Contact Us

Bereishit Q & A

Bereishit Q & A

 Email

"בראשית..."
“In the beginning...” (1:1)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah start with the letter beit, the second letter of the Hebrew alef-beit, rather than with the first letter, alef?

ANSWER: The Torah consists of two parts, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. The Written Torah starts with the word bereishit,” and the Oral Torah starts with the word “mei’ei’matai” (מאימתי). Thus, the first letters of the Written and Oral Torah spell the word “bam” (בם). This alludes to what our sages tell us (Yoma 19b) on the words “vedibarta bam” — “and you shall speak of them.” A person should use his speech and conversation for the study of the Written Torah and the Oral Torah and not for idle or forbidden talk.

(מגיד תעלומה)

* * *

Actually, the Midrash Tanchuma (Bereishit 5) asks this question and answers as follows: “Because alef is the first letter of the word “arur” — “cursed,” whereas beit is the first letter of the word “baruch” — “blessed.”

But this explanation is difficult to understand. Alef is also the first letter of beautiful words, such as “emet”— “truth,” or ahavah — “love,” while beit is also the first letter of bad words such as barad — “hail” (seventh of the ten plagues of Egypt), and “bli’ya’al” — wickedness. Why then does the Midrash offer an explanation that doesn’t seem to fully answer the question?

The Midrash may be alluding to the following: The letters of the Hebrew alef-beit also serve as numbers. Each has a number-value — alef equals one, beit, two, and so on. By extension, alef can mean to care about only one person, oneself, and to forget about others. Beit, on the other hand, means coexistence, caring and getting along with another.

The Torah starts with a beit to teach us that caring about others is baruch — the source of all blessing, and that alef — selfish caring only about oneself is arur, cursed.

The explanation of the Midrash thus shows how the very first letter of the Torah teaches us the importance of ahavat Yisrael, loving one’s fellow Jew!

A similar idea is expressed in a story told in the Gemara (Shabbat 31a). A non-Jew came to Hillel, the great sage and leader of the Jews in his time, and said to him, “Convert me to Judaism on the condition that you will teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot.” To do this, Hillel chose a brief teaching that summarized all of the Torah: “What you dislike, do not do to others, this is the entire Torah. The rest is an elaboration [of what is hateful to others and should be avoided].”

Hillel wanted to show this proselyte, at the very beginning of his journey to Judaism, that the basis of the entire Torah is to avoid selfishness and to care about others.

(פניני התורה)


"בראשית ברא אלקים..."
“In the beginning of G‑d’s creating...” (1:1)

QUESTION: On Simchat Torah, when we finish reading all five books of the Written Torah, we immediately start reading all over again from Bereishit. This shows that the Torah has no end, like a circle which has no beginning or end.

In this spirit, it is customary when finishing a volume of the Gemara to explain some connection between the start of the tractate and its end. The same is true of the Written Torah; how are the very first word of the Torah and the last words connected?

ANSWER: One connection between the beginning and the end of the Torah can be understood according to a famous story related in the Gemara (Megillah 9a). The Egyptian king, Ptolemy II (3476-3515 or 246-285 BCE) commanded 72 Torah sages to translate the Written Torah into Greek.

He placed them in separate rooms, where they would be unable to communicate with each other. By placing them in solitary confinement, he hoped to demonstrate that their separate translations would reflect many differences of opinion, proving that the Torah is not Divine in origin (G‑d forbid).

Hashem inspired them all to produce the exact same translation, known among non-Jews to this day as the Septuagint, from the Greek word meaning “seventy.” All 72 sages made certain identical changes from the literal meaning of the Torah in several places to forestall possible misunderstandings by non-Jews seeking to confirm their own mistaken beliefs.

One of these changes was at the beginning of the Torah, in the words, “Bereishit bara Elokim.” The sages were worried that non-Jews, seeking to prove that our Torah substantiates their belief in the existence of more than one god, would try to bring proof that some other god called “Bereishit” created G‑d!

Therefore, all the sages individually reversed the order of these words to read, “Elokim bara Bereishit” — “G‑d created in the beginning.” This shows that G‑d is but one, and He was the First Being and the sole Creator of the world and all other beings.

