Monday, September 24, 2007

Sukkos, Simchas Torah, Parshas Bereishis

I'm leaving to E"Y today for Sukkos, so I'm posting two issues: the first is for Sukkos, the second is a combined Simchas Torah / Bereishis issue (below) - enjoy and Gut Yom Tov! Chazak Chazak V'Nischazeik!!


וחג האסף בצאת השנה באספך את מעשיך מן השדה (שמות 23:16)

In introducing us to the festival of Sukkos for the first time, why does the Torah refer to the holiday as חג האסיף – the festival of the ingathering – and not by its more well-known name, “Sukkos,” which isn’t used in conjunction with the holiday until much later (Devorim 16:13)? Further, if the holiday of Sukkos commemorates the Ananei HaKavod which surrounded and protected the Jews, shouldn’t it be celebrated in the spring when they first began to miraculously escort the Jews after the Exodus?

The Vilna Gaon explains that although the Clouds of Glory first appeared in the month of Nissan, they subsequently departed after the sin of the golden calf. It wasn’t until 15 Tishrei, four days after the forgiveness of Yom Kippur, that the Clouds returned, this time to remain for the duration of the 40 years that the Jews traveled through the wilderness. It is this returning of the Clouds of Glory which is commemorated by celebrating the holiday of Sukkos at this time.

Based on this insight, the Meshech Chochmah explains that when Sukkos is first mentioned in Parshas Mishpatim, the Jews still hadn’t sinned with the golden calf and the original Clouds of Glory were still present. The entire reason for celebrating Sukkos in the fall wasn’t yet applicable, and the Torah had to refer to it by an alternate name based on the ingathering of the harvest. However, in Parshas Re’eh, the Clouds had already disappeared and returned, and it was appropriate to refer to the Yom Tov at that time as Chag HaSukkos, the festival which commemorates the restoration of the Clouds of Glory!

ושעיר עזים אחד חטאת מלבד עלת התמיד מנחתה ונסכה ...

ושעיר חטאת אחד מלבד עלת התמיד ומנחתה ונסכה (במדבר 22, 29:16)

In the section describing the additional sacrifices which are to be brought on each day of Sukkos, there is a peculiar difference in phrasing in reference to the goat which is brought each day as a Korban Chatas. Although this sacrifice is identical on each day of Sukkos – one male goat – the Torah calls it a שעיר עזים in connection with the 1st, 2nd, and 4th days of Sukkos, but calls it simply שעיר when it is discussed on the 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th days of the holiday. As the Torah is precise with every word that it uses, this repeated change is hard to understand.

The Vilna Gaon offers a brilliant explanation for this linguistic curiosity. The Gemora in Sukkah (55b) teaches that beginning with 13 on the first day of Sukkos and declining by one on each successive day, a total of 70 bulls are sacrificed over the course of the holiday. These 70 bulls correspond to the 70 non-Jewish nations of the world. The Zohar HaKadosh states that all of the 70 nations are spiritually associated with either Yishmael or Eisav and derive their strength from them. The Zohar further teaches that Yishmael is mystically referred to as שעיר עזים. Eisav is called simply שעיר, as the Torah refers to him as איש שעיר (Bereishis 27:11).

Since the Gemora explains that the 70 bulls represent the 70 nations of the world, all of whom descend spiritually from either Yishmael or Eisav, it is appropriate to offer 35 bulls corresponding to Yishmael and 35 for Eisav. Because Yishmael was the elder of the two, we begin by offering the 13 bulls on the first day on his behalf. The Torah therefore refers to the Korban Chatas of that day as שעיר עזים, which refers to Yishmael, and this is repeated with the 12 bulls sacrificed on the 2nd day.

