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Torah Sparks 5764

Torah Sparks 5764

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Torah Sparks - Discussion Guide to the Weekly Torah Portion. Torah Sparks has tried to capture precious truths in each Shabbat Torah reading through quotations that offer insights and questions for open discussion by congregants in a synagogue, a study group or at home.
Torah Sparks - Discussion Guide to the Weekly Torah Portion. Torah Sparks has tried to capture precious truths in each Shabbat Torah reading through quotations that offer insights and questions for open discussion by congregants in a synagogue, a study group or at home.

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03/18/2014

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PARASHAT BERESHIT
October 25, 2003 - 5764
Prepared by Rabbi Lee Buckman
Head of School, Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit
Department of Congregational Services
Rabbi Martin J. Pasternak, Director

Annual Cycle: Genesis 1:1-6:8 - Hertz, p. 2; Etz Hayim, p. 3
Triennial Cycle 3: Genesis 5:1-6:8 - Hertz, p. 16; Etz Hayim, p. 30
Haftarah: (Mahar Hodesh) Samuel 20:17-42 - Hertz, p. 948; Etz Hayim, p. 1215

Discussion Theme: Temptation

\u201cThe Lord saw how great was man\u2019s wickedness on earth, and how every plan
devised by his mind was nothing but evil the entire day (all the time). And the
Lord regretted that He had made man on earth, and His heart was saddened.
The Lord said, \u2018I will blot out from the earth the men whom I created \u2014 men
together with beasts, creeping things, and birds of the sky; for I regret that I
made them.\u2019 But Noah found favor with the Lord.\u201d (Genesis 6:5-8)

Commentary

A. Rav Yitzchak said: A person\u2019s evil inclination renews itself against him
every day, as it says in Genesis 6:5, \u201conly evil the entire day.\u201d And Rabbi
Shimon ben Levi said: A person\u2019s evil inclination threatens to overpower
him every day and seeks to kill him, as it is stated in Psalms 37:32, \u201cThe
wicked one watches for the righteous and seeks to slay him.\u201d And if it
were not for God\u2019s help, the person would be unable to withstand the evil
inclination, as it says in Psalms 37:33, \u201cGod will not leave him in his
hand.\u201d (Talmud Kiddushin 30b)

B. The superfluous phrase \u201cthe entire day\u201d teaches that at all hours of the
day the evil inclination renews its battle against a person. (Rashi on
Kiddushin 30b)
C. In Psalms 37:32 the \u201cwicked one\u201d refers to the evil inclination that
attempts to entice people to sin causing them to die. (Maharsha on
Kiddushin 30b)
D. The daily power of the evil inclination indicates that even if it failed to

convince a person to commit a particular sin the first time, it will make a
stronger attempt each succeeding time. (Vilna Gaon on Kiddushin 30b)
E. The Rabbis taught in aberaita \u201cyou shall place(\u2018v \u2019sa m-t e m\u2019) these words
on your heart\u201d read as \u2018sam-tam,\u2019 a perfect elixir. Torah is compared to a
life-giving elixir. An analogy can be drawn to a man that dealt his son a
great blow and then places a bandage upon his wound saying to him:
\u2018My son, so long as this bandage remains on your wound, you may eat
whatever you desire, drink whatever you desire, and bathe in hot or cold
water, and you need not fear that any harm will come to you by these
actions. But if you remove this bandage, your wound will surely fester. So
too has the Holy Blessed One said to Israel, \u2018my children, I have created

the evil inclination and I have created Torah as its antidote. If you involve
yourselves in Torah, you will not be delivered into its hand, as it says in
Genesis 4:7, \u201ccertainly if you correct yourself, you will prevail.\u201d But if you

do not involve yourselves in Torah, you will be delivered into its hand, as
it says in Genesis 4:7, \u201cit rests at the door.\u201d And what is more, all the
pursuits of the evil inclination concern you, as it says there, \u201cand you are
its desire.\u201d But if you wish, you can master the evil inclination, as it says
there, \u201cbut you can conquer it.\u201d (Talmud Kiddushin 30b)

F. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says, \u201cthere is no free man except one who
occupies himself with the study of the Torah\u201d (Ethics of the Fathers,
chapter 6)\u2026. The man or woman who occupies themselves with Torah is

free because they are liberated from a suffocating selfishness. They do
not spend their days catering endlessly to the rapacious needs of their
insatiable ego\u2026. This is what makes religion liberating. When one is
bound by the tenets of Jewish law that command sensitivity and love for
the orphan and the poor; when one is forced to feed the hungry and
clothe the naked; when one is enjoined into observing the Sabbath, thus
putting family and friends before going to the beach; when one is
commanded to start the day by praying to you wish, you can master the
evil inclination, as it says there, \u201cbut you can conquer it.\u201d(Talmud

Kiddushin 30b)
G. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says, \u201cthere is no free man except one who
occupies himself with the study of the Torah\u201d (Ethics of the Fathers,
chapter 6)\u2026. The man or woman who occupies themselves with Torah is

free because they areliberated from a suffocating selfishness. They do
not spend their days catering endlessly to the rapacious needs of their
insatiable ego\u2026. This is what makes religion liberating. When one is
bound by the tenets of Jewish law that command sensitivity and love for
the orphan and the poor; when one is forced to feed the hungry and
clothe the naked; when one is enjoined into observing the Sabbath, thus
putting family and friends before going to the beach; when one is
commanded to start the day by praying to God in order to thank Him for
all that we possess and to beg from Him our daily bread; when one is
commanded to offer a blessing before and after every meal, thereby
showing gratitude and appreciation for all we possess, then we live in
accord with the desire of our irreducible essence, namely, to be good
and righteous individuals who enjoy unblemished relationships with God
and our fellow humans. (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Judaism for Everyone)

H. Free will is bestowed on every human being. If one desires to turn toward
the good way and the righteous, he has the power to do so. If one wishes
to turn toward the evil way or be wicked, he is at liberty to do so\u2026. Let
not the notion expressed by foolish Gentiles and most senseless folks
among Israelites passthrough your mind that at the beginning of a
person\u2019s existence, the Almighty decrees that he is to be either righteous
or wicked; this is not so: Every human being may become righteous like
Moses, our teacher, or wicked like Jeroboam; wise or foolish, merciful or
cruel; niggardly or generous; and so with all other qualities. There is no
one that coerces him or decrees what he is to do or draws him to either
of the two ways; but every person turns to the ways which he desires,

spontaneously and of his own volition. (Maimonides, The Laws of
Repentance)
I. I can resist everything but temptation. (Oscar Wilde in Lady
Windermere\u2019s Fan)
Discussion
Genesis 6:5 presents a sober view of the human condition. The early chapters

of Genesis repeatedly reveal God\u2019s disappointment in the evil nature of human
beings. Not only is \u201cevery plan devised by his mind nothing but evil the entire
day (all the time),\u201d but \u201cthe devisings of man\u2019s mind are evil from his youth\u201d

(Gen. 8:21). Some religions might argue that we are by nature evil and there is

nothing one can do about it. According to this view, commandments remind us
of our shortcomings because we can never fulfill God\u2019s will perfectly. Other
religions assert that evil is just a matter of constructs of right and wrong that we
create in our minds. Evil is an illusion. In what way does Judaism reject both of
these views?

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