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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 22 Issue 36
Oct. 12-17, 2020 - 24-29 Tishrei, 5781
Torah Reading: Bereishis
 Candle Lighting : 6:36 PM
Shabbos Ends: 7:29 PM
Blessing of New Month: Cheshvan


Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi
Essay ·
Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel


Parsha Synopsis

Genesis: 1:1-6:8

G‑d creates the world in six days. On the first day He makes  darkness and  light. On the second day He forms the  heavens, dividing the “upper waters” from the “lower waters.” On the third day He sets the boundaries of  land and sea, and calls forth trees and greenery from the earth. On the fourth day He fixes the position of the  sun, moon and stars as timekeepers and illuminators of the earth. Fish, birds and reptiles are created on the fifth day; land animals, and then the  human being, on the sixth. G‑d ceases work on the seventh day, and sanctifies it as a day of  rest.

G‑d forms the human body from the dust of the earth, and blows into his nostrils a “ living soul.” Originally Man is a single person, but deciding that “it is not good that man be alone,” G‑d takes a "side" from the man, forms it into a woman, and  marries them to each other.

Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, and commanded not to eat from the “ Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” The serpent persuades Eve to violate the command, and she shares the forbidden fruit with her husband. Because of their  sin, it is decreed that man will experience death, returning to the soil from which he was formed, and that all gain will come only through  struggle and hardship. Man is banished from the Garden.

Eve  gives birth to  two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain quarrels with Abel and murders him, and becomes a  rootless wanderer. A third son, Seth, is born to Adam; Seth’s eighth-generation descendant,  Noah, is the only righteous man in a corrupt world.

A Word From the Rabbi



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He Blew Into his Nostrils

In 1798, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was imprisoned. He was held in the Peter-Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the charge that his teachings of Chassidism undermined the imperial authority of the Czar.

Among his interrogators was a government minister who possessed broad knowledge of the Bible and Jewish studies. On one occasion, the minister asked the Rebbe if he could explain the verse: “And G‑d called out to the man and said to him: Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Did G‑d not know where Adam was?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman first offered him the simple explanation that is presented in the classic commentaries: “Where are you,” was merely a prelude. . .

“What Rashi says I already know,” replied the minister. “I was hoping to hear a deeper interpretation .”

The Rebbe then offered the following explanation: G‑d inquired of Adam “Where are you in the world?" I.e. Do you understand the nature and purpose of your existence? G‑d obviously knew where Adam was; His question was did Adam know where he was. “Where are you?” continued the Rebbe, “is G‑d’s perpetual call to every man.”

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Man’s essential quality is his image; his higher human form. – The Magid of Mezritch

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High on the list of world mysteries – up there with the avocado seed – Is man’s own complex identity.  The struggle to understand the true "self" is as ancient as man’s debut on this planet. Contributing significantly to the perplexity of our self-status is our basic biological makeup.

A cursory examination of the human anatomy suggests that man’s overriding quality is his physical dimension. After all, man is required to devote a vast majority of his time, energy and attention to mundane bodily needs – eating, sleeping, exercise, attending to personal hygiene and a host of other petty functions, such as mow the lawn, walk the dog, pay the bills and of course, earn a living, to mention just a few. No wonder it is so difficult for man to determine his true identity and purpose in life.

Add to this age-old conundrum the complexities derived from a society in perpetual transformation and an already obscure issue has become even more tenuous. The proliferation of technology and science inevitably feeds the mystery of human identity.

The breathtaking advances and discoveries of the past 400 years in physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and astronomy – despite their enormous benefit – have increased the challenge vis-à-vis true human identity and selfhood. Each new discovery brings answers that are accompanied by even more complex and difficult questions.

Medical science, for example, is rewriting the rulebook on biological identity. As people exchange organs, blood and bone marrow and get used to new techniques of reproduction – such as artificial insemination and surrogacy – the lines of parenthood become increasingly blurred.

The information/communications revolution has created a mysterious electronic landscape of new relationships, roles, identities and communities. The globalization of economics and politics sends people scurrying about the planet pulling up roots, trampling boundaries, letting go of old certainties of place, nationality, social role, and class . Put all these together and you have what amounts to a global identity crisis.

As we sober from our scientific intoxication, in what some refer to as the post scientific era, we find ourselves struggling for new definition and purpose. Questions like: What is life’s true purpose and where does the individual – a tiny speck in time and space – fit into the scheme of things, are raised with renewed intensity.

The issue of self-identity is truly crucial; it is at the heart of all the things we think and do. It is at the core of psychology and psychotherapy – to which society is turning in increasing numbers – as they are essentially institutionalized attempts to understand the human-self.