However, if the 11 bulls offered on the 3rd day also corresponded to Yishmael, he would have 36 bulls, leaving only 34 for Eisav. In order to allow each to have a total of 35, the 11 bulls on the 3rd day are brought on behalf of Eisav. The Torah therefore refers to the Korban Chatas on that day as שעיר. The 10 bulls which are brought on the 4th day may be brought for Yishmael, bringing his total number to the desired 35, and the goat on that day is referred to for the last time as שעיר עזים. This leaves the bulls on the three remaining days to be offered on behalf of Eisav to bring his total to 35, and they are therefore all referred to as שעיר!

ולקחתם לכם ביום הראשון פרי עץ הדר כפת תמרים וענף עץ עבת וערבי נחל

ושמחתם לפני ד' אלקיכם שבעת ימים (ויקרא 23:40)

The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chaim 658:2) that the four species may not be taken on Shabbos. The Mishnah Berurah explains that the Rabbis made this enactment due to a fear that a Jew may be unfamiliar with the proper way to shake the four species. To learn how to do so, he may carry them to the house of a knowledgeable Rabbi, in the process violating the prohibition against carrying in the public domain on Shabbos. Although this would indeed be a tragedy, why did our Sages see fit to deny tens of thousands of people this tremendous mitzvah simply because a few Jews may unintentionally carry them to a Rabbi to learn how to shake them?

The Medrash notes (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12) that while the esrog has both a good taste and a pleasant smell, and the lulav and hadas each have one of these good qualities, the aravah which we are commanded to take together with them has neither taste nor smell. Each of the species represents a different kind of Jew: some have both Torah and good deeds, some have one but not the other, and sadly there are Jews – like the aravah – who have neither. In a beautiful lesson in the importance of unity among the Jewish nation, Hashem says that they should all be taken together to atone for one another.

The impending arrival of Sukkos is heralded by streets full of Jews purchasing the four species. Certainly when Sukkos arrives, everybody will be excited to bring his beautiful lulav and esrog to the synagogue to perform the mitzvah with great fervor. When the normal time for the taking of the species arrives on Shabbos but none are in sight, people will become curious about the omission.

Upon asking, they will be told that it is because of the aforementioned fear of another Jew accidentally carrying them outside. The questioner will wonder which uneducated Jew we could possibly be concerned about, as anybody who grew up with a formal Jewish education will know how to shake the species and will certainly know that they may not be carried outside on Shabbos for any reason.

The answer will be that we aren’t worried that a Jew in Jerusalem or Brooklyn would do such a thing, but there are sadly many Jews in Kansas City who may inadvertently transgress. The questioner will press on, challenging why the tens of thousands of learned Jews of B’nei B’rak and Lakewood must lose out because of a few ignorant Jews in the Midwest.

However, from the fact that the Rabbis nevertheless made this decree, we see that they understood that there is more to mitzvos than just looking after oneself to do them properly. As much as we think Hashem will be happy if we do what we are supposed to, we forget that He doesn’t look at us as individuals but as part of His collective nation. If some of His children do His will with the greatest precision while a much larger group lags sorely behind, the overall picture from His perspective is grim.

The Sages appreciated that as much as Hashem would enjoy the taking of the four species by those who know how to do so, the pain caused by those who may accidentally transgress is so great that it outweighs the pleasure He would receive. Upon understanding this, the questioner will be left with a new appreciation of the sense of responsibility which we are required to feel toward our Jewish brethren. This new recognition will inspire him to a newfound commitment to reach out, educate, and draw near those unfortunate and uneducated Midwestern Jews – of whom this author is one – in a manner which taking the four species could never have accomplished!

בסכת תשבו שבעת ימים כל האזרח בישראל ישבו בסכת (ויקרא 23:42)

The Torah commands us to dwell in the sukkah for seven days, eating and sleeping there as we would in our own homes. Unfortunately, the size and layout of many houses aren’t conducive to building sukkahs large enough to accommodate the family’s needs. If a person’s sukkah isn’t big enough for everybody to fit in it, meals can be eaten in shifts. However, sleeping in shifts isn’t very practical. Is it permitted to wait until some people are sleeping and then gently drag them out of the sukkah?

