Even Hashem Himself, at the end of last week’s ַוִיָּנֶּחםה'ִכּיָעָשׂהֶאתָהאָָדם:parasha,needsnechama Hashem regretted – ָבּאֶָרץ ַוִיּ ְת ַע ֵצּב ֶאל ִלבֹּו [Vayinnachem] that He made man on the Earth, and was saddened in His heart. Good grief, what happened?
In the haftarah, which we read not long ago after Tisha B’Av, describes a woman in need of ֲעִנָיּהֹסֲעָרהאנָֻחָמהִהֵנּהאָֹנִכיַמְרִבּיץַבּפּוּ:comforting – Poor, in upheaval, lacking consolation – ֲא ָב ַנ ִי behold I will place your stones with fair colors.1 Ribbono Shel Olam, what’s going on? Why have You created a world that constantly needs comforting and holding?
This week we learned The Ramban’s introduction to his commentary on the Torah, in which he writes: if you were to ask me why I wrote the להניח דעת התלמידים יגעי הגלות commentary, it is to calm the nerves of disciples rendered – והצרות
1 Yeshayahu 54:11.
The world needs consolation. That’s what emerges from the first Rashi on the Torah. Why did it start with Bereshit? Because people will come along and say: “You conquered that land! You’re thieves!” So we just show them Bereshit. “Actually no,” we can answer. “We’re not thieves. Look, this means Hashem gives or takes the land to whomever He chooses, and He chose to give it to us.”3
In other words, the world needs consolation because on the surface it appears that it’s a world of things taken by force. A world in which might makes right, in which the successful, the rich, the powerful, the attractive, take everything for themselves. Whereas the delicate, the sensitive, the weak, the modest, the not-so-hot, won’t get accepted to yeshiva, won’t get the desirable shidduch, and so on. Because your figure isn’t good enough, you don’t figure into anyone’s plans for
2 Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, introduction, commentary on the Torah.
3 Rashi on Bereshit 1:1.
That’s what characterized the generation of the ַוִיְּראוְּבֵני-ָהֱאִהיםֶאתְבּנֹותָהאָָדםִכּיֹטֹבתֵהָנּה:Flood The sons of God – ַוִיְּקחוּ ָל ֶהם ָנ ִשׁים ִמ ֹכּל ֲא ֶשׁר ָבּ ָחרוּ saw the daughters of man, thay they were good, and they took as wives as they pleased. Who were these “sons of God?” Most commentators agree they were people who thought themselves superior. So they snatched up the beauties and left the rest. Might makes right.
I listened to a lecture. Someone was talking about Steve Jobs, inventor of the iPhone, the iPad, and recalled that the way Jobs did things was to steal ideas from people who were little cogs in the system, brilliant ideas from brilliant people, and present them as his own. He stole from them. And Hashem paved his way to success. That’s what the world looks like. A world where power reigns, where humility, delicateness, and weakness stand no chance.
And Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz of Mir says: if you don’t read the Torah in order week by week, to you the world will indeed resemble Flood-like chaos. (In fact the proper term in the yeshiva world for what we call the “parasha” is the “seder,” meaning “order.”)
In his golden words:
אני הרואה את התועלת הנעלה אשר רוכש כל בן ישראל אשר ממשיך את לימוד החומש תמידים כ ִסדרם, מדי שבוע בשבוע, כי רק על ידי זה הוא נעשה איש-סדר. וממהלך וסדר הבריאה יראה, איך הכל מיושב על מקומו ושעתו, בהמשך נכון ויראה את זהותו ועצמיותו מאוחדים, מחוברים הם איבריו ולא מדולדלים. קרוב הוא לעצמו ולנצחיותו.
כי מהלך שלם יש בעולם ועם הפסוק הראשון של "בראשית ברא", תיכף יחוש האדם שהבריאה אינה הפקר.4
הרב ירוחם ליבוביץ' ממיר, בהקדמה לפירושו "דעת תורה". 4
By continuing to study the Chumash regularly, Week by week, for only that way one becomes a person of Order.