It is at the center of politics, inasmuch as who and what we are determines our mindset and attitude towards community and nation. It is obviously at the core of religion, since every faith seeks to cultivate a relationship between G‑d and self.

Most important, however, is its relevance with respect to self-actualization. Anyone interested in self-development and personal improvement (and who is not?) must, sooner or later, confront the question of who is the “self.”

So, after all is said and done, what are we to make of man’s true substance? Is man really as earthy as he appears?

It seems almost juvenile to have say, but every human should, at the very least, be aware of what it is that makes him human – what distinguishes him from lower forms of existence. If we lack the basic knowledge of our essential character and substance, how can we possibly live up to our ultimate potential? Sadly, however, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

From a scientific perspective, the distinctive feature of man is his intellect. Scientifically, man is Homo sapience, or a gorilla with intellect. If a sub-human form of life could somehow be made more intelligent, it would no longer be sub-human. For that matter, if a human were to possess an insufficient amount of intellect, he should no longer be considered human but rather sub-human or less human. This kind of thinking has resulted in the advocacy of infanticide of children who are mentally defective. It is plain wrong.

The human being who considers himself superior to a cow, because he can operate a motor vehicle or enjoy a television drama, is only quantitatively superior, he has really not risen much above animalistic existence. Intelligence alone is clearly not what makes us human.

What then is the core designation of a “human being”? It is only logical that the Torah – the Divine guide to human existence – would address this subject, and that it would do so early-on in its narrative.

This critical question is indeed directly addressed in our Parsha – the opening portion of the Torah. In one of the more famous quotes belonging to G‑d:

“Let us make man with our image and likeness. Let him dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock animals, and all the earth – and every land animal that walks the earth. G‑d thus created man with His image. In the image of G‑d, He created him, male and female, He created them. G‑d blessed them. G‑d said to them, be fertile and become many. Fill the land and conquer it. Dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every beast that walks the land. – Genesis, 1: 26-28.

The above passages contain two statements wherein lie the clear definition and purpose of human existence. The first statement says that man possesses a G‑dly image. “G‑d created man with His image; in the image of G‑d He created him.” The meaning of this extraordinary declaration is that there exists a Divine dimension within man – a G‑dly and spiritual spark.

Man's soul is derived from the very breath of G‑d and therefore Divine in nature – a living spirit totally distinct from the vivifying soul present in animals, as the verse states: "And He blew into his nostrils a soul of living spirit” (Genesis 2:7).

In the second Chapter of Tanya Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi emphasizes – based on the Zohar which states: “He who blows, blows from within him" – that our souls stem from G‑d’s inwardness and His innermost being.

The second statement, which defines man’s purpose for existence is the command for man to dominate the world. “Let him dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock animals, and all the earth - and every land animal that walks the earth . . .” What is the connection between these two juxtaposed yet seemingly autonomous statements?

The answer is that together they enjoin man with an explicit mandate to govern and direct all of creation towards a higher purpose. This is to say that all of creation is intended to become an extension of the higher human existence.

Man is not a biological accident limited to self-gratification. Humans rather possess deep spiritual and cosmic significance – a goal directed design and mission.

Having been created in the image of G‑d – having been endowed with the potential and ability for holiness and spirituality – man is ordained to not only recognize and fulfill this enormous potential within himself but to engage the lower levels of creation in this process as well.

It is our actions that determine the life or death of each thing we hold; of each event that enters our life. We bring definition and resolution to an otherwise ambiguous world; we assign each thing its meaning. We alone have the ability to establish whether a thing will breathe with G‑dly life, or idle itself into oblivion. To bring spiritual direction and meaning into our physical and materialistic world is then the true identity of man.

We must never lose sight of this G‑d given purpose and responsibility. Should we lose sight of our purpose and identity, the complete opposite occurs, we become enslaved to the lower order of existence. We become dependent on the physical and materialistic elements within the world to define ourselves.

This idea is reflected in the following observation made by the commentaries on the earlier mentioned verse, “Let him dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky.” The word “Ve-yirdu” (Let him dominate) connotes both “dominion” (derived from the word Radah) as well as “descent” (derived from the word Yarad). When man is worthy, explain our sages, he has dominion over the animal-material kingdom, when he is not, he descends below their level and the animal-material kingdom rules over him.

To paraphrase the above, the human can either dominate and influence the surrounding physical world (i.e. culture and technology) – raising it to a higher spiritual existence – or be dominated and consumed by it. Rabbi Baruch of Medzibuz summarized this notion rather succinctly: "How pleasant is the world if we do not subjugate ourselves to it, and how difficult it is when we do."

