Bereishis

  1. Bereishis
  2. The long Yom Tov season has just concluded, and it is a struggle to maintain the growth and inspiration we experienced. It is possible that perhaps we have brought thousands upon thousands of pages of our machzorim to Hashem. We said Selichos, the Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos davening. We sat in the sukkah, took the Arba Minim, said the Hoshanos, davened geshem, and danced on Simchas Torah. With all of this, however, we may not have yet merited to bring ourselves to Hashem.
  1. In Bereishis, we encounter the narrative of Kayin and Hevel. The passuk says, “Kayin brought fruit from the ground as an offering to Hashem. And Hevel brought, also himself, from the choicest of his flock and their fats. Hashem turned toward Hevel and his offering but did not turn toward Kayin and his offering.”

The words “also himself” seem redundant. What do these words add?

Second, we understand that Hashem turned toward Hevel’s offering, but why does the passuk say that Hashem turned toward Hevel himself?

  1. The meaningful way to give a gift to a friend is to give over a piece of yourself. Because you cannot give a physical part of yourself, you can instead give a keepsake, something that always reminds your friend of the friendship.

When the Torah tells us that “Hevel brought also himself,” it means that he brought himself to Hashem with all of his heart and soul! He was not merely giving up his money and possessions. In turn, Hashem accepted the offering of Hevel and accepted Hevel himself!

// Rav Moshe Weinberger, Sparks of Fire

  1. The pasuk in Tehillim (34:12) states, “Go children, listen to me, and I will teach you awareness of Hashem.” An inner meaning of this is that only after we leave and “go” away from the source of inspiration, can we genuinely test ourselves to see if we have drawn from the reservoirs of holiness, awareness, and love of Heaven.

// Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg

  1. We can hopefully internalize the words from our Yom Tov davening, “Hashem, grant us the blessing of your Yamim Tovim.” The word for “grant us” – V’Hasienu- comes from the same root as the word “nisuin,” marriage. Marriage transforms two individual people into one new and remarkable reality. They are not two separate individuals but rather one household, a family. When we say on Yom Tov, “Hashem, grant us the blessing of your Yamim Tovim,” it is the most significant expression of our longing to unite with HaKadosh Baruch Hu, to give ourselves over to Hashem completely and to leave the Yamim Tovim as a “married couple” with Hashem.

// Tiferes Shlomo of Radomsk

  1. Just as Hashem created nature with the Torah, every Jew can recreate the nature of their inner world using the Torah’s way of thinking. Our habits, unconscious thought processes, and tendencies can all be reset. 

Just as Hashem created nature with His Thought, so can we recreate the foundations of our personality by thinking deeply about the true purpose of life, reassessing our priorities, and creating a mental image of the road to success.

// Degel Machane Ephraim; Rav Yaakov Klien

  1. If we look carefully at Hashem’s actual words — not the snake’s hearsay — we’ll see that the first Mitzvah to humanity is “from all the trees of the garden you must eat

In just one move, the snake got Chava backpedaling, believing Hashem’s primary concern was keeping people from enjoying the garden.  “Sure, you “can” eat, but what God really cares about is that you DON’T eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.  He wants to make sure you don’t have fun and stay ignorant.  Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

  1. Hashem’s primary concern is that we appreciate the life He is trying to give us. We’re not allowed to enjoy kosher pleasures. We’re obligated to!  The reason the one tree we couldn’t eat from was so attractive to us amid the innumerable delights we could eat from was that we weren’t enjoying life.

We have to reclaim the Jewish tradition of pleasure.  Life is about spiritual pleasure—the pleasure of a connoisseur over that of a glutton.  

  1. Enjoying a dinner in which we invite that new family in town to our Shabbos table is so much more enjoyable than even the ritziest meal when it is only for our immediate gratification.  The greatest joy is tapping into the best version of ourselves. We have to have this knowledge in our bones.  The more we enjoy this joy of joys, the more it will become our second nature.

If we train ourselves and our children to enjoy the pleasures of studying, becoming wiser, more loving, doing acts of kindness for others, being part of something larger than ourselves, and reining in our bad habits…who would have time to waste on pleasures we’d regret or soon forget?  

// Rabbi Jack Cohen, Nurture Their Nature

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