From the process and order of Creation he will see How everything has its designated place and time, properly attuned,
And he will thus see his personal sovereignty and identity unified,
Connected to his limbs and not disjointed.
He is thus close to himself and his eternal purpose.
For there is an entire plan to this world,
And from the first verse of “In the Beginning”
A person can sense that Creation is not chaotic.5
Only someone who follows the weekly Torah reading will not be buffeted by the Flood that is this world. By the greed and violence. Lady, you will always need comforting, because those who have power/beauty/clout/money will always look like they’re robbing everyone else – but that’s only a partial picture, only what’s revealed. Because really it’s not like that. There is order, justice, and a Judge in the world.
We’re on the cusp of the month of Cheshvan, which the Neviim call ֶי ַרח בּוּל – the month of Bul.6 It used to be called “the month of Mabbul” – of the Flood, the devastation, writes the B’nei Yissaschar, because that’s when the Deluge began, and even after the Flood, each year that month continued to see the onset of 40 days of stormy rains (it still overlaps with hurricane season). Only when Shlomo built the Beit HaMikdash did that
5 Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz of Mir, introduction to Daat Torah.
6 I Melachim 6:38.
Mabbul and Bul are opposites. Mabbul is total disorder, whereas Bul is a precise Bullseye.
Says the Bnei Yissaschar: take this Torah, week by week. You’ll watch as everything in your life starts to fall into place, bullseye. The first letter of the Torah is the bet of Bereshit; the last letter is the lammed of Yisrael; and the middle letter of the Torah (you’re welcome to count) is the second vav in כל ההולך על גחון – all that walks upon its belly,8 from Parashat Shmini. In order, they spell out Bul. Everything is precisely laid out. Bul.
And if you don’t accept order? You’ll be in all that ַעל ְגּ ֹח ְנ ֵת ֵל walks upon its belly – the snake, as in – on your belly you shall walk, and what’s more, anddustshalleatallthe–ְוָעָפרֹתּאַכלָכּלְיֵמיַחֶיּי days of your life.9 Nothing you eat will have any taste.10 You’ll end up walking around in the world as if on your belly, feeling there’s not taste, not taam, no sense, no purpose. The snake will say to you: “You see how much effort you put into things, and for nothing?”
For that reason Rashi opens his commentary with – מה טעם פתח בבראשית – ?the question Mah taam for what reason did the Torah start with Bereshit? Because this world seems like a huge chaotic flood, a world of violence and greed, a world of might makes right. So take this Torah! Nothing gives better consolation. Each weak it will reassure you, “There, there, ֶזה ְי ַנ ֲח ֵמנוּ – this will console you from the toil of your soul.” The order of the Torah will organize your brain. You’ll feel that even when you’re crawling on your belly and everything seems senseless, that’s just because you’re only
7 Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, B’nei Yssaschar for the month of Cheshvan.
8 Vaykira 11:42.
9 Bereshit 3:14.
10 Bnei Yssaschar, Ibid.
That’s why no one can “steal” Eretz Yisrael. It decides whether we belong there. Why do I mention it? Because this week I heard a study of Israeli students, a large percentage of whom said they plan to leave the country once they finish school because there’s no housing here for young couples. Brain drain!
Indeed. Some people are leaking brains, just as one might lose calcium. If you don’t want to be here, it’s not because you don’t want to, but because the land doesn’t want you. As Rashi says: ֶאר ֶצה it’s called Eretz because that’s shorthand for – I desire – whether you live here depends on my, the land’s, desire. Whoever isn’t worthy doesn’t gettostay.
Only someone who learns the Torah in order will grasp this epic system. Everything looks entropic now, after the Chaggim: “Where do I even begin?” It’s OK – hold on to the Torah, and you’ll get exactly where you need to go. Bullseye, B’ezrat Hashem.
Translated by Rav David Swidler