This change, however, was only for the sake of non-Jews, whose mistaken beliefs could bring them to a false interpretation of the verse. But when Hashem commanded Moshe to write down the words of Torah that He taught him, He knew that the Jewish people would not misinterpret these words. He, therefore, told Moshe to write them in their true order. (Many profound meanings lie in the order of the Torah’s words and letters.)

This, then, is the connection between the very first words of the Torah and its last phrase: “Le’einei kol Yisrael” — “before the eyes of all Israel” (Devarim 34:12). Hashem told Moshe that “le’einei kol Yisroel” — “before the eyes of all Israel,” [he should write] “Bereishit bara Elokim,” and there is no need to reverse the order of the words, since the Jewish people believe in only one G‑d, and He alone created everything.

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי קס"ג בשם ספר מגדל דוד)


"בראשית ברא אלקים"
“In the beginning of G‑d’s creating.” (1:1)

QUESTION: On this first pasuk of the Torah, the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) says that it will be understood with the saying “Rosh devarcha emet” — “Your very first utterance is truth” (Psalms 119:160). What is the connection between these two passages?

ANSWER: The final letters of the words "בראשית ברא אלקים" spell the word "אמת" — “truth.” The Gemara (Shabbat 55a) says, “Hashem’s signet is אמת.” Hashem exists simultaneously in the past, present and future. Likewise, the word "אמת" is made up of the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alef-beit to indicate that truth does not change, it is consistent in the past, present and future.

The word "אמת" adds up to 441, whose numerals (4+4+1) add up to 9, and in mispar katan (“single numerals” — disregarding the “0” in the numerical value of a Hebrew letter so that "כ" is 2 and "ל" is 3, etc.), it also adds up to 9. The uniqueness of the number 9 is that the digits of all its multiples always add up to 9 (e.g., 9x73 = 657, 6+5+7 = 18, 1+8 = 9). Likewise, truth always remains the same and can never be altered. Similarly, Hashem is true from beginning to end.

Moreover, taking the letters of the Hebrew alef-beit, beginning with "ב", every three letters together add up to 9 (e.g. ב+ג+ד = 2+3+4 = 9, and ח+ט+י = 8+9+10 = 27, 2+7 = 9, etc.).

The word "שקר" — “falsehood” — in single numerals (3+1+2), adds up to 6. Starting with "א", the alef-beit can be divided into sequences, each of three consecutive letters, each of which adds up to six, (e.g. א+ב+ג = 1+2+3 = 6, and ז+ח+ט = 7+8+9 = 24, 2+4 = 6, etc.).

The Midrash is questioning why the Torah begins with "ב" and not with "א". It answers, since the beginning of Hashem’s words ("בראשית ברא אלקים") emphasize the concept of truth, therefore, the Torah starts with "ב", as it is the beginning of the sequence of groups of letters adding up to 9.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר - דת ודעת)


"בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ, והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על פני תהום... ויאמר אלקים יהי אור"
In the beginning of G‑d’s creating the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and empty, with darkness over the depths...and G‑d said: ’There shall be light. (1:1-3)

QUESTION: The word “Torah” is derived from the word “hora’ah” — “teaching” (see Psalms 19:8, Radak. Zohar Vayikra 53b). What lesson do these very first words of the Torah teach us?

ANSWER: In a letter to a Bar-Mitzvah boy, the Lubavitcher Rebbe once wrote that these opening words of the Torah teach the approach all Jews should take in serving Hashem. Every Jew should always remember the three lessons he or she can learn from these three verses:

1) It was Hashem Himself who created heaven and earth, and therefore He alone is Master of the world and of everything within it.

2) At first the world is dark and empty of Hashem’s light, but every Jew has his own share of the world, which he has to improve and illuminate.

3) The way to brighten his share of the world is through “and G‑d said” — fulfilling the word of Hashem by studying Torah and keeping mitzvot. Through this, the Jew accomplishes his purpose in the world and “There shall be light” — the world becomes illuminated with the light of G‑d’s Torah.

(אגרות קודש ח"ז להב"מ של אחי הרב שמואל פסח שי' באגאמילסקי)


"ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום אחד"
“It was evening and it was morning, one day.” (1:5)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah say “yom echad — “one day” — and not “yom rishon” — the “first day” (as for the next five days, which it calls “second,” “third,” etc.)?

