MeAm Lo'ez on Bereishit
The Seventh Day of Creation - The First Shabbat

2:1 Finished were the heaven and earth, and all their host.

In the Friday night Amidah, the entire paragraph (v1-3) must be recited. This paragraph is usually referred to as VaY'chulu. After the Amidah, the Cantor repeats this paragraph in a loud voice so that those who cannot read are able to fulfill their obligation to say it by listening to his chanting. (Orach Chayim 281)

The entire congregation should stand when the Cantor reads this paragraph. Reciting VaY'chulu is like bearing witness that G-d created the world. Whenever a person gives testimony [in a Jewish court of law] he must stand, not sit. We therefore do the same when we say this.

Even though this could be understood from the preceding verses, the Torah explicitly states that, "The heaven and earth were finished," to teach us that everything in the world, whether on land or in the sea, was created in thse six days, each thing in its proper time. After this, nothing new was formed. (Bereishit Rabbah)

A nonbeliever once asked one of the Talmudic Sages to prove the authenticity of the Shabbat. The Sage presented evidence from a river known as the Sambatyon. During the six weekdays it flows like a torrent, casting stones high in the air; while on the Shabbat, it rests, and its stones do not move from their places. (Sanhedrin 7)

There are two things in Judaism with which even the gentiles agree. The first is that G-d created the world in six days; and the second is that He will eventually resurrect the dead. They believe in the immortality of the soul because they see that communication with the dead is possible by various mystical practices. The fact that one cannot communicate with animals is a sign that animals will not be resurrected. (Reshit Chachmah, Shaar haAhavah 5)

It was obviously possible for G-d to have created the world in a single instant. According to at least one opinion, that is the manner in which creation took place. One might then ask why the Torah divided creation into six days. Furthermore, why was the world created in precisely six days, no more and no less? (Ramban ad loc.; Tshuvot Rashba 9; Abarbanel, p. 22; Bachya, p. 10)

The reason is that the world was destined to last for six thousand years. ([Sanhedrin 10.] See Rabbi Yosef of Trani [Tzfanat Paneach, Venice, 1648] in his derashot, who dispute this) Each of these six days alludes to what would happen in a paticular millenium.

On the first day, light was created, followed by darkness. The light represents Adam, who was an enlightened, perfect being. As long as he was in Gan Eden, he was the most excellent thing in all creation, the very light of the world. But after he sinned and was expelled from the Garden, darkness began to set in. Kayin was born, bringing murder to the world. The generation of Enosh began to practice idolatry. All of this happened in the first millenium after creation.

In the account of the first day, the word "light is found five times, while the word "darkness" occurs thrice. This suggests that during the first thousand years, there was much good and little evil.

The second day represents the Great Flood, which took place during the second millenium. For this reason the expression, "it was good," is not found in the account of this day. The second day suggests a time of evil, when the world was destroyed by the Flood. This is one reason our sages advised that a new job not be begun on the second day (Monday).

On that day, a firmament was created, forming a separation between the upper and the lower waters. This is an allusion to Avraham, born during this millenium, who formed a separation in the human race [between those who believed in the One True G-d and those who did not]. Through his great intellect, he disproved the false beliefs that were popular in his day, and taught the greatness of G-d.

The third day parallels the third millenium, and the expression, "it was good," occurs twice. The first time refers to the nullification of the decree of the Flood and the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, both of which occurred in the is millenium. The second represents the giving of the Torah, which took place 2448 years after creation (in 1312 b.c.e.).

On the third day, G-d commanded that the Earth give forth fruit trees and all sorts of vegetation. They remained in the ground until Adam was created; only then did they emerge. This also alludes to the third millenium. While the Jews were in Egypt, although their population increased dramatically, they were still in a very degraded state; but when they received the Torah, their true stature was revealed.

The fourth day parallels the fourth thousand years, the age when Yisrael had its own kings and enjoyed unparalleled peace. This was also a time of extraordinary wisdom.

On this day, two great lights were created, the larger light (the sun), and the smaller light (the moon). During this millenium, there was a further revelation of the "great light" of the Torah through the "smaller light" of the Sages, embodied in the Mishnah, Talmud and Midrash. The "smaller light" thus implies the Oral Torah which G-d gave to Moshe on Har Sinai.

The two lights also refer to the two Temples which were built [in Yerushalayim] during this period. Even though the First Temple was built during the third millenium, its main greatness was achieved in the fourth. It is suggested by the "larger light" since people in that period experienced the radiance of the Divine Presence, as well as Divine Inspiration (Ruach HaKodesh). It was also a time of many enlightened prophets; as well as one when the Urim and Thumim (on the High Priest's breastplate] was in use.