As far-fetched as this suggestion sounds, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach actually rules that it is permissible! He explains that the mitzvah is only to go to sleep in the sukkah, but once a person is already sleeping, he is unconscious and exempt from any further obligation in mitzvos until he awakens. Although permissible, this may not be so feasible, as if the person wakes up while being moved, he must once again return to the sukkah to fall asleep, thereby defeating the entire purpose of the plan.

Nevertheless, Rav Yisroel Reisman suggests a more practical application of this ruling. If the weather forecast calls for a torrential downpour in the middle of the night and a person doesn’t want to be awakened by it, he can simply go to sleep in the sukkah, and once he is sound asleep, somebody can spread a cover across the top of the sukkah. Although this invalidates the sukkah, the person is already sleeping and exempt from the mitzvah, and doing so will allow him a warm and dry night’s sleep!

Sukkos Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Gemora in Avodah Zara (2b-3a) teaches that in the Messianic era, the non-Jewish nations will argue that they deserve reward like the Jews because if they had been given mitzvos to observe, they would have performed them. Hashem will respond by testing them with the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah, a test which they will fail and which will prove their unworthiness to receive reward. Why will Hashem specifically test them with this mitzvah? (Darash Moshe)

2) Although one recites a blessing any time that he eats a fixed meal in the sukkah, the only time that he is required to do so is on the first night of Sukkos. Why didn’t Chazal coin a special blessing to be recited at that time (על אכילה בסוכה – on eating in the sukkah) just as they did regarding the matzo one eats at the Pesach seder? (Sefer HaSukkah P’sakim and Haaros 19)

3) The blessing recited when taking the four species is על נטילת לולב – on the taking of the lulav. As the Torah equally commands us to take all four species, why do we single out the lulav in the text of the blessing more than the other species?

4) If somebody accidentally damages another person’s beautiful, expensive esrog and renders it invalid, is he required to replace it with another equally costly esrog, or may he suffice with a cheaper one which is still kosher?

5) As a person is required to own the four species which he uses to perform the mitzvah on the 1st day of Sukkos, may he fulfill his obligation if one of his species (e.g. aravos) is worth less than one perutah and therefore doesn’t have sufficient monetary value to be considered transferable and belonging to him? (Minchas Chinuch 325:11, Mikraei Kodesh Sukkos 3:18-19, Halichos Shlomo, Shalmei Moed)

6) The Rema rules (Orach Chaim 600:3) that the שהחיינו blessing is said prior to the blowing of the shofar on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana. Why isn’t it similarly said before taking the four species on the 2nd day of Sukkos?

7) The Mishnah Berurah (661:2) writes that it is the custom of pious men to stay up at night during Chol HaMoed Sukkos and sing songs of praise to Hashem as a joyous commemoration of the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah which took place in the Beis Hamikdash on Sukkos. We have many customs through which we decrease our joy as a sign of mourning the destruction of the Temple, but how can one rejoice at a gathering which is predicated on the Temple’s destruction? (Rav Yechezkel Sarna quoted in Matnas Chaim Moadim)

8) If a person doesn’t recite the invitation to the ushpizin (guests) to join him in the sukkah, do they still come? (Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah)

9) When reciting the Grace after Meals on Sukkos, we pray הרחמן הוא יחזיר לנו את סוכת דוד הנופלת – may the Merciful One (Hashem) return to us the falling Sukkah of Dovid (i.e. the Temple). Why do we associate the Temple with Dovid instead of his son Shlomo, who actually built it?

10) Why is no mention made in the mainstream halachic (legal) sources of the significance of Hoshanah Rabbah as the final day in which the judgment of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is completed? (Shalmei Moed, Siach Yitzchok)

Simchas Torah / Bereishis

משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם

The Gemora in Taanis (4b) rules that although Sukkos corresponds to the time when we begin to need rain for the success of the crops, we don’t begin to pray for rain on Sukkos itself because rain on the holiday is considered a curse. We must wait an additional two weeks after the end of Sukkos to allow sufficient time for those who ascended to the Temple for Sukkos to return home without getting wet.

