This week we are privileged to begin a new cycle of Torah reading, beginning with the portion of Bireishis. The portion teaches us what was created every day of the week and that from the beginning of creation Shabbos was sanctified. We also learn that Adam was created in the image of G-d. We learn about the sin of Adam and Chava (Eve) eating from the tree of knowledge. We learn about Kayin and Hevel and the tragic ending of Hevel's life. The portion concludes with the birth of Noach.
This Shabbos is referred to as Shabbos Bireishis (beginning). The holy Chassidic masters said that this Shabbos is a foundation for the entire year. It is the first Shabbos after the high Holidays, and it is incumbent upon us to prove that we didn’t just serve G-d externally, but that we internalized what we said, and accepted. The Chida also writes that on Shabbos Bireishis one should be particularly careful to conduct him/herself properly as it is not a good sign if immediately after the High Holy Days one falls back. At least the beginning should be strong. The Rebbe of Tzanz would refer to Shabbos Bireishis as follows: when a businessman goes to an exhibition to buy goods in his field of business, he quickly purchases everything he feels would be profitable for his business. However it is only when he comes home that he begins to go through his purchases to see what will be more productive and profitable. So too, it is with the month of Tishrei. The entire month we were busy grabbing mitzvohs, correcting what needs to be corrected and now we need to work on implementing what needs to be implemented. This is the work of Shabbos Bireishis.
When Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi (author of Tanya) was imprisoned in St Petersburg, over false allegations, the government tried sending different people to talk to him and sniff out how much he's working to topple the Zarist authority. Amongst these people, they sent a very prominent and learned minister, who entered the prison disguised as an ordinary fellow prisoner. When he entered the room the Rebbe stood up for him and he said to him that he knows he's somewhat connected to malchus (kingdom). The minister was shocked, as they never met and there was no way he could have recognized him ... He began to have an intellectual conversation with R' Shneur Zalman. Amongst the questions he asked was, it is written in the Torah that after the Adam ate from the tree of knowledge Hashem asked him AYEKO - where are you. Why did Hashem ask Adam "Ayeko" , doesn't G-d know everything ? The Rebbe responded that this a call to every individual eternally to check on himself where he is, and he continued to tell the minister, Hashem gave you this amount of years, this amount of months and this amount of days, what did you do with it ? Where are you ? He calculated exactly the age, the years, months and days of the minister sitting in front of him. The minister was shaken up, and later ended up being one of the greatest defenders of the Tzadik before the judge, who ultimately freed him.
The message to us is, after an entire elevated season where we served Hashem more than throughout the year, and now we go back to routine, remember AYEKO!
Gut Shabbos, and
A healthy winter,
Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin