Yael Chaya Miriam Gray

‘Torah In A Fur Coat’


If Sefer haBereishis is “Torah in peltz”[1] because it describes the seder hishtalshelut[2] in terms of the events and occurrences in the lives of the Patriarchs[3], then, based upon the verse, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness”[4], Bereishis may also be read as the story of the development and individuation of the Adamic “personality”[5].

This is the meaning of Bereishis 2:4, “These are the generations of the heaven and the earth when they were created, on the day when Hashem created the earth – [viz., at twilight on the sixth day of creation, Rosh Hoshannah – accounted as the “birthday of the world” – when Adam drew his first breath] – and the heavens [the upper worlds, which were created for the sake of the lower world, and not vice versa].” Adam “saw from one end of the world [Atzilut] to the other [Asiyah]”[6], connecting and partaking of both the “heavens” [Yechidah, Chaya, Neshama], above, and “earth” [Ruach and Nefesh], below.

This is one of the myriad reasons why G-d decided to begin the Torah with the letter, Beit. The Beit = 2 = Adam, G-d’s Bayit (“house”) and partner in creation. For Adam was raised up from the dust of the adamah, the earth’s surface, from the very location of the Beis HaHaMikdash, G-d’s Bayit, and was filled with the breath of the living, pre-existent Aleph = 1 = G-d, also called En Sof or the Ayin. In a very real sense, all of the characters in Sefer HaBereishis are Adam. Or iterations of Adam, his gilgulim and constituent souls, as it were [7].

And this is one of the myriad reasons why G-d gave the word, “Bereishis,” a pre-eminent place as the first word of the Torah, and as name to the very first book of the Torah’s five: to teach us that “the beginning” is to learn to read His words with the intention of hearing His voice. In Torah, “words” and “voice” are two, entirely different levels of comprehension. (R. Gershom Henoch Leiner, Sha’ar HaEmunah VeYesof HaChassidut, Sefaria). This is evidenced by what the angel said to Avrohom when blessing him after he slaughtered the ram instead of Yitzchok: “For you have listened to my VOICE.” Id.

Would that every member of Klal Yisroel now alive possessed the will and capability to write 70 volumes on this one, little word – Bereishis – as did R. Shimon Bar Yochai!


[1] “Torah in a fur coat.” The Belzer Rebbe. See also, the Ba’al Shem Tov. The deeper interpretation of any Torah verse is hidden, like a fur coat hides the shape of the body wearing it. The entire book of Bereishis is like this.

[2] There are two points of view (POVs): “as to G-d”: how He sees things; and “as to us”: how we see things. (R. Gershom Henoch Leiner in Sha’ar HaEmunah VeYesod HaChassidut, translation and commentary by Betzalel Phillip Edwards, Sefaria version). “As to G-d,” the creation wrought absolutely no change, and it is an article of faith for us that G-d is, was, and always will be the same, eternal and unaffected by anything or anyone other than Himself. (R. Moshe Maimonides, Moreh Nevuchim; the 13 Principles.) “As to us,” however, it’s a different story. From our own, limited POV, the seder hishtalshelut can be most easily understood as the development and individuation of the Divine “personality” within the envelope of time-space. (See, e.g., the ARIZAL’s Eitz Chayim, Introduction and Chapter 1).

[3] Some think that the Bereishis narratives are simple stories about what happened to our forebears in the misty times before written history. While that might be so, it is not all that these stories are. Bereishis is freighted with meaning upon meaning and layer upon layer of complexity, so nothing could be further from the truth, or a more misleading oversimplification.

In the realm of Torah interpretation, it is axiomatic that “as above, so below.” The reverse is also true: “as below, so above.” So, with respect to things that appear in the Torah to have happened below, in this world of Asiyah, they are symbolic of things that really have happened in the upper worlds of Tohu, Atzilut, Beriyah, and Yetzirah (see the Kitvei ARIZAL, in its entirety). And, with respect to things that appear in the Torah to have happened in the upper worlds, in the worlds of Tohu, Atzilut, and Yetzirah, they are really symbolic of things that happened in this lower world of Asiyah (see Bereishis 1; Bereishis Rabbah).

Consequently, “not a word of the Torah concerns this [lowest] physical world [of Asiyah].” (Cf. Zohar, Ba’al HaSulaam’s Commentary on the Zohar). Rather, at least in Bereishis, the Torah relates primarily to the upper worlds, using the language of events and occurrences that happened to personages in the lower world. So, with respect to things the Torah recounts as occurring below which are really symbolic of events and processes occurring above, the Patriarchs, themselves, are the Sefirot. (Bereishis Rabba, as described herein).

