Parshas Bereishis 5759 - '98
Outline Vol. 3, # 1
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Regarding the familiar story of Adom and Chava (Adam
and Eve), the Medrash and commentaries provide interesting information.
Avos D’rebbi Nosson relates that Adom was told not to eat from the forbidden
fruit; in telling his wife, however, he added an extra measure: "Do
not even touch it."
This unexplained addition provided the snake with
an opening. The snake was easily able to show Chava that there was no immediate
harm in touching it. She was then easily convinced that there was no truth
to the entire matter!
Adom was told that on the day they would eat of the
forbidden fruit, they would die. We see that it truly did not mean that
they would die right away, but that death would have to come eventually;
or, according to one opinion [see Ramban], death would have to come earlier,
as a result of this poisonous food. Obviously, they had understood literally
that death would come at the time of the eating.
The Yishmach Moshe asked the following:
In spite of their faulty thinking -- they thought
they would actually die on the day of eating -- how would they suppose
that death would come about in a single instant? They were told that death
would come on the day in which they would eat, not at the instant they
Rather, the snake explained that there was a doubt
as to whether they were to die on that day. Either way wouldn’t make a
difference: "Are you going to die today, or not? If the whole thing
is a fabrication -- and you are not going to die -- then you might as well
eat the fruit. If, on the other hand, you really are going to die today,
then you might as well eat it and enjoy it while you can."
A subtle, meaningful explanation of the story can
be found in the Meshech Chochmah of the Ohr Sameach. Hashem had said that
they would die on the day they would eat the fruit. The snake convinced
them that Hashem wanted them to eat and die -- as a sort of martyr’s self-sacrifice.
"The goal is to come close to Hashem, isn’t it? Surely this cannot
be accomplished through life. Hashem’s true intention is that you give
your lives to Him and, in so doing, bring yourselves ever closer to Him."
After they ate, they hid themselves. Hashem then
said: "Did you eat from the fruit of which I told you NOT to eat?
It is not the way the snake convinced you into thinking; My desire was
that you not eat from the fruit at all, and not die."
Was Death a Punishment, or Not?
The Yishmach Moshe refers to a commentary which maintains
that, indeed, death was not a punishment, but a natural outcome of the
eating. In order to attain total completeness, a person would eventually
have to die. This will explain why it is that we find that Adom repented
and was forgiven, and still had to die -- it had now become impossible
to attain a thorough completeness before death.
However, this was a result of the illegal act of
eating, and not the Will of Hashem. By bringing death upon themselves,
they were trying to outsmart Hashem. Space does not permit further digression,
but these commentaries are extremely applicable to our contemporary world...
Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 3, Part 1
The Calendar and the Wisdom of the
An article published in Light, 5 Elul 5737 (‘77),
concerns Chacham Dovid Nieto. In 5453 (about 1693), church authorities
were unable to explain why Easter preceded Pesach by a month. In Livorno
(Leghorn), Italy, they asked Rosh Yeshiva Nieto for help. He composed a
book in Italian, which explained the calendar differences between the church
and synagogue, the possible new differences that were to occur, and all
the discrepancies that would arise between the Latin and Greek churches.
His explanations were accepted and greatly appreciated.
Creation and the Calendar
We have discussed how the traditional estimate for
the average lunar month, 29.53059 days, is exceedingly accurate according
to modern standards (within six millionths of a day, according to NASA
figures). What is the origin of the calculations?
On tradition, the first Molad after the appearance
of man was v/yd (6, 14) -- the sixth day of the week, at the fourteenth
hour. Man was created on the sixth day of the week of creation, the day
recognized as Rosh Hashanah (according to Rebbi Eliezer). The previous
days of the week belong to a theoretical previous year, which is referred
to as Sh’nas Tohu. The previous year’s Molad, theoretically, would have
been b/h/rd (2, 5, 204) -- the second day, the fifth hour, 204 parts of
The difference between these two figures, divided
by 12 months, arrives at 29 days, 12 hours and 793/1080 parts of an hour,
which equals 29.53059 days. Any Molad of any month can be determined mathematically,
by multiplying the number of months that have passed by 29.53059 (as discussed
elsewhere, there are certain rules that push off Rosh Chodesh for a day
The Secret; Cosmic Clock
Rabbenu Bachaye, at the beginning of the Torah (Bereishis
[Genesis 1:2]), describes a secret: The first theoretical Molad, coded
b/h/rd (2, 5, 204), can be found in the Torah. Beginning with the first
letter of the Torah, leaving a space of 42 letters, taking the next letter,
again leaving a space of 42 letters, taking the next letter, again leaving
a space of 42 letters, and taking one more letter, we have b/h/rd (2, 5,
42, meanwhile, is the special Name of Hashem of 42
letters (actually 42 words), referred to in Talmud, Kiddushin 71. This
refers to the attribute of Gevurah (might), associated with creation and
nature. "Through many permutations, the actual name of 42 words emerges
before the first letter of the Torah, alluding to Hashem’s work before
the creation... An intelligent person will see that this is not by chance,
but is a clear sign of creation... before there were mountains, or the
time frame of b/h/rd (2, 5, 204), the attribute of Gevurah (might) was
acting..." The Cosmic Clock was operating before there was sun or
moon, but would not be counted until the birth of man, which came after
the formation of sun and moon...
See the Arachim/Discovery text (original format),
Nesivos El Hatorah for more information and sources.
Magid Harakiya shows that it is a debate as to whether
these figures were calculated at a much later time -- in reverse -- or
received through prophecy and tradition. The Vilna Gaon, who was expertly
versed in mathematics and astronomy, concluded (in accordance with Teshuvas
Ralbach) that the figures were known by prophecy and tradition. (See also
Meshech Chochmah at the very end of the Torah, beginning with "vihenei.")
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi
Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.