|Rebbetzin next to grape vines in her garden|
Bereishit - A new beginning, the bar mitzvah parasha of my youngest son Netanel Shalom, now turning 16. No more balloons, treasure hunts and birthday games. Now he can begin to learn to drive. I hope that even if he drives away from us, he will always return. Likewise the lights of the holidays, even if we move away from them, will we return to them as they return to us?
The first parasha of the New Year introduces the Divine Eternal Light, which we, Jews, have the ability to call to us, at every moment, to illuminate the dark times of our life.
This week's parasha meditation below helps to light up the darkness of our unsettled confusions, and engender a settled mind and clarity.
With Blessings of the Torah & the Land,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum
Read Rebbetzin's Commentary to Haftorat Bereshit "The Holy Women who Protect Israel"
Parasha Meditaion Bereshit
The world is born anew with a twofold beginning. The first word in the Torah בְּרֵאשִׁית – Bereishit – “in the beginning” can also be broken up to ב-רֵאשִׁית - two beginnings. These two beginnings correspond to chesed and gevurah – love and awe. With these two מידות – attributes, G-d created the heavens and earth. Both the spiritual and the material realm were created by means of these two beginnings. Likewise everything on earth is created in pairs – masculine and feminine. Within the human being as well, we have two eyes, ears, arms, legs etc. The right eye, ear, arm etc. correspond to chesed, while the left to gevurah. Both of these opposite energies were unified in the Creation as it states “‘I am your G-d…’ and ‘Don’t have other gods’ were said together.” “I am your G-d…” includes all the positive mitzvoth deriving from chesed/love; and “Don’t have other gods…” includes all the negative mitzvoth deriving from gevurah/awe. Although these two energies are opposed, they are unified in the spiritual realm. Perfected Divine service includes both attributes of chesed and gevurah as one. We need to carry out every single mitzvah that we perform – positive and negative alike through both love and awe. Serving Hashem through love entails giving Him the very best, whereas serving Him through awe entails overcoming ourselves and doing what is the very hardest for each of us. We were placed in this world specifically to rectify the thing that is the very hardest in life for us, where the yetzer hara (negative impulse) is strongest.
חסד Chesed גבורה Gevurah
אהבה Love יראה Awe
שמים Heavens ארץ Earth
רוחני Spiritual ארציים Mateiral
ימין Right שמאל Left
אנוכי... The First Commandment לא יהיה לך The Second Commandment
מצוות עשה The positive commandments מצוות לא תעשה The Negative Commandments
נשמה Soul גוף Body
Between Clarity and Confusion
וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחשֶׁךְ עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם... – “The earth was desolate and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep…” וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי אוֹר – “And G-d said let there be light.”
Why did the creation narrative specify what was before the creation of light? During the rest of the creation it only stated what Hashem created, without describing what was before their creation. Netivat Shalom explains that immediately at the beginning of creating heaven and earth, the Torah teaches us that creation is divided into two: the heavens connected to the realm of the soul, and the earth connected to the realm of the body. “The earth was desolate and void” – The earthly matters of the body, into which people sink down, bring us to desolation and void – that is confusion. The highest way of serving Hashem is through ישוב הדעת – yishuv ha’da’at – a settled mind and clarity, the opposite is desolation, void and a confused mind. All the earthly things even those permitted cause an unsettled mind and confusion. However, when the light of G-d that shines through us, “G-d said let there be light” – then we have the ability to raise up all the earthly matters to the service of Hashem.
Oh G-d Let there be Light!
Although אור הגנוז – ohr haganuz – the hidden light was hidden away for the righteous in the World to Come, the light was never really buried, for had it been completely hidden away then the world would not have been able to exist even for one moment. Yet, it was buried like a seed concealed under the earth, while the seed disintegrates, it brings forth new life. The very brightest Divine light is still with us, ready to be revealed when we ask for it. Without Divine light a Jew cannot survive even for one moment. When we experience great darkness, all we need to do is to call out to Hashem !אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר – “G-d let there be light!” When we read the Torah verse וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר – “G-d said let there be light” without the first word וַיֹּאמֶר – “said,” then it becomes a prayer: “Please G-d let there be light!” When calling out to Hashem through the darkness of our life – “Oh Hashem I’m sinking in darkness, please enlighten my despair!” then Hashem helps us. He answers with His shining light, which was only hidden away for those who do not seek it. Yet, when we ask: “G-d let there be light…” then the continuation of the verse “…and there was light,” is activated.
