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The Curtain Parted
Glimpsing The Week Ahead

Bereishis

by R. L. Kremnizer
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Beginning

Even beginnings have a beginning. We begin with the story of Reb Aizik Reb Yekeles,[1] who lived in Crackow in dire financial circumstances with his wife and children. Reb Aizik sighed for riches to the scoffing cynicism of his good wife. There came a time, however, when Reb Aizik began to have a recurring dream; he dreamed that under the bridge in Prague his fortune awaited him. His wife would not hear of his outlandish plan to make the long and dangerous journey to Prague, stressing her inability to manage without his meager, though regular, income.

Undeterred, Reb Aizik slipped away, arriving exhausted but intact, to Prague and the bridge of his visions.

To his disappointment, he found the bridge heavily guarded, scotching any plan to dig under the pylons. Unable to think of any better plan Reb Aizik decided to rest up and wait for a meaningful opportunity.

After some days, an officer of the guards, suspicious of his constant inactive presence, ordered him to explain himself. In fear of the considerable imminent danger, the hapless traveler decided to tell the truth, and repeated his dreams to his grim interrogator. The soldier burst into raucous laughter. How could anyone be so stupid! How could anyone travel so far on a dream! Why, he himself had a recurring dream of some Jew in Crackow with a fortune buried under his stove. Did he, for a moment, consider going to Crackow?

Whatever else, Reb Aizik was not dense. He left immediately for Crackow. Ignoring his wife's fury, he rushed straight for the stove, tearing it from its place. Deaf to his wife's remonstrations, Reb Aizik began to dig in frenzy. A deep thud confirmed the presence of a large chest. Upon inspection to the incredulous surprise of all the family, there lay revealed hundreds of shining gold coins.

In the last hundred years or so, Jews have looked abroad for cultural wealth and sustenance. We have tried business, the professions, art, science and politics. We have assumed that our wealth would be discovered under any one of these new and apparently exciting bridges. The truth is that our treasure is under our own stove. It lies in the immeasurable wealth of our learning and traditions, which offer totally disproportionate nourishment for the Jewish soul. This nourishment is present in the many diverse meals of each Sedra of our Torah. We will take a morsel together from each week as it applies to, and in fact structures, each Jew's week. Hopefully, this will lead to a heightened consciousness of the vast and fabulous treasure we have at home.

The first word of the Torah is Bereishis, usually translated as "In the Beginning." The word better translates as "Two firsts", (Beis = two, reishis = first).[2]

We learn that the world was created by HaShem for two firsts, the Torah and Am Yisrael.[3]

One of the most difficult obstacles in really learning for beginners is the appreciating of this concept. A sacred cow of our society dictates no differences between people. The average sophisticated reader has great difficulty with the notion of Am Yisrael being special, different and chosen. A Jew, uneducated in Torah will shift uncomfortably when confronted with the proposition that the world was created for Torah and for us. Yet so it is - but the proposition needs to be understood and understood well.

In order to do so, we need to consider the notion of purpose. There is superficial purpose and primary purpose. For example; A lawyer is rushing to court. If questioned as to why he is rushing, he will explain it is so that he will not be late for the judge. But is this really why he is rushing? A more inner purpose is that his job depends on his performance. It is his job performance which is his focus, not the judge. But is this really why he is rushing? A more inner purpose again is not really the job-performance, it is the need for money. Deeper still, it is not really the money but the purchasing power of the money. So, we see there are various levels to purpose - those more superficial and those more intrinsic.[4]

We learn in Chassidus that G-d's purpose in creating the world (and recreating it every second) is a secondary, not a primary, purpose. The primary purpose was not the creation of the world (including inert matter, plant life, animals and human beings). The real purpose was Torah and Am Yisrael, and in order that Am Yisrael can accomplish its task through Torah, the world was, and is, secondarily created.[5]

As we travel together we will learn that the primary purpose of creation was, and is, that Am Yisrael make a dwelling place for HaShem in the lowest of possible worlds - this physical world. This we will see is achieved by learning Torah and performing mitzvos. In order for this to be accomplished the world is secondarily required.

This week sets the tone of the ensuing year, being the first week's Torah portion. One of the lights that shine from this week's Sedra allows a Jew to focus on his ultimate purpose. This is to realize that the world is secondary and that he and his sacred task are primary.

When a Jew tunes into his purpose and this awesome responsibility, the by-product is happiness; the happiness that comes from fulfilling the potential of one's created purpose in life.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) See Treasury of Chassidic Tales p. 606, Rabbi Y. Zevin.

  2. (Back to text) Zohar I, p. 76; Tikkunei Zohar Chs. 1, 5. See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVIII, p. 89 fn. 48.

  3. (Back to text) Rashi, Ibid. Bereishis Rabbah 1:4; Vayikra Rabbah 36:47.

  4. (Back to text) See Sefer HaMaamarim Meluket, Vol. V, p. 181.

  5. (Back to text) See Sefer HaMaamarim Meluket, Vol. VI, p. 7 and elsewhere.


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