that plague so many people today, one of the most common is busyness.  Over commitment of our time leaves little space for the simple experience of being, and awe (and, as we have learned, it child, faith) is much harder to find when we are moving at a speed of seventy miles an hour and our mind is taken up with all the items on the long and ever-replenished list that we can’t possible complete, today or ever. … Awe can come only when there is space in which to welcome it. … Shabbat is the corrective for me.  It isn’t just a day in the week on which I simply rest and recharge in order to reenter the fray, it’s the reminder of what I so easily forget the other six days, and which I hope to remember so that some echo and trace of the spaciousness of the seventh can filter into the six as well.  In my life, I am in danger of getting lost, deflected, and confused in the complex web of demands, responsibilities, and desires I carry with me.  Shabbat is when and how I check the map.  MORINIS 230-231
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GENESIS — 2:7 dust…soul

The core issue, of course, is human nature. Things are not the problem—it’s our inclination to become overinvolved with material possessions and pleasures that we have to be aware of and attend to. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter acknowledges compassionately that this is just a feature of our earthly natures: “Insofar as man is a physical being – [this verse] – inclines to the material.  Therefore, he desires to “eat, drink, and be merry.”  He loves wealth and fortune, and longs for honor and domination. He is full of self-importance and seeks to delight in bodily comforts.’ The problem is that the allure of the material is endless, and ultimately the craving is insatiable.  ‘Man is immersed in this pursuit with all his heart and soul,” wrote Rabbi Salanter,’ – to gather and collect, to further his acquisitions and increase his property. There is no end to his longing.” Ohr Yisrael, 115.  As the sages of the midrash have written,” no one leaves this world with even half his desires refilled.”  Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:13.  What the Mussar masters decry is not the material world per se but our enslavement to it. … This is our predicament, and to guide us in dealing with it, the Mussar masters taught the virtue of living a more simple life, and being content with what you have.  MORINIS 117-8
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GENESIS — 2:7 soul

[Compare Genesis 1:27-28]. Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik Lonely Man of Faith names these two creatures “Adam the first” and “Adam the second” and gives us a picture of the difference between them.  The Adam of the first creation story was given the mandate of living in the world and subduing it, while the second Adam had a living soul breathed into a body and was told to cultivate and protect a garden: “While Adam the first is dynamic and creative, transforming sensory data into thought constructs, Adam the second is receptive and beholds the world in its original dimensions.  He looks for the image of G-d not in the mathematical formula or the natural relational law but in every beam of light, in every bud and blossom, in the morning breeze and the stillness of starlit evening.”  These two Adams are not meant to be understood as different types of people but rather as two dimensions that live within – and often struggle within – each of us.  MORINIS 38-9
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GENESIS — 2:17 do not

Rabbi Yosef Yozel Hurwit, who founded and led the Novarodok school of Mussar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, writes about this episode [Madregat ha’Adam The Levels of Humanity Jerusalem: Yeshivat Ner Shmuel, 2002] saying that this directive was not a commandment to Adam and Eve.  Rather, it was G-d’s good advice to them.  The same can be said about the Torah’s bidding “You shall be holy.”  Exodus 22:30  Not just an injunction, this too is advice that helps us understand and act on an impulse we all already feel within ourselves, which is the inner drive to improve and to make something better of our lives.  … The Torah’s advice is to recognize that, at heart and in reality, the inner impulse to improve that you feel is a spiritual urge, an innate drive toward spiritual refinement, that is squandered when it is spent on your clothes or your car.  It is a sad mistake to put it to any use other than becoming the holy being you have the potential to be, the Torah advises.  MORINIS 11-12
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