According to this logic, we should similarly stop praying for rain two weeks before Pesach to allow people to ascend in dry travel conditions. Why do we continue praying for rain up until Pesach, praying for something which if answered would significantly impede the ability of people to ascend to the Beis HaMikdash with their Pesach sacrifices?

Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv suggests that this is due to the power of inertia. The issue of those traveling to Yerushalayim is one which must be taken into account, but it is not compelling. Therefore, when Sukkos comes at the end of the summer, when we haven’t been praying for rain, this consideration is sufficient to delay the change in our prayers to begin petitioning Hashem for rain. On the other hand, when Pesach arrives at the end of the winter, when we are currently asking for rain, this argument isn’t strong enough to cause us to alter the status quo and cease our prayers prematurely.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach explains the difference with a practical observation. When people go to the Temple for Sukkos, they haven’t yet taken our their winter wardrobes and travel in clothes which are ill-suited to protect them from the rains on their return journey, so we must give them sufficient time to return home before we begin to ask for rain. On the other hand, when people ascend to Yerushalayim for Pesach, they are properly outfitted in their winter gear which will be able to stand up to any inclement weather they encounter, and we are therefore permitted to continue our prayers for rain.

Finally, Rav Chaim Kanievsky posits that the answer lies in a psychological difference. The verse in Tehillim (55:15) states בבית אלקים נהלך ברגש – in the House of Hashem (the Temple) we will walk with feeling. It is pointed out that the letters in the word ברגש are short for ברד, רוח, גשם, שלג – hail, wind, rain, and snow. This hints that when one merits traveling to the Beis HaMikdash, his excitement and enthusiasm is so great as to allow him to overcome the greatest of hurdles and to travel in even the most inclement weather. As a result, we are permitted to continue praying for rain in the weeks before Pesach because those ascending to Yerushalayim won’t be deterred by the rains. After Sukkos, on the other hand, people are returning to their homes without the emotional charge and would find the rains tremendously burdensome, so we have no choice but to delay our petitions!

ולא קם נביא עוד בישראל כמשה (דברים 34:10)

The Torah testifies that nobody will ever reach the tremendous heights attained by Moshe Rabbeinu. The Rambam writes (Hilchos Teshuvah 9:2) that even Moshiach won’t be able to reach the level of prophecy reached by Moshe. How can this fundamental belief be reconciled with another comment of the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 5:2), who writes that every Jew has the ability to be as pious as Moshe? Further, while the Rambam discusses only theoretical potential, Rashi writes (Shemos 6:26) that Aharon was actually considered equal to Moshe. How is it possible that Aharon, great as he was, was on the level of Moshe, whom the Torah calls the greatest prophet who ever was or ever will be?

Rav Elchonon Wasserman and Rav Moshe Feinstein explain that it in objective terms of accomplishment, nobody will ever reach the tremendous heights attained by Moshe. If his celestial “score” was 1000, nobody – not even Aharon – has ever or will ever score 1000. If so, in what way can Aharon or anybody else be considered equal to Moshe?

While Moshe may have scored 1000, this was because he received a special neshama with the capability of scoring 1000. Moshe filled up the house with spiritual light when he was born (Rashi Shemos 2:2), something that can’t be said of Aharon and certainly not of any of us. Even if Aharon scored only 900 or 950, he can still be considered Moshe’s equal because he maximized every talent with which he was blessed, and whatever score he received was the highest possible for his soul. Although his raw score was lower, his “grade” was the same 100% as Moshe’s, and in that sense they were equal.

