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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 — 1:6 divide

Reverence (mora) for your teacher should be like the reverence for Heaven. Pirkei Avot IV:15 … Our Torah … places great stress on the need for harmonious, peaceful relations. Numerous passages in the Midrash begin, gadol hum hashalom, “great is peace,” and go on to bring a variety of proofs for the statement from Scripture. [citations] And as the mishnah states so beautifully at its ever end, “The Holy, Blessed One found no other vessel to contain blessings for the people Israel but peace.” [Mishnah, Uktzin iii 12; repeated in Midrash Rabbah, Deuteronomy v 14].  What good is it to receive all the blessings and presents in the world, if you have no proper vessel, no basket or container to hold them? They will slip from your hands, through your fingers, and soon be lost.  If there is no peace among human beings, every other blessing and good will soon be valueless and gone.  How thoroughly our Torah is imbued with this theme—the value of peace, the condemnation of conflict and disunity—we can learn from this passage in the Midrash: “Why is it not written about [the creation of] the second day, ‘[and G-d saw that] it was good’ [as it is written for every other of the six days of creation]? … R. Hanina replied: Because on that day divisiveness was crated, as it is stated, ‘and let [the firmament] divide the waters from the waters.’ [this verse]. Said R. Tavyomi: If at a machloketh, a division, for the proper structure and settlement of the world, the words ki tov, ‘that it was good,’ are omitted—how much more certainly [must they be omitted] for a machloketh, a division and conflict, to confound the world. [Midrash Rabbah, Genesis iv 6]. SINAI2 110

GENESIS — 1:8 firmament

Reverence (mora) for your teacher should be like the reverence for Heaven. Pirkei Avot IV:15 … By [Scripture’s] account of Creation, the raki’a, the firmament, was needed to separate a collective oceanic mass into the upper waters of heaven and waters of the earth.  Otherwise, life could not exist on this earth, for all would remain under water. Yet a wedge was thus driven between elements which belonged naturally together.  Like was separated from like.  Therefore the Torah could not say ki tov, to stamp it with full approval.  Wherever, however divineness enters between like and like, between brother an brother, between man and his fellow man, it is hard to bear, and cannot be wholly good.  Interestingly, enough, the firmament, raki’a, became shamayim, the heaven, as we read in [this] verse. Our Sages explain that the word shamayim is derived from a composite of esh, fire, and mayim, water, for these are the two elements of which the heaven is composed. This fascinating concept brings to mind such phenomena as the sudden changes from extreme heat to extreme cold that occurs in outer space, and the conjunction of lightning and rain in the heavens.  We see then, that as the aftermath of a necessary division, which makes Scripture withhold the words ki tov, “that it was good,” the Almighty constructs a heaven wherein normally conflicting elements of fire and water are joined.  After machloketh, division, we have machloketh, conflict between two inimical elements that must remain united to form a heaven, to serve the Almighty in His cosmic purpose.  For this reason, say the Sages, Job praises the Creator that “He makes peace in His supernal realms.” If fire and water can cooperate to maintain the heavens, surely the stormy temperament and combustible personality of the most volatile of men can be controlled and disciplined to work toward a heaven on earth.  Indeed, toward this goal and dream we entreat His aid in our daily prayers: “He who makes peace in His supernal realms, may He provide peace for us and for all the people Israel; and say Amen.”  SINAI2 110-1

GENESIS — 1:11 grass

Rabban Simeon  ben Gamaliel said: By three things does the world endure; by Truth, justice, and peace—as it is said, Truth and judgment of peace, administer in your gates. Zechariah 8:16. Pirkei Avot I:18.  … After the Almighty had created the dry land, His next command was, “Let the earth put forth grass, deshe.” If you wish, the three letters of the word deshe are the respective beginnings of din, shalom and emeth – justice, peace, truth.  This would therefore suggest that if this newly created world wished to endure, it had first to give forth deshe: justice, peace and truth.  Indeed, our Sages stated that every justice who renders true judgment in accordance with justice, becomes, as it were, a partner of the Holy One in the work of creation.  Shabbat 10a  SINAI1 108

GENESIS — 1:11 its kind

Samson Raphael Hirsch comments that the mitzvah given to man not to create a mixture of species in plans or animals in general, or between wool and linen specifically (Deuteronomy 22:9-11) indicates that the Torah did not want man to alter the world or to “Play G-d.”  Creating hybrids alters the commandment by G-d to keep species separate.  AMEMEI 62

