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Parsha Bereshis

10/04/2018 08:02:48 PM

Oct4

The first letter of the Torah,“בְּ,” is the subject of much Midrashic and Kabbalistic thought, as the various sources grapple with why the Torah begins with the second letter of the alphabet as opposed to “א.”  One of the ideas mentioned is that א represents אֶחָד- togetherness and singularity, while בְּ (two) represents disconnect and separation, and that the world was formed with the premise of בְּ and not א.  The very existence of the world is predicated upon the themes of separation, and this is inherent in the name of the world itself, עולָם, being the root of concealment and hiding.  The root of the spirituality, Torah, begins with the letter א in אָֽנֹכִ֖י֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑֔יךָ- (the Ten Commandments), because Torah in its pure and absolute form is all about togetherness with the Almighty, but the overall world is defined through separation and letter בְּ.  Ironically, Chazal teach us that God stipulated with the world that it could only continue to exist if the Jews accept the Torah, and the בְּ is forced to accept a sense of dependency on א, but after all is said and done, we live in a world of separation; the world of בְּ.  

בְּ may be the number 2 and the theme of separation, but the fact that it is closed on three sides and open on its fourth indicates a sense of partial connection.  We may feel distant from God, but there is a “ladder” on the right side of the בְּ that connects the lower and upper portions.  Despite the openness of the left side, the right side offers ways to climb to the top of the letter.  

The letter בְּ is spelled “בּיתִ֛-” a home.  How odd is it that the letter of separation is spelled with the same meaning as the home!  Is the home not a symbol of togetherness and protection?  

We are fresh from the Holiday of Succos, where the Succa functioned as a sort of spiritual home for the Jews and the Almighty.  The key theme of the Succah is its transient and open nature, with its open fourth side and weak roof, and this hut comes to symbolize our relationship with God and his protection and comfort for us.  Here again, the same irony appears, because how can the Succa be the symbol of protection if it is so open and flimsy?  

In the Gemara in Sanhedrin 97, Mashiach is referenced as “Bar Nafli”- the son of the fallen one- and the Gemara links this strange name with the verse in Amos 9:11- On that day I will establish the booth of David that is fallen- בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא אָקִ֛ים אֶת־סֻכַּ֥ת דָּוִ֖יד הַנֹּפֶ֑לֶת.  By calling Messiah Bar Nafli, the Gemara is stressing the continuity of the Davidic dynasty.  The Messiah will not build a new dynasty; rather, he will restore that one that is currently fallen.  For this reason, the verse refers to the monarchy of David as a Succah, because when a permanent house collapses, the structure is typically ruined and an entirely new one must be built in its stead, but when a booth collapses, the original structure is easily restored to its formal state.  In the words of the Rambam, “The Messianic king will arise and restore the monarchy to its former state, to its original dominion.”   Sometimes, eternity is rooted in transience and flimsiness, and in order to endure destruction, an open side must exist that allows for freedom and autonomy.  The root of a strong home lies not in its ability to lock out all the outside elements and prevent anyone from leaving, but rather in its loose ability to create an atmosphere of shared values and emotions while leaving the door open for opportunities for exploration.  As the key for preservation, it is separation that functions as the catalyst for a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the Almighty.  We may fall and make mistakes, but the fact that we are choosing to leave the בּיתִ֛ makes re-entering the בּיתִ֛ possible.  Even when it appears that there is full destruction of the home, the truth is that it is more like a Succah and can easily be rebuilt.  

Sun, March 24 2019 17 Adar II 5779