This notion is similarly implied in the plural pronouncement: “Let Us make man with Our image.” Why is this statement written in the plural, question the commentaries? Did not G‑d alone create man?

Among others, the commentaries offer the following explanation: Each individual is a partner in his own creation. The Almighty has endowed each person with a wealth of potential – with an abundance of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual ability. Every person can achieve true majesty if he reaches high and nurtures that which is within his potential.

G‑d is thus essentially saying to each person, let us; you and I, work together to make man. I have created you; I have given you the raw materials. Now do your part. Make the necessary effort to rise above the level of the animal. Use your G‑d given abilities to make yourself into a “human being,” the very best person you can be. Make the world into the very best place it can be.

It is with the above in mind that our sages declare: "Privileged is man, for he was created in the image of G‑d. It is even a greater privilege that it was made known to him that he was created in His image, as it is stated: For in the image of G‑d was man created." – Avot 3:5. 

Let us use our G‑d given abilities to make ourselves into true “human beings,” becoming the very best person we can be, thereby making the world into the very best place it can be with the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA.

Gut Shabbos!

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Rabbi Kahanov is the founder/director of Chabad in Northeast FL, consisting of 6 Chabad Centers
He is also the author of "What Chabad Really Believes"
If you like this, you might be interested in purchasing his book click here for more information 


Created to Lead

Precious few are leaders in the truest sense of the word. Most of our "leaders" are individuals who have found an already-existing attractive cause that they decide to champion. The person's powerful personality and persuasive speaking skills cause others who already ascribe to the same policies to appoint him or her as the spokesperson for this cause. In fact, however, this individual is only spearheading a manifesto that was developed by another person, or persons, long ago. The moment this leader steps out of line by expressing an idea of which the "followers" don't approve, they won't hesitate to ostracize him/her and seek another "leader."

Leaders do exist, but they are far and few between. The beginning of the 20th century saw a number of individuals who were true leaders. History has proven that some of the ideas that these leaders espoused were — well-intentioned, but — practically flawed, unsuccessful in the long run, and brought untold misery to billions of people. Nevertheless, they attracted a massive following. This is a common factor shared by leaders, those with good ideas or bad ones: they draw crowds. People anxiously crave leadership; they yearn to be led by a person who has fresh ideas and initiatives, a person who speaks what s/he truly believes and isn't concerned by approval ratings. This is especially true regarding the youth; historically, they have always been the first to embrace a genuine leader with real ideals.

The Mishna states: "Adam was created alone [unlike the animals, of which G‑d created multitudes of every species] to teach us that every person is obligated to say 'the world was created just for me!'" Adam was created without any peers because G‑d didn't want his behavior and his service of G‑d to be based on another's opinion; He didn't want Adam to shape his personality based on societal norms or expectations — He wanted Adam to be a true leader. And, indeed, no sooner Eve was created than Adam made the critical error of following instead of leading. "If the fruit is good for Eve, then it must be fine for me too" was the error which caused him and all his future descendents to be expelled from the Garden of Eden.

As descendents of Adam, we were all created with the innate ability to be leaders. We are meant to have a positive effect on our colleagues and peers. This is especially true today, when unfortunately so many are ignorant of their Jewish heritage, and illuminating the lives of others by introducing them to the meaning and fulfillment offered by the Torah and its commandments is the calling of the hour.

Leadership begins with people who have tremendous integrity, a contagious passion for their convictions, and are completely unaffected by their neighbors' opinions of them — be they positive or negative. Such people will naturally draw a captivated audience.

Aping is for monkeys; we must strive to be human.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.


Thoughts That Count
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And G‑d created the man (Gen. 1:27)

"For this reason was man created alone, to teach you that whosoever destroys a single soul... scripture imputes cuilt to him as though he had destroyed a complete world; and whosoever preserves a single soul..., scripture ascribes [merit] to him as though he had preserved a complete world." (Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a)

Why doesn't the Torah state after the creation of man, "and it was good," as it does after all the other things created during the six days? Every other creature was created complete, with its nature and instincts ready to be applied to the world. Man, however, was created incomplete, and it is his purpose in life to perfect himself. Human beings are given free will and the responsibility for their own development and improvement. That is why it doesn't immediately state, "and it was good" - we must wait and see how man behaves before passing judgement. (Klai Yakar)

Although the Torah mentions the creation of heaven, its emphasis is clearly on earth, for that is where man is destined to fulfill his G‑dly role. (Rabbi Shimshon Refael Hirsch)

He put him into the Garden of Eden to till it and to keep it (Gen. 2:15)