The "smaller light" thus means the Second Temple, when the above advantages no longer existed. The stars are then the kings and members of the Great Assembly, who flourished during the fourth millenium.

The fifth day parallels the fifth millenium, during which the Holy Temple was destroyed and the nations of the world began to dominate one another. They are like the fish and other animals which swallow one another. [Birds were created on this day, ruled by the eagle, the symbol of Rome.] Even today, a number of nations use the eagle as their emblem. The "great dragons" created on the fifth day suggest the great world powers which dominate mankind.

The sixth day parallels the sixth millenium. Adam was created on this day as the epitome of creation. This is an allusion to the Mashiach, whom we hope will come during this millenium.

The seventh day, which is the Shabbat, parallels the World to Come, a time of complete good and tranquility for those who are worthy of it.

Another thought is also suggested by the phrase, "Finish were the heaven and earth." [In Hebrew, the word "finished" is kalah, from which is derived the word Kallah, meaning bride.] The verse therefore suggests that heaven and earth were adorned like a beautiful bride.

Thus, it is an obligation to great the Shabbat with joy, [as one greets a bride]. The Talmud relates that, as the Shabbat approached, Rabbi Yanai would say, "Come O Bride, Come O Bride." Orach Chayim 262; Tikunei Zohar 24

It is currently customary to recite the poem Lecha Dodi [written by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabatz (1505-1584)] every Friday night before Evening Service. Even if a person worships at home, this should be said. [The refrain of this poem is]

Lecha dodi likrat kalah. Penei shabbat nekabelah.
Come my beloved to greet the Bride. The Shabbat presence let us welcome!

It is a beautiful poem about the greatness of the Shabbat and how we greet this day as people go out to greet a king or accompany a bride.

The custom is not to say Lecha Dodi on Yom Kippur when it occurs on Friday night. Sheyarei Keneset HaGedolah

A person should put on special Shabbat garments for the Evening Service, and not worship while wearing his weekday clothing. It is sinful to come to the synagogue in weekday clothes, since it shows that one does not respect the Shabbat. When we greet the Shabbat, we must honor it, wearing our best clothing, just as we would if we were greeting a king. We should respect the Shabbat Queen no less than earthly royalty.

The phrase, "the heaven and the earth were finished," also implies that the world endures through the merit of the Torah. Therefore, it was only after Adam was created that the Torah says "the heaven and the earth were finished." This teaches us that creation was only completed with man, who would be destined to keep the Torah. Rabbi Yoshia Pinto,] Kesef Nivchar (Damascus, 1605).

2:2 On the seventh day G-d finished all his work which He made. He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He made.

This is one of the verses that the Jewish elders changed when they translated the Torah for King Talmi (see Chapter 1). If they had rendered it, "on the seventh day G-d finished," it could have been misinterpreted that G-d continued to work on the seventh day. This is especially true since the scripture repreats this a number of times. They rendered this verse thus, "On the sixth day G-d finished." By the end of the sixth day, the end of the sixth day, the entire act of creation had been completed. (Megillah, chapter 1)

We, who believe in the truth of the Torah, must understand why it uses such an ambiguous expression. For this, we must resort to the teachings of our Sages.

The first reason is based on the fact that we must begin to observe the Shabbat a shor while before sunset, while it is still light outdoors. (Orach Chayim 261). Before going into this, there are several points that require explanation.

First we must discuss the concept of twilight (Bein HaShamashot) [when it is neither day nor night]. This is a period during which an average person can walk three quarters of a mile, or some fifteen hundred paces. This is somewhat less than a quarter hour before nightfall.

The Talmudical Sages, who were familiar with all diciplines, calculated that in the course of a day, walking an average pace, neither running nor tarrying, a person can walk ten leagues. This is approximately forty miles. If these forty miles are then divided among the twelve hours of the day, it comes out that he walks three and a third miles per hour.

Each mile is two thousand paces. Therefore, three fourths of a mile is fifteen thousands paces. This can be walked in just under a quarter of an hour.

If a person makes a fire [or does any other work] during this twilight period, he is risking committing the sin of violating the Shabbat. There is a question as to whether this twilght period is a part of the day or of the night.

Besides this quarter hour, G-d commanded us to add some time to the Shabbat and begin observing it somewhat early. This is logical. When a person has an important appointment, he does not wait until the last minute to arrive. In such a case, he makes every effort to be early.

It would be preferable to begin keeping the Shabbat two hours before its time comes; indeed, this was the practice of those tzaddikim who were careful in keeping the laws. But, since G-d gave us the commandment in order to reward us for observing then, He did not give us any order that would be impossible to obey. G-d therefore did not command us to add a long interval to the Shabbat; merely to add enough time to show that one truly anticpates greeting the Shabbat.

