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Breishis
The Sparks After the Fall
A. Hashem is Involved in our Personal Lives and World History
The most dramatic event for humankind occurs in this week's parsha, the sin of the eitz hadaas. After
they sin, Adam and Chava are driven from Gan den! This is a definin" event in human history! The
Torah wrote it to teach us an important lesson in our so#ourn in this world! $e are all children of Adam
and Chava! Their rise and fall is a model for us as we "o throu"h our ups and downs in life!
The first %ashi in chumash notes that the stories of Breishis and the rest of the Torah are as important
as the mitzvos of the Torah! &ashem commanded us throu"h &is mit'vos to do various actions and to
withhold from other actions! The commandments are the mainstay of the Torah! (f the Torah is a)out
laws why are so many stories included in the Torah* $e read the stories a)out Adam, +oach, Avraham,
,it'chak, ,aakov, ,osef, -oshe and more! There are many stories in the Torah, sometimes more
detailed than the mitzvos! %ashi e.plains that the stories teach us that &ashem is involved in human
events! &e is more than #ust the creator and law"iver, he is actively involved in human life! &e is part
of our everyday life, on the individual level and on the national level!
( remem)er as a child in +ew ,ork davening in a chassidishe shteeble filled with &un"arian and /olish
refu"ees! ( remem)er wonderin", 0$ho is &ashem* &e is also a mem)er of the shul,1 ( answered! 0&e
is a)solutely here in the lives of these people in shul!1 2ver the centuries, the 3ewish people have )een
a)le to a)sor) this reality and to live it totally!
$hen we read the Torah stories, we see &ashem lokim as a real character, indeed the prime character
of the stories! &e has conversations with Adam, +oach, the avos, ,osef, -oshe and Aharon! &e plays
a ma#or role! The Torah wants us to make this a livin" part of ourselves! God is not somethin" a)stract!
&e is not #ust a law"iver who "ave us a )ook of do's and don'ts and a Shulchan Aruch! There is a
"reater important concept of &ashem as a real, livin" )ein", involved in our lives and in the history of
the world! &e is as important as presidents and kin"s! $e have to feel that! This is what %ashi teaches
here4 &ashem is an important actor in the story!
This is the )asis of Sefer Breishis! %ashi illustrates this with his famous first comment! &e writes that
&ashem created ret' ,israel for Bnei ,israel! The other nations will say, 0This land is not yours!1 But
&ashem determines what is ri"ht and wron" and who deserves somethin"! Sometimes &ashem plays
the role of coach, or #ud"e, or reward "iver, or punisher! &e is involved in whatever we do! This is why
the 3ewish people "et the land of (srael! &ashem "ave it to us throu"h &is involvement in human
history! &e is a participant in the human story!
B. What Could be Wrong With the Eitz Hachaim?
The story of Adam and Chava is the model story! (t is the sketch of every aveira or "ood deed that
people do! Shem -ishmuel approaches the story with several 5uestions! Adam and Chava were
commanded not to eat from eitz hadaas tov v'ra! Then they succum)ed to the temptation! &ashem said,
0( must drive them out of the "arden of den, for Adam mi"ht stretch out his hand and eat from the tree
of life! Then he would live forever!1 &ashem apparently didn't want that to happen! So &ashem then
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sent Adam from the Garden of den to work the "round from which he had )een taken! The Torah
mentions Adam's )anishment from Gan den twice! The first time the verse says, 0Va'yishlacheihu
migan eden. &e sent him from Gan den!1 Then at the end of the passa"e, the verse says
va'yegareshehu, 0&ashem drove him out!1 $hat is the difference )etween these two e.pressions*
Additionally, why is &ashem so concerned that Adam will eat from the eitz hachaim, whereas )efore he
was not* (n fact, &ashem never prohi)ited Adam from eatin" from the eitz hachaim! Simply, we
understand that &ashem wanted the punishment of death to work on Adam! (f he would eat from the
tree of life, it would counteract the punishment! But upon further reflection, if God decreed that Adam
should die, how would the it' &achaim )e capa)le of counterin" the 7ivine decree*
This story has a lot of sym)olism in it! %am)am actually writes in the -oreh +evuchim that the story
should )e interpreted in sym)olic ways! $hat is the deeper meanin" of the eitz hachaim*
C. i!!erence bet"een Gerush and Shalach
Shem -ishmuel e.plains the difference )etween sendin" away, va'yishlachehu, and va'yegaresh,
drivin" out of "an den! (n Chumash, the word shalach means simply to send away, a matter of
physical movement! &ashem physically moved Adam out of Gan den
$hat does va'yegaresh mean* (n ra))inic literature geirushin means divorce! A divorce is not related to
any physical distance )etween hus)and and wife! &us)and and wife can )e separated )y thousands of
miles and they are still married, they do not have a geirushin! Alternatively, they could )e in the same
place, even stayin" in the same house, and )e divorced! The word geirushin in ra))inic literature does
not refer to physical distance like the word shalach! Garesh denotes a chan"e in the nature of the
relationship! The word garesh means to sever the relationship )etween two people!
