Parshat Bereishit always comes on the heels of the Yamim Noraim period. We must ask ourselves: What message can we learn from the first Torah portion that can help us get our year rolling in the right direction?
Our Parshah relays the story of the eitz hadaat (the tree of knowledge), the root of all sins. Death has been brought to the world. Rebellion against G-d. G-d metes out punishments to all those involved. Immediately following this episode, Adam turns to Chava and speaks.
What would we expect this reaction to contain? Perhaps: “Look what you did!” Or: “What a great way to start civilization!”
However, all the Torah describes is the naming of the first woman as “Chava” attributed to her being the mother of mankind. Following this, we are told that G-d provides Adam and Chava with clothes, kotnot ohr. How shall we understand Adam’s reaction and the juxtaposition of the divine clothing provided?
I once heard an answer, based on an idea in a very different context.
In Shemot 22:30, we are told that if we have treifa meat, a kosher animal that suffered a wound while still alive and thus even shechita (slaughtering of certain mammals and birds for food according to kashrut) will not make this meat kosher for eating, we should give it to the dogs.
Why give the meat specifically to the dogs? Rashi relates it back to the silence of the dogs as we left Mitzrayim (Egypt). Daat Zekanim of the Baalei Tosfot offer a different suggestion: How did this animal become a treifa? It must be that some of the watchdogs who were meant to protect the sheep did not do their job successfully. They allowed a wolf to penetrate and maim one of the flock. The Torah, though, commands us, to still give the meat to the dogs. This dog protected the sheep day in, day out. He protected them yesterday, he will protect them tomorrow. Yes, he had a bad day, but keep things in proper perspective. Remember the loyalty of the past and future, and this will help shape how we view the present.
Adam turns to his wife, recognizes the gravity of the situation, and in spite of this is able to maintain a proper perspective of who she really is: the mother of mankind. He is able to look beyond the moment. G-d sees that courage and nobility, and acts in kind, by giving them divine clothing, though they had just sinned against Him.
The Talmud (Taanit 25b) tells us that the secret midah (character trait) for us to perfect in order to merit gifts from Above is ma’aveer al midotav, the ability to let things slide, to not take them personally. Every day of our lives, we are challenged in this area, and we are called upon to stand up to each challenge.
The idea of keeping a proper perspective in life is not only in the personal realm but in the national realm as well. Over the past two hundred years, we have merited to witness many miracles: the majority of world Jewry living in Eretz Yisrael, the fulfillment of prophecies in front of our eyes, the ability to walk the streets of Yerushalayim proudly and often. We must recognize these gifts from Above, and remember the thought of the Baalei Hatosfot!
Rabbi Shalom Rosner is a Rebbe at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and Rabbi of the Nofei HaShemesh community. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers)