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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 — 1:16 greater-lesser

A basic principle of derech eretz is to treat every person with equal respect and honor. This will have the effect of minimizing feelings of jealousy and competition in others.  This is the intention of the Sages’ statement, “One must treat his children equally – as a result of Jacob’s gift to Joseph his brothers became jealous. A series of events ensued, culminating in our forefathers’ exile to Egypt.  Shabbat 10b.  This principle is applicable even if one’s achievements distinguish him from her peers, as was the case with Joseph. The difficulty of soothing or appeasing a person who has the feeling that he was disfavored is illustrated by the Midrash (referring to Genesis 1:16): The moon said to the Almighty, “Master of the World, can two kings wear one crown?”  [The verse refers to two great luminaries -AJL]. The Almighty answered, “Go then, and make yourself smaller.”  The moon said, “[Just] because I have expressed a legitimate point, shall I go and make myself smaller?” He said to the moon, “Go then, and have sovereignty over the day and the night.”  The moon answered, “Of what value is the light of a candle during daylight?”  He said to her: Go! Israel will count through you the days and the years.”  She said to Him: Day is the primary unit of time, and I can’t be used to count for days, as it says “And let them be for signs of the seasons and days and years.” Genesis 1:14.  The Almighty said, “Righteous ones will call themselves after you: Jacob the small, Samuel the small, David the small.”  The moon was not appeased.  The Almighty said, “Bring a sacrifice for My sake (the sacrificial goat offered each Rosh Chodesh) to atone for having made the moon smaller.”  Chullin 60b; see also Rashi commentary on Genesis 1:16.  If the High Priest becomes unfit for performing his duties, the deputy High Priest takes his place. When the High Priest is again fit to resume his duties, the deputy is divested of his duties as High Priest.  The reason behind this law is to prevent the High Priest from feeling usurped by his deputy, a feeling that could foment hatred and competitiveness.  Yoma 12b. This law exemplifies the degree of sensitivity one must develop in order to avoid hurting other people’s feelings.  Moses demonstrated this by refusing his appointment (by G-d) as the Jews’ spokesman to Pharaoh out of concern that his elder brother, Aaron, would feel envious.  Similarly, Moses appointed an equal number of sages from each tribe to preempt feelings of envy.  Sanhedrin 17a.  WAGS 78-80

GENESIS — 1:26 Us

G-d took counsel with the angels before creating man; this teaches us that a person of distinction should always take counsel with people of lesser stature.  Rashi, this verse. Similarly, we learn from Exodus 17:9 that a teacher should honor his disciples.  Moses charged Joshua to choose suitable men for Moses, yet used the expression “us” to include Joshua, his pupil.  The objective is to inform a person of lesser statute about one’s decision before acting upon it, and to consider his criticism.  This idea is illustrated by the Midrash Yalkut Genesis 12, which explains that after G-d informed the angels of His intention to make man in His image, a heated discussion broke out in the Heavens.  One group of angels spoke in favor of this decision, arguing that man’s capability to perform kind deeds qualifies him to be created in His image, while another group spoke in opposition, contending that man is full of falsehood.  Another group spoke in favor, maintaining that man’s ability to act righteously justifies his creation, while still another spoke in opposition, arguing that man’s character is essentially disposed to dispute.  The Midrash concludes, “Even while the angels debated the wisdom of this decision, G-d crated man.”  Even so, one who makes a controversial decision should try to placate those who are in opposition.  This is derived from the manner in which G-d argued in favor of the creation of Man – He assured that man’s offspring would be righteous, concealing the fact that wicked offspring would also be born.  There are even times when the wisest approach is to simply keep silent.  In this manner, others will not disturb him in performing the required action.   WAGS 16-17, 96-97

GENESIS — 2:24 flesh 

"One should try to marry a woman who is fitting for him and who is suitable to become attached to him, for unless the man and the woman are similar to each other, their bond will not be a true bond. If they are similar, they will share the same opinions”  Seforno, this verse.  Similarly, the Midrash says, “Happy is the man whose wife is from his city” Yalkut Mishlei 5  WAGS 57-58

GENESIS — 3:9 where

New or unforeseen situations can cause a person to become alarmed.  Therefore, if one wants to ask a favor from someone or influence him in some way, one must always tread lightly so that his words will not cause alarm or startle the other person.  For example, one should avoid engaging an acquaintance in a conversation about a complex topic when meeting him by chance in the street or in the beis midrash.  Rather, the most conducive atmosphere for a serious discussion is created by meeting at a prearranged location during a convenient hour.  This principle is derived from numerous sources. Masseches Derech Eretz (ch. 5) states: "One must never enter a friend's house unexpected." The Almighty Himself stood by the portal of Gan Eden and summoned Adam, as the verse says, [this verse]. (Continued at Genesis 4:9 where WAGS 118-9)  WAGS 118-9

GENESIS — 3:24 way

Derech Eretz preceded the giving of the Torah by twenty-six generations [from Adam to Moses].  The word, “the way” (“derech”) refers to derech eretzYalkut Genesis, end of ch. 3. Here we see that an aspect of derech Eretz existed in the world even before the Torah was given to the Jewish people; it is a mode of behavior crucial to the existence of humanity.  A person who lacks this trait falls short of fulfilling his quintessential role as a human being.  WAGS 14-5

GENESIS — 4:9 where

(Continued from Genesis 3:9 where WAGS 118-9). Rashi explains that Hashem called to Adam to engage him in conversation in order that he should not feel consternation at being punished unexpectedly.  Before giving instructions (or punishment), one should first make some introductory conversation.  By employing this technique, one can rest assured that his words will be heeded.  (Continued at Leviticus 1:1 called WAGS 119-120) WAGS 118-119

GENESIS — 7:1 righteous

One should not praise a person excessively, since this may be misinterpreted as empty flattery.  (This verse) does not say “righteous and wholehearted” as it does at the beginning of the Torah portion (such was not said directly to Noah); hence we may infer that only a part of a man’s good qualities should be enumerated in his presence, but that in his absence the whole of his good qualities may be told.   Rashi, Eruvin 18b.  WAGS 206

GENESIS — 8:16 come out

One must refrain from performing any act, no matter how inconsequ3ential, without first obtaining the explicit permission of the head of the household.  Noah did not dare leave the ark until Hashem said to him, “Go out of the ark.”  Noah said, “I only went in with Hashem’s permission; I will not go out unless Hashem permits me to.”  Chananyah, Mishael and Azariah also understood this principle – they did not go out of the furnace until Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to.  Tanchuma, Noah.  WAGS 122

GENESIS — 13:3 formerly

One must endeavor to lodge at the place to which he is accustomed; he may only desist if he is physically evicted from the premises by the owner of the lodging.  Rashi explains the reason for this laws: People will say, “How difficult are those two – they could not even manage to live in peace together!”  This rule applies even if one pays rent to the landlord.  WAGS 168

GENESIS — 18:3 please

Perhaps the most elemental obligation of hachnassas orchim is to make a guest feel good about accepting the hospitality offered to him.   He should be made to understand that he is the real benefactor – he enables the host to merit in the fulfillment of the mitzvah.  Ralbag writes that this may be inferred from [this verse].   In addition, the Midrash Leviticus Rabbah 34:10 says, “More than the host benefits the poor person, the poor person benefits the host.”   WAGS 177-8

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