ANSWER: The Midrash calls the Yeitzer Hara, the inner voice and evil inclination that tells us to do wrong, “evening” because it brings darkness to the world. “Morning,” on the other hand, refers to the Yeitzer Tov, our inner voice that tells us to do good, for it brings only light to the world.

The innate selfish instincts every child has at birth come from the Yeitzer Hara. The Yeitzer Tov begins to express itself only gradually in the child, and is first fully expressed when a boy turns thirteen years old — Bar Mitzvah. (See Shulchan Aruch Harav 4:2.)

This, then, is the meaning of the verse: In man’s life, “evening” — the Yeitzer Hara — comes first: Then “morning,” the Yeitzer Tov, comes. When do they first meet, both being fully expressed? On yom echad: the day a Jew becomes echad, of which the three Hebrew letters (alef equals one, chet, eight and daled, four) total thirteen!

(שער בת רבים בשם עץ הדעת טוב מר' חיים זצ"ל וויטאל)


"ויאמר אלקים נעשה אדם"
“And G‑d said, ‘let us make man.’” (1:26)

QUESTION: To whom was G‑d saying “let us make man?”

ANSWER: As soon as an animal is born, it is complete and fully formed. The passage of time only adds to its size and strength. However, man at the time of birth is fully formed but totally lacking in development. He does not speak, walk and is lacking education. Throughout the years of his life he continuously matures through the education he receives and by self improvement.

When G‑d created man, He addressed all generations throughout posterity and told them that the “development” of man, who was created in His image, will be contingent on their cooperation and assistance.

(פניני התורה - ספר עקרים)


"ויברא אלקים את האדם בצלמו"
“And G‑d created the man in His own image.” (1:27)

QUESTION: The Midrash Rabbah (8:10) relates that when G‑d created man טעו מלאכי השרת ובקשו לומר לפניו קדוש — the angels mistakenly considered saying the Song of Kadosh — “Holy” — to him. Hashem caused sleep to fall upon him and all knew that he was a mortal.

How could the angels erringly want to say ‘Kadosh’ to the created man in lieu of saying it to Hashem, who created everything?

ANSWER: Unlike the angels, mortal man has inherent physical weaknesses. After a day of work he becomes tired and only after a good night’s sleep is he invigorated and able to continue. Man’s spiritual beauty lies in the fact that, regardless of the aggravation and toil of the day before, immediately upon rising in the morning, he proclaims Modeh Ani,” and before starting his daily routine, he goes to shul to pray.

Since angels do not have to deal with the trials and tribulations of the mundane world, in the eyes of Hashem man is preeminent, and therefore angels can recite their daily praise to Hashem only after man has said his praise (Chullin 91b).

When the angels saw the newly created man, their mistake was not to say their song to him but that they should say their song lefanavbefore he said his praise to Hashem. They derived this conclusion because they thought him to be an angel like them, but less prominent, since they were created on the second day (Midrash Rabbah 1:3), and he was created later.

Therefore, Hashem cast a sleep upon man so that they would witness that he was mortal but nevertheless, possessing intrinsic spiritual beauty. Hashem said to the angels, ‘Separate yourself from the man,’ — There is no way that you can compare to him. For in reality he is an ordinary mortal and regardless of all the hardships and difficulties that he encounters, he allows his neshamah to direct him to be dedicated and devoted to My will.”

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)


"ויברך אלקים את יום השביעי"
“And G‑d blessed the seventh day.” (2:3)

QUESTION: What special blessing did Shabbat receive?

ANSWER: Shabbat is a day when it is forbidden to work, yet one spends more money for Shabbat than for any other day of the week. A person may think that celebrating Shabbat properly will make him poor. Hashem, however, gave a special blessing to the Shabbat day: the more one spends for the sake of Shabbat, the more one will earn during the week.

The Gemara (Beitzah 16a) says that the money a person will have for his expenses throughout the entire year is decided on Rosh Hashanah. Exempted from this are his expenses for Shabbat. If a person spends much for Shabbat, Hashem will make available to him special sources of income to recover his expenditures.

