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Shabbat Parashat Bereishit | 5770

Parashat Hashavuah:Considering Others is not Capitulation

Harav Yosef Carmel


Last year, we raised the question: Why, in the first description of creation, does just the name "Elokim" appear, while in the second description the name we call Havaya ("Ado…") also appears. One of the answers is in Rashi and is based on the fact that Elokim represents the attribute of din (strict judgment), whereas Havaya represents mercy. Hashem's first thought was that the world would be created based on din, but as Hashem saw that it could not survive, He incorporated mercy before din.

This answer, in some ways, raises more difficult questions than it resolves. What does it mean that the omniscient Hashem changed His mind? We therefore cited the S'fat Emet's explanation: ideas should arise based on din, without considering the challenges raised by a world of physicality. One must aspire for the ideal. When it comes to carrying matters out, the attribute of mercy must be factored in, in order that the matter can be maintained.

We also mentioned that the first description represents the approach of Beit Shammai, while the latter is in line with that of Beit Hillel. Let us now demonstrate from a different perspective, why we generally accept Beit Hillel's rulings.

We have just begun to pray for rain by mentioning the strength of Hashem's rain giving power. We will soon (in Israel) add the request for rain. Water is a "life sustainer." All sorts of organisms need H2O, including the crown of creation, man. Water on earth is described twice in the parasha. The great bodies of water are all connected at one level to form the oceans and seas, which sounds like a harmonious ideal. There is a second reference to a river that separates into four "heads." The number four in Jewish thought hints at multiplicity and differentiation, which seems regrettable. However, the water of the oceans cannot sustain human life as long as they remain salty, whereas rivers provide us with our fresh water supply.

The separation of the four symbolizes the reality that there will be splits among people, including in their approaches to things. We need not strive to remove differences of opinion. Allowing other opinions is not giving in but is a sign of hitchashvut, of considering the rights and needs of others, which is a strength.  Indeed, the gemara (Eruvin 13b) says that the opinion of Beit Hillel was accepted because they were humble and would present the view of Beit Shammai before their own. This consideration is higher than the Beit Shammai approach of attempting to reach the ideal. Both approaches are divrei Elokim chayim, they both have a prominent place in the world, but the world must run on the Beit Hillel approach.

We will remind ourselves that both Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel believed in social interaction and unity between them and, despite their disagreements, made sure that their different rulings, including on matters of family and personal status, would not prevent the daughters of one from marrying the sons of the other (Eiduyot 4:8).  


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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
Prof. Emeric Deutsch, z”l

member of
Eretz Hemdah’s Amuta. 

 This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld

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