There is a strange phenomenon that recurs throughout parshas Bereishis: the Torah describes one model of reality and then portrays a different and completely contradictory description. For example, in the first perek of Bereishis the Torah describes Adam as being created bi’tzelem Elokim, in the image of God. This depiction creates an inspiring and divine perception of man and his role in the world. However, in the very next chapter, the Torah describes man as a physical being, created from nothing more than the dirt of the earth- an identical description to the creation of animals. What happened to the Godly and inspiring depiction of man?
- Adam and Chava: One or Two?
A similar contradiction occurs with the creation of Chava. The midrash explains that originally Adam and Chava were created as a single androgynous being, connected by the back; man and woman were one. Hashem then split them into two independent, separate beings. This begs the question: if the ideal is for them to be connected, why split them apart? And if they were destined to be split apart, then why initially create them as one? Once again, we are presented with one model of reality before it is snatched away in favor of another.
- Luminaries and Trees?
Continuing our theme, let us focus on the creation of the luminaries. When describing the creation of the sun and moon, the passuk initially says that Hashem created two great lights. However, the passuk then continues by stating large light would illuminate the day while the small one would be dedicated to night. The midrash asks the obvious question: What happened to the two big lights? Why does the passuk begin by stating that there were two big lights, but then end off by saying that only the sun is big? The midrash famously explains that the moon was originally created equal to the sun, however, out of arrogance and ego, it asked Hashem how there could be two dominant lights. As punishment, Hashem shrunk the moon, and it became subservient to the sun.
A similar episode occurs with the creation of trees. Hashem states that there shall be fruit trees bearing fruits. The midrash explains this to mean that originally the trees themselves were supposed to taste like their fruits. However, in the actual creation of the trees we find that the trees do not taste like their fruits. The bark of trees tastes nothing like their sweet fruits. What is the meaning of this recurring pattern? Why are so many elements of creation described in one way before being described in a contradictory fashion?
- The Answer: An Ideal, Followed by the Starting Point
As we began to explain in the past, the answer to this theme is one of the most fundamental concepts in Judaism the deep explanation behind this process is explained by the Arizal, the Ramchal, the Vilna Gaon, and many other Jewish thinkers. They expound as follows: Every process contains three stages. The first stage is the high, the inspiration, an experience of perfection and clarity. Next comes the second stage: a complete fall, a loss of everything that was experienced in the first stage. Then we have the third stage, a return to the perfection of the first stage. However, this third stage is fundamentally different than the first. It is the same perfection, the same clarity, but this time it’s a perfection and clarity that you have earned. The first time it was given to you, now you have worked to build it for yourself.
The first stage is a gift, a spiritual high. It’s there to help you experience the goal, the destination. It’s a taste of what you can and hopefully will ultimately accomplish; but it’s not real, it’s given as a gift, and is therefore an illusion. It serves only as a guiding force, but can’t compare to the genuine accomplishment of building something yourself. It’s therefore taken away to allow for the second and most important stage: building it yourself, undergoing the work required to attain this growth in actuality, to work for the perfection that you were shown. A gift isn’t real, something chosen and earned is. We’re in this world to choose, to assert our free will, and to create ourselves. Now that we’ve tasted the first stage, we know what we’re meant to choose, what we’re meant to build. The third stage is the recreation of the first stage. While it appears the same, it’s fundamentally different. It’s real, it’s earned, it’s yours. The first stage was a gift, an illusion; the third is the product born of the effort and time you invested. These three stages are the secret behind many spiritual concepts: Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov; Chesed, Din, and Tiferes; Male, Female, and the child created from their bond of oneness. We will develop these themes in the future.
- The Ideal Adam
There are many explanations for the clear distinction between the contradicting descriptions of Adam in chapter 1 and chapter 2 of Bereishis. We can explain it beautifully according to our principle. The ideal and goal of man is to become Godly, to become perfect, all-knowing, all-good, all-kind, to have complete self-control. However, this is the goal, not the starting point. We start out as animalistic beings. A baby is born with no intellectual abilities and no developed character traits. He is selfish, he is the only person who exists, he is the center of his own world, he is the opposite of Godly. The goal of life is to become Godly, to actualize his potential to become tzelem Elokim. As we’ve explained in the past, the fetus learns kol ha’Torah kulah in the womb, and then loses it upon being born into this world. We are born imperfect so that we can journey through this world on the journey of becoming perfect, recreating and earning what we once received as a gift. Adam was created first as a perfect being, the model of who we each strive to become, before being reduced to the lowly and animalistic being that we begin our lives as.
