SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 64 NUMBER 1
October 13, 2012
27 Tishrei, 5773
Candle-lighting Time: 6:05 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of Stephanie Keyes, Pearl Grinberg and Jamie Pines for all of their hard work organizing the first TJE Rummage Sale. Thank you!
The Hand of God
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
A certain well-known radio talk-show host was discussing the correlation between Torah and science. Commented one caller: “What are you wasting your time for? The Torah can’t be true. Right at the beginning a supposedly omniscient G-d asks Adam, ‘Where are you?’ Shouldn’t He know where Adam is?!” Needless to say, the caller was perfunctorily dismissed.
From the beginning of the Torah to the end, we find examples of G-d doing pretty earthly things. He breathes life into Adam. He bargains with Abraham about Sodom. He remembers His covenant with us.
Throughout Tanach there are references to G-d’s ‘body.’ His hand smites the Egyptians. His finger works wonders. He turns His face towards us.
We read of G-d’s emotional state. Sometimes He gets angry with the Jewish People, at times He is a jealous G-d, more often than not He loves us.
And right ‘In the Beginning…’ the Torah tells us that G-d created man in His image.
Are these the descriptions of an omnipotent, omniscient being or an influential next-door neighbor? Do we look like G-d looks? Does He act like we act?
When we use human terms to describe G-d, it is called anthropomorphism. We attribute human characteristics to G-d, even though they are totally inappropriate and inadequate to describe Him. G-d has no arms, legs or head. He does not have mood swings, moods or even emotions. He has no corporeal presence and does not forget anything that ever was, is or will be.
Why, then, does the Torah use these terms to describe G-d to us, if they are inaccurate? Why does G-d ask Adam, “Where are you?”
Let me ask you, do you think you could develop a close personal friendship with trigonometry? Ever spend some quality time with anti-matter? How about dedicating yourself to world history?
We are humans, and as such, we relate best to other entities with human character traits. It is next to impossible to create intimate bonds with something abstract or outside our realm of human experience.
G-d, in His magnificent reality, is beyond our understanding. We cannot fully grasp His unlimited essence from our vantage point in this finite world. What we can appreciate is the way in which He relates to us. By using human expressions and interacting with us in human terms, we can relate to Him. And that’s the first step towards building the relationship with Him that we were created for.
Said G-d to Adam, “Where are you?” Explain our Sages of the Medrish, this was to enter gently into conversation with Adam, to prevent him from being so terrified of punishment that he wouldn’t be able to communicate. Similarly, G-d said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” and to Bilaam, “Who are these men with you?” When speaking to us mortals, G-d makes a point of opening conversations softly. Since closeness to Him is what He created us for, we should be awfully glad that He does.
The End is Here
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Every year, after we attain atonement on Yom Kippur and enjoy our private meeting with Hashem during Succos, we begin reading from the Torah anew. In fact, the first word of the Torah is ‘Bereishis,’ in the beginning. However, the New Year began at the beginning of the month of Tishrei with Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment. What is this new beginning which is signified by reading from the Torah from its very onset?
We may further investigate this issue by stating that the Torah lists the festivals in a very specific order. The first Yom Tov is Pesach, followed by Shavuos and lastly Succos. Yet we consider Rosh Hashanah to be the beginning of the year, culminating in the Yom Tov of Succos. What exactly is the real beginning?
Our Sages teach us that beginnings are tough. In other words, starting a process is a difficult and arduous task. But start we must and sometimes we must even jumpstart a process. Rosh Hashanah is a difficult time for us in that we stand in judgment before the Heavenly Court. By the same token, it is a propitious time for us because it permits introspection and reassessment of our lives and our goals. We reshape our design of life and restart what may be termed a cold, ineffectual engine.
As we travel through Yom Kippur we affect an internal cleansing which grants us the opportunity to start fresh. However, where do we begin? The answer is Succos. We are spiritually refreshed and ready to commence with a new outlook on life. But our lives are disheveled and unruly. How do you pump new life into an old machine? The answer is that you replace the engine. We leave our houses and create a new home. A home based upon the frank understanding that we live under the dominion and protection of Hashem. Fragility and self-effacement are the key words to associate with this Yom Tov. When we recall and emphasize that we are but followers of Hashem’s ongoing providence, then we have discovered the ultimate truth to life’s success.
Although Succos is the last Yom Tov mentioned in the Torah, it is essentially the first. It is the underpinning which supports and sustains us the entire year. When we take leave of our Succah and reenter our house, we introduce a new ‘home’ that was missing. Reenergizing and restructuring our priorities has reestablished what we seek and consequently what we strive to accomplish.
It is not accidental that we sacrifice seventy bull offerings during Succos corresponding to the seventy nations of the world. The message of Succos is universal and transcends the ‘party lines’ of any particular religion, although its ramifications for us are very specifically goal oriented. We utilize for the Succah and the four species natural elements of nature, for it is the very essence of the world and its components that we strive to elevate. When we finish with our Succos at the completion of Simchas Torah, then we can truly begin to relearn the Torah with new vigor and desire.
Byte For Succos
The second verse in the Torah states that the ‘spirit’ of G-d hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation. Rashi, quoting our Sages, explains that this refers to the Messiah. This teaches us that G-d originally created the world in the form it will take when the Messiah comes, devoid of all evil. However, man tarnished the creation and the world must endure thousands of years of polishing until we once again reach the state of perfection which existed when the world was created.
Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from www.partersintorah.org.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and he shall cling to his wife and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The commentaries (Nachmanides, Rashba, Responsa 1:60) understand that the Torah is describing the natural fact that once a man marries he becomes more attached to his wife than to his parents. Rabbi Moshe Sofer rules that the verse is actually a positive commandment that obligates the husband to become emotionally, spiritually, and physically close and attached to his wife. He maintains that one of the blessings recited at the wedding is actually a blessing on the performance of the mitzvah of “he shall cling to his wife” (Responsa Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim 1:55).
Joke of the Week
Q: What is a Jewish pullover?
A: It’s what Jewish children wear when their mothers are feeling cold.