Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Bereshit
To dedicate this lesson

Magnificent and Multifaceted Light


Various Rabbis

The first creation that our parasha mentions is light. Many sources point out that since the sun and stars were not created until later, this must be a different type of light, a very special one that we do not have access to any more in this world. Sefer Habahir (attributed to the tanna, R. Nechunia ben Hakaneh) claims that this very special spiritual light was hidden in the Torah Sheb’al Peh (the Oral Law). Indeed a famous pasuk (Mishlei 6:23) and many statements of Chazal equate or compare light with Torah.
Harav Chaim Y. Goldvicht (Asufot Ma’archot, Bereishit 6) connects this idea with the opinions of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel regarding the beracha on light, which we recite after Shabbat. Beit Shammai’s text refers to a single light, whereas Beit Hillel’s mentions "meorei ha’eish" (the lights of the fire). The Gra (Shenot Eliyahu, Berachot, ch. 8) says that all agree about the facts. Light was created as one light, but as it is produced by man when burning fuel, it comes in different shades. The question is what type of fire we refer to when making the beracha. We accept the opinion of Beit Hillel that we bless Hashem not only for the original light but for that which we use and create on a regular basis.
Following the connection between the light and the Torah, we can see that the idea of different shades exists also in regard to berachot on the Torah. Torah Shebichtav (the Written Law) is a set text, which Hashem presented to us as is. In order to apply it to our lives, it is necessary to employ Torah Sheb’al Peh to elucidate and expand the Torah to its endless concepts and applications. We recite a blessing daily on the great gift of Torah. The gemara (Berachot 11b) brings different opinions as to what type of Torah study must be preceded by the beracha. The minimalist position is that it is only for Torah Shebichtav. However, we accept the opinion that the beracha applies to all the different forms of extrapolation from the Torah and discussions thereof.
Indeed we find in regard to some of the most important berachot that we thank Hashem not just for that which he gave us directly. Rather, we thank Him for the kernel of goodness that He gave us and enabled us to grow it into a fruit and further refine it to make it useable for us. This is the case, literally, regarding the most important berachot on food. Before and after eating bread, we thank Hashem for giving the bread. In fact, we planted the kernel, which Hashem guided to turn into many kernels of grains, and then we made the bread ourselves. The idea is that we recognize Hashem as the partner in everything we do. This follows the philosophy of Beit Hillel regarding light: that which we make with Hashem’s help, with all of its variations, is beracha¬-worthy. This is very much true regarding the special light, which Hashem hid in Torah Sheb’al Peh and commanded and enabled us to uncover.
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