- Adam and Chava: Creating Oneness
The ideal is for man and wife to be one, bonded in an indescribably oneness. Adam and Chava were literally created as one, a physical manifestation of a deeper existential oneness. However, this is the ideal, the destination. Man and wife are not born this way; they are created as two separate beings, with the mission to find each other and create that oneness. The gemara in Yevamos says that before a man and wife are born, they exist as a single neshama. Only once they are born into the world do they split apart and exist as two distinct beings. The goal is to then wonder the world in search of your soul-mate, choose each-other, and then recreate that oneness. Adam and Chava are created as one before being split apart to model the oneness that we are striving towards as husband and wife. (The mechanism of creating oneness will be discussed at a later point. The essence of it, as described by Rav Dessler, is endless giving of the self. We love ourselves. Giving yourself to someone expands your sense of self to include them.)
- The Moon and the Sun
The moon and the sun model the relationship of an entity and its vessel. The goal of a vessel is to fully and loyally contain and project the essence within it, to serve as the medium of revelation for its inner content. A light bulb does not block the light within, it loyally projects it out into the world. This is the ideal as well for the body in its relationship to the soul: the body must carry the soul and serve as its enabler, allowing the spiritual self to manifest itself correctly into the world. The entire physical world as well should ideally serve as the perfect projection of its spiritual source.
This ideal is modeled in the creation of the sun and moon. While the moon was never equal to the sun in size, it was originally able to fully reflect the light of the sun. The moon ruined this through the sin of ego, a projection of itself that prevented it from properly reflecting the light of the sun. When you assert yourself and your ego, you are unable to reflect anything higher than yourself. As a result, the moon “shrank”, and was no longer able to fully reflect the light of the sun.
This same theme applies to the human body as well. Originally, the body was a clear reflection of the soul. The midrash explains that when you looked at Adam, you did not see his body, you saw his essence, his soul. Much like when you look at a light bulb, all you see is the radiant luminescence. Only if you look really closely can you make out the vessel which contains the light. However, once Adam sinned, the body fell to its present form, a vessel which hides the soul, not one which loyally projects it. Every time we say birchas ha’chodesh, we daven for mashiach, where once again, the moon will fully reflect the sun, where the physical world will fully reflect the spiritual, where the body will fully reflect the soul. As the Ramchal explains (Derech Hashem- 1:3:13), in the times of techiyas ha’meisim, the body will once again be back in its perfected state, where it can fully reflect all the greatness and light of the neshama.
- Trees Tasting Like the Fruits
A fruit represents the end goal, the destination, the result of a process. The tree represents the process, the stage of growth and becoming. The ideal is for the process, the tree, to be as enjoyable and euphoric as the destination itself, the fruit. However, the world was created in a way where people don’t want to go through the process of becoming great, they simply want to be great. This impatience causes so many people to give up on their journey towards greatness.
This theme touches upon something very deep. The world to come is a place of being, a place of endpoint, whereby you enjoy everything you’ve built and become in this world. The consciousness and person you create in this world is what you will enjoy in the world to come. This world, however, is the place of becoming, the place of process, where you create yourself. The goal is to learn how to enjoy the process itself. When you realize that you are creating your eternity, you are able to enjoy the building process as well. This is what it means for the tree to taste like the fruits. The process is just as important as the destination, because you only get to the destination by building your way there. Every part of the process is fundamental, every moment spent right becomes eternal. When you know this, you get to live in Olam Habah, the world to come, while still in this world! Genuine happiness comes only from enjoying the process of becoming. You’ll never be perfect, but you can always become more perfect. Happiness comes from enjoying the process of becoming your best self, fulfilling your unique purpose in life.
- The Process of Life
This is the process of life. The ideal is shown, taken away, and it is then our job to journey through life, trying to recreate that ideal. The key is to be inspired by the goal, not depressed by the struggle. We need to understand that our goal is to become godly, to fully reflect our higher selves, to create oneness, and to enjoy every single step of the process!
Shmuel Reichman is an inspirational speaker who has lectured internationally at shuls, conferences, and Jewish communities on topics of Jewish Thought and Jewish Medical Ethics. He is the founder and creator of “Shmuel Reichman Inspiration: Think. Feel. Grow.”, a platform from which he shares inspirational Torah videos that have reached over one hundred thousand people. You can find more inspirational lectures, videos, and articles from Shmuel on Yutorah.org, Facebook, and YouTube. He can be reached at [email protected] for all questions, thoughts, or bookings.
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