While in this world people are given respect based on their objective scores, only Hashem knows what somebody was actually capable of attaining and grading them accordingly. The relative or co-worker who always seems to do more and accomplish it quicker will be held to a higher standard by Hashem. We should take comfort in the recognition that Hashem won’t compare us to anybody else. He judges every individual on the basis of his unique talents and trials. At the same time, we should use this knowledge to utilize our personal strengths to become the best Jew that we are capable of being – one who will merit to sit next to Moshe Rabbeinu in Gan Eden!

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹקים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ (1:1)

ויברך אלקים את יום השביעי ויקדש אתו כי בו שבת מכל מלאכתו אשר ברא אלקים לעשות (2:3)

Dovid HaMelech writes in Tehillim (119:160) ראש דברך אמת – Your very first utterance is truth. The Baal HaTurim points out that the final letters of the first three words in the Torah spell the word אמת – truth – hinting to the fundamental importance of the value of truth in Hashem’s eyes. Indeed, the Gemora in Yoma (69b) states that Hashem’s “seal” is אמת. Further, the final letters of the last verse describing the creation (2:3) also spell the word אמת, alluding to the fact that the universe was created with Hashem’s attribute of truth from beginning to end.

Additionally, Rabbeinu Bechaye points out that the first verse in the Torah contains every vowel except for one: the shuruk is missing from this verse. This is because the letters which spell the word shuruk (שרק) can also be rearranged to spell the word שקר – falsehood. Because Hashem created the world to be a place of truth, there was no room for a shuruk in describing the beginning of the Creation!

It is not only the Written Torah which is emblazoned with Hashem’s seal of truth, but the Oral Torah as well. The Aseres HaDibros begin with the letter א (אנכי), the Mishnah begins with the letter מ (מאימתי), and the Gemora starts with the letter ת (תנא), again spelling the word אמת!

The Vilna Gaon notes that it is not only the Torah itself which is encoded with Hashem’s seal, but even the great commentaries upon it are embossed with this powerful commitment to truth. The Torah forbids (Vayikra 11:42) the consumption of all creeping creatures which slither on their גחון - bellies. Interestingly, Rashi renders the word “belly” as מעים – innards – which seems anatomically imprecise, as בטן seems to be a more accurate translation. Further, the word גחון appears much earlier in the Torah (Bereishis 3:14), in reference to the punishment of the serpent which tempted Chava. Why didn’t Rashi feel the need to explain the meaning of the word until its appearance in Parshas Shemini?

The Gemora in Kiddushin (30a) teaches that the ו in גחון is the middle letter in the Torah. Rashi begins his commentary on the Torah with the letter א (אמר רבי יצחק) and ends with the letter ת (יישר כחך אשר שברת). Rashi didn’t feel the need to explain the word גחון, or else he would have done so where it initially appeared. However, because this is the middle of the Torah, and therefore of his commentary, he wished to render it as a word beginning with the letter מ in order to hint that the entire Torah, along with his Divinely-inspired commentary, is אמת from the start to the middle to the very end!

ויעש אלקים את שני המארת הגדלים את המאור הגדל לממשלת היום

ואת המאור הקטן לממשלת הלילה ואת הכוכבים (1:16)

Many people claim that their goal in life is to achieve greatness, to become an אדם גדול (great person). However, questioning them as to their understanding of the specific benchmark used to measure one’s success will yield wildly varying answers. Some will define its attainment by the size of their bank account and the amount of respect they command from others. Others will claim that it is to be measured by one’s interpersonal skills and the acts of kindness that a person performs for others. Another group may argue that it means becoming a wise Torah scholar. How does Judaism define greatness?

The Shelah HaKadosh writes that if a person wishes to know the true inner meaning of any word, he need only examine the meaning of that word the first time it appears in the Torah. Searching for the word גדול, we needn’t go too far. It first appears in our verse, where the Torah relates that Hashem made the large light (the sun) to rule by day and the smaller one (the moon) to dominate by night. On a simple level, it appears that the first use of this word merely refers to the mundane fact that the sun is physically larger than the moon, hardly inspiring in our search to understand the Torah’s definition of greatness.

