Illuminations #93, Tishrei 5777, Parshat Bereishit

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Illuminations #93, Tishrei 5777, Parshat Bereishit

Torah Gems

The first Rashi in Chumash begins by quoting a question posed by Rav Yitzchak. Who was this Rav Yitzchak? The sefer Divrei Dovid writes that there is not actually a Midrash or Gemara citing this question in his name; rather, it refers to Rashi’s father whose name was Rav Yitzchak. In order to honor his father, Rashi asked him to pose a question with which he could begin his commentary. From this simple example we can learn from Rashi how to honor our parents. Rashi went out of his way to honor his father even though according to the letter of the law there was no obligation to do so. How much more so must we be careful in honoring our parents in the proper way. Chazal (Kiddushin 30b) explain that Hakadosh Baruch Hu equates His honor and fear to the honor and fear of one’s parents. Chazal also quote Hakadosh Baruch Hu as saying, “When a person honors his father and mother, I consider it as if I have dwelt between them and I have been honored.” In fact, Chazal further relate that for this reason, Rabbi Yosef would say, “I have to stand, for the Shechinah is coming,” when he would hear his mother coming (Maharsha ad loc.). We should keep in mind that by honoring our parents we are honoring Hashem and making Him happy. And when Hashem is happy He wants to reciprocate and make us happy, as the Midrash says, “The mitzvah of kibud av is so great that through it one’s money will be blessed!” (cited in Sefer Meah Shearim – Shaar 80) This is besides the many other fringe benefits and reward we will receive. Many people unfortunately do not honor their parents as they should simply because they don’t know the halachot. For example, besides the fact that one is not allowed to disagree with their parents, it is prohibited for a child to tell a parent, “You’re wrong!” even if the parent did indeed err. But did you know that if your parent has a disagreement with someone you aren’t even allowed to take sides with your parent and say, “You’re right!”? (Yorah Deah 240:2) This is because a child must realize that the Torah’s approach is that although you can offer your opinion [when your parent would like to hear it], you have to understand that you do not stand on the same plateau as they do – their word is law!

Parsha Pearls

The moon was initially the same size as the sun. But after the moon “spoke up” by saying how it was not appropriate for there to be two leaders the same size, the moon was made smaller. Nevertheless, in order to appease the moon, Hashem made all those millions of stars! (Cited in Rashi 1:16) This is truly amazing! Hashem felt that it was necessary to appease the moon, even though it was worthy of punishment! This essential lesson is very important for us always to keep in mind. Accordingly, the next time we feel our child (or someone we know) needs reprimanding, let us keep the advice of Chazal in mind (Sotah 47a): “l’olam t’hei smol docheik veyimin mekarevet – that even as we use our smol, left, weaker hand , [symbolic of din] to push away (reprimand), at the same time, we should always use the yemin, right, stronger and more powerful hand, [symbolic of rachamim ] to appease and bring them close.

Glimpses of Greatness

The Torah testifies that “Hashem blessed the seventh day – Shabbat – and sanctified it” (2:3). Said the Chofetz Chaim, “How foolish are those whose emunah is slight; who accept Shabbat late, and are in a rush to leave Shabbat. The six days of the week are nourished from the curse given to Adam Harishon– ‘Through the sweat of your brow you should eat bread,’ and it is only Shabbat that has no connection to that curse. Hakadosh Baruch Hu, Himself, with His glory, blessed and sanctified this day. And instead of rushing to receive this berachah, and delay leaving it – to return to the cursed days of the week, they do just the opposite?! Fortunate is he who understands this, to hurriedly accept Shabbat, and to be slow to leave it, so that he will accept the berachah of Hashem which comes automatically to those who accept Shabbat!” Many times when people came to request berachot from the Chofetz Chaim, he replied that he was not the source of all blessings – Shabbat is! His blessing and guarantee was: “If you will be careful with observing Shabbat – you will receive berachah.”


Halacha Weekly

Q. If One Needs Sechach (Sukkah Covering) To Cover A Sukkah, Can One Cut Branches from A Fruit Tree?

A. The Torah Forbids destruction of Fruit Producing Trees (Devarim 20: 19-20): “When you are laying siege for many days against a city to war against it  you shall not destroy (Lo tashchit) its trees by cutting them down with an axe because from them you will eat….” The Sages extend the prohibition of causeless destruction beyond trees to other specific items, for example: vessels (Shabbat 129a), food ( Shabbat 140b), and clothing (Baba Kamma 91b).

 It is, however, permitted to cut branches from a tree for sukkah covering (See R. Dov Berish Weidenfeld, Z”L Dovev Meisharim1-134, and R. Tzvi Pesach Frank, Har Tzvi (Orech Chaim 2-11 ).  Rav Ovadia Yosef in Yechave Daath (5-46) writes that it is permitted to cut branches from a fruit tree for the sake of covering a sukkah with them and there is no prohibition in this of baal tashchit  (causeless destruction). However, he writes that if it is possible, it is proper to do this through a non-Jew who cuts the branches and not to assist him. If he has wild fruit trees then certainly he can cut from them and there is no prohibition at all of baal tashchit.