שביבי אש
לסדר בראשית

וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָרָקִיעַ וַיַּבְדֵּל בֵּין הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר מִתַּחַת לָרָקִיעַ וּבֵין הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר מֵעַל לָרָקִיעַ וַיְהִי כֵן

And G-d made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so (Genesis 1:7)

The Ramban asks why immediately after telling us that G-d made the firmament (ויעש את הרקיע), the Scritpure writes "וַיְהִי כֵן" (and it was so), indicating that G-d's commandment that the firmament come into existence was already realized. And our master said in the name of his father the gaon (R. Avraham Glasner, 1826-78) that the Scripture meant to distinguish between this commandment ( יְהִי רָקִיעַ) and the next one, "יִקָּווּ הַמַּיִם" (let the waters under the firmament be gathered into one place). For the Ramban wrote that the Holy One Blessed Be He originally created just one substance from absolute nothingness; after this general substance came into existence it could then be transformed into the four primary elements (earth, wind, fire, and water). Only then did the Holy One Blessed Be He command these four elements to be transformed into all the material things that we experience.

It is known by scientists that the properties of the four elements would have made it impossible for the land to be above sea level, because earth is heavier than water. The earth should therefore have sunk to the bottom of the mighty waters. The Holy One Blessed Be He therefore brought about a phenomenon contrary to the laws of nature when He said "let the waters under the firmament be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear," because the waters gathered in a low place and the land rose above sea level.

In this way, our master's father explained what King David said (Psalms 24:1), "the earth is the L-rd's and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein." This means that one can prove that the world did not always exist, but was, instead, the creation of G-d from the fact that "He has founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers" (Psalms 24:2), which is contrary to the natural tendency of the elements. The Scripture therefore writes "and G-d made the firmament and separated the waters . . . and it was so," to teach us, as the Ramban explains, that they were separated from the time that the first substance was created. The separation between the waters did, indeed, conform to the natural tendency. However, the commandment "let the waters under the firmament be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear" was contrary to the natural tendency. Nevertheless, it came to pass as G-d decreed, for it was done by the Hand of G-d.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ

And the Lord G-d said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help to match him (Genesis 2:18)

In the Talmud the Sages comment, "if a man is worthy (זכה), she is a help meet (עזר), if he is not worthy (לא זכה), she becomes his opponent" (כנגדו). And it appears to our master to say that a man who lives alone without a wife must be constantly busy, working both inside and outside his home with not even a moment left for Torah and wisdom. And this is why they say in the Talmud that R. Yosi called his wife, "my house." However, a married man is free from domestic responsibilities and may devote himself to the service of G-d. So if one dedicates the time that need not be devoted to domestic obligations to the service of G-d, then, because his conduct is meritorious, the wife that G-d gave him is considered a help meet. But if one uses the time that he has gained to prowl the streets with the lads and make merry with the jesters, then his wife will be considered a curse, and she becomes his nemesis, for he would have been better off had he been obliged to look after his home than to occupy himself with nonsense.

However, if our Sages have explained the first verse, how can they explain the next verse which says, "and the man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him"? And it appears to our master that the Torah is hinting at a great idea here, since there are gentile scholars who maintain that man is born as a wild ass and is the descendant of apes. But how have their eyes been dimmed from seeing! For did the Sages not say (Bekhorot 8a) that there are three types of creatures that have conjugal relations facing each other: fish, snakes and people? Besides these three, all others, including the apes, have conjugal relations in the opposite way. And it appears to our master that, before its legs were cut off, the snake also had conjugal relations as do all other creatures, so that among all the creatures only fish in the water had conjugal relations in the manner of man on the land. And it is impossible that apes would have changed to the manner of having conjugal relations of a human being. Thus when the Torah said that among all animals on the land, the man could not find a help meet "כְּנֶגְדּוֹ", it meant that he could not find a partner with whom he could have conjugal relations face to face. Therefore G-d said, "I will make a help meet for him."

וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15)

Our master explained this as a hint to the comment of the Midrash that the verse (Psalms 49:6): "why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me" is referring to the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Hakippurim. Kind David is saying here that he does not fear for his soul because of great sins, because he can gain forgiveness for those sins if he repents for them with all his heart. However, he dreaded the sins that a person performs routinely and to which, as a result, he becomes accustomed, so that he does not even think about repenting for them. This is what was meant by "he shall bruise your head" (הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ), which means that when a person repents on Rosh Hashanah for his great sins he bruises the head of the serpent, i.e., Satan, the instigator and seducer, and frustrates all his efforts. But G-d tells the serpent "you shall bruise his heel" (וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב), which means that Satan is able to snare man in those transgressions that he does routinely, which are very difficult to repent of, because after constant repetition, the transgressions begin to seem as if they are permissible.

אֶל הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ בְּעֶצֶב תֵּלְדִי בָנִים

To the woman He said, I will greatly multiply the pain of your child bearing; in sorrow you shall bring forth children (Genesis 3:16)

Rashi comments on "עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ" (your pain) "this is the pain of child rearing;" on "והרונך" he comments "this is the pain of pregnancy" and on "בעצב תלדי בנים" (in pain shall you give birth) he comments "this is the pain of child-birth." But the order is reversed as everyone can see. Ibn Ezra protected himself against this and interpreted "עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ" as the pain of losing virginity. And it appears to our master to say that both of these great commentators were interpreting the verse in consistent way, which can be traced back to their explanation of the verse (Genesis 4:1): "now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, 'I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.'" Rashi interprets this verse according to the opinion that this occurred before the sin and she immediately conceived and gave birth. But Ibn Ezra interprets the verse according to the opinion that this occurred after the sin, when they realized that they were mortal and wished to perpetuate their species. Thus, Rashi, according to his interpretation, did follow the order correctly by interpreting "עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ" as the pain of child rearing of the sons she already had: Cain and Abel, whom she lost on a single day when Cain killed Abel and Cain left her into exile as a nomad. Rashi then interprets "הֵרֹנֵךְ" and "בְּעֶצֶב תֵּלְדִי" as referring to the children that she would bear subsequently. And see the Talmud in Eruvin, which derives both from the repetition of the words "הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה".

Additional דברי תורה assembled by David Glasner