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Bereishit 5779

Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  My dear friend Rabbi Saul Rosenblatt's wife, Elana, passed to the next world at a very young age. He spent years finding the balance between his overwhelming pain of loss and his concurrent appreciation that everything God does is for the best. From his situation he wrote Why Bad Things Don't Happen to Good People to help others. This is a must read for those who are suffering from pain and loss.

To understand why bad things don't happen to good people, we must start with definitions of bad and good. Writes Rabbi Rosenblatt, "The Jewish People have a very different definition of bad - and based on this definition, nothing bad ever really 'happens' in this world. The easiest way to define 'bad' is by first defining 'good'.

" 'Good' is something that enables you to become more Godly. And conversely, "bad" is something that makes you a less Godly person. Torah is good. Mitzvos, good deeds, are good. God Himself is good. And conversely, moving away from God - the source and root of all goodness - is bad.

"Put a different way, good is that which leads us towards self-perfection; that which enables us to become the great human beings we are capable of becoming; that which helps us to find the closeness to God that is available to us. Bad is that which takes us away from God, that which hinders us from achieving our potential.

"Let's take a look at pain in the context of these definitions. As a rule, does pain and difficulty in life make it easier or harder to rise spiritually? In truth, the answer is probably neither. We have free will and we make our own choices in life. But in looking at the world, it does seem to me that great people in history have more often than not found their greatness through adversity. Greatness is not usually found among those who spend their days lying on beaches and sailing around the world in million-dollar yachts. Greatness is much more often found among those who face adversity head on and overcome it. Those who achieve their true potential are usually those who struggle through difficult situations and build their character in the process.

"Far from being a hindrance, hardship is actually something that can be of great value. If 'good' is something that has the potential to help us come closer to God, then hardship is certainly good. Let's look at person who has broken his leg; seemingly, nothing more is gained other than pain and temporary disability. Is that good or bad? The Jewish answer is still, of course, neither. But now there is something to add.

"It could be good, or it could be bad. It all depends on what this person does with it. A broken leg can make a person angry and upset and take him away from God. Or the pain can help him to put aside some of his pettiness and bring him closer to God. The choice is his.

"The broken leg is certainly a challenge - but if he rises to the challenge and overcomes it, he will lift himself to a Godlier realm. It is not good or bad. It is, however, a significant opportunity for good - should he choose for it to be so. And if he does, then he will look back fifty years later and say that yes, that the broken leg enabled him to employ his freewill to lift himself to new levels of personal greatness.

"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - that happens to us in this world that is good or bad. All is completely neutral.

"What are you in this world for? To be comfortable? To avoid pain? To live out seventy or eighty years of life with the least challenge possible? If this is your aim, then many 'bad' things will happen along the way - because this is a world of pain and pain is antithetical to all that you are living for. If, however, you believe that we are here to lift ourselves into Godliness, to grow and to strive towards self-perfection and spiritual enlightenment then all that happens to us is a golden opportunity - and the more challenging it is, the greater that opportunity. The Mishnah tells us that "according to the difficulty is the reward" (Ethics of the Fathers 5:23). The level of difficulty in a situation defines the level of potential for Godliness. Of course, we don't go looking for hardship in life, but when it comes, we are not afraid of it; far from it, we embrace it as an opportunity to strive towards perfection."

If you have questions or difficulties with what's written above, they are dealt with in the book!


Torah Portion of the week

Beraishis, Genesis 1:1 - 6:8

The Five Books of Moses begin 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
by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

Pirke Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, 5:4 tells us that Abraham was tested with "ten trials, and he withstood them all -- to show the degree of our forefather Abraham's love for God." Each trial was given to him in order to show how much God loved him. At first glance this seems strange. This is how you show you love someone?

First, you have him thrown into a furnace. Then, you tell him to pack his bags and move to a foreign country. When he obeys, you bring a famine to this country. And then, when he travels to find food, you have the ruler of the next place abduct his wife. Abraham gets her back and returns to his ordained place of residence, only to find that his nephew has been kidnapped by four powerful kings.

He manages to release him and is then commanded to kill his only son. Upon his return, having overcome the greatest challenge of his life, he finds that his wife died from shock and he is forced to pay an exorbitant sum for an inferior burial plot in a land that God has already promised him as an inheritance. And all of this shows God's love for Abraham?!

This is precisely God's love. Because through these challenges, Abraham was able to come closer to God. He fulfilled his potential and became the great human being we know of, founder of the nation that has taught monotheism to the world. The pain was relatively short-lived. The results were eternal. Abraham sits in his place in eternity, not in spite of his hardships, but because of them. His pain is gone. His greatness remains forever.

Our lesson: Know that pain is transient and difficulties in life are our opportunities for spiritual growth, to develop our character, perfect our behavior.


Candle Lighting Times

October 5
(or go to

Jerusalem 5:43
Guatemala 5:31 - Hong Kong 5:50 - Honolulu 5:57
J'Burg 5:52 - London 6:11 - Los Angeles 6:14
Melbourne 6:10 - Mexico City 7:03 - Miami 6:45
New York 6:13 - Singapore 6:38 - Toronto 6:33

Quote of the Week

The tests of life are not to break you,
but to make you



In Memory of

Jerry Hahn

with love, Lynn

In Loving Memory of

Dr. Sam Feldman

The Felman Family



Happy Anniversary

Anita & Ira

Happy Birthday

Dr. Ronald A.



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