However, the Bostoner Rebbe notes that in searching for some deeper significance, we must consider the scientific relationship between the sun and the moon. To the uneducated eye, it seems that the sun provides light during the day and the moon at night. However, this isn’t accurate, as the moon is incapable of generating its own light. More correctly, the sun gives light during the day, and at night the moon reflects the sun’s light. In this sense, the sun is the giver and the moon is the receiver.

Applying this understanding to people, the Torah is teaching us a profound lesson. In our quest for true greatness, we must bear in mind that success isn’t measured by how hard we work, pray, or study Torah, but by how much we emulate the “great” sun by sharing our warmth and light with others!

The Rebbe suggests that this is the meaning of the blessing that we give an 8-day-old boy at his circumcision – זה הקטן גדול יהיה. Literally, we bless the child that although he is presently very small, he should live and grow up to become a capable, self-sufficient adult. However, on a deeper level, we may explain that a newborn child is the ultimate taker. He is unable to care for himself in any way and is solely dependent on others to provide him with the food, clean clothes, and emotional love that he needs to live. We bless him that although he is currently the epitome of smallness – a taker – he should grow up to give to others just as others are currently giving to him, thus making him a truly great person!

Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Medrash (Sifri V’zos Ha’bracha 2) relates that before giving the Torah to the Jews, Hashem first offered it to the other nations of the world. Each of them asked what is written in it, to which Hashem responded with the mitzvah which would be most difficult for that nation to observe, such as not committing adultery, not murdering, and not stealing. Why did they refuse to accept the Torah based on its containing these commandments, as these are mitzvos in which non-Jews are commanded regardless of their decision? (Darash Moshe)

2) Rashi writes (33:9) that although the majority of the Jews didn’t circumcise their sons who were born in the wilderness due to danger, the tribe of Levi accepted the risk and willingly circumcised their sons in the desert. How were they permitted to accept upon themselves this “stringency” if it presented a genuine risk to the baby’s life? (Chasam Sofer, K’motzei Shalal Rav, M’rafsin Igri)

3) In blessing the tribes prior to his death, why did Moshe give the shortest blessing to Yissochar (33:18), who is known as the tribe of Torah scholars? (Rabbeinu Bechaye, Taima D’Kra Hosafos)

4) Rashi writes (33:18) that Moshe repeated the names of the five tribes which he blessed at the end – Zevulun, Gad, Dan, Naftoli, and Asher – because they were the weakest of the tribes and he wished to strengthen and encourage them. How can this be reconciled with Rashi’s comment (Bamidbar 32:17) that the tribes of Gad and Reuven were particularly strong and therefore led the Jewish army in its conquest of the land of Israel? (Matamei Yaakov Parshas Matos)

5) According to one opinion in the Gemora in Bava Basra (15a), Hashem taught the last eight verses of the Torah (34:5-12) – which discuss Moshe’s death and burial – to Moshe, who wrote them in tears. How could Moshe cry over the matter of his impending death when the Mishnah in Berachos (9:5) rules that a person is obligated to bless Hashem for bad occurrences just as he would bless Hashem for good ones? (Tiferes Shlomo)

6) Rashi writes (34:6) that the burial place of Moshe opposite the idol of pe’or was prepared during the six days of Creation to serve as an atonement for the sin of the Jews in their worship of pe’or (Bamidbar 25:3). Why was Moshe’s death necessary to atone specifically for this sin more than for other sins such as the golden calf and the spies? (Chanukas HaTorah, Darash Moshe)

7) Rashi writes (34:8) that because Aharon was a lover and pursuer of peace, every single Jew cried and mourned over his death, but only the males cried over the death of Moshe. Why didn’t the women of that generation also mourn Moshe’s death?