The pasuk thus says that &ashem did two thin"s to Adam su)se5uent to his eatin" from the eitz hadaas
shiluach and gerush. First &ashem physically sent Adam out to the world. Then in a second action,
&ashem severed &is relationship with Adam! &e )anished Adam from the formerly close relationship
that he had with God! As a hus)and divorcin" his wife, God )roke the relationship with Adam!
Shem -ishmuel finds a parallel to this in the story of the akeida! &ashem commanded Avraham Avinu
to sacrifice his son ,it'chak in a place that &e would show him! After three days of travelin", Avraham
0saw the makom, the place 8of the akeida9 from afar!1 The midrash interprets the word makom as
referin" to &ashem! The midrash says that Avraham e.perienced distance from the makom, from
&ashem! (n this sense he e.perienced a geirushin! &ashem had distanced himself from Avraham! The
close relationship with &ashem that Avraham had formerly en#oyed wasn:t there anymore! God turned
away &is face and did not answer Avraham! Avraham felt this distance! &e had "rown used to closeness
with God! &e was a prophet who was a)le to en"a"e God in discussion and God responded, as
happened durin" his prayers for the city of Sdom! But durin" the three days prior to the akeida &ashem
did not respond to him! (n this test Avraham would have to proceed even while e.periencin" feelin"s of
distance, in a situation of geirushin!
Thus, Adam e.perienced two sta"es in the down"radin" of his relationship with &ashem! First he was
physically driven out from Gan den, shiluach. -ore traumatic and more fundamental, &ashem
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severed Adam's relationship to &im, geirushin! Sadly, tra"ically, Adam's awareness of &ashem's
presence "reatly diminished!
. #he Pur$ose o! Li!e % &inding the Holy '$ar(s
The story of Adam's loss of Gan den is fundamental to understandin" the purpose of our e.istence as
human )ein"s! Chassidus addresses the fundamental pro)lem of human e.istence! $hat is the purpose
of life* $hat does God want of us* $hat does &e want us to do with our lives* $e all "o throu"h life
and we have our challen"es! (s there a common fundamental issue that each one of us addresses* 7o
we all have a common mission of livin" as a human )ein"* This is the most fundamental 5uestion of
life, of Chassidus and ka))ala, and of the Torah!
Chassidus proposes a fundamental mission, and formulates it with a uni5ue phrase! 2ur mission as
people is to "ather and elevate the nitzotzos hakedusha, the hidden 0sparks of holiness!1 <et us e.plain
the nature of these sparks, how they arrived in our world and su)se5uently were hidden!
Accordin" to the story of /arshas Breishis, the world we know today was not created in one instant!
(nstead creation was a process, comprised of si. days of creation! There were sta"es in the development
of the world! Accordin" to kaballa thou"h, the creation story of the Torah is really only the latter part of
the story! %ashi too says that the Torah does not start at the )e"innin" of creation! &e demonstrates this
point lin"uistically, and he points to details of the story itself! For e.ample, the second verse of the
Torah tells us that land already e.isted in some way, even )efore the li"ht! 2n day three when &ashem
made the water draw )ack, the land appeared! (t was already there! But we never read a)out the
creation of the land! %ashi thus proves that the creation story does not start at the very )e"innin"!
Also accordin" to kaballa there were other creative steps that preceded the creation story of Breishis!
Kaballa relates that &ashem created many worlds, )ut they all collapsed and ceased to e.ist! The Torah
opens with the creation of the world that we know of! &ashem looked at it and said 0tov, it is "ood!1
That divine approval "ranted permanence to our universe! (t didn't #ust collapse! (n atomic accelerators,
some su)=atomic particles appear and then disappear! They are momentary flashes, they are not tov. The
%am)an in his commentary on the Torah also e.plains that tov means that our world will last and not
collapse!
