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Parshat Bereishit 5773 Rabbi Shaanan Gelman When we consider the sin of Adam and Chava, the tasting

g of the fruit from the , we are want to focus on the mindset of the sinner. We ask questions such as what motivated their actions?, were they acting with malicious intent or did they merely succumb to impulse and desire? But what about HaKadosh Baruch Hu? What was His reaction in the aftermath of the sin? () : () : () : And they heard the voice of God in the Garden, and man and his wife hid from the presence of God :() And God called out to man, and He said to him where are you?

:() And he replied, I heard Your voice in the Garden and I saw that I was naked, and so I hid. () : And He replied, who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I have forbidden you to eat? Though the Torah informs us that Adam heard the voice of God, it is not made clear what exactly he heard. We understand why Adam is hiding, he is avoiding God out of shame and out of fear, but why is Gods voice masked initially? It would appear as if God is also avoiding direct communication with Adam? And even after reaching out to Adam, He makes it seem as if He doesnt know Adams whereabouts when He says "?( " where are you?). Why do we find that the presence of God is veiled in this instance?


The classic understanding in the commentators and in the Midrashei Chazal1 is that God hides from us when we reject Him. He .withdraws from the world in response to our rebellious actions But there is another way to understand Hashems peculiar behavior as :well

The Mishna in Avot tells us in the name of R Shimon ben Elazar, that one should not attempt to gaze upon his fellow at the time of his :degradation [] :

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The Yalkut Shimoni and the Machzor Vitri explain that that God did not reveal Himself to Adam and Chava immediately because they were enmeshed in their sin. It would have been too embarrassing to have been spoken to directly at that moment. Instead, He waited until they managed to sew together a bundle of fig leaves and cover themselves up before initiating any further dialogue: . . . ' :' . " ' " ' While it is true that sin angers Hashem and at times causes (the hiding of Gods countenance), the Yalkut claims that that is not why He hides His face in this instance, rather He conceals Himself so as not to humiliate even further. In what is the most remarkable display of compassion and benevolence, Hakadosh Baruch Hu allows man the basic right to privacy.


That is what Rav Shimon ben Elazar meant when he said , do not attempt to see him in his hour of ruin. Even a sinner is given that basic right, even when committing a crime as egregious as the , the act of rebellion which started it all; man is afforded the opportunity to avoid onlookers and oglers. Nobody should have to be caught, literally, with their pants down. We all need to seek refuge from time to time behind a fig leaf or a tree. I always feel terrible for celebrities and royalty because they are so often robbed of this basic human entitlement. Poor Prince Harry, for instance, cannot even go to Vegas without a photographer hopping out from behind a wall and invading his privacy. The worst ordeal man could ever suffer is to have no place to go, to feel like there is nowhere to run and just bury his head. The greatness of the Almighty is that He recognizes amidst this terrible act of transgression that there exist two human beings who are going to have to recover one day and rebuild their lives, albeit outside of Paradise. And He knows that though he must rebuke and punish, He must never rob them of their dignity. If only parents and educators would take a page from Parshat Bereishit. If only nosy relatives and all too curious neighbors would pay attention to this small detail in the story of mankinds humble origins! When

someone we know, , loses a parent or another relative, we understand that sensitivity is required. But when their pain is of a different sort, when they are publicly humiliated, when someone loses a job or makes a bad investment, or sued in court, or is going through a divorce, are we as careful not to humiliate them? Do we have any idea what it is like to be walking around without clothing? Do we know their pain? We have to train our eyes to look away and to avoid the idle chatter when it comes to the privacy of others. , do not act as paparazzi and rubberneckers along the highway of life. After this most powerful demonstration of compassion in the opening saga of the human experience on Earth, we find that we do not have to wait very long at all before man is asked to employ sensitivity of this nature. The events leading up to the murder of Hevel are a bit unclear. We do know that Kayins offering was rejected and Hevels was accepted by God. We are left to assume that Kayin was jealous and so he murdered his brother. But a careful reading of the story lends itself to a fascinating insight from the ( , Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer):


() And Kayin said to Hevel his brother when they were in the fieldand Kayin stood up and murdered his brother Hevel. The verse is a bit odd as it begins by telling us that Kayin is prepared to speak with his brother Hevel, and yet, no words are actually spoken! Instead, he proceeds by unceremoniously executing him. What happened behind the scenes? What was the nature of the conversation never recorded by the Torah? ,

The Ksav Sofer explains after seeing that Kayin had been rejected by God and presumably deemed as sinful in the eyes of Heaven, Hevel separated from his brother, which, in turn, angered Kayin to the point of murder. He wondered, how could my brother be so cruel and be so

hateful of me? For this reason the word " "is used (5 times in 4 psukim), so as to say and Kayin called out to the brotherhood in Hevel - he was looking for camaraderie and sympathy. Kayin wanted comfort in his hour of shame, he hoped for friendship and solidarity the way brothers should act towards one another. But sadly, Hevel treated Kayin as a leper, gazing upon him in his moment of humiliation as if he was un-loved and unwanted by God and the Universe. And that is why, argues the Ksav Sofer, that Kayin killed Hevel. Our parsha contains two instances of human error and the embarrassment which follows. In the first, God demonstrates for us that every man, no matter how far he has fallen, deserves the right to privacy and to avoid scorn and dishonor, in the latter, God tests man to see if he has learned the most important lesson. Tragically, Hevel does not heed the call, and the result is that both he and his brother Kayin are forever lost. From time to time we are tested in a similar fashion either we are put in the position of Kayin or Hevel. Either we are forced to endure rejection and defeat, or we are forced to watch as it happens to our brother, our fellow man. The question is, can we avert our eyes and spare Kayin of his mortification?


Rabbi Poupko mentioned to me that around the year 1977 he was in Riga, Latvia. There he met an elderly Jew who claimed to be of the town of Dvinsk before the war. Rabbi Poupko asked him if he had known Rav Meir Simcha, the renowned rabbinic leader and author of the Meshech Chochma. He replied that he had known him and proceeded to share the following incident: It was one Shabbos afternoon and I was walking down the avenue and was brandishing a lit cigarette, when Rav Meir Simcha saw me he quickly did an about-face and began walking the other direction. A bit later when I saw the Rav I questioned him why didnt you rebuke me when you saw me smoking on Shabbos? He replied when I saw you with a lit cigarette on Shabbos, I walked in the other direction so that you would not be embarrassed - the possibility of shaming you was far more dreadful anything else. As we begin a new cycle in the Torah, we learn of the origins of the world, the great and awesome creative abilities of the Almighty, the significance of the Holy Day of Shabbos, but most importantly we are reminded of the most treasured of all items in the universe the dignity and self respect of the human being.