(ברית שלום)


"וכל שיח השדה טרם יהיה בארץ וכל עשב השדה טרם יצמח כי לא המטיר ה' אלקים על הארץ ואדם אין לעבוד את האדמה"
“No shrub of the field was yet on the earth, and no plant of the field had yet grown, for G‑d had not brought rain upon the earth, and there was no man to work the ground.” (2:5)

QUESTION: Rashi (based on the Gemara, Chullin 60b) explains that although the Torah had previously stated (1:11-12) that G‑d created all plant life on the third day of Creation, the plants grew only up to the surface of the ground. On the sixth day, after Adam was created, he realized the importance of rain to make the plants grow, and prayed to Hashem for the rain they needed. Then the trees and types of vegetation sprouted.

By not allowing the plants to appear until Adam prayed, Hashem showed him how much He cherishes the prayers of the righteous.

However, according to this explanation, why did Hashem create the plants on a previous day? Could He not have created the vegetation on the sixth day, immediately before He created Adam?

ANSWER: We can understand this with our sages’ teaching (Midrash Psalms 90:4) that “the Torah preceded the world by 2000 years.” In accordance with the Torah command (Vayikra 25:8-23) designating every fiftieth year to be yoveil (the jubilee year, in which farmers in Israel are forbidden to work the land), the 2000th year was the fortieth yoveil year.

Our sages also tell us that the first day of creation was the 25th of Elul, with man being created on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei (see Rosh Hashanah 8a). Thus, the first five days of creation were the last five days of the fortieth yovel year.

“He tells His words to Yaakov, His laws and His judgments to Israel” (Psalms 147:19). Our sages explain (Shemot Rabbah 30:9) that whatever Hashem commands us to do in the Torah He Himself “fulfills.” To show how He, too, observes the Mitzvah of yoveil, Hashem created the plants on the third day, but didn’t allow them to penetrate the ground as it was still the yoveil year. On the sixth day of creation, the first day of the new year following the yoveil, when farmers would once again be allowed to work their fields, Hashem answered Adam’s prayers for rain, and made the plants emerge from the earth.

(הדרש והעיון ויקרא רס"ו בשם ספר נחלת בנימין)


"ומעץ הדעת טוב ורע לא תאכל ממנו"
“Of the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat thereof.” (2:17)

QUESTION: Hashem was very generous and permitted Adam to benefit from all of the trees. Why was the Tree of Knowledge excluded?

ANSWER: This prohibition teaches a fundamental lesson. Knowledge should not be a source of “food” and financial enrichment, but a means to elevate oneself. For example, one should not study medicine as a means to earn much money, but rather to cure the ills of the world. If people would put aside self-interest, the world would greatly benefit from their knowledge.


"ויצר ה' אלקים מן האדמה כל חית השדה..ויבא אל האדם לראות מה יקרא לו ... ויקרא אדם שמות לכל הבהמה"
“And G‑d formed out of the earth each animal... and brought them to the man to see what he would name each one, and Adam assigned names to all cattle.” (2:19-20)

QUESTION: Why did Hashem want Adam to give the animals their names?

ANSWER: When one acquires a property, one changes its title to show its new ownership. We find this in the Torah: Pharaoh appointed Yosef as his viceroy, and changed his name to Tzafnat Paneach (41:45) to show that he remained Yosef’s superior.

By authorizing Adam to give all creatures their names, Hashem was showing him that he had become a ruler over them and that he was supposed to assert his influence over them, rather than allowing them to influence him.

(לקוטי שיחות חל"ה)


"ויבן ה' אלקים את הצלע אשר לקח מן האדם לאשה ויבאה אל האדם"
“And G‑d built the rib which He had taken from the man into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” (2:22)

QUESTION: In the berachot recited under the chuppah, and during the week of sheva berachot, we say "שמח תשמח רעים האהובים כשמחך יצירך בגן עדן מקדם" — “Grant abundant joy to these loving friends, as You bestowed gladness upon Your created being in the Garden of Eden of old.” What happiness did Hashem cause Adam to experience?

ANSWER: According to an opinion in the Gemara (Berachot 61a), Adam and Chavah were created together as one, back to back. Hashem afterwards separated them, and they became two individuals.

Strife and suffering occur when people “turn their backs” on each other and refuse to communicate. People experience happiness when they “see” each other face to face.

The blessing to the chatan and kallah is that, throughout the years of their married life, they should always communicate “face to face” and never “turn their backs” on each other.

