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Parshat Beraisheet - 5766

In Parshat Beraisheet we learn about the process of the creation of the world as we are familiar with it – the revealed aspect of the world – yet from these things we can learn a slender amount about the original Divine plan that existed before the revelation was actualized in creation.

The first pasuk opens, "In the beginning Elokim [G-d] created heaven and earth." Rashi comments: "It does not state 'Hashem created,' for He originally intended to create it with the attribute of justice; when He saw that the world could not survive He included the attribute of mercy alongside the attribute of justice. This is what it means by 'On the day Hashem Elokim created earth and heaven.'" This implies that the original intention was to create the world with the attribute of justice, yet in practice the world cannot exist in such a manner and therefore He included mercy with justice. Yet the first intention is very important, and it will find expression when the world is perfected.

On the third day of creation it states, "And Elokim said: Let the earth bring out grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind…" (i, 11), yet the actualization of the command states, "And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, in which is placed its seed, after its kind; and Elokim saw that it was good" (12).

Rashi explains: "'fruit-tree' – that the taste of the tree should be like that of the fruit; yet it did not do so, but rather, ' And the earth brought forth… tree bearing fruit,' and not 'fruit-tree,' and therefore when Adam was cursed for his sin, it was also punished for its sin and cursed."

Rav Kook's comments on the earth's sin are famous (Orot Hateshuva 6,7): "From the beginning of creation (=the original Divine plan before it was actualized in the world) the taste of the tree was worthy of being similar to that of the fruit – every mean that strengthens some general lofty spiritual purpose was worthy of being sensed with the soul's sense with the same elevation and pleasantness that the purpose itself is sensed when we imagine it; but the nature of the earth, the upheavals of life, and the lethargy of the spiritual when it is closed up in a physical frame, led to only the taste of the fruit of the final purpose, the central ideal, to be felt in its pleasantness and splendor. But the trees that bear the fruit, despite their necessity to the fruit's growth, hardened and became physical and lost their taste. And this is the sin of the earth, for which it was cursed when Adam was also cursed for his sin."

In our world we are familiar with the concepts of means and ends. Of course the end is what is important to us, and were we able to reach the ends without the means we would not be lacking anything. From this perspective most of creation is in fact superfluous, bedi'eved [last-resort]. As it is impossible to reach the fruit without the tree that grows it, we are in need of trees, but in the absolute sense we are in no need of trees at all. This idea finds expression in the formula of the blessings over food. When we eat we bless, "Who creates the fruit of the tree" – fruit is mentioned, but we do not bless, "Who creates the tree," over the tree itself. This is the sin of the earth. Hakadosh Baruch Hu said that the tree itself should bear the taste of the fruit, meaning that through the means as well we should sense the "general lofty spiritual purpose," as Rav Kook puts it.

Yet the reality of the world is as yet unready to accept this ideal purpose, and in practice “trees bearing fruit” are created.

However, this is the order of creation. This is the lofty order of the appearance of things, out of a world [olam] of absence [ne'elam] and lack. Rav Kook puts it as follows: "A gap must exist between the abstract ideal content of the purpose of everything and what is seen to be revealed from it in practice. Were it not for this graded difference the shape of all being would blur, creation would not uphold its character, laws and borders would not be kept. This means that there is no possibility to descend and reveal the abstract ideals at a single stroke. Worldly tools are incapable of capturing the same great and lofty light. Admittedly there is a great benefit in the definition and practical appearance of these exalted ideals. “They receive a practical advantage and the grasping of action through their definition. In other words, you can act upon and understand these exalted ideals when they are defined in our world, whereas in their abstract form they cannot be grasped. There is no other way of revealing the lofty Name of Hashem in the reality of the world, and this is the only and the best way for the eternal ideal to appear in the world’s existence.

These issues are set out in the pasukim. Pasuk 12 (the one from which Chazal learnt about the sin of the earth) states: “And Elokim saw that it was good.” One would think that it when it comes to sin the expression “it was good” is inappropriate. Yet according to what we learnt, that this is the only order through which we may connect the absolute ideals to the reality of the world, indeed “And Elokim saw that it was good.” There is no doubt that the Divine command “fruit-tree bearing fruit” will be revealed and nothing will be lost. Rav Kook continues (Orot Hateshuva, ibid): “Every defect will eventually be corrected. Therefore we are provided with clear assurance that days will come when creation will be restored and the taste of the tree will be like that of the fruit, for the land will be redeemed from its sin and practical lifestyles will not cause a barrier in front of the pleasantness of the ideal light. The complicated and deficient worldly reality will undoubtedly achieve its complete purpose. The ability to correct the world, to widen the natural tools so that they will be capable of receiving the lofty, Divine light, depends upon man. Man must uplift and sanctify himself in his life, and through this he will raise the entire world with him. This same problem of actualizing exalted ideals in worldly reality, which existed in the foundation of the world, also exists on a far minor scale in various situations. Idealists often find the actualization of their ideas foundering on practical difficulties. There are also cases of a large, idealistic, caring community that wants to advance great and true purposes only to come up against the objections of people who have narrow worldviews, who fail to see the aspect of Hashem in the world. Those individuals or that community must not despair. We must reflect on the foundation of the world, on the creation of the world, and understand that this is the order of things.

We are sure that the Divine purpose will be actualized and revealed, and this depends on us, and our actions.

Rashi (based on Chazal) says: “Therefore when Adam was cursed for his sin, it was also punished for its sin.” One might wonder why there is a need to connect the earth’s sin with that of Adam, so that the punishment of Adam includes that of the earth.

Rav Kook (Orot Hakodesh, III, p. 140) explains: “The sin of Adam HaRishon involved his alienation from himself, that he turned to the snake’s opinion and lost himself, and did not know how to answer the question of ‘where are you?’ because he did not know his soul, since he had lost true selfhood.” The reference is to a “fake” person, who does not live his true selfhood, who does not reveal the Divine ideal in practice.

The sin of the land is similar. “The land sinned, denied its self, narrowed its strength, followed various aims and purposes, looked away from Hashem.” This means that if the land was capable of expressing itself, the taste of the tree would not have lacked anything. The land was also “fake,” it followed its own aims, and therefore did not express itself. The sin of the land and the sin of Adam made the entire world fake, with a superficial life that lacks the internal perspective. The root of their sin was similar and therefore the land was cursed along with Adam’s curse.

After Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge it states: “And the eyes of them both were opened and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig-leaves and made for themselves belts” (iii, 7). Adam answered Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s question, “Where are you?” as follows: “And he said: ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was scared for I was naked, and I hid’” (iii, 10). Why are they only ashamed after the sin, and why does he only then hide from Hakadosh Baruch Hu? Because before the sin [chet] (=missing [hachta’at] the target), Adam lived a more complete life. The body is also Divine, not just the soul, and there is therefore no need to hide the body. After the sin, however, the Divine light can be discerned only in the soul, while in the body it is hidden. The body appears as a material existence that has no Divine light, and therefore it must be covered. Before the sin the body itself functioned as clothing for the soul, but after the sin the body hides the soul. The clothes that we wear enable us to address our spiritual aspects rather than focusing on our external, bodily aspects. We are obliged to correct the sin of the land and the sin of Adam. We are required to bring all reality to the same original purpose that Hakadosh Baruch Hu intended at the foundation of creation. The path towards this depends on the internal perspective. If we reflect on the Divine aspect of life and being, and we reject the outer glamour of the body and materiality by living a modest life, we will merit seeing the true splendor of the world, the Divine splendor.

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