October 14, 2020 11:39 am at 11:39 am #1909770abukspanParticipant
Classics and Beyond: Bereishis — Not Without Its Limits
ויאמר אלקים יהי רקיע בתוך המים ויהי מבדיל בין מים למים:
ויעש אלקים את הרקיע ויבדל בין המים אשר מתחת לרקיע ובין המים אשר מעל לרקיע ויהי כן
G-d said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate between water and water.” So G-d made the firmament, and separated between the waters which were beneath the firmament and the waters which were above the firmament, and it was so (Bereishis 1:6-7).
The Gemara (Chagigah 12a; see also Lech Lecha, Fix-it Job, in this volume) tells us that when Hashem created the world, it kept expanding, like two balls of yarn that keep unraveling and do not stop, until Hashem made it stand still. Similarly, when He created the waters, they also kept expanding until Hashem stopped them, and they dried up. We see this from one of the Names of Hashem, א-ל ש-די (Bereishis 35:11), which means that Hashem is the One: “שאמרתי לעולם די — Who said to the world: Enough!”
Why does the Gemara find a need to elaborate on the way the universe would have kept expanding if not for Hashem demanding that it stop?
According to the Kli Yakar (v.6), Chazal are attempting to explain the source of man’s resistance to restriction and limitation. Left alone, there would be no end to his quest for pleasure and to the fulfillment of his desires.
Yet where does this nature come from?
The Kli Yakar explains that it comes from the sources of our components. Man has a soul, which comes from Heaven, and a body, which is composed of earth mixed with water. (See Rashi Bereishis 2:6.) From these three —ארץ, ים, שמים — comes man, איש. As such, he has characteristics of these three elements. Just as children are usually born with a nature similar to their parents, man has the nature of his elemental parents. Since we derive from eretz, yam, and shamayim, our nature and character are no different from those entities themselves.
Left to their own devices, the earth, water, and skies would have kept expanding, just like balls of yarn unravel without end. That is their nature: unrestrained and ungoverned, given to no limitation. So, too, man would also like to expand and fulfill his desires, with no restrictions. However, as we see from the aforementioned Gemara, the universe, and also the sea, heeded Hashem’s call to stop and were made compliant by Hashem.
This, says the Kli Yakar, is the reason the Gemara tells us what took place when Hashem created the world. There is a lesson here for us all. A person may not say that he cannot stop running after his desires, since the will to do so is in his makeup. Rather, he should look to the source of his elemental DNA and realize that he can stop, he can listen to the rules. Just as the eretz, yam, and shamayim were able to change their nature when demanded by Hashem — and did not go an inch farther — we can also subordinate our nature and follow the mitzvos. This is also the meaning of the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 942), which tells us that we should look at the shamayim, the eretz, and the yam, and see if they changed their middos, their behaviors. Just as the sky and earth and sea have not deviated from Hashem’s command throughout history, we, as their constitutional progeny, can also live lives where we do not deviate from His command.
This also gives new meaning to the Gemara (Sotah 17a), which describes how the techeiles (blue string) in the tzitzis serves as an aid to remember and keep all the mitzvos. The blue string is there to make us think of the sea, which will remind us of the sky, which will remind us of the Heavenly Throne… and we will stay away from sin. According to the Kli Yakar, however, the sea and the sky are not merely steps along the way to remember Hashem, but they themselves play a vital role. By looking at the techeiles, which is similar in color to the sea and sky, the person will be inspired to hold back and refrain from violating the Torah’s dictates and commands, just as the sea and sky were able to hold back and control their otherwise unbridled instincts. If they can do it, if they can stop, so can we!
Based on another part of Parashas Bereishis, this lesson can possibly be applied to marriage, as well. Just after restricting Adam from eating from the Eitz HaDaas (2:17), the pasuk turns and addresses the creation of Chavah (v.18). If, as the Gemara (Sanhedrin 38b) tells us, Adam was told of the prohibition of eating from the Eitz HaDaas only after the creation of Chavah, why does the Torah reverse the order? Why first discuss man’s restrictions and only then discuss the creation of his wife?
Perhaps in the framework of a marriage, too, it is important to point out that limitation and restraint are job #1; within the construct of a marital home, give and take are the rule of thumb. Neither husband nor wife can simply do as he or she pleases without taking the other one into account. Only after having placed a restriction on man and teaching him that he cannot always have his way is it safe to create his helpmate, and hope that their partnership will work.
Only by implementing the capacity for limitation that is part of our DNA can we hope to enjoy a happy and successful marriage… and life.October 14, 2020 1:28 pm at 1:28 pm #1909838
I explained that nisuyin, marriage, to be a good one, each partner should elevate the other by appreciating each other’s contribution to it.October 14, 2020 1:28 pm at 1:28 pm #1909845akupermaParticipant
Your English is using an absolute past tense, which doesn’t exist in Hebrew. Hebrew only has two tenses (the “present” is a gerund pretending to be a present tense). With two tenses, the past continues to the present (e.g. Ha-Shem created the world, and is still creating it), and the future begins now (e.g. Meshiach will come, and he is already coming). The Aryan-speakers probably consider the limited tenses in Hebrew (and other Semitic languages) to be a flaw, but it is a feature and indicates views of what is time that can’t be expressed in Aryan languages.October 14, 2020 1:29 pm at 1:29 pm #1909854
abukspan, the Pelei Yoetz on darush interprets the pasuk ויאמר בועז אל הקוצרים ה’ עמכם it is a good idea to cut dvar torah’s short. Your dvar torahs are without limits.October 14, 2020 2:45 pm at 2:45 pm #1909876abukspanParticipant
Reb Eliezer, I`ll take it as a compliment that you acknowledge the dvar Torah as one that should be subject to the pela yoetz. Thank you! Is it too long for you or are you concerned about other readers? Regarding the size: I just, other than the last paragraph, wrote over what the Kli Yakar says. Thank youOctober 14, 2020 7:01 pm at 7:01 pm #1910073
Another Klei Yokor based on Pirkei Avos כל מחלוקת לשם שמים סופו להתקיים says, the water above and below should be separated for the purpose of combining them to make shomayim. The purpose of separation should be unity.
The second day where the waters were separated has no ki tov whereas the first day separation there is. Why? I heard, to separate light and darkness is good but separating water and water, before combining them, is not.
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