* * *

Many of the conflicts that unfortunately arise after marriage are due to disputes regarding pedigree (yichus). One partner may tell the other, “My family is more prominent than yours, and you are not my equal.” To preserve a marriage, the Torah advises one to forsake “father and mother,” forget about pedigree, and focus only on the partner. The two together should endeavor to create a family tree and beautiful lineage, starting with this union.

Under the chuppah, we bless the young couple, “Grant abundant joy to these loving friends, as You bestowed gladness upon Your created being in the Garden of Eden of old.” Adam’s unique happiness derived from the lack of argument between him and Chavah over pedigree, since both were entirely created by Hashem.

(פרדס יוסף)


"ויאמר האדם זאת הפעם עצם מעצמי ובשר מבשרי לזאת יקרא אשה כי מאיש לקחה זאת"
“And the man said: ‘This time it is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; this shall be called Woman, because she was taken from man.’” (2:23)

QUESTION: The words “zot hapa’am” — “this time” — seem superfluous?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Niddah 31a), there are three partners in the formation of man: Through Hashem, he receives a soul, through the father the bones, nails, and brain, and through the mother, skin and flesh. Adam emphasized that this time, and only this time, the bone and the flesh both came all from the same source.

(ילקוט הדרוש)


"על כן יעזב איש את אביו ואת אמו ודבק באשתו והיו לבשר אחד"
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cling to his wife.” (2:24)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah make leaving one’s parents a prerequisite for marriage?

ANSWER: According to the Torah, the success of a marriage depends on forsaking the relationship that exists between child and parent. During his formative years the son is usually on the receiving end, and he has not fully developed his capacity to give. One who marries is expected to become the supplier materially and spiritually for his wife and children. One cannot enter marriage, however, expecting to continue being the recipient: The art of giving must be developed.

Therefore, the Torah says, leave the parent-child relationship, and your childish inclinations. Learn to be a giver, and then the marriage will succeed.


"ותאמר האשה אל הנחש מפרי עץ הגן נאכל ומפרי העץ אשר בתוך הגן אמר אלקים לא תאכלו ממנו ולא תגעו בו"
“And the woman said to the snake, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, G‑d said: You shall not eat of it, nor shall you touch it.’” (3:2-3)

QUESTION: Hashem had only told them not to eat of it (2:17). Why did Chavah tell the snake that they had been told not to touch it as well?

ANSWER: She said this in accordance with an important detail of Torah-law, which determines when forbidden food may or may not be touched. On Yom Kippur we are allowed to touch food, although we may not eat it. Since no food at all may be eaten, the Rabbis were not afraid that one will forget that it is forbidden and eat it.

On Pesach, however, one may not eat chameitz (food containing leavening) nor even touch it. Since on Pesach one eats all food except chameitz, one could easily forget and eat chameitz by mistake. The sages, therefore, forbade even touching chameitz (Magen Avraham 612:6).

Since they were allowed to eat the fruits of all the trees of the garden, Chavah thought the situation was similar to Pesach, when all food besides chameitz is allowed. Just as chameitz is not to be touched on Pesach in case one comes to eat it, so too would it have been wrong, she reasoned, to touch the forbidden tree so that they would not eat by mistake.

(כתנות אור ועי' תורה תמימה)


"ויאמר הנחש אל האשה לא מות תמתון"
“The snake said to the woman: ‘You will certainly not die.’” (3:4)

QUESTION: 1) In the original Hebrew, the root word mot which means dying is repeated; mot temutun. This seems to be an extra word. Why is it necessary? 2) The snake pushed Chavah until she touched the tree, telling her: “Just as you don’t die by touching the tree, you won’t die by eating its fruit” (Rashi). This logic is difficult to comprehend because when Hashem told Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree, He told him: “On the day you eat of the fruit you will die.” Since the day was not yet over, how could the snake convince Chavah that she wouldn’t die for touching it or eating the fruit?

ANSWER: Hashem commanded not to eat the fruit, but Chavah added that they couldn’t touch the tree either. The snake slyly pushed her against the tree, and told her: “Now it makes no difference whether you eat or not, because a person can only die once and not twice! Thus, if you have to die for touching the tree, you can’t die a second time for eating the fruit, too. And if you won’t die for touching the tree, you won’t die for eating the fruit either. So you might as well enjoy the fruit and not worry about anything.”