GENESIS — 1:12 good

The Biblical account of the Creation lists two categories of agricultural products, vegetation and trees. After the emergence of these distinct species, G-d surveyed them and declared them “good.” Religious ethicists have assumed that the phrase “after its kind” expresses a divine design to preserve each of the distinct species in its natural state. Does man have a moral right to tamper with the laws of nature, divinely ordained, to berate products superior to that which G-d proclaimed to be “good”?  This ethical question is predicated on a theological principle If we put the religious issue aside, it is hard to perceive any ethical breach in the cross-fertilization of different species. However, modern genetic engineering, which promises to yield the secret of “creation” to man, enabling him to predetermine the gender, traits, and character of a newborn, surely projects the moral issue inherent in the altering of the laws of nature. Will a future dictator have it within his power to decrees the birth of a generation of fanatical fighting men?   BLOCH 267

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 — 1:12 grass

R. Assi asked: “In respect to the third day it is written: ‘And the earth brought forth grass,’ and yet, in respect to the sixth day it is written Genesis 2:5: ‘And no plant of the field was yet in the earth!’ This teaches us that the grass rose up to the surface of the earth, where it remained until Adam came and implored mercy upon it, so that it rained, and it spouted – this, to teach us that the Holy One Blessed be He longs for the prayers of the righteous” Chullin 60b TEMIMAH-GEN 8

GENESIS — 1:14 signs

The past four hundred years have marked an incredible growth in man’s ability to control and manipulate the world of nature.  Man’s sway extends from the microcosm of the sub-atom to the macrocosm of stellar space.  But this fantastic expansion of man’s capacities has set dialectic in motion that was not originally evident.  Together with this trend toward ever greater control and mastery of the world about him, another tendency, parallel to it yet diametrically opposed, has been making itself felt—a steady decline in man’s sense of his own self-worth, a growing feeling of his unimportance in a vast universe.  Best by impersonal forces and automatic processes that seem to defy control, man sees himself reduced to helplessness, his hopes and dreams turning to ashes.  … Previously the earth was conceived of as the center of creation, with the sun, the moon, and the stars having been made for man’s benefit: in the words of Genesis, to “serve as signs both for festivals and for days and years.”  [this verse].  Now the earth was reduced to the role of a lesser planet revolving around the sun, with man becoming a brief sojourner on a minor astronomical speck in the universe.  A few centuries later, scientists were to demonstrate that the entire solar system was only one galaxy among an almost limitless number.  But the major blow to man’s self-esteem had already been inflicted by Copernicus.  Man had become physically insignificant in the cosmos.  Theoretically, one could still hold fast to the old faith that man is created to glorify G-d, but his hosannahs tended to be drowned out in the vast reaches of interstellar space.  GORLAW 10-11

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 — 1:18 good

ETHICS OF BUDDHA  In admiring the exacting ideals taught by Buddhism, we are forced to a conclusion similar to that arrived at when considering those of Confucius. Buddha was a price garbed as a mendicant friar who preached a gospel of love and charity for all creatures, including animals. The chief planks in his semi-religious ascetic platform are: total resignation and self-effacement in the presence of care, suffering and death—ills which rule the entire domain of life. The ideal life contemplated by Buddha is that of one who has absolutely separated himself from the world.  This separation is to be not only from the vices of life and its debasing luxuries but also from all amusement and exercise, from business and the holding of property, and from unnecessary conversation. In short, almost the whole of existence is evil to Buddha; throbbing life, with its passions and pleasures, its desires and deeds, all come under his scathing ban. His aim was a state of nostalgic “otherworldliness” expressed in the one word Nirvana. The only relief he had to offer to the despair and delusion often attending life, was the sympathy and compassion we should exercise towards others. See Dr. C. Gore: “Philosophy of the Good Life”. Everyman’s Library (1935).  However much men may venerate Buddha himself, his doctrine appears to be that the sole motive for self-improveement is the selfish otive of obtaining a better future for oneself. The only really satisfying motive appears to be that of getting rid of individual life by thye total extinction of desire – a thought that must remain alien to the noblest minds. It is certainly alien to Jewish thought. With its stress on the beauty of tranquility and the virtue of kindness, Judaism is in full agreement. On its insistence, however, that personal life is an evil – with that Judaism must part company. This view vitiates Buddhism, as far as the Jew is concerned. “And He saw that it was good” [this verse] – this is the Kol Ya’akov, “the voice of Israel”.  Life, and all it holds, is potential of joy and goodness. This is the conviction of Jewish ethics, springing from a faith which bids its adherents to “serve the Lord with joy and to come before Him with gladness.” Psalm 100:2. LEHRMAN 23-24

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