By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
January 25, 2003
In the Revelation at Sinai, Hashem encounters the people of
Israel in the arena of history, yet gives them the Torah, which is eternal and
outside of history.
Two other seminal historic events are mentioned in the Aseret HaDibrot
(Decalogue): the Exodus (in the first commandment to believe in G-d), and the
Creation, in the command to sanctify Shabbat:
Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it. Six days (SHESHET YAMIM)
shall you work and do all your creative activity; but the seventh day is Shabbat
to Hashem, your G-d; you shall not do any creative activity, not you, nor your
son, nor your daughter, nor your slave, nor your maidservant, nor your beast,
nor your stranger that is in your gates. Because six days (SHESHET YAMIM) Hashem
made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested
on the seventh day. Therefore, Hashem blessed the Shabbat day and He sanctified
it (Shemot 20:8-11).
Although SHESHET YAMIM does not include the prepositional prefix “B,” most
translations read "in six days . . ." Still, why is there no BET?
Ramban remarks, cryptically:
“I have already written concerning this matter by way of the Truth
[i.e., Kabbalah] on the verse in [the section] ‘and they were completed