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Bereishit 5767

Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! Amongst the thousands of young men and women who come to Aish HaTorah's World Center in the Old City of Jerusalem overlooking the Western Wall, there are many with fascinating stories. Back in the late 70's a young man named Ted came through our doors after transversing the Asian continent from China to Israel.

You may remember the photograph in Time magazine of the group of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) which had taken over the president's office at Columbia. I particularly remember the young man, cigar in hand, with feet perched on the president's desk. Ted was in that group. After university, no medical school wanted a radical like Ted, so he traveled to China, learned the language and then proceeded to master Chinese medicine.

Ted told me that when he visited an Indian ashram he was impressed that the vast majority of students were Jewish. When I expressed dismay, Ted said, "Don't worry Rabbi, they are throwing more and more of them out each week!"

"Why?" I asked, "Are they anti-Semitic?"

"No," Ted replied, "It is just that the Jews ask too many questions."

Ted also visited a Buddhist monastery in Thailand and found that one of the Buddhist priests was one of his childhood friends from Brooklyn. Ted asked his buddy, "Goldberg, tell me the truth. You've been here ten years meditating eight hours a day. What have you gotten out of it?" Goldberg replied, "About 20 minutes of wisdom." And then Ted told me, "And Rabbi, I studied here at Aish for only a week and I bet I got at least ten minutes worth of wisdom!" (I think he meant it as a compliment.)

Ted went on to become one of the foremost authorities in Chinese medicine in the U.S. and dedicated his book in part to Rabbi Weinberg, the founder of Aish HaTorah, with thanks for the profound influence Aish had in reconnecting him to our heritage!


It is important to understand that the Author of the Torah is one and the same as the Creator of the Universe. Therefore, there cannot be a contradiction between Torah and science. Either there is ignorance or misunderstanding of what the Torah says or possibly the conclusion of science is wrong. Here is one answer to the question:

The Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 97a, which was redacted approximately 1,500 years ago states, "The world will exist for six thousand years and in the seven-thousandth year, it will be destroyed." An important Kabbalistic work, the Sefer HaTemunah, written in the first century, writes that there were 6 cycles of 7,000 years each which preceded our present cycle of creation. This would explain the finding of ancient fossils of the dinosaurs.

But what about the age of the earth? Rabbi Isaac of Akko who lived between 1250-1350 C.E., wrote in Ozar HaHayyim, since 6 cycles existed before the creation of Adam, their chronology must be measured in "Divine years," not in "human years." How do we measure a "Divine year"? According to Psalm 90:4, there is a hint at the manner of measuring a Divine year: "For a thousand years in Your sight are as a day."

Therefore, according to Rabbi Isaac, the universe would be 42,000 divine years (i.e.. the six preceding cycles of 7,000 year each) x 365,250 human years (365.25 days in a year, with each divine day =1,000 "human years"). This equals 15,340,500,000. Modern science has concluded from calculations based on the expanding universe and cosmological observations, that the universe is 15 billion years old. Here we see the same calculation from a Torah source written over 700 years ago!

(based on Immortality, Resurrection, & the Age of the Universe:

A Kabbalistic View
by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan)

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Torah Portion of the Week

The Five Books of Moses begins with the Six Days of Creation, the Shabbat, the story of the Garden of Eden - the first transgression, consequences and expulsion; Cain & Abel, the ten generations to Noah, the Almighty sees the wickedness of man in that generation and decrees to "blot out man" (i.e.. the flood).

One of the most profound verses in the whole Torah is: "And God created man in His own Image." Since God does not have a physical being, this means that we are endowed with free-will, morality, reason and the ability to emulate God Who bestows kindness. Also, if we really appreciate that we are created in the image of God, we realize that we have intrinsic worth. Therefore, there is no need to be depressed wondering if you have intrinsic worth!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"Then the Almighty formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)

What does this tell us about ourselves?

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, an incredibly prolific and intellectual writer who (excuse the pun) rejuvenated the Frankfort Jewish community in the late 1800's, writes in his fabulous philosophical work on Judaism, The Nineteen Letters: "What is man? Every fiber of your body is a creation of the hand of the Almighty. Your spirit, the spark of the Divine, your personality, invisible as Deity itself, weave and work in this microcosm and control your intellect and your body. Learn to deem yourself holy as a creature of the Almighty and consecrate yourself to your mission as a 'servant of the Creator.' "

We live in a time when many people suffer from feelings of inferiority. But a person who lives with the reality that he is created in the image of the Creator of the universe will feel so positive about himself that he cannot possibly have inferiority feelings. The more you integrate this concept, the more you will show honor and respect to others, for they too are created in the Almighty's image, and the better you will feel about yourself.

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Happiness is a better indicator of success
than success has ever been of happiness.
-- Mardy Grothe

In Memory of Jerry Hahn
With love, Lynn

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