8) Rashi explains (Vayikra 23:36) that the festival of Shemini Atzeres is Hashem’s way of saying that after we have spent so much time together with Him in the sukkah, it is difficult for Him to separate from us, and He therefore asks us to linger one more day. How will this solve the problem of the painful separation, which will presumably only become more difficult after spending additional time together? (Darkei Mussar, Tiferes Torah)

9) The Gemora in Sukkah (48a) derives an obligation to rejoice on Shemini Atzeres from the seemingly superfluous word אך – only – in the verse regarding Sukkos (Devorim 16:15) והיית אך שמח – and you shall be completely joyous. How can the word אך, which comes to limit or reduce (see Rashi Pesachim 71a d.h. ach), be interpreted as coming to add to the obligation? (Vilna Gaon quoted in Maharatz Chayos Sukkah 48a)

10) How was it permitted to enact that the annual reading of the Torah should conclude on Shemini Atzeres, as there is a Talmudic rule (Moed Kattan 8b) that אין מערבין שמחה בשמחה – we may not mix two different joyful occasions together?

11) In describing Hashem’s Creation of the universe, the Torah refers to Him (1:1) as Elokim, which refers to His attribute of strict justice. Rashi explains that Hashem initially considered creating the world with justice, but after realizing that it wouldn’t be sustainable, He instead created it with mercy. As the Torah is describing the actual Creation and not the theoretical one, wouldn’t it have been more accurate to refer to Hashem, which symbolizes His attribute of mercy, creating the world instead of Elokim? (Ayeles HaShachar)

12) The Torah relates (1:5) that after the first day of Creation, there was night and there was day. In what sense was it possible for there to be a night prior to the Creation of the sun, moon, and earth, which are the cause of the darkness of night? (Bartenura Al HaTorah, Ayeles HaShachar)

13) The Torah relates (1:5) that after the first day of Creation, there was night and there was day. Did the creations on each day occur at night or during the day? (Bereishis Rabbah 12:14, Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 7, Ayeles HaShachar)

14) The Torah relates (1:5) that after the first day of Creation, ויהי ערב ויהי בקר – there was night, and there was day. As the word ערב refers to the beginning of the night and בקר to the beginning of the day, wouldn’t it have been more precise to say ויהי לילה ויהי יום, which would include the entire night and day? (Ayeles HaShachar)

15) Rashi writes (1:11) that Hashem commanded the ground to give forth fruit trees which would taste like the fruits they would yield, but the earth didn’t listen and instead sprouted trees which grow fruits, but which themselves don’t taste like fruits. How can the Torah write ויהי כן – and it was so – if the trees didn’t follow His instructions? (Bartenura Al HaTorah, Ayeles HaShachar)

16) Did the serpent actually speak to Chava (3:1), or does the Torah merely relate the content of what it communicated to her in some other fashion? (Chizkuni, Ibn Ezra, Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, Yad Ramah and Be’er Sheva Sanhedrin 108b, Ayeles HaShachar)

17) Prior to eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, why didn’t Adam eat from the tree of life, which was permitted to him and which would allow him to live eternally? (Tosefos Rid)

18) Why didn’t Adam and Chava die immediately upon eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, as Hashem threatened (2:17) that they would die on the day that they ate from it? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel, Ramban, Bereishis Rabbah 19:8-22:1, Bamidbar Rabbah 5:4, Rashi Tehillim 90:4, Sefer HaGematrios of Rav Yehuda HeChossid, Ayeles HaShachar)

19) What was the first episode of domestic violence in history? (Baal HaTurim 3:12)

20) The Medrash relates (Vayikra Rabbah 10:5) that upon encountering Cain and hearing that he had repented his sin and received a lesser punishment, Adam was overwhelmed by the power of teshuvah and was inspired to formulate the chapter of Tehillim (92) known as מזמור שיר ליום השבת. What is the connection between this chapter and repentance? (Taima D’Kra, Introduction to Shu”t Ein Yitzchok, Ayeles HaShachar 4:16, Brisker Rov)

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