&owever, in these earlier sta"es of creation, sparks of "oodness and holiness came into e.istence! They
survived the collapse of their respective worlds, and were su)se5uently em)edded and hidden in the
later sta"es of creation! 2ur world is the final steady state of creation in which we e.ist forever! The
survivin" hidden sparks from the previous universes have made it throu"h into this world! Accordin" to
the kaballa the purpose of man is to find these otherworldly sparks of holiness and raise them up )y
)rin"in" them into oneself! By re#oinin" the sparks with his own holiness, man completes his own
holiness! -an's holiness is initially incomplete! &owever, as he )rin"s these holy sparks from around
the world into himself, he completes his holiness! -an thus finishes the process of Creation that
&ashem initiated!
E. La'asos % Creation to be Continued
<et's try to understand this mystical idea in our own lan"ua"e! The Torah says >Breishis 641=;? that God
created the world in si. days! 02n the seventh day, God finished creatin" everythin" in the world that
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he created to make A la'asos!1 Somethin" in the phrasin" of that verse doesn't make sense! $hy does
the Torah finish the sentence with the word 0laasos, to make*1 God already created the world in si.
days! The whole point of Sha))os is that &e finished the #o)! $hy does the Torah add on that last
word, la'asos*
&. )an* the 'ha$er o! the Holy '$ar(s
God created this world in a num)er of sta"es! &e placed man in the world on day si. of this process!
Then God finished what &e was doin"! But then comes la'asos, to do! Apparently, there is still more to
do! God said to man, 0( am "ivin" you the tzelem elokim, the ima"e of God! ( am "ivin" you the a)ility
to continue -y work as creator! ( haven:t finished the creation and now you have the opportunity to
participate with -e in the act of creation!1 <et's understand this!
$hen God created, &e first made thin"s that did not e.ist )efore, ex nihilo. This is the direct meanin"
of the word bara! But as the creation story unfolds, the Torah switches from usin" the word bara to the
word yatzar, to shape! God then "ave &is creation shape, tzura!
-an too is a shaper! &e takes the materials of the world and forms and shapes them! &e is char"ed
0l'avda ul'shamra,1 to improve the world and to preserve the "ood in it! After &ashem finished &is
acts of creation and development, &e transferred the responsi)ility to man to finish the #o)! This is why
we always have improvements in the areas of science, medicine and economics! $e are actively
developin" the world to make it a )etter place! This is the God="iven mission of humankind!
Furthermore, our responsi)ility to improve the world includes e.plorin" and searchin" for what is holy
in this world! $e must search for the holy thin"s of our world, especially for the secret pockets of
holiness! An"els, althou"h also creatures of &ashem, are pro"rammed to see holiness only where it is
apparent! But they cannot see it where it is not easily seen! -an, thou"h, is different! &e is a)le to see
holiness even when it is hidden!
For e.ample, 7ovid &amelech and Shmuel &anavi surveyed a plain mountain, and there was pro)a)ly
a forest there! 7ovid and Shmuel saw )eyond its surface! They saw more than a mountain! There they
saw a )eautiful holy Temple! They )rou"ht out the )eautiful kedusha from a place that seemed like
nothin" more than an avera"e hill! They )uilt the Beis &amikdash there as a house for &ashem! Since
then, the entire world for thousands of years reco"ni'es this kedusha. $e can't see it with our physical
eyes, )ut we sense it very stron"ly! /eople have the a)ility to sense kedusha even when it is not visi)le
to the naked eye! 2ur mission is to find the holy sparks in everythin" in this world, even and especially
in places where it is not visi)le! Kedusha is pervasive! (t is everywhere, waitin" for people to discover
it and develop it!
The fundamental challen"e of life is to discover the holy in everythin", in every person and in every
nation! $e must always search for the eternal, the God=like, the holy! $hatever we do, physically,
socially and economically, should )e a part of the holy e.perience! This is the meanin" of la'asos!
&ashem placed Adam in Gan den l'avda ul'shamra, to improve it and to protect it. %ashi e.plains that
improvin" the world means to perform mitzvos asei, and protectin" the world means refrainin" from
mitzvos lo sa'ase! (f man lives a moral life, with positive and ne"ative mitzvos, he fulfills his God="iven
purpose in )ein" a partner in developin" the spiritual side of this world! &e uncovers the hidden holy
sparks in the world!
