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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Our Name is Mud

By Rabbi Sender Haber

On the sixth day, Hashem said, “Let us make Adam, in our likeness with our image.”

Man was different than all of the other creatures. We were made in the image of G-d.

After Man was created, G-d created animals out of the earth as well he brought them before Adam and he was given the task of naming them. He was in charge of all of the creatures and he was able to name them based on their innate talents.

I was walking to shul the other day when I overheard two people talking. I couldn’t help but overhear one of them say to to the other: “Because, you know, you can’t lie to a horse”. That small piece of wisdom has been in my head for the past five days. You can’t lie to a horse. Who knew?

Adam knew. The Torah tells us that Adam named every one of the creatures. He named them with a certain degree of prophecy, finding and defining the inner strengths. The horse is called a Sus because he has happiness. An ox makes a straight line - a shura. A donkey is naturally slow and lazy. 

After naming all of the animals that had emerged from the earth, Adam turned to naming himself. He chose the name Adam after the Adama. (Even in Latin Hemo means earth hence Homo sapiens.)

This is astounding. Adam is a fine name, but all of the animals had come from the earth. He named each one according to their unique potential. Man is greater than any of the animals. He is almost a divine being. We have a breath of G-d within us. Why Adam?

The Alter of Slobodka explains that Adam did not want to label himself as divine. He wanted to remind himself where he had come from and far it was possible for him to sink.

We may have a divine spark in us but we are also made of dirt. This is the story of this week’s parsha and of the entire book of Bereishis.

Rav Chiya bar Abba (Avoda Zara 25a) refers to the book of Bereishis as Sefer Hayashar - the Book of the Upright. This is a reference to our forefathers whose stories are recounted in the book of Bereishis. They were upright, just, and proper people. Yesharim. The entire Sefer of Bereishis contains very few mitzvos, but it is our history. It begins with the creation of the world which is the basis upon which Hashem gave us the land of Israel, but it continues with the stories of our forefathers: the kindness of Avraham, the self-sacrifice of Yitzchak and the dedication of Yaacov.

The Torah is here to tell us how to live our lives as divine beings while remaining aware of our muddy roots.

There are several ways to attend a wedding. Some people attend as the bride. They are the center of attention and the focal point of the program. The show cannot go on without her. Another important figure is the groom. After that there are family, good friends, the shadchan, the teachers and the dignitaries.

After that, there are the people who just show up. Most of them belong there. Some might have crashed or shown up at the wrong wedding. Everyone enjoys weddings. You have a couple of grouches, but most people enjoy the occasion.

The same applies to Simchas Torah. It’s a happy day. Especially after so many solemn days, it is nice to come to shul to dance and to listen to the singing. Perhaps to kiss the Torah. To listen as the Aliyos are sold, the torah is completed and to sing along as the torah is begun again with the six days of creation.

The question is how involved we are in the completion of the Torah.
Halachically, it is ideal to study the Parsha twice every week in Hebrew and once with a translation, but that is not practical for everyone. Figure out what works for you.

There is one person in the shul who told me that he listened to every word of the Torah and following along in the Chumash for the entire year. He truly finished.

There is a woman who read one Aliyah a day in her Stone Chumash. She finished too.

Somebody else read the Medrash says and I believe that two people may have completed the entire Me’am Loez series.

These are not unattainable goals. They are also not the only way to finish the Torah.

I encourage everyone to use their creativity. Finish the Torah this year. If you enjoyed the Simchas Torah this year, enjoy it more next year.

Make next Simchas Torah your personal celebration.

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