The articles in this column are transcriptions and adaptations of shiurim by Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l. The Rav’s unique perspective on Chumash permeated many of the shiurim and lectures he presented at various venues over a 40-plus-year period. His words add an important perspective that makes the Chumash in particular, and our tradition in general, vibrant and relevant to our generation.
Mazal Tov to Emma and Chaim Rapps on the birth of Barak Netanel. Mazel Tov to Grandparents Debbie and Dr. Aaron Rapps and the Kaplan family. Special Mazal Tov to Great Grandparents Rabbi and Mrs. Moshe Rapps and Rabbi and Mrs. Reuven Davis.
Unkelos translates Breishit as B’Kadmin, in the initial stage of creation that transpired a long time ago. Rashi disagrees with Unkelos and translates Breishit and the chapter describing creation alternatively as specifying an overall order of creation and how things were revealed. Tiferet Yisrael, in his work Ohr Chaim, supports Unkelos’s interpretation saying that we exist as part of the fourth attempt at creation of the world/universe. Unkelos means that B’Kadmin, the origins of creation, being the raw creation materials of Eretz representing the physical material world and Shamayim representing the spiritual realm, were created long ago, before Astral creation described as occurring on a subsequent day of Creation. These basic materials were used to fashion multiple versions of a world/universe of which this is the fourth (or possibly later) attempt. Careful analysis of the Ramban on Parshat Breishit supports this idea.
This idea is promulgated by the Kabbalists in the thesis of Shevirat Kaylim and Tikkun with the first several transient attempts at creation culminating in the Tikkun associated with the fourth (or seventh) vessel, which represents this world/universe. The underlying idea of the Kabbalists is the statement by Rabbi Abahu that Hashem created worlds and destroyed them until He created this world and made a covenant with the Jewish People (Breishit Rabbah 3:7). Rabbi Pinchas explained Rabbi Abahu’s statement that Hashem said Dayn Hanya Li, this (world) pleases Me while the other, previous worlds did not, Dayn Lo Hanya Li.
While my intention is not to enter into a discussion of fundamental Kabbalah principles, I wish to simply underscore the concept that according to our tradition, there were prior attempts at creation that were destroyed and returned to their original state of nihility that was subsequently reformed into another attempt at creation, culminating ultimately with our world/universe. The Rav noted that while it may be readily understandable that a human being may require several iterations to perfect a project, why was it necessary for Hashem, the Kol Yachol, Omnipotent One, to build and destroy prior worlds till He arrived at this one? Could He not have built His notion of a perfect world the first time around?
Apparently, the perseverance demonstrated in multiple attempts at creating an acceptable world is an example of an important characteristic of Hashem that man must emulate, based on the precept of V’Halachta B’Drachav. Just as Hashem is a Yotzayr, the ultimate Creator, man must strive to show creativity in his endeavors. Man’s Tzelem Elokim drives him to create and build. We must use the materials Hashem provided to improve the human condition and appreciate His greatness through observing and interacting with His creation. We must perfect our minds so that we can understand and appreciate His Torah and commandments. Hashem taught us that in our lives we will come across challenges where things do not work out as well as expected. It takes courage and strength of character to admit failure and start again. Sometimes we may come to realize that the goal in which we invested so much effort is either unattainable or has become corrupted. The Torah tells us Ki Yamuch Achicha, should your brother descend into a state of destitution. This verse implies a sudden, rather than gradual, descent into poverty. It is not limited to financial destitution, it includes moral or character decline as well. A person may dedicate his entire life to a goal, be it personal, financial or communal, only to wake up one morning and realize that his efforts were in vain, that he is morally bankrupt. It is important that he demonstrates the fortitude to admit failure and start again. If Hashem can admit failure, Kvayachol, by His expressing Dayn Lo Hanya Li, I was not satisfied with this attempt and I will try again, man must do the same.