In the "Seven Blessings" of the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom are blessed with the following: "Happy and joyous may you be, O loving companions, like the joy of your progenitors in the Garden of Eden many years ago." May the young couple, just embarking on a life together, be as true and faithful to each other as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, when they were as yet the only two people in the world. (Otzarenu Hayashan)

The L-rd G‑d called to Adam and said to him, Where are you? (Gen. 3:9)

From this we learn that one should never burst into another person's home unannounced. Indeed, we derive proper manners from G‑d Himself, Who "stood" at the entrance to the Garden of Eden and initiated a conversation with Adam before entering. (Derech Eretz)

Once Upon A Chassid

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Wooden Thoughts

And G‑d said: "Let there be a firmament…" (1:6)

It is written: "Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands firm in the heavens." Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, explained the verse thus: "Your word" which you uttered, "Let there be a firmament…," these very words and letters stand firmly forever within the firmament of heaven and are forever clothed within the heavens to give them life and existence. As it is also written, "The word of our G‑d shall stand firm forever" and "His words live and stand firm forever." For if these letters were to depart even for an instant, G‑d forbid, and return to their source, all the heavens would become nought and absolute nothingness, and it would be as if they had never existed at all, exactly as before the utterance, "Let there be a firmament."

And so it is with all created things, down to the most corporeal and inanimate of substances. If the letters of the "ten utterances" by which the earth was created during the six days of creation were to depart from it for but an instant, G‑d forbid, it would revert to absolute nothingness.

This same thought was expressed by the Ari, of blessed memory, when he said that even in completely inanimate matter, such as earth and stones and water, there is a soul and spiritual life-force - that is, the letters of Divine "speech" clothed within it which continually grant it life and existence. (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi)

One year, following the Rosh Hashanah prayers, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi asked his son, Rabbi DovBer: "What did you think of during your prayers?"

Rabbi DovBer replied that he had contemplated the meaning of the passage, "and every stature shall bow before You" - how the most lofty supernal worlds and spiritual creations negate themselves before the infinite majesty of G‑d. "And you, father," Rabbi DovBer then asked, "with what thought did you pray?"

Replied Rabbi Schneur Zalman: "I contemplated the table at which I stood."

Tid Bits
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What Was Adam's Purpose Before the Sin of the Forbidden Fruit?
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If part of Man’s purpose is to rectify the world from the effects of the sin of the forbidden fruit, what was Adam’s job before he sinned?


Man was created for the specific purpose of revealing G‑dliness in this world. Even with regards to Adam before he sinned, the verse states, “Now the L‑rd G‑d took the man, and He placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.” 

The work referred to here isn’t the physical labor of cultivating and caring for a field, for what labor was needed on a land that produced its produce almost instantly? Rather, the sages explain, it refers to spiritual labor.

Man’s purpose (including Adam’s before the sin) is to reveal G‑dliness in this world, as well as to refine the world and elevate it to a higher spiritual level.

The Torah itself provides us with a fascinating illustration of what Adam’s job was to be before he sinned with the forbidden fruit and was exiled from the Garden of Eden. The verse tells us, “And G‑d Almighty formed from the earth every beast of the field and every fowl of the heavens, and He brought [it] to man to see what he would call it, and whatever the man called each living thing, that was its name. And man named all the cattle and the fowl of the heavens and all the beasts of the field.”

Lest one think that this was an easy and simple endeavor, in the midrash our sages expound, “…brought each creature before the angels and asked them, ‘This creature, what is its name?’ But they did not know. Then He brought the creatures before Adam and asked him, ‘This creature, what is its name?’ To which Adam responded, ‘This is shor [Hebrew for ox], this is chamor [donkey]...’

This of course brings us to the question of why? What was so special about naming the animals that only man could do it?

Every single creation, even a single blade of grass, has its own unique energy source in the spiritual realms. 

The true name of an object connects the object with its spiritual source. Angels, which are of course spiritual beings, lack the capacity to connect the spiritual with the physical, since they lack the capacity to deal directly with the physical and mundane coarseness of creation. The last time angels descended to immerse themselves completely in this physical mundane world it had disastrous consequences. 

In all of creation only man, Adam, has the power to connect the physical and mundane with its spiritual source. This is due to the uniqueness of man, who is a physical creation with a body and at the same time contains a G‑dly soul. As the Midrash puts it, “Adam was created both from the upper realms and the lower realms,”  and it is for this reason that only Adam could give the animals their true names. 

This was man’s job in the Garden of Eden. Even more so, now after the sin, it is our job to connect the spiritual with the mundane and coarse world. 

Rabbi Yehudah Shurpin
Ask the Rabbi @ The Judaism Website – Chabad.org


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