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ויקרא ד' אלקים אל האדם ויאמר לו איכה

Hashem Elokim called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (3:9)

Interestingly, in the first dialogue that ensued between Hashem and man, the question was one word: Ayeca? “Where are you?” Clearly, this was more of a statement than a question, which is obvious from the word va’yomer, “And (He) said to him.” Hashem did not ask – He said. Hashem wanted to begin a conversation with Adam HaRishon concerning his sin. Rather than immediately assert: “You are guilty!” or “Why did you do it?” Hashem began, “Where are you?” Hashem used this as a conversation opener to soothe Adam and allow him to open up with what he had to…

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ומפרי העץ אשר בתוך הגן... לא תאכלו ממנו ולא תגעו בו פן תמתון

Of the fruit of the tree which is in the center of the garden… you shall not eat of it and you shall not touch it lest you die. (3:3)

Rashi comments: Hosifah al ha’tzivai, “She added to the commandment; therefore, she came to detract from it.” Hashem had only prohibited them from eating the fruit – not touching it. The serpent saw an opportunity literally begging for him to cause an incursion. The serpent “complied” by pushing Chavah against the tree. Lo and behold, she did not die. “I told you so,” the serpent said to Chavah. “You touched the tree, and nothing happened. It will be likewise when you eat from it. You have nothing to be concerned about.” The Sifsei Chachamim wonders why Chavah could not have…

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לא טוב היות האדם לבדו

It is not good that man be alone. (2:18)

Chazal (Berachos 17a) ask: “Through what deeds do women merit eternal life? [Since they do not have the mitzvah of limud haTorah, to study Torah, they are unable to earn the merit that is ancillary to it]. Through going through the trouble of bringing their children to the synagogue to study Torah, and through sending their husbands to the bais hamedrash to study Torah, and for waiting for their husbands until they return home from the bais hamedrash.” Chazal (Yevamos 63a) “If the man is worthy, the woman will be an eizer, helper; if he is unworthy, she will be…

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ויבא קין מפרי האדמה מנחה לד' והבל הביא גם הוא מבכורות צאנו ומחלביהן

Kayin brought an offering to Hashem of the fruit of the ground… and as for Hevel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and from their choicest. (4:3,4)

Kayin brought his offering, followed by Hevel’s offering. Hashem turned (listened/accepted) to Hevel’s offering, but did not respond to Kayin’s offering. On the surface, the disparity between Kayin and Hevel’s offering was quality. Hevel offered his finest, choicest, while Kayin brought what he did not want for himself. The inferior crops were designated for offering. So begins the first tragic story of brother killing brother. We understand that the Torah’s narrative is replete with powerful messages and lessons. How do we understand this incident between history’s first two sons? First and foremost: Why did Hashem not accept Kayin’s korban, offering?…

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ותרא האשה כי טוב העץ למאכל וכי תאוה היא לעינים... ותקח מפריו ותאכל

And the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight for the eyes… and she took of its fruit and ate. (3:6)

A horrible tragedy occurred in Telshe, Lithuania, during the tenure of Horav Yosef Yehudah Leib Bloch, zl, as Rosh Yeshivah and Rav (about one hundred years ago). A secular Jewish student with no ties whatsoever to religion rented an attic apartment in town and succumbed to the severe depression that plagued him. Following the incident, the owners of the house in which the deed was done would hear and then see plaster fall from the ceiling. The owner of the house was himself also not an observant Jew, so, at first, he ignored it. (A religious Jew takes nothing at…

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וירא אלקים את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאד

G-d saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good. (1:31)

It was not just “good” – it was very good. Each of Hashem’s creations was good in its own right. When combined together as part of the greater creation, the totality was even better, explains the Meshech Chochmah. Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, views this alternatively. Can we say that all of Hashem’s creations were good? Are suffering, pain, grief, temptation and death considered to be good? Surely, we could do without any of these. Rav Hirsch explains that, indeed, isolated and viewed in a free-standing context, these challenges to life do not come across as being good. As part…

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והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על פני תהום...ויאמר אלקים יהי אור ויהי אור... ויבדל אלקים בין האור ובין החשך

When the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep. (1:2) G-d said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, and G-d separated between the light and the darkness. (1:3,4)

In what must be the most interpreted, but yet remains the most enigmatic, ambiguous pesukim, the Torah commences with the story of Creation. It is a topic which can be studied for a lifetime and its interpretation still remains elusive, because its profundity is far above our mortal cognitive limitations. Just to give the reader snippets to think about, I cite from Kol HaTorah by Horav Eliyahu Munk, zl, concerning the phrase v’choshech al pnei sehom; “with darkness upon the surface of the deep.” The Ramban explains that darkness is not to be thought of as an absence of light,…

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ולא ידע איש קברתו עד היום הזה

And no one knows his burial place to this day. (34:6)

Rashi quotes Chazal (Sotah 14a) who say that Hashem buried Moshe Rabbeinu. Rabbi Yishmael contends that Moshe buried himself, since the Torah writes, “No one knows Moshe’s burial place.” If this is the case, another person could not have buried him, indicating either that he was either buried by Hashem or that he buried himself. The Zohar HaKadosh adds that Moshe’s “burial place” is not only a reference to his physical burial place in this world, but also to his exalted place of repose in Olam Habba, the World to Come. No one/no other soul is permitted access into his…

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ויקבר אתו בגי בארץ מואב מול בית פעור

And (he) they buried him in the valley, in the land of Moav, facing Beis Peor. (34:6)

The Talmud (Sotah 14a) explains that Moshe Rabbeinu was buried opposite the Peor idol in order to atone for the sin of Peor. What does the Peor idol have to do with the Jewish People? Indeed, if it had been Heavenly decreed that Moshe would be buried opposite Peor, could there not have been a more positive way of describing the location? Secondly, why was our quintessential Rebbe and leader buried in such an ignominious location opposite such a degenerate idol? Chazal seem to be addressing these questions when they say that Moshe was buried there in order to atone…

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וזאת הברכה אשר ברך משה ... את בני ישראל לפני מותו

And this is the blessing with which Moshe blessed… Bnei Yisrael before his death. (33:1)

Rashi notes the apparently unnecessary phrase, lifnei moso, before his death; obviously, this took place prior to our leader’s passing from the world. After all, could Moshe Rabbeinu bless the people after his death? We understand this phrase to mean “immediately before he died.” The Maharal m’Prague comments that Moshe blessed the people at the last possible moment, to teach us that the primary role of a leader is to rebuke and guide his people. He should wait until his task is complete before blessing them. Rashi alludes to the urgency of Moshe’s blessing. Moshe knew that his death was…

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