That is, the call of Avrohom is the birth of the Divine attribute of Chesed. The Akeidah is the voluntary limitation by G-d of His attribute of Gevurah (Judgment, Power) – and this is Yitzchok. Yaakov, the perfect man, the man of truth, is the Divine attribute of Tiferet, Beauty or Harmony, Truth, etc. And so on. Id. And the events and occurrences in the lives of the Patriarchs here, in this lowest world of Asiyah, as described in Sefer HaBereishis, are – all of them – symbolic of events and processes occurring above, in the upper worlds of Tohu, Atzilut, Beriyah, and Yetzirah.

Specifically, see Bereishis Rabbah 19:

“And they heard the sound of Hashem Elokim moving about in the garden in the windy part of the day.” (Genesis, 3:8)… Rabbi Abba Bar Kahana said: It doesn’t use the word מהלך here, but rather מתהלך, which implies jumping and rising. The Shechina was originally in the lower worlds, but when Adam sinned, it left to the first heaven. When Cain sinned, it left to the second, in the generation of Enosh to the third, in the generation of the flood to the fourth, in the generation of the tower of Babel to the fifth, in the generation of Sedom to the 6th, in the generation of the Egyptians to the 7th. 7 righteous men arose corresponding to them: Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Levi, Kehos, Amram and Moshe. Avraham brought it down to the 6th, Yiztchak brought it down from the 6th to the 5th, Ya’akov brought it down to the 5th to the 4th, Levi brought it down from the 4th to the 3rd, Kehos brought it down from the 3rd to the 2nd, Amram brought it down from the 2nd to the 1st, and Moshe brought it down from above to below. Rabbi Yitzchak said: It is written “The righteous will inherit the land [and rest forever on it].” (Psalms, 37:29) Are the wicked floating in the air? Rather, [the intent of the verse is that] the wicked do not cause the Shechinah to dwell on the land.”

[4] Bereishis 1:26. Why is this verse written, “Let Us create” and “in OUR image and likeness”? To whom was G-d speaking? The simple answer is, G-d is talking to the angels, and that, before creating Adam, G-d humbly consulted with the them, as a home-builder consults with an architect before building. But I like the answer given by the Ba’al Shem Tov: G-d was talking to us, to the Adam He was creating. (See, e.g, Shir HaShirim, in its entirety, and all of its various commentaries.)

Because the spirit of G-d chooses to dwell within Adam (in the form of his soul, which is “a part of G-d above), Adam is G-d’s first chosen dwelling place, the “starter home” within which G-d first chooses to dwell and to reveal Himself in a manifest way. Then Adam’s distinguished descendent, Shlomo haMelekh, in his love of and zeal for Hashem, built the Beis HaMikdash, and situated its Kadosh Kadoshim (Holy of Holies) – the place between the two cheruvim, from which G-d speaks, thereby explicitly revealing Himself – on the very same spot from which Hashem took the dirt from which He made Adam (Targum Yerushalmi to Bereishis 2:7), breathed into it, and transformed it from a golem into a brand-new, living thing, a semi-divine being, with his “head” in the upper worlds and his feet upon the lowest world, the earth (Sanhedrin 38a).

Adam was/is a meta-world (Adam Kadmon), the supernal pattern after which G-d emanates His worlds, and the structure of the worlds parallels Adam’s structure. This is what our Sages meant when they said that, before the sin, Adam saw “from one end of the world [Atzilut] to the other [Asiyah]” : that Adam’s very soul was then a fit habitation for HaKodesh Baruch Hu.

When Adam sinned, the Shekhinah fled (see footnote [3], above). The generations sinned, further, and the Shekhinah receded still more. Id. And so on and so on. Until the Shekhinah had retreated into the seventh heaven. Id.

Then came Avrohom and seven of his descendants – Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Levi, Kehos, Amram and Moshe – who reversed the process (see footnote [5], below). Their efforts culminated in G-d giving the Torah to Israel (Id.), albeit through the mouth of Moshe Rabbeinu (because we were terrified to hear the words directly from G-d’s own mouth). But, sadly, as soon as possible after Israel experienced this great revelation, they “fled Mount Sinai like schoolchildren when the bell rings for recess” (R. Ephraim Nisenbaum).

Because of this, and because of the people’s sins, G-d commanded them, through Moshe, to build the holy Mishkan as an atonement and as a dwelling place for Him, a place where He would reveal Himself in a manifest way. After that, the holy Temple was stood up, to serve the same exalted purpose.

