Rest and Creation

We encounter Noach in this week’s parsha who symbolizes an entity of rest (the root word being menucha) whose chief mission was to carry on the world in its already existing state. He is about bridging the gap of generations, not introducing chiddush. 

However, when analyzing the Book of Genesis, we must focus on creativity, for that is the backbone of perpetual existence. And therefore it’s important to take a look at last week’s parsha and see what’s the opposite of rest.

In last week’s parsha, the first two words of the Torah are “Breishis barah.” The first thing (Breishis) “is” creativity (brius). This idea comports with an awesome G-d that created something from nothing, Yesh Meayin (see Ramban at the beginning of Genesis).

Two chiddushim are then in order when discussing the blueprint that was used for this Yesh Meayin process, the Torah (Zohar Teruma 161b).

One can take the simple approach that this world is divided between the “learners” and the “workers” and stop there. After all this is how the Torah presents the dichotomy between Yissacher and Zevulen, as the verse says (Deuteronomy 33:18), “Rejoice, Zevulen, in your going forth, and, Yissacher, in your tents.” Yissacher is supported by Zevulen and Zevulen may happily go out to work.

Zevulen, besides having the workload is also required to be “Koveah itim LeTorah” (and who like Yissachar gets reward for Talmud Torah even as he’s working or performing anything mundane if the purpose of all of his activities are so that he can learn).

What about Yissacher though? What is expected of him? Is there a requirement within learning to achieve something greater than just full time study?

The following chiddush can be presented.

There’s a well-known Gemara (Shabbos 31a) that says, “When a person is led in for judgment [in the next world] the first two questions G-d asks are: “Nasasa v’Nasata b’Emunah“, “Kovata itim LeTorah.” ‘Did you transact your business honestly?”, “Did you fix times for the study of the Torah?”

The Gemara in Shabbos (that declares business dealings to be the first matter judged in heaven) seems to contradict another Gemara (Sanhedrin 7a) that says, “The first thing a person is judged on is his Torah.”Tosefos in Sanhedrin (s.v. elah) asks this question to which he provides two answers.

I believe there’s a third answer to overcome the seeming contradiction between the two Gemara’s and it’s based on the terminology used in the Gemara Shabbos. The first question is “Nasasa v’Nasata b’Emunah” which is conventionally translated to mean – was your business done in good faith. However, it could also be translated to mean was your “give and take” done in earnest. In actuality then, the first question in Gemara Shabbos is referring to Torah and aimed at the talmid chacham to probe as to whether his shakla v’tarya was done in earnest. Therefore, indeed the Gemara in Sanhedrin is correct, that one is first judged on his Torah, and the Gemara in Shabbos gives the parameters of that judgment challenging the give and take of the talmid chacham.

A second chiddush can touch upon a second level, a higher one, that the talmid chacham must strive for to call the Torah his own.

The Beis Halevi zt’l has an important insight on the verse in Genesis (2:2), “Vayechal Elohim bayom hashvi’i melachto asher asah vayishbot bayom hashvi’i mikol-melachto asher asah. “And on the seventh day, G-d completed the work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had done.” He notes that the verse says G-d completed creation on the” seventh” (not sixth) day implying that something was created on the seventh day as well. So he brings the Medrash quoted by Rashi on this verse, “What was the world still lacking? Rest. With the coming of Shabbos came (rest), and thus the work was completed and finished.”

The Beis Halevi explains that for the first six days G-d was performing melacha, meaning He was creating something out of nothing. However on Shabbos, a passive entity of rest came into being, a phenomenon that carried the world from that time into the future. Therefore, according to the Beis Halevi, the term melacha means something new, a chiddush, something that was never there before.

Now, we need only go to a Mishna in Pirkei Avot to understand what is demanded from a talmid chacham and every Jew of Israel when it comes to their learning.

The Mishna in Avot (2:2), (matching the citation in Genesis (2:2)) says “Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Judah HaNassi would say… Kol Torah shein imo melacha sofo betalah…”All Torah study that is not accompanied with work is destined to cease and to cause sin.”

Based on the Beis Halevimelacha means something anew, a chiddush. Therefore, Rabban Gamliel is simply saying whoever’s Torah doesn’t have melacha “chiddush” within it will be sofo betalah, cease and further cause sin, for it may be said that this means one is not engaged enough in the Torah to avoid sin. Amazingly, Torah without chiddush won’t survive (see Kinyan HachagHamodia Periodical, October 8, 2014 Page 15, Interview with Rav Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva of Mir who explained that his grandfather, Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel zt”l, would distribute money to anyone who proffered genuine chiddushim).

My father noted another chiddush, that the Mishna can be saying, “All Torah that has no melacha; namely, that has not been worked through, will in the end not last,” as one must work at the Torah and reach its innermost meaning.

Though Noach was a figure of passivity who bridged the gap of continued existence between generations, he did not highlight creativity that remains the theme of Genesis.

Creativity is the staple of the Creator and a path we should follow. Everyone has their own share in the Torah, a unique gift given to us as we are “individuals” that comprise a nation.


About the Author
Steven Genack is the founder of Aish Haolam