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&ashem "ave this mission to Adam and Chava in Gan den! They were supposed to nurture the
spiritual side of reality and )rin" it out throu"h their o)servance of positive and ne"ative
commandments! Althou"h Adam was driven out of Gan den, he was nonetheless o)li"ated to continue
this mission in the world outside of the Garden of den
+. )agnetic Holiness
The Ari &akadosh, the "reat e.positor of kaballa, poses an interestin" 5uestion! Adam was sent out of
Gan den and traveled around the world! $herever man is found, he encounters spiritual and moral
challen"es! &is mission is to develop the spirituality of that place! But if he would have stayed in Gan
den, how would he have fi.ed the spirituality of far away places* The Ari answered that if Adam
would have remained in Gan den, he would have stren"thened the kedusha there so much that it
would have attracted the sparks of holiness from around the world! But )ecause he failed in his mission
in Gan den he had to travel around the world, searchin" for and findin" kedusha in the specific places
around the world!
The mission of the 3ewish people and of humanity as a whole is to fi. the sin of Adam! By keepin"
Torah we are promised that the Gan den level of e.istence will return! (f we keep Torah properly,
-ashiach will come and then the sta"e of 2lam &a)a will arrive and the Gan den style e.istence will
return!
(n its own national history the 3ewish people have in a sense reenacted the whole Gan den story! After
leavin" "ypt we entered ret' ,israel and stayed in one place, as Adam ori"inally did in Gan den!
From the Beis &amikdash, the 3ewish people would fi. the holy parts of the whole world! +on=3ews
learned from the model of the 3ewish people, even at a lon" distance, as was done in Shlomo
&amelech's time! ,ou can model the tzadik from a distance! Then the tzadik is fi.in" the holy spark
from far away!
Today this ka)alistic mystical concept is very real! (f we 3ewish people would )e sittin" in
,erushalayim with the Beis &amikdash, keepin" the Torah properly, it would )e so simple for the
nations of the world to see how we live and to learn and )e inspired from our e.ample! $e would hook
up an internet connection, and stream shiurim to the whole world! -ashiach would "et on the channel
and inspire everyone each day! very person would then work to discover the holiness in their own life!
&opefully we will see this very soon!
Cnfortunately, however, the 3ewish people sinned! $e then lost the Beis &amikdash and left ret'
,israel and we then traveled the world lookin" for holy sparks! $herever we went, we were
challen"ed! (n %ussia, for e.ample, 3ews suffered from hatred, po"roms, and discrimination! The 3ews
in the Cnited States face a different set of challen"es4 opulence, wealth and success! They are
challen"ed )y )ein" a)le to do everythin" that the non 3ews do, and must fi"ht the associated draw of
assimilation!
(n every situation we find, we are a)le to overcome the pressures of the evil side and focus and develop
the moral and "ood side! This is why we are here in this world! 3ews in each place have their own
challen"e and mission! $herever we are, we must live lives of holiness, with Torah and mitzvos! (n
(srael too this is our #o)! To come to (srael and then to say, 0+ow that (:m here, ( don't need to keep
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Torah and mitzvos, doesn't make any sense! (srael needs 3ewish mitzvos #ust as much as any other
place in the world, if not more! $herever you are, in South Africa, %ussia, CSA, (srael, or
,erushalayim, there is a pull to the ne"ative and an opportunity to find the positive side! This is called
tikun hanitzotzos, findin" and fi.in" the holy sparks!
H. #he #ree o! Li!e % Closeness to +od
+ow let us return to the it' &achaim! $hat is the it' &achaim in the story of Gan den* Shem
-ishmuel su""ests it is an awareness of God! The more one is closer to God and aware of &im, the
more one has life A )ecause &ashem is life! &ere's an intri"uin" point! &ashem said, 02nce man would
eat from the it' &adaas, ( don't want him to eat from the it' &achaim!1 $hat could )e wron" with
eatin" from the it' &achaim* (t was never prohi)ited to AdamE &owever, once man has sinned, he
needs to fi. the dama"e caused )y his sin! &e needs to "o find the nitzotzos hakedusha, and find the
"oodness in every situation! -an in his distant gerushin state must do the tikun, fi.in"! (f God would
not drive man away from &im after his sin, man would have no motivation to do teshuva! &e would
still feel connected to &ashem! (f that would )e the case, why should he fi. the sin*
Think a)out this! (t's a very profound idea! Sin is comforta)le! The tree whose fruit Adam ate from was
)eautiful, the fruit was luscious and delicious! $hat drives us to do teshuva, and a)andon the comfort
of sin* The answer is )ecause we miss our closeness with &im, we want to come )ack to &ashem, we
need &im in our life! $ithout &im we are lost in the #un"le of this world! (f people are left to their own
wits in a world filled with )easts and vicious forces, we are lost! (n 1F6F when the stock market
crashed and many people lost all their money, many people committed suicide! They did not feel that
connection to God to keep them stron"! $e need faith, we need to )e close to &ashem and feel our
closeness! After sin, we can only find &im throu"h teshuva! $e must do the la'asos, the persistence to
do what's ri"ht and find the "ood elements within ourselves and the world!