Sadly, because of our sins, the two Temples – the place of G-d’s habitation and manifest Presence upon the earth – were destroyed, and we were exiled from our land. Now, G-d’s preferred dwelling place – the place of His manifest Presence – is, as it has always been, within US.

And this may have been G-d’s original intention. For, presumably, since the soul of Adam is the very first dwelling place in which Hashem chose to abide and to reveal Himself in a manifest way, the soul of Adam is likely G-d’s preferred dwelling place. The Mishkan and the Temples – though incalculably holy – were glorious, Divine accommodations to human frailty and man’s need for physicality in his worship.

That is why, when we return the Torah to the ark, the Men of the Great Assembly decreed we say, “Arise, O Hashem, and return among the myriad hosts of Israel”, for it is in them that You dwell. And what is a dwelling, if it is not a house? And what is a body, if it is not a house for the sacred soul? And what is a soul, if it is not a part of Adam? This is why I say that Adam is G-d’s Bayit (the spiritual Beis HaMikdash (the Third Temple?)

On this general subject, see Bereishis Rabbah 5: “See also, generally, Bereishis Rabbah 5: “And Joshua said to the children of Israel, Come here…” (Joshua 3:9) R’ Huna said: he stood them all up between the two poles of the ark. R’ Acha bar R’ Chanina said: he placed them between the two poles of the ark. The Rabbis said: he shrank them between the two poles of the ark. Yehoshua said to them: from the fact that the two poles of the ark could hold you, you know that Presence of the Holy One is among you. This is what is written ‘By this you shall know that the living God is in your midst…’ (Joshua 3:10)

[5] See footnote [3], above. Adam is the microcosm to G-d’s macrocosm. With respect to things in the Torah that appear to be happening in the world above, but are also really symbolic of what is happening in the world below – the cosmic processes of creation described in Bereishis 1 – are really symbolic and emblematic of the spiritual development and individuation of the Adamic personality in pre-history. (See Bereishis Rabbah 2, below). For, in a very real sense, all of the principal characters in Sefer HaBereishis are Adam. (Sha’ar Ha Gilgulim of the ARIZAL by R. Cham Vital Calabrese). Or iterations of Adam, his gilgulim and his constituent souls. Id.

In this regard, see especially, e.g., Bereishis Rabbah 2:

“Rabbi Yehudah the son of Simon interpreted this reading as applying to generations: “and the earth was formless and void” (tohu vavohu), this is Adam the first, since he was made made entirely into nothing. “And void” (vavohu), this is Cain, who sought to return the world to “formlessness and void”. And “darkness” (choshech), this is the generation of Enosh, on whom further [it says] “and their works were in darkness (bemach’shach)” (Isaiah 29:15) and they said “who is watching us and who will see us?”. “On the face of the deep (tehom)”, this is the generation of the flood, as it is said “On this day all the springs of the deep (tehom) were broken open” (Genesis 7:11). “And the spirit (ruach) of God fluttered over the face of the waters” on which it is further said “And God caused a wind (ruach) to pass over the earth” (Genesis 9:1). The Holy One, blessed be He, said: “how long shall the universe accustom itself to deep darkness? Let the light come!”: “And Hashem said let there be light”, this is Abraham. See! It is written “Who has raised (heʿir) up one from the east, righteousness” (Isaiah 41:2); do not read “raised up (heʿir with an ayin), but rather “illuminate” (heʾir with an alef). “And Hashem called the light ‘day'”, this is Jacob. “And the darkness he called night”, this is Esau. “And it was evening”, this is Esau. “And it was morning”, this is Jacob. “And there was evening”, the evening of Esau. “And there was morning”, the morning of Jacob. “One day (yom echad)” as it is written “And there shall be one day (yom echad) which shall be known as the Hashem’s, not day, and not night” (Zechariah 14:7). There is another issue with one day, that the Holy One, blessed be He, have him “one day”, and what is this? Yom Kippur.”

[6] The Ba’al Shem Tov.

[7] See, e.g., the Sha’ar HaGilgulim of the ARIZAL, by R Chaim Vital Calabrese, his most trusted student. You have to read most of the book to reach this conclusion.

Copyright 2022, Yael Chaya Miriam Gray, Cleveland, Ohio, upon finishing learning Sha’ar HaAEmunah VeYesod HaChassidut for the first time and beginning to re-learn Bereishis Rabbah, as if for the first time.

looking forward art gallery GIF by Feliks Tomasz Konczakowski

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