Food For the Soul
The Midrash compares G-d’s creation of the universe to the work of a human architect. When a person wishes to build something, first he fixes his purpose in his mind. Then he starts his labor. “Let there be light” was the first statement in creation because “light” is the true purpose of existence: through the study of Torah and the fulfillment of mitzvot, Divine radiance is revealed.
“Light” is the purpose of existence as a whole. Further, each individual is a microcosm of the world. “Light” is therefore the purpose of each Jew: that he or she transform his or her situation and environment to light, goodness, instead of darkness.
If light is the purpose of every created thing, it follows that it must also be the purpose of darkness itself. Darkness does not exist only in order to be conquered or avoided, thereby presenting man with a choice between good and evil; the fulfillment of darkness is when it is changed, when the bad becomes good—when darkness is transformed into light.
The problems that we meet in life might sometimes make us despair even of winning the battle of light over darkness, let alone of turning the bad itself into good. But with the words “Let there be light!” the Torah presents the goal for each of us as individuals and also for humanity as a whole. This is the Divine purpose for our existence: and if this is G-d’s purpose for us, there is no doubt that we will be able to succeed!
From an article by Dr. Tali Loewenthal
The Shabbat after Simchat Torah is Shabbat Bereishit — “Shabbat of Beginning” — the first Shabbat of the annual Torah reading cycle, on which the Torah section of Bereishit (“In the Beginning”) is read.
The weekly Torah reading is what defines the Jewish week, serving as the guide and point of reference for the week’s events, deeds and decisions; Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi called this “living with the times.” Hence the theme and tone of this week is one of beginning and renewal, as we launch into yet another cycle of Torah life. The Rebbes of Chabad would say: “As one establishes oneself on Shabbat Bereishit, so goes the rest of the year.”
Mind Over Matter
Adam trudged past the gates of Eden, his head low, his feet heavy with the pain of remorse. Suddenly he stopped. Then he spun around and exclaimed, “You had this planned! You put that fruit there knowing I would choose to eat from it! This is a plot! But tell me: Why?”
There was no reply. But we have found an answer. Without failure, we can never truly reach into the depths of our souls. Only once we have fallen can we return and reach higher and higher without end.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“On the day G-d created man, He made him in the likeness of G-d … and He named them Adam.” (Bereishit 5:1-2)
Adam’s soul was a composite of the souls of all his descendants-all of mankind. The Hebrew term for a human thus is adam. Mystics note that adam is an acronym for the names of three central figures: Adam, (King) David and Moshiach.
The Baal Shem Tov derives from this that there is a spark of the soul of Moshiach within every single Jew. Thus he concludes that it is incumbent upon every individual Jew to perfect and prepare that part of the spiritual stature of Moshiach to which his soul is related. By virtue of his bond with every Jew, because there is a part of him within every Jew, Moshiach is able to redeem the entire Jewish people.Conversely, every Jew is able to effect and hasten the actual manifestation of Moshiach. This is accomplished by means of Torah and mitzvot. For Torah and mitzvot effect a purification of the world, gradually diminishing its impurity until “I shall remove the spirit of impurity (altogether) from the earth” (Zechariah 13:2). This will be with the coming of Moshiach, for he will reveal goodness and holiness in the world until “The earth shall be full with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea!” (Isaiah 11:9).
Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
“And G-d said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light” (Genesis: 1:3).
Light has always been the most favored metaphor for all forms of revelation. We speak of “G-dly light,” “Divine light,” the “new light” of the Redemption We use expressions such as, “Do you still walk in darkness or have you seen the light?”
As physical light brightens our path so we don’t stumble over obstacles, so the light of G-dliness, our spiritual awareness, helps us avoid the pitfalls on the journey of life. Light represents truth, eternal values, the spiritual which transcends the mundane and the temporal.
The story is told of a wealthy man who had three sons. As he was uncertain as to which son he should entrust with the management of his business, he devised a test. He took his three sons to a room which was absolutely empty and he said to each of them, “Fill this room as best as you are able.”
The first son got to work immediately. He called in bulldozers, earth-moving equipment, workmen with shovels and wheelbarrows and they got mightily busy. By the end of the day the room was filled, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with earth.
The room was cleared and the second son was given his chance. He was more of an accountant type, so he had no shortage of paper: boxes, files, archives and records that had been standing and accumulating dust for years and years suddenly found a new purpose. At any rate, it didn’t take long and the room was absolutely filled from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with paper.
Again the room was cleared and the third son was given his turn. He seemed very relaxed and didn’t appear to be gathering or collecting anything at all with which to fill the room. He waited until nightfall and then invited his father and the family to join him at the room. Slowly, he opened the door. The room was absolutely pitch black, engulfed in darkness. He took something out of his pocket. It was a candle. He lit the candle and suddenly the room was filled with light.
He got the job.
Some people fill their homes with earthiness — with lots of physical objects and possessions which clutter their closets but leave their homes empty. Our cars and clothes, our treasures and toys, all lose their attractiveness with time. If all we seek satisfaction from is the material, we are left with a gaping void in our lives.
Others are into paper — money, stocks, bonds, and share portfolios — but there is little in the way of real relationships. Family doesn’t exist or is relegated to third place at best. On paper, he might be a multi-millionaire, but is he happy? Is his life rich or poor? Is it filled with family and friends or is it a lonely life, bereft of true joy and contentment?
The truly wise son understands how to fill a vacuum. The intelligent man knows that the emptiness of life needs light. Torah is light. Shabbat candles illuminate and make Jewish homes radiant with light. G-dly truths and the eternal values of our heritage fill our homes and families with the guiding light to help us to our destinations safely and securely.
As we begin a new Jewish year, may we all be blessed to take the candle of G-d and with it fill our lives and illuminate our homes with that which is good, kind, holy and honorable. Amen.
Rabbi Yossy Goldman