This is a parado.ical concept! &ashem drives man away, gerush, in response to man's sin! &e does this
as a fundamental motivator in order to arouse in man the desire to do teshuva! /eople desire to )e close
to &ashem, )ut they also have a desire to sin! So &ashem drives us away! This moves us to return, and
we know that we have to remove the sin in order to reconnect with &ashem! The gerushin that drove
Adam out of Gan den is in fact the source of his future repentance! (t is a very lon" road with ups and
downs, clim)in" and fallin"! &uman history has yet to fully resolve the pro)lem of the first sin! The
gerushin keeps us motivated to do teshuva! This way we raise the holy sparks, we are ma'aleh
nitzotzos!
This process of tikun, of avoda and shmira, doin" what's ri"ht and stayin" away from wron", is the
purpose of e.istence! An"els don't have this challen"e! They are omdim, they stand, they do not fall!
They can't develop more kedusha than that which they are created with! By fallin", people learn that
they can clim) a"ain and that they can clim) even hi"her than they were )efore! This is why the it'
&achaim had to )e placed off limits! After sinnin", man has to search and find God! (f man can find
God easily, then he will never clim) the ladder of spirituality!
I. &ailures as ,$$ortunities !or +ro"th
(f parents would never punish their child, the child would never learn that doin" somethin" wron"
upsets his parents! &e wouldn't develop properly! 2nly when the parent "ives the child a punishment,
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takes away a privile"e, or says a harsh word, does the child reali'e that there is relationship that he
must care for and preserve! $hen the relationship is )roken or dama"ed, we have to work to fi. it! This
a fundamental aspect of "rowth!
Shem -ishmuel therefore states that )ein" driven away from Gan den was not a punishment! (t was
an opportunity for Adam to "row and learn and )ecome "reater than he was )efore!
$e have to learn from our disasters! $e are our responsi)le to fi. them and to "row from them! After
our tryin" e.periences, we must "row! heva yipol tzadik v'kam! 0The ri"hteous person falls seven
times and then "ets up!1 $e learn from our mistakes! Shem -ishmuel says we shouldn:t look at the
challen"es that come our way as difficulties and punishments, )ut rather as opportunities!
Accordin" to all ra))inic literature the future Gan den will )e "reater than the ori"inal Gan den
Adam was in! Adam fell, )ut he did not endure all of the tests that his descendants would e.perience
after him! Shem -ishmuel even says we should have #oy throu"h our nisyonos, our challen"es, )ecause
we are findin" more holy nitzotzos! The "reater the test is, the "reater the accomplishment, the "reater
the reward, the "reater the tikun, the more we are partners with God in developin" this world!
Shem -ishmuel adds an important point for life! There are difficult situations, )ut they are what makes
life e.citin"! These difficulties are really opportunities for us to rise and develop our "odliness! $e
shouldn:t "ive up and complain! And we must never feel that it is helpless and hopeless! &ashem puts
us into situations that we can handle! (f you are in a tou"h situation, it means &ashem knows you are
capa)le of pullin" out the holy sparks from the situation! This is the purpose of )ein" a child of Adam
and Chava! All of us are supposed to clim) hi"her than ever )efore! Galus too "ives us 3ews more
ener"y to accomplish! This e.plains how the third temple will )e even "reater than the first two! The
"reat galus, with all of its tryin" trou)les and sufferin", ironically "ives the 3ewish people more ener"y
to create the "reatest holiness!
$e are livin" now soon after the &olocaust! 2ur present state is an ama'in" compliment to the
determination of Am ,israel! $e maintain our commitment to Torah and mitzvos! $e are resettlin" the
land of (srael, despite the opposition of our enemies and their attacks!
Throu"h our determination to do "ood and to find the "ood, the ri"ht and the holy in every sin"le
situation, the whole world will one day learn from us! $e will )e partners with &ashem in maaseh
breishis! -ay we succeed in our holy mission that &ashem has "iven usE
-uestions.
1! $hat is the purpose of the Torah's stories*
6! $hat are the different meanin"s of the words shalach and geirush* $hat is the difference
)etween them, in the conte.t of the story of Adam and Chava*
;! $hat is the purpose of life*
@! .plain the concept of the holy sparks!
B! &ow does sin ultimately produce tshuva*
E/ercises.
1! For a week, keep a chart of situations you faced, and in which you acted in a holy way!
6! For a week, keep a lo" of thin"s that you did to make the world a )etter place!