(ילקוט הדרוש בשם בני לוי)


"ותרא האשה כי טוב העץ למאכל...ותקח מפריו ותאכל"
“And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating...and she took from its fruit and she ate.” (3:6)

QUESTION: Why does the pasuk start talking about the tree and conclude with the fruit?

ANSWER: The tree was unique in being entirely edible and tasty — including its trunk and branches (Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 15:7). Hashem forbade the fruit of the tree, but not the wood. The snake, however, who was very sly, fooled Chavah into first eating from the wood. When she realized its harmlessness and even its beneficial quality, she then decided to also partake of the fruit.

(כתב סופר)


"ויאכל"
“And he ate.” (3:6)

QUESTION: Why is it necessary to reveal that Adam violated Hashem’s command?

ANSWER: There are people who claim that 613 mitzvot are too many. If the number were reduced, it would be easier for them to be Torah observant. On the day of creation Adam had only one mitzvah, which he violated. This teaches us that, regardless of how many mitzvot a person has to observe, he must be aware of the yeitzer hara, who will always endeavor to find a way to trap him into sinning. Hashem did not overburden us with His mitzvot. He gave us 613 knowing that this is the number a Jew is capable of handling.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ג)

* * *

Two people, each carrying a sack weighing 100 pounds, were climbing a mountain. One was extremely happy, the other very sad. A passerby asked each one if he could add to his sack. The happy one said, “of course,” and the other one replied, “oh no!” It turned out that the happy one was carrying valuable gems, and the sad one was carrying a sack full of rocks.

Every Jew is obliged to “climb the mountain” through performing Torah and mitzvot. When a person considers Torah and mitzvot a sack of gems, he “carries” it happily, and his yeitzer hara cannot deter him. If he views Torah and mitzvot as a difficult burden, he moans all the way and his yeitzer hara can easily influence him.


"ויקרא ה' אלקים אל האדם ויאמר לו איכה"
“G‑d called out to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (3:9)

QUESTION: Didn’t Hashem know where Adam was?

ANSWER: Due to a heavenly decree, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, known as the Alter Rebbe, was imprisoned in Russia. Once a high ranking officer came to his cell to interrogate him. The officer was very impressed with the Rebbe’s saintly appearance and asked, “May I ask you a question?” The Rebbe graciously assented. “How do you explain G‑d asking Adam ‘Where are you’? Is it possible that G‑d should not know where he is?”

Before the Rebbe answered the question directly, he asked, “Do you believe the Torah is eternal?” The officer replied affirmatively. The Rebbe then continued, “The Torah is teaching us that at all times Hashem calls every man and says to him, ‘Where are you (spiritually)? A specific amount of years and days were allotted to you; what have you accomplished during your lifetime?’ ”

The Rebbe then turned to the officer and said, “For example, you have already lived such and such a number of years (exactly the age of the officer); did you ever do someone a favor?”

The officer was impressed. He patted the Rebbe on the back and shouted “Bravo!” Afterwards he was very helpful in clearing the Alter Rebbe of the charges for which he was arrested.

(ספר התולדות, אדמו"ר הזקן)


"המן העץ אשר צויתיך לבלתי אכל ממנו אכלת"
“Have you then eaten from the tree which I commanded you not to eat from it?” (3:11)

QUESTION: In the first Hebrew word of this verse, “Hamin,” the Gemara (Chullin 139b) finds an allusion to the wicked Haman, who sought to destroy the Jewish people until Mordechai and Esther thwarted his plans and he was executed. “Haman” has the same Hebrew letters — “ ה-מ-ן”— as in “Hamin.”

What, however, is the connection between Haman and the story of Adam’s sin?

ANSWER: Haman did not learn from Adam’s mistake. Adam was the only man in the world, ruling over all creatures; he lacked nothing and could have lived forever. Hashem’s command not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was to limit his domain marginally and to teach him to be content with what he had. He was not to risk everything he had for what was not meant for him. Unfortunately, Adam did not learn this lesson and suffered the bitter consequences.

Haman, too, had everything — vast wealth, many children in powerful places, and the highest position in the kingdom, second only to the king (Esther 5:11).