Sit down. Make yourself comfortable in a quiet place where you can be alone with yourself for ten to fifteen minutes. Make sure you phones are turned off. Relax, close your eyes. Breath in relax, breath out relax, relax relax. Allow all the impressions of your day flow through you.
1. Let the right side of your forehead relax, your right eye, right ear, cheek, nose mouth and chin. Imagine and feel the entire right side of your head relaxed including the back of your head.
2. Imagine drawing the outline of the right side of your body, relax as you draw. The right side of your neck, your right shoulder, right upper arm, elbow, lower arm, each of the fingers, relax, relax relax.
3. Continue drawing in your mind’s eye up the underside of your hand, wrist, arm, all the way up to your armpit. From the armpit a curved line to your waist, extending outwards to the outline of your hip, relax, relax relax.
4. Continue drawing all the way down your right thigh, knee, calf, foot and toes, back up the foot to the ankle, the inside of your calf, knee, and thigh relax, relax relax.
5. Now continue from the point in between your legs down the inside of your left thigh, knee, calf, foot and toes, back up the foot to the ankle, the outside of your calf, knee, and thigh relax, relax relax.
6. Continue drawing in your mind’s eye up the extended outline of your left hip, the curved line to your waist, all the way up to your armpit relax, relax relax.
7. From the armpit draw the outline of the underside of your left arm all the way down to your wrist, then continue through each of the fingers, to the outer side of your hand, lower arm, elbow and upper arm all the way up to the left side of your neck relax, relax relax.
8. Allow your right ear to relax, your cheek, right eye and right side of your forehead. Feel how your entire body is relaxed, yet tingling with energy.
9. Try to imagine the entire outline of your body as you are seated today in your place, as you breathe deeply and relaxed.
10. Now focus on the point between your eyes, and imagine complete darkness, imagine the blackness of black mixed with different shades of darkness from murky darkness to the most pitch black darkness.
11. Imagine the darkness filled with gray clouds of confusion. Each cloud contains one of your personal confusions, something you are unclear about, different murky mixed up confusions about what to believe and what to do. Each cloud carries within its void desolation a particular confusion of yours.
12. Bring one of the murky clouds of confusion close, enlarge it in your mind’s eye, and open up the confusion residing within it. As you think about this particular issue for which you seek clarity and imagine it before you, pray silently to Hashem: !אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר – “G-d let there be light!” Visualize how G-d’s light begins to illuminate this dark cloud, which slowly evaporates. Feel your mind settle about this particular confused issue which has now been transformed to complete clarity. Repeat this with the rest of the murky clouds of confusion.
13. Breathe deeply and slowly from your nose as you feel the entire outline of your body both right and left illuminated with Divine tingling light.
“The people who walk in darkness saw a great light.” This refers to the Oral Torah which is difficult and painful to learn. Some people lose sleep over it, and wear themselves out for its sake. They don’t eat, drink or sleep, and by means of this they merit to see great light – the hidden light which is revealed before them. By means of hard work in the Torah we can purify the earthly matters. “I have created the yetzer hara, I have created the Torah its antidote.” Also on Shabbat, Ohr Haganuz – “The Hidden Light” is revealed. On the holy Shabbat, we, Jews have the power to elevate all our earthliness. “You shall keep the Shabbat for it is holy (לָכֶם) to you.” The word לָכֶם – “to you” can also refer to your matters. The light that shines on the holy Shabbat gives us the ability to sanctify even our own earthly matters which get illuminated by the Divine light.
 Tikunei Zohar 13a.
 Ben Yehoyada Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 99a.
 Shemot 20:2.
 Shemot 20:3.
 Netivat Shalom, Bereishit,Two Beginnings p. 16.
 Bereishit 1:2-3.
 Netivat Shalom, Bereishit “and there was light” page 17-19.
 Zohar, part 2, 148b- 148a.
 Bereishit 1:3.
 Yesha’yahu 9:1.
 Babylonian Talmud, Kedushin 30b.
 Zohar, part 1 21a.
 Shemot 31:14.