Parshat Breishit

Breishit 1:1-6:8
Haftara: Isaiah 42:5-43:10

1. [3:24] “…to guard the way to the tree of life”. According to Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, the way to the tree of life—to true life– is guarded , but is open to those who have developed morality and order. What other ideal qualities would be substituted for morality and order by other Jewish philosophies or movements (Chassidut, Mussar, religious-nationalism etc.)? What would an ideal Jewish society be for each of these philosophies or movements?

2. [4:9] “…am I my brother’s keeper?” The Torah does not have grammatical punctuation. In this pasuk, Cain could be speaking cynically or he could be speaking innocently. What is the difference to the story between these 2 ways of readings the pasuk, and how do each of the 2 different readings change our view of Cain?

3. [5:29] (Noach) “…he will comfort us.” Rashi, our main commentator, tells us that Noach was a comfort to the world because he invented the plough. People could now farm the land. However, we are told earlier [4:21, 22] that musical instruments and tools were already invented. How can it be that musical instruments had already been invented, but the plough, the most basic of all tools, had not yet been invented?

4. [6:5] “And God saw…that all the inclinations of the thoughts of his (man’s) heart are only bad all the day.” Christianity believes that people are born sinful—that there is original sin. We do not believe this. How does this pasuk state that man is not born sinful?

5. [Haftara: Isaiah 42:6] “…for a light for the nations”. The Jews are supposed to be a “light for the nations”. How have the Jews been a “light for the nations” in the past, and what must the Jews do to continue being a “light for the nations”?

[1:11] “…a fruit tree making fruit.”
Rashi: “The taste of the tree was supposed to be like the taste of the fruit, but the tree didn’t do that.”

In the future however–the time of messianic mentality—the tree will taste like the fruit. The way to the goal will be as sweet as the goal. The journey will be as meaningful as the destination. And this way of living and seeing the world is also within our reach now, if we purify our acts and ourselves.

–Rav A. Y. H. Kuk (1865-1935), Lithuania and Israel.
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker
And to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

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