Nevertheless, he could not bear the fact that Mordechai the Jew remained the only one who refused to bow down to him. Not content with possessing almost everything, Haman risked all he had in an attempt to gain what he felt was missing — by planning the annihilation of the Jewish people.

Had he not been so greedy, he could have lived a life of wealth and royal honor. But he did not learn from Adam’s mistake, and he, too, suffered the bitter consequences.

(עיטורי תורה)


"ויאמר האדם האשה אשר נתתה עמדי הוא נתנה לי מן העץ ואכל"
“The man said: ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’” (3:12)

QUESTION: Is this a valid excuse for a grown man?

Furthermore, Adam was warned, “On the day that you eat of it (the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge), you will surely die” (2:17). Yet we find that although he was ultimately punished with death (“..until you return to earth, for from it you have been taken, for dust you are and to the dust shall you return” — 3:18), it would not have been for another 930 years (5.5). Why did he receive other immediate punishments, (3:17-19, 23) and did not die on the day that he ate of the fruit?

ANSWER: We can answer both questions according to the rule in Jewish law (Gemara, Gittin 2b) that the testimony of “One witness is believed concerning Torah prohibitions.” In other words, although two witnesses are required to incriminate someone, or to force someone to give money, in matters of Torah prohibitions the testimony of one witness is sufficient. For example, a husband may normally rely upon his wife when she prepares a meal for him and tells him that is kosher.

Adam would never have transgressed a command which he had heard directly from Hashem. He assumed, however, that since his wife was given to him by Hashem Himself, he could rely upon her without hesitation. He therefore excused himself by saying that when Chavah — whom You personally gave me for a wife — offered me the food, I had no doubt that I was allowed to eat it.”

Since Adam had not transgressed Hashem’s command intentionally (bemeizid), the punishment of death “on the day you eat of it” no longer applied. He was therefore given other punishments for having transgressed the prohibition unintentionally (beshogeig).

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי ל"א)


"אל האשה אמר הרבה ארבה עצבונך והרנך בעצב תלדי בנים"
“To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your pain and your pregnancy; in pain you will bring forth children.’” (3:16)

QUESTION: Rashi explains: ‘Itzvoneich’ refers to the trouble of rearing children. ‘Veheironeich’ refers to the pains of pregnancy.”

Rearing children comes after pregnancy. Why did Hashem reverse the order?

ANSWER: Kayin and Hevel were born before Adam and Chavah committed the sin of eating the forbidden fruit (Sanhedrin 38b). After being chased out of Gan Eden, Chavah gave birth to a third son. Thus, immediately after committing the sin, she began to experience the troubles connected with rearing children, while at a later date she encountered the pains of pregnancy.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר - פרח לבנון)


"והוא ימשל בך"
“And he will rule over you.” (3:16)

QUESTION: Why was this the punishment for eating the forbidden fruit?

ANSWER: Hashem conducts Himself with a person midah keneged midah — measure for measure. Prior to eating the forbidden fruits Chavah was in command of Adam. When Hashem asked Adam why he ate the fruits, his reply was "היא נתנה לי מן העץ ואכל". The Ba’al Haturim explains that he meant to say “She hit me with a stick and ordered me to eat.” Because she utilized her power in the wrong way, her rulership was taken away from her and she was placed under the rulership of her husband — Adam.

(רמב"ן)


"ויעש ה' אלקים לאדם ולאשתו כתנות עור וילבשם"
“G‑d made for Adam and his wife leather garments.” (3:21)

QUESTION: Why were the garments made of leather?

ANSWER: Before a person puts on a new garment he is required to recite the berachah of Shehecheyanu. According to some opinions, an exception to this rule are garments made of leather. Since it is necessary to kill an animal in order to get the skin, a berachah of Shehecheyanu, which denotes joy, is not recited (Orach Chaim 223:6; Sedei Chemed, Berachot 2:20).

According to halachah, it is forbidden to recite a berachah when one is unclothed. Therefore, Hashem had no alternative but to make garments of leather, so that Adam and Chavah would not have the problem of saying a berachah unclothed.

(פרדס יוסף בשם ספר צפנת פענח)

* * *

Since Chavah caused Adam’s need for clothing, it is customary for a kallah to send her chatan a tallit before the wedding (Ta’a’mei Haminhagim #947). Through this garment, which is used for a mitzvah, Chavah’s sin is corrected.


