The Torah Portion of Bereisheet
"A Good Beginning."
A teacher said to his students: "Don't say that we have passed the Holidays, but rather, Baruch Hashem we have gained the Holidays, and Baruch Hashem we have also gained many Mitzvot."
"Rabbi Yitzchak said..." (Rashi on Bereisheet 1:1)
Rashi began his Commentary on the Torah with the comment "Rabbi Yitzchak said..." The source of this comment is from the Yalkut Shimoni. The "Be'er Mayim Chaim" wrote that Rashi began with this particular comment in order to honor his father, who was called Rabbi Yitzchak, in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of honoring one's father and mother.
"Rabbi Yitzchak said..." (Rashi on Bereisheet 1:1)
Rashi began his Commentary on the Torah with the letter Aleph, "Amar R' Yitzchak" (in English: "Rabbi Yitzchak said"). And he finished his Commentary on the Torah Portion of V'Zot HaB'racha with the letter Tav, "Yishar Cochacha She'Shavarta" (In English: "May your strength be straight for having shattered the Tablets"). This is to hint to us that Rashi's commentary was inclusive from Aleph until Tav (from the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet to the last), and didn't miss anything. (from the Gaon R' M.D. Halperin ztz"l)
"In the beginning of G-d's creating the heavens and the earth -- and the earth was bewilderment and void..." (Bereisheet 1:1-2)
First of all a Jew needs to believe that Hashem created the heavens and the earth, and from that he will understand that all of this world is bewilderment and void.
"...Let there be a firmament..." (Bereisheet 1:6)
Rashi says that the heavens were wobbly on the first day. The Holy One Blessed Be He shouted at them on the second day ("Let there be a firmament"), and because of that they are standing in fear and awe until today. Because of this we have the term "fear of Heaven". Just as the heavens always stand in fear and awe, so the Tzaddik (Righteous Person) is always in fear and awe (of Hashem).
"It is not written on the second day that it was good." (Rashi on Bereisheet 1:7)
Rashi says that the work of the second day was not completed until the third day, and that is why it doesn't says "Ki Tov" (that it was good) on the second day. The Sages say the reason is because it was written on the second day about the division between the upper waters and lower waters, and where there is divisiveness it is not appropriate to say that it is good. Machloket (divisiveness or quarreling) is the opposite of goodness.
A Story about Rabbeinu Bachya (author of Chovot HaLevavot)
Rabbeinu Bachya had many arguments in his days with non-believers of various kinds. One time they told him that there was a world famous artist who had made a very beautiful painting and they showed it to him. He said to them that the painting was made during the night by a monkey who had come, and next to the monkey was a bottle of ink, and he spilled the ink on the canvas and the result was this picture...They said to him, an astute person like you, how can you say such things? How is it possible that this was done by a monkey? He said to them, also you say things like that, that this world with a sun and moon and all the creations, with all the plants and animals, happened by itself without the existence of a Creator and Leader of the World. And in this way he convinced them.
A Similar Story about Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi
Similarly, it is told about Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi z"l that he had a neighbor who was a non-Jewish poet, and he had arguments with him about faith in Hashem. One time the non-Jew wrote a song on his table in the courtyard and was not able to finish it with a nice ending. Meanwhile he went for a walk in the forest, thinking that perhaps he would find some kind of nice ending. Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, who was also a great poet, saw this. On the man's table was a pen with ink, and Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi took the pen and finished the song in a beautiful way. When the non-Jew returned he saw his song's ending, that it was very beautiful, and he thought to himself, certainly my neighbor Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi finished it. And he asked him: "Did you write this ending?" Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi answered him that it happened by itself. The neighbor said to him: "An astute person like you, how can you say things like that?" Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi answered him: "Your ears should hear what your mouth is saying. Two lines can't be written by themselves, and a beautiful world like this, how was that created by itself???!!!" And he convinced him.
"...Dust shall you eat..." (Bereisheet 3:14)
Hashem gave a punishment to the snake that "dust shall you eat". Doesn't this seem to be good for him, because he will have sufficient food in every place that he goes? The explanation is that in truth, this is bad. This is similar to a parable about a king who was angry at his son and gave him a lot of money and sent him away from his table. He said to him: "I don't want to see you. You have enough money, go and support yourself in any place that you want, but by me you are not welcome to have your foot step inside my house any more." Applying the parable to the snake's situation, we find that all of the living creatures have a connection with Hashem and always request food from the Holy One Blessed Be He. But the snake has no connection to the Holy One Blessed Be He, for He said to him "You will have food in any place that you want, but not from me".
"And Kayin (Cain) rose up against his brother Hevel (Abel) and killed him." (Bereisheet 4:8)
The Sages say that they argued about apportioning the world, and they agreed between themselves that Kayin would take for his portion the land (real estate) and Hevel would take for his portion the movable property. And therefore they quarelled, because Kayin said to Hevel that he should fly in the air and not have his foot walk on the ground since it belonged to him, and Hevel said to Kayin that he should give him the clothing that he was wearing. Maran HaGaon Rav Eleazar Menachem Man Shach ztz"l asks, what are the Sages coming to tell us by saying this? The answer is that it is in order for us to contemplate this: that even if all of the world is his, all of the countries great and small, in any event if a person doesn't work on his Middot (character traits) he is liable to arrive at the lowest level so that he won't able to stand that another person would walk on his land.
"And Noach found favor in Hashem's eyes." (Bereisheet 6:8)
The Midrash says that if someone who is "Noach L'briot" (in English: "easygoing with others"), he will find favor in Hashem's eyes.
The Torah Portion of Bereisheet has 146 verses. It has one positive commandment.Haftora: "Ko Amar HaKail" (Yeshayahu 42).
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. Shabbat Shalom.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772