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


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GENESIS — 1:12 good

The Creator, who endowed all forms of life with the capacity to grow and propagate, who made “fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it” [this verse] did not bless the vegetable kingdom.  This denial was not the result of the inability of the earth or vegetation to accept the Divine blessing. If the earth may be cursed Genesis 3:17, 5:29, it may also be blessed. Moreover, it is clearly stated in Deuteronomy [28:15]: “Look down from Your holy abode, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the soil You have give us.” The earth as well as the fruit of the earth have trhe capacity for blessing: “Blessed shall be … the fruit of your land Deuteronomy 28:4 He will bless your bread and your water. Exodus 23:25 Why was there no blessing extended? Obviously a blessing directed toward inanimate nature would be meaningless, since it has no raison d’etre for independent existence.  Once animate life emerged, the Divine blessing could become operative and meaningful. Vegetation was to serve as food for both man and beast. The blessings bestowed upon the latter would ultimately redound to plant life which was to function as the means of sustenance for all living creatures. Nachmanides to Genesis 1:22.  ROSNER 60-1

GENESIS — 1:22 blessed

On the fifth day of creation, G-d commanded the waters to teem with swarms of living creatures. On this day the fish and birds were created. For the first time the Creator conferred a blessing on His handiwork [this verse]. In this passage, the Hebrew root for blessing – barekh – a key-word in Genesis, appears for the first time. ROSNER 59

GENESIS — 1:22 fertile

The great blessing, then, for the human species is fertility – not because more hands were needed to operate farms or to engage in defense. That the blessing of fertility included all animate beings (particularly those whose usefulness to man is less obvious) precludes its having a utilitarian purpose. The first chapter of Genesis does not conceive of the blessing of fertility as associated with labor, aggression, or defense. In this chapter, G-d has designated grass and fruit-trees to serve as food for both men and animals. The hard labor to which man was subjected and the need for many hands to assist him in his back-breaking work was not contemplated in the original plan of creation. Genesis pictures a pacific world in which there is no conflict between man and man or between man and other creatures. Neither does it envision internecine warfare within the animal kingdom.  Nahmanides to Genesis 1:29 and Nahmanides to Leviticus 26:4 The blessing of fertility would appear to have emanated from the great delight experienced by G-d in creating the world and its inhabitants. “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; let the Lord rejoice in His works.” Psalm 104:31 According to the Aggadah, these words constituted the song of the universe when creation was completed. Chullin 60a The joy of G-d in His work was reflected in the response of His creatures, who broke forth in a universal paean. “G-d saw all that He had made and behold it was very good.” Genesis 1:31 G-d loved the world, is living creatures, and man above all, so that He poured forth upon them with the greatest abundance the blessing of creativity that enables every species to reproduce life according to its kind. The blessing of fertility is associated with G-d’s vision of the world and life as good, as we read in [this and previous verse]. The vision of the goodness of life preceded the blessing and motivated it. The creation of man in G-d’s image likewise motivated the blessing of fertility for man. Genesis 1:26-28  ROSNER 61-2

GENESIS — 1:28 fertile

On the sixth day, the earth was commanded to bring forth living creatures, cattle, creeping things, and beasts of the earth. G-d saw that what He had made was good. He, therefore, decided to create man in His own image. Man was to have dominion over all that moves in the seas, in the air, and on the face of the earth. The blessing which the Creator had pronounced on the creatures of the fifth day was now repeated in behalf of the last and choices of His creatures – Man. G-d created man male and female. [this verse]. ROSNER 59

GENESIS — 1:28 G-d

The subject G-d is repeated twice. The blessing extended to other creatures has but one subject: “G-d blessed them saying: ‘Be fruitful and multiply’.” Genesis 1:22  The two phrases in the case of man imply a commandment in addition to the blessing. Various commentaries on this verse, including Luzzatto, S.R. Hirsch.  Likewise, in the ninth chapter of Genesis, which recounts the blessing that G-d bestowed upon man after the Flood, we read: “And G-d blessed Noah and his sons and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’” Genesis 9:1 There is here also a doubling of the phrase as found in the first chapter of Genesis, without the repetition of that subject G-d.  However, in order to insure against any possibility of error, the phrase was repeated immediately after the prohibition of bloodshed: As for you, be fruitful and multiply; abound on the earth and increase on it. Nahmanides. In light of the above, the Oral Tradition has declared procreation a religious duty, an imperative placed upon man by the Divine Law, a commandment whose purpose is to channelize a wild instinct and subject it to conscious control of man’s intelligence, for the purpose of perpetuating the human species.  ROSNER 63

