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Shabbat Parashat Toldot 5772

Ein Ayah: Attributing Our Innovations to Hashem

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 8:1)

Gemara:  Beit Shammai say: [The text of the beracha is] “Shebara meor ha’esh” (Who created the light of the fire). Beit Hillel says: “Borei meorei ha’esh” (Who created the lights of the fire).


Ein Ayah:  At the foundation of the beracha on fire is the following important idea. It is not just those things that Hashem created directly that are to be considered His creations. Rather, we are to attribute to Hashem even “artificial” things that man with his innovations develops through nature. This is because Hashem created nature in such a manner that it is fit to join up with human intellect, which itself is a creation of Hashem, designed to uncover and create powers in the natural world, as these discoveries become appropriate.

For this reason, we recite a beracha on the first discovery/innovation that mankind made with his G-d-given wisdom: fire/light. Our Rabbis already taught us (Pesachim 54a) that Hashem gave Adam a divine inspiration, and he rubbed two stones together and produced fire from between them.

This idea serves as a prototype for the proper outlook on all future matters that man developed. All individual discoveries are to be viewed as a product of Hashem, as they are discovered in each generation. It is like the vegetation of the field, where each species has its own time when it sprouts forth. When the time comes for a certain natural power to be discovered or harnessed by mankind, the factors arise to kindle man’s interest and/or ability to do so. Our recognition of Hashem’s part in this type of creation, as well, is thus parallel to our observance of Shabbat to recognize that which Hashem did during the six days of creation. The difference is that on Shabbat, we credit Hashem for creation, in general, in which man had no part. In the beginning of the new week of human activity, we testify that even all of our actions are actually from Hashem, with man’s discovery and development of fire being one of them.

[In his introduction to Ein Ayah, Rav Kook referenced this piece. There he said that just as we attribute to Hashem our ability to discover things that are planted in the physical natural world, so too we attribute to His providence man’s ability to uncover ideas that are hidden in the Torah, the purely intellectual. Hashem’s providence allows ideas planted in the words of the Torah and Chazal to be discovered and used in later generations.]


Blessing About the Past

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 8:2)


Gemara: All agree that “bara” refers to a creation in the past. Where they argue is referring to borei. Beit Shmmai understands that this refers to the future [and should not be used]; Beit Hillel reasons that it also relates to the past.


Ein Ayah: All agree that within the framework of berachot that refer to creation, they should be recited in the past tense. It is true that the world is being constantly recreated, so to speak, by its continued existence, as the pasuk says: “For He makes great luminous bodies, for His grace is eternal” (Tehillim 136:7). We also say in davening: “He renews in His goodness everyday, always, the products of genesis.” However, the main obligation is to clarify that there is no change in His knowledge and His will. Therefore, regarding the same matters that we would talk about in relation to man in the future or present, we talk about in regard to Hashem in the past tense. Therefore, the language we use in our berachot is that which refers primarily to the past.    


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