There is no shortage of talking points this week; from the many interesting details about how the world was created, to the first man, the first sin, and the first murder. In fact, the Vilna Ga’on used to say that the entire Torah is contained within the word bereishis. Consequent to this statement, someone asked him where pidyon haben (the mitzvah to redeem one’s firstborn) can be found in the word bereishis. The Ga’on replied on the spot that bereishis can be read as an acronym for Ben Rishon Achar Shloshim Yom Tifdeh; ‘you shall redeem your first son after thirty days.’ We shall focus on one rather cryptic Rashi. The pasuk following the completion of the creation of the world reads (2;4) ‘These are the products of the heavens and the earth in their having been created (be’hibar’am), on the day that HaShem the L-RD made earth and heavens.’ As you have noticed, there seems quite a bit of repetition in the pasuk, but of particular interest is the word be’hibar’am, which has a small letter Heh in it. Rashi on the pasuk comments that the small Heh allows one to read the word be’heh bra’am, meaning HaShem created the world with a Heh. What does this mean? As Rashi goes on to tell us, the pasuk in Yeshaya (26;4) says that ‘with Yud Heh HaShem fashioned the worlds,’ alluding to the fact that HaShem created this world with the letter Heh, whilst the world to come (Olam Haba) was created with the letter Yud. Moreover, Rashi points out what we are to learn from this; the Next World’s association with a Yud tells us that just like the Yud is the smallest letter, so too are the righteous people there few in number. And this world is attached to the letter Heh, to hint that just like the Heh is open at the bottom, so too does HaShem keep an opening in this world for people to repent. The source for Rashi’s explanation here is gemarra menachos 29b. The above Rashi seems to be dealing with what we can learn from the fact that this world was created with a Heh and the next world with a Yud. We are not going to discuss the precise meaning of the righteous being small in number or the ‘opening’ for repentance. We are going to discuss that which Rashi (and the gemarra) does not address, namely what does it mean this world was created with a Heh and the world to come with a Yud? Our starting point is an intriguing mishna in pirkei avos (5;1). The mishna reads ‘With ten utterances the world was created (ie ten times HaShem said ‘there shall be x’). What does this come to teach; surely HaShem could have created the world with one utterance? Rather, this was to punish the wicked who destroy the world that was created in ten sayings and to give reward to the righteous who uphold the world created with ten sayings.’ The mishna’s conventional explanation is that since HaShem used ten sayings instead of one to create the world, the world is more valuable, and so destroying [or upholding] the world is more punishable[/meritorious], for one is destroying a more valuable item. On this, the Maharal asks a penetrating question; the fact that HaShem ‘spent’ more on creating the world should not mean that the world is more valuable. For example, if the market price of a house is £200,000, but I pay £750,000 for it even though I could have got it for its market price, that does not make the house’s value £750,000. The house remains valued at £200,000, and all it means is that I am not a very good businessman [or an insanely charitable fellow]. Similarly, bringing this back into our mishna, why should the fact that HaShem used ten sayings to create the world make the world worth more to enable increased punishment and reward, if He could have created it in one saying; the ‘market price/value’ of the world remains at one saying? We shall add another question here. According to the conventional understanding of the mishna, we are being told that had HaShem created the world in one saying, He would have administered ‘less mighty’ punishment and reward, but now the world was created in ten, HaShem can give more punishment and reward. But the mishna does not say that HaShem created the world in ten sayings to give more punishment and reward; it says that the any [concept of] reward and punishment go hand in hand with HaShem having created the world in ten sayings. Why should this be? The Maharal provides an explanation that answers both questions. He explains that different numbers embody different concepts. For example, four represents the dimensions of the physical world; there are four directions on a compass and four seasons. Similarly, because our physical world is defined by area/space, the fourth letter is a Daled, which is made up of two perpendicular lines, representing the length and width of an object’s area. Furthermore, ten embodies (amongst other things) holiness/spirituality [kedusha]; yom kippur is on the tenth, there are ten commandments, ten for a minyan, etc. As a spiritual entity, kedusha itself is nivdal, separate from the area-defined physical world; spirituality does not take up any space. Appropriately, the tenth letter is a Yud - the smallest letter, it is least governed by space. In fact, if one combines four and ten (by multiplication), we get forty, which represents a new creation of the natural world on a holier plane (the combination of the ideas of four and ten); the flood lasted forty days, as did mattan torah and the consequent days Moshe went to beg HaShem for forgiveness after the sin of the golden calf - all of these are periods in which a new, holier, creation of the world was occurring. Similarly, we are told[1] that at the time of the Roman conquest, the saintly Rebbi Tzaddok fasted for forty years so that Yerushalayim should not be destroyed. Why forty? Perhaps because, as above, he was trying to effect a change in world history; a new, holier creation of the world. The letter Heh is made up of a Daled, and a Yud in the bottom left corner. Thus, the Heh (and the number five) embodies there being a central spiritual dimension (yud part) to a physical structure (the daled part). Likewise, there are five parts to the neshama (soul), the spiritual core of the physical body. This, explains the Maharal, is the key to understanding our mishna. What the mishna is saying is that the fact that HaShem created this world with ten sayings - the number of spirituality - means that this world has spirituality within it. So now that we know that the world contains spirituality and is to be used as a vehicle for spiritual growth, wicked people that destroy this purpose of the world can be punished, and the righteous can be rewarded. After all, if there is no spiritual purpose, and no meaning to the world, why/for what should HaShem give reward and punishment? Reward and punishment are a consequence of there being a spiritual purpose, and consequent expected behaviour and opportunity to meet this purpose in this world. It is just like the fact that you would not think wrong of someone who intentionally smashed their table, but would think wrong of them if they tore their own sefer torah (c’v), because the latter has innate holiness, purpose, and meaning. This is what it means that this world was created with a Heh and the next world with a Yud. What we are being told is that the world to come is made up of pure non-physical spirituality, as represented by the Yud. As the gemarra and Rambam[2] put it ‘in the world to come there are no physical bodies, no eating, no drinking, etc.’ Whilst this world, on the other hand, does have physical dimensions and we do have physical bodies, but there is also a spiritual dimension and purpose here - symbolised by the Daled and the Yud coming together within the Heh. Our challenge is, though we are surrounded by dimensions and pulls of physicality and materialism, to still be able to find, focus on, and attach ourselves to spiritual goals and pursuits. Our mission is to locate the Yud within the Heh. Have a great Shabbes, [1] Gemarra Gittin 56a [2] Gemarra Brachos 17a, Rambam hil. Teshuva 8;2 Ps A real must-see is a piece in the Beis HaLevi Al HaTorah towards the end of the parsha which starts with him quoting a part of gemarra sukkah 52a

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