A person should "receive the Shabbat" and begin its observance at least a quarter of an hour before twilight, a half hour before nightfall. [Translator's note: The prevalent custom is to begin the Shabbat eighteen minutes before sunset.] It is then considered Shabbat, although it is still daylight. If one does not have an accurate clock, he should begin keeping the Shabbat early, so as not to risk violating this holy day. This is by no means a trivial matter.

There is no need to present lengthy arguments regarding this, explaining the great reward in the World to Come that is given to one who begins his observance of the Shabbat before the required time. A person might feel a loss because he must put aside his work a half hour before the acutal time, but when he does so despite such feelings, it is a demonstration of how important he considers the Shabbat. One might have an urge to take one last smoke during this half hour, and it may be difficult to resist. But one who is concerened with his soul will not think about this temporal enjoyment, since its end can be bitter, heaven forbid.

If a person adds on to the Shabbat, [G-d] adds to his tranquility. Anything subtracted from the Shabbat, is similarly taken away from the person. (Tikunei Zohar 48)

One should also be careful to pay the shopkeepers for such things as meat and wine that he busy for Shabbat on Friday. He must strive to put aside money each week so that he will have enough to pay what he owes. If a shop keeper asks him for th emoney and he does not have it the shopkeeper will feel bad [on the Shabbat]. It is possible that he will be embarrassed to ask for the money, but he may no longer extend credit to one who does not pay. (The author's own)

Even a wealthy man should review his debts to G-d incurred during the week. Although G-d gives a person time, He eventually collects His debts, without exception. (Bava Kama 50a) One should therefore close his business at an early hour, and put aside all his affairs, using the time to review his actions of the past week. He should think about shuch matters as:

"On this day I said something bad about my neighbor."
"I got up late and did not say my prayers in time."
"I ate and drank without saying the proper blessings."
"I ate bread without washing my hands."
"I swore in vain or unnecessarily."
"I ate at a meal where the host did not have enough for himself."
(Even though such a meal is gladly given, this is still considered theft.)
"I had evil thoughts about a woman."
"I took advantage of my neighbor's misfortune."
"I suspected my neighbor and did not give him the benefit of the doubt."

In this manner, one should carefully contemplate all the sins that he has done during the previous week, from Sunday to Friday. He should repent completely, confessing his sins before G-d and resolving never again to go on such a path. The hour before the Shabbat is an extremely precious time and a period of grace; therefore, thinking about these things is of great benefit to the soul. One should not spend this precious hour smoking tobacco, which is a meanignless occupation. Rather, one should engage in the above mentioned meditation, and he will then greet the Shabbat correctly, bringing great pleasure and satisfaction to his soul. He comes into the Shabbat pure and cleansed of all his sins.

Returning to our subject, the only reason a quarter hour must be added to the Shabbat is that there is a question as to whether or not it is night. Such questions obviously do not exist for G-d. He can determine the precise instant when the sixth day ends and the seventh begins. (Bereishit Rabbah; Rashi)

It is for this rason that the verse says that "On the seventh day, G-d finished." This means that G-d completed His work during the quarter hour which, for us, is considered part of the Shabbat. G-d Himself did not have to add even a second. We know that G-d created many things during this twilight period, as discussed earlier. This is also [because G-d knows precisely which part of twilight belongs to the Shabbat and which does not].

In an [unpublished] Aramaic translation (Targum) of the Torah, we find the expression, "And G-d finsihed" (vay'chal Elokim, rendered as "And G-d desired." ([Unpublished] Targum Yerushalmi; Zohar Chadash loc. [Also see Abarbanel, Toledot Yitzchak.) [The Hebrew word kala, meaning "finished," also has the connotation of longing and yearning. (Such usuage is found in Tehillim 84:3, 119:81. See Machzor Vitri #103)] This indicates that G-d yearned for this day, placing nore of His desire into the Shabbat than into any other day.

