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GENESIS — 1:6 divide

GEN22 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 God 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

GEN23 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 — 2:3 do

GEN212 R. Yohanan haSand’lar said: Every assembly that is for the sake of Heaven will endure in the end; but any one that is not for the sake of Heaven will not endure in the end.  Pirkei Avot IV:14.  … The first manifestation of the Almighty in the world was as Creator, the builder of this very world. But He left His work unfinished. For we read that on the seventh day the Almighty “rested from all His work that God had created la’asoth, to do, to act, be active.  Creation was a process that was to continue. And when man appeared, in the Divine image, he became the Almighty’s partner in creation, to continue it.  He became a builder.  Thus we human beings build during our stay on earth: we erect homes, factories, business enterprises, organizations … If you would build structures to last, proof against the ravages of time, learn to become like your Creator, to “walk in all His ways”’ then you will construct as he does.  SINAI2 98


GENESIS — 2:7 breathed

GEN226 And the dead are destined to be brought to life … Pirkei Avot IV:29  In Scripture’s majestic account of Creation, we read how man as a physical organism was created from the dust of the earth and animated by the breath of Divinity [this verse].  It is to be expected, then, that what comes from the earth should return to the earth, once man loses his ability to live forever in his physical state.  Adam is told, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19  Man’s physical portion, his body, decomposes and disintegrates after he expires.  But part of the human being is spiritual; his soul comes not of earth but from the supernal realms of Divinity.  That returns to its place of origin, to live on, until at some future time, by the grace of the life-giving God, it will again acquire physical form and live once more within a body.  This is one of Judaism’s most central and fundamental beliefs. Not every human being, however, will enjoy this privilege. Only those who are worthy will merit to undergo resurrection, return to life.  For example, those who refuse to repent and return to the faith they have abandoned, those who deny that the Torah teaches this doctrine of Resurrection and anyone whose life is too vile to be continued, will not live again. They are punished in much the same way as a reprehensible citizen who is deported from his country. His life has become so debased and his behavior so dangerous that his country forbids him to ever re-enter his land. So too will a person, if he is wicked or evil enough, be unable to rejoin the living once he has departed this earth.  SINAI2 197


GENESIS — 2:17 knowledge

GEN293 [T]he living are destined to be judgedPirkei Avot, IV, 29  Man is the crown and the master of creation.  Inferior physically, he stands higher than all other beings with his mind, unique among all creatures, and with his freedom to will.  He alone has the ability to think and choose right from wrong—an ability that he first acquired when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” [this verse]. Be it a privilege or dubious gift, in its wake comes a serious responsibility: Because we can judge, we will be judged in turn.  When man stands at the acme of his strength, at the starting-point of his life all lies before him, ready for his conquest; The Almighty bids him, “Replenish the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1:28.  He is free to order and rule over every creature, as he chooses his career and pursues it.  But when a time comes for a man to be judged, and he must pay for misdeeds, any and every living being can become Heaven’s agent to carry out the ordained judgment.  Gone then is man’s right to prevail over the lower forms of creation.  In this vein the Talmud observes that “once the time for a man’s end has come, all and everything gain supremacy over him [and Rashi adds; to put him to death—even a fly or a gnat] for it is stated [that Cain pleaded when the Almighty sentenced him to wander as a fugitive,] ‘whoever, whatever finds me, will slay me.’” Genesis 4:14.  [The word kol is here generally rendered “whoever,” but it can equally mean “whatever.”]  Cain knew that ultimately he must pay with his life for the murder of his brother, and so he feared that thenceforth any person or creature could bring his end.  Another Sage derives this teaching from a different verse: “For Thy judgments do they stand this day, whereupon all are Thy servants.” Psalms 119:91  Once the day comes for people to and and receive Divine judgment, all creatures become the Holy One’s servants and agents, to do his bidding.  From that moment, all nature is no longer responsive to the rule of the sentence man, but only to the decrees of heaven. SINAI2 201-2


GENESIS — 3:7 knew

GEN375 Do not strive to see him in the hour of his degradation.  Pirkei Avot IV:23   Whence do we learn this? – from Adam. When he ate of the tree [of knowledge] and became degraded—as we read, “they knew they were naked” [this verse] – the Holy One did not manifest Himself to them then, since they were in a state of disgrace.  Rather [did He wait until] “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” [this verse]. Only after that “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking about in the garden.” [this verse].  SINAI2 163


GENESIS — 4:5 wroth

GEN467 R. El’azar haKappar said: Envy, inordinate desire, and [the search for] glory remove a man from the world. Pirkei Avot IV:28  … already at the world’s beginning, our text proved tragically true: Cain saw Abel’s offering to Heaven accepted, while his own was rejected. He grew angry and killed his brother Abel. Why the anger? – clearly from deep jealousy.  SINAI2 187


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