"ויגרש את האדם וישכן מקדם לגן עדן את הכרבים ואת להט החרב המתהפכת"
“And He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden the cheruvim and the flame of the ever-turning sword.” (3:24)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that “cheruvim” are “angels of destruction.”

However, among the items housed in the Mishkan was the Holy Ark, which contained the Torah and commandments. Over it was a cover made of pure gold. Above the cover, the Torah instructs, “You shall make two cheruvim of gold... and the cheruvim shall stretch forth their wings on high, sheltering the cover with their wings, and their faces shall be facing each other, toward the cover shall the faces of the cheruvim be.” (Shemot 25:18-20). Rashi, in his commentary, writes of these cheruvim, “They had the form of the face of a child.”

In one place, the cheruvim are in the form of harmless children, and in another place they are in the form of fearsome destructive angels. How does one resolve the seeming contradiction?

ANSWER: Rearing children has always been considered a supreme challenge, and parents have struggled and moaned over the agony of this task. In contemporary times, we live in an atmosphere of turbulence and confusion, in an era when statistics indicate gloomy prospects for children continuing in their parents’ religious lifestyle. We hear of a generation gap and the estrangement and alienation of our youth. Many parents wonder, “What have I done wrong? Why was I unsuccessful with my children?”

Cheruvim are children. They can be wonderful harmless angels, or vicious and destructive. It is important to always bear in mind that it depends on where we put them, and to what we expose them. If we choose to expose the child to the “cherev hamithapechet,” the contemporary “revolving swords” of materialism, secularism, and modernism, we must then be prepared to suffer the consequence that the cheruvim — the faultless children — may become destructive angels. However, if one resolves to attach his child to the Holy Ark, teaching him to look toward the ark and to look to the Torah for guidance, he may then anticipate the reward of the cheruvim — faultless children who will be a source of Yiddishe” nachas.


"ויאמר קין אל הבל אחיו ויהי בהיותם בשדה ויקם קין אל הבל אחיו ויהרגהו"
“Kayin spoke to Hevel his brother. Then, when they were in the field, Kayin rose up against Hevel his brother and killed him.” (4:8)

QUESTION: What did Kayin say to Hevel?

ANSWER: The Midrash Rabbah (22:8) says that Hevel was much stronger than Kayin, and Kayin would normally not have been able to kill him. To gain his brother’s confidence, Kayin pretended to be a “good brother,” leading him to think that he would never do him any harm.

This is the meaning of the verse: “Kayin spoke to Hevel, his brother” — he spoke to him in a kind, brotherly way, so that later when they will be out in the field, he could take him by surprise and kill him before he had a chance to fight back.

Afterwards, Hashem asked Kayin, “Where is your brother Hevel?” (4:8) This was indeed a rhetorical question; Hashem knew very well what happened. However, He was asking Kayin, “How were you able to kill your own brother, when such a loving ‘brotherliness’ supposedly existed between you and him?!”

(קול אליהו)


"ותהר ותלד את חנוך ויהי בנה עיר ויקרא שם העיר כשם בנו חנוך"
“She conceived and bore Chanoch; he became a city-builder, and he named the city after his son Chanoch.” (4:17)

QUESTION: Why did he give the name “Chanoch” to his son and the city?

ANSWER: When Kayin committed the terrible act of killing his own brother, he realized his demoralization and debased status. After much contemplation, he concluded that without proper education from early youth, a person can easily go astray and commit the most gross and inhumane crimes. To rectify this, he made it his mission to propagate the importance of education.

When his son was born, he named him Chanoch, which stems from the word “chinuch” — “education” — and also called the entire city by this name. Kayin was stressing that parents are obligated to educate their children as soon as they are born. Moreover, one should not suffice with this, but also see that the entire city receives a proper education.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)

Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky has been a pulpit rabbi for over thirty years, and is author of more than ten highly acclaimed books on the Parshiot and holidays. His Parshah series, Vedibarta Bam, can be purchased here.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining
About the Publisher
Sichos In English
Sichos in English has published hundreds of volumes of Chassidic books on Chassidism and its way of life. They can be reached by writing Sichos In English 788 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, NY 11213 or calling 718.778.5436.
Related Topics