GENESIS — 1:28 multiply

Is the duty of procreation binding on women or only on men?  … The answer … is given in an ancient Mishnah: Yevamot 55b: “A man is commanded concerning fruitfulness and multiplication, but not a woman: Rabbi Yahanan ben Beroka said, “Concerning both of them it is said: ‘Male and female He created them; G-d blessed them, and G-d said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and master it.’ [this and preceding verse].  The Gemara immediately raises the question: How do the Sages (who disagree with Rabbi Yohanan ben Beroka) cope with the text in Genesis which seems to imply that the commandment to be fruitful applies to male and female alike? The answer given is that the Sages hold that the duty of procreation applies to the male sex, because the Biblical text is speaking of activities that require bold ness and aggressiveness. Mastering the earth is a masculine activity, since it involves prowess and relentless expenditure of physical energy. All activities included in the text are associated with mastery of the earth. Hence, they are regarded as functions of masculinity. The opinion of the Sages is based on the view generally accepted in civilized societies that it is man who seeks out the woman and not vice versa. Some degree of aggressiveness is required in seeking out a mate, a quality that is not in harmony with the essential or ideal character of woman.  Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (Gersonides) commentary to Genesis. The Talmud phrases it in a somewhat different manner: Why is it written: “When a man will take a wife,” and not vice versa: “When a woman will be taken by a man”? Because normally a man seeks after a wife and it is not normal for a woman to seek after a husband; whoever loses an article goes out in search for it. Kiddushin 2b. Text in Deuteronomy 22:13. [The institution of shadkhanut developed in Jewish life testifies to the extent of modesty achieved by our people, that even young men were not possessed of the aggressiveness required to seek out a mate. The right of the father to betroth his minor daughter Ketubot 45b may have similar grounds].  [See also Genesis 9:7 fruitful ROSNER 64, ROSNER 65]

GENESIS — 1:28 multiply

The morality (or immorality) of contraception boils down to two-sided argument.  On the one hand, many people claim that there is no moral difference between preventing the natural process of conception by contraception and preventing the natural process of obesity by diet or pills. On the other hand, traditional Judaic-Christian teaching maintains that by the mind and will of G-d there is an objective standard of right and wrong in the universe, and that men are possessed with the rational faculty to choose one or the other. Thus, if the Torah considers any interference with the act of procreation as morally wrong, then such interference is legally prohibited in Jewish law. The commandment of be fruitful and multiply [this verse] interdicts the indiscriminate use of contraceptives. … The economic argument for contraception emphasizes that parents should only have the number of children they can support in an adequate fashion. This argument possesses its greatest strength and appeal when it is applied to large families with below-average income. That some good man be derived from contraception employed for economical reasons does not, however, make such a practice morally right. In order that all children in a family be provided with adequate food, clothing, shelter and education, contraception may be no more morally justified than robbery by the parents to provide for the needs of the children. Robbery and contraception are both immoral, although both might achieve a desirable outcome. The solution to the economic argument for contraception is a better organization of society, with sufficient work and distribution of wealth for all. ROSNER 86-7

GENESIS — 2:7 nostrils

There is … one fundamental problem with regard to a clear analysis of the halakhic position which views time of death as being simultaneous with cessation of respiration. Is cessation of respiration to be equated with death itself, or is it merely a physiological symptom enabling us to ascertain the time of death? Couched in different terminology, are respiration and life itself one and the same, so that the absence of respiratory activity, by definition, constitutes the state of death? Or is life some ephemeral and indefinable state or activity which cannot be empirically perceived but of which absence of respiration is a reliable indication? There is some prima facie evidence indicating that lack of respiration and the state of death are, by definition, synonymous. The Sages inform us that the soul departs through the nostrils, thereby causing respiration to cease and death to occur. Pirkei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer, ch. 52  [See also Yalkut Shimloni, Lekh Lekha, no 77] observes that after sneezing one should give thanks for having been privileged to remain alive. Torah Temimah, Genesis 7:22  The Yalkut, noting that the first mention of sickness in Scripture occurs in Genesis 48:1, remarks that prior to the time of Jacob sickness was unknown. It is the view of the Sages that illness became part of man’s destiny in answer to Jacob’s plea for prior indication of impending death in order that he might make a testament before dying. Before the days of Jacob, according to the Yalkut, an individual simply sneezed and expired without any indication whatsoever that death was about to overtake him. The Yalkut can readily be understood on the basis of the verse “ … and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life” [this verse]. In the narrative concerning the creation of Adam, the soul is described as having entered through the nostrils. According to the Yalkut, the soul departs through the same aperture through which it entered; hence terminal sneezing is associated with the soul’s departure from the body. Apparently, then, respiration and life both cease with the departure of the soul.  [See also, Genesis 7:22 ROSNER 280-1] ROSNER 284-5

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