Notwithstanding the fact that we are after the High Holidays, Chassidut teaches that how we spend Shabbat Bereishit, (referring to the first Shabbat after the holidays and the first parasha of the Torah) will have a qualitative effect on our entire coming year. Therefore, it is logical to expect that in this portion are more core messages than might be in any other portion.

Rebbe Michil of Zlotchuv chooses a verse about marriage as the paradigm for how to face the challenges in our lives. "And G‑d said, it is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helpmate corresponding (in Hebrew, "k'negdo") for him". (Gen. 2:18) Interestingly, the word "k'negdo" can also be translated as "against him". The commentary in Talmud explains the term to mean: "help - against him". If a husband acts properly, his wife helps him; if a husband does not act properly, his wife becomes his adversary. (Yevamot 63a) When G‑d created this physical world, it became necessary that the world should recognize G‑d's greatness…

The above explanation is really quite a radical jump, and others suggest that the dichotomy is not really supported by the verse. They suggest a more mystical approach that fits more with the words according to the Arizal, who said that when G‑d created this physical world, it became necessary that the world should recognize G‑d's greatness. As part of this process, a soul is taught the entire Torah before it is born into a body, and, just before birth, an angel comes and taps the baby on the mouth and all that has been learned is forgotten. Why was everything learned, only to be apparently forgotten?

The answer is that even though forgotten, an impression still remains that will eventually be a key to allow the person to reach a higher spiritual level. Only from the difficulty caused by our forgetting Torah will we eventually arrive at the full knowledge and recognition of G‑d's greatness. This is the secret meaning of the verse, "G‑d will not abandon what is in his hand"; (Psalms 37:33) G‑d will not completely take away the knowledge that was originally given to the soul, and He will not allow us to be judged as though we were independent and fully responsible for all of our actions. This is what the Arizal meant when he said that the world should recognize G‑d's greatness. We recognize things we already know and can identify, when we come upon them again.

And so the verse, "It was not good for the man to be alone" means it was not good for man to be alone without any obstacles. Personal growth only comes with struggle. G‑d makes a "help against" evil with which to struggle, so we will come to the eventual good. This is also the explanation in Yevamot: if he merits, she is a help, if he does not merit, she is an obstacle.

And finally, this is what is meant by the verse, and "the Land was utter chaos (in Hebrew, 'tohu v'vohu')". (Gen. 1:2) Where there is chaos, you have 'vohu', which literally means "He will come". This teaches us that "He", i.e. G‑d, "will come", as it is written, "Into every place that the Jewish people are exiled, the Divine Presence is exiled with them to help them." (Megilla 29a) And this should lead to the biggest good of all, the arrival of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova, Shaul

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