In the Shabbat morning Amidah we say of the Shabbat, "You called it 'the most cherished of days'". Actually this expression is found nowhere in the Torah, but the allusion to this expression is found in the above Targum. (ibid.; Rashi, Sefer HaOrah [Lvov. 1905] 2:63)

G-d's Rest

The Torah says that G-d "rested on the seventh day." Actually, of course, concepts such as tiredness and rest do not apply to G-d. Such expressions obviously relate only to man. This is all the more true since we know that the entire universe was created with G-d's word, as it is written, "With the word of G-d were the heavens made, which the breath of His mouth, all their host" (Tehillim 33:6). Every day, in our morning prayers, we say,

Baruch sheamar vehaya haolam
Blessed is He who spoke, and there was a universe

The meaning is as follows. Each day, When G-d commanded that something be created, the creative process would continue. Thus, for example, when G-d said, "Let there be a firmament," it came into being; until Friday evening, it continued to increse and spread out. (Bereishit Rabbah) It is for this reason that one of G-d's Names is Shaddai, coming from the word Dai, meaning "enough." If G-d had not aid, "Enough," to the universe, commanding that the firmament stop, it would still be expanding. The same is true of the earth, since it did not know its destined size.

It therefore appears that the world continued to work all through the week. [Although we have translated this verse as, "He rested on the seventh day,"] it can also be translated, "It rested on the seventh day," where "it" refers to the universe. This indicates that the universe itself had rest and repose on the Shabbat.

The verse does not say, "G-d rested on the seventh day," in the same manner as it says, "and G-d finished," or "G-d blessed." The subject of this phrase is creation as a whole, which rested on the Shabbat. (ibid.)

There is another allusion in this verse. G-d created the universe with His word, speech and action were as one. G-d then made an explicit condition that the Torah must be kept; or the world would revert to its original state of "chaos and void," as has been discussed in Chapter 6.

The wicked could then have an argument that they should not be punished for destroying the world, since it was created with nothing more than a word. This is very much like a person who breaks a wealthy man's vase. Even if it is a very precious piece, he does not worry about it, for he says, "The owner is wealthy. He can buy many such vases."

The wicked also say, "What difference does it make if we destory the world? With one word, G-d can make another one." Thinking that creation did not involve any effort on G-d's part, they therefore imagine that their punishment will not be severe. In order to refute this idea, the Torah says that G-d "rested on the seventh day." This indicates that the world is as precious to G-d as He had put so much effort into its creation during the six days that He had to rest afterward. The wicked are therefore worthy of punishment for detracting from the world by their evil deeds. (ibid.)

The Ten Sayings

If you look carefully at this section, you will notice that the expression, "G-d said," occurs ten times. These are the Ten Sayings with which the world was created. (Avot 5:1; Bachya) They are as follows:

1) "In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth" (1:1)
Even thought the expression, "G-d said," does not occur in this verse, the Talmud states that it is counted among the Ten Sayings.
2) "G-d said, 'Let there be light'" (1:3).
3) "G-d said, 'Let there be a firmament'" (1:6).
4) "G-d said, 'Let the waters be gathered'" (1:9).
5) "G-d said, 'Let the earth grow grass'" (1:11).
6) "G-d said, 'Let there be lights'" (1:14).
7) "G-d said, 'Let the waters teem'" (1:20).
8) "G-d said, 'Let the earth bring forth'" (1:24).
9) "G-d said, 'Let us make man'" (1:26).
10) "G-d said, 'It is not good for man to be alone'" (2:18).

It is obvious that G-d could have created the universe with a single saying. The onlhy reason why He used so many was to "punish the wicked for destroying a world created with Ten Sayings." This teaches that good Jews will also receive ample reward for sustaining the world.

[Since all of creation was accomplished through G-d's speech, the fact that He stopped on the Shabbat] provides a lesson that one must keep his mouth closed on the Shabbat and not speak unnecessarily. (Zohar, VaYachel; Reshit Chachmah, p. 218) His only speech must involve G-d's Torah. We thus find that when Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's mother would speak, he would remind her, "Today is the Shabbat," whereupon she would desist.

This is especially important when one is in synagogue. When a person engages in idle conversation in synagogue, whether on the Shabbat or on weekdays, the two angels who accompany him lay their hands on his head and say, "This person has no portion in the G-d of Yisrael." In addition, if he does so on the Shabbat he is guilty of profaning the Shabbat.

One must be very careful about this, since, unfortunately, we see many people who sit and converse in synagogue as if they were in their own homes. They never stop to consider that if they had an important guest, and others conversed in his presence, they would certainly be very disturbed. This would humiliate the host.

This is all the more true of the synagogue, which is the house of G-d. Jews come together there to pray to G-d that He forgive them for their sins, and that He grant their needs. But if people sit and converse, how is it possible for them to ask G-d for their needs? We see that anyone who converses in synagogue disassociates himself from teh congregation. One should therefore be careful not to speak even a single word in synagogue; not even to think of anything other than the prayers, which he wishes G-d to accept.

We know that it is forbidden for us even to pray for our needs on the Shabbat. How can one think of speaking words that have no purpose? It is also forbidden to read books on history and similar subjects on the Shabbat.

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