Friday, October 24, 2008

BREISHEET: AND A RIVER FLOWED FROM IT

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Most rivers flow towards the garden, the oasis. But the rivers in Eden flow in just the opposite direction! They flow from it, away from the garden!

And yet, the flow of life, of our lives, is towards the garden. As exiles we long to return to her. Are we like the holy salmon, swimming upstream, against the currents?

Each Sabbath represents a figurative return to the Garden, a taste of the Edenic paradigm, described in Hebrew as "me'eyn olam haba," a taste of the world to come (becoming). Each Sabbath we grab the Torah's handles, the atzei hayyim, branches from the tree of life, and raft like, on the skin ofthe Leviathan, a token of love from the walls of the heavenly sukkah, we ride against the whitewater rapids back to the Garden, cascading up the river which flows out of the Garden (Genesis 2:10):"

V'nahar yotzei me'eden lehashkot et hagan... and a river flows out of Eden to water the Garden."

How ironic. Wouldn't the river be more likely to water the Garden if it flowed INTO the Garden? The deepest answer is that Torah is compared to lifegiving waters. The more one gives Torah over to others the more watering comes back in return. The more one teaches, the more one learns. The more we give of ourselves to others, the more we get back in return.

Bracha, or blessing, comes from the word breicha, meaning calm pool of water. Waves of Torah learning coming and going simultaneously, shakla vetaria, a back and forth, a dance of give and take, do not create chaos. Instead, they cancel each other out, creating a calm pool, a tranquil white noise blotting out the cacaphonies of the noisome world. Torah is that calming pool, ironically derived from the sweat of toil.

Separation is a parting. In fact, lehipared means to part. Same root. But like the parting of the waters, they often find a reconnection. Learning and teaching Torah is a form of separation. We
separate out our knowledge from the storehouse of our accumulated learning and impart it to others.

Teaching Torah represents the dialectical synthesis at the very heart of this separation anxiety whereby we transcend the zero-sum consciousness inherent in all other spheres. Thus the other's gain is not my loss. My loss instead becomes my gain.

When we fulfill the Biblical dictum to teach our children we enable the next generation to build on the accumulated received wisdom, to add to it from their own insight and experience, and thus learn the lessons needed to return humanity to the Garden once more. Not only humanity as a whole benefits from this learning, but each human being becomes more refined as a beneficiary of this separating.

Now we understand the answer to the question of why does the river flow out of the Garden? Because in truth we are each a little Garden, a little Gan Eiden. When we teach Torah to others, the Torah becomes real, the Torah lives once more. Baruch Ata Hashem, Notein HaTorah- Blessed are You, Hashem, Who Gives the Torah. Torah is water. It's flowing like a River out from G*d. Eden is a paradigm modeled on G*d's paradigm.

Sin is the ultimate separator. But sins can be fixed. Humanity's unravelling can yet be respun.The very curses imposed on mankind at exile's dawn are actually the very clues to their self-same fixing, their tikkun.

Man's hegemonic reign over woman was a fundamental curse which led to much spiritual and social malaise. Our generation has witnessed the blossoming in awareness of the fundamental equality of the sexes, of the consciousness that true respect for the differences in the emotional make-up and psychic terra firma between the genders lends itself to a sense of greater spiritual and social harmony.

Genesis 1:27- "G*d thus created man in His image, in the image of G*d He created him, male and female He created them." So male and female entities are thus portrayed as having equal aspects of Divine origin, and yet their separateness is implied in the use of the him/them differential. Only through reversing inequalities and yet respecting differences, as the verse above implies, can mankind earn reentry to the Garden.

Adam assigned blame to Eve for the Fall. Didn't he know he was equally to blame? Man's reign over woman was descriptive, not prescriptive. He blamed her while she blamed the snake. Why didn't she protest that he was to blame for his own sin? By blaming the snake she thus became the man's enabler, allowing them both to claim victim status. And isn't so much of the strife and conflict in the world today about blaming others for our own lackings? We all claim victimhood on some level.

Only when this challenge is overcome can we say that the Messianic Age, whose first dawning we witness with Israel's rebirth, can be said to have finally arrived. As we become conscious of our emergence finally into the Sabbath/seventh millenium, leaving behind the muted light and dimmed awareness of earlier eons, our continued existence is fraught with anxiety.

The modern age has witnessed not a reduction of psychic tension even with all its advances, but rather its obverse. The Sabbath, the gift of Genesis, is Judaism's gift to the world, a welcome
nostrum and a healing balm for mankind's anxious soul. It is a river of light. A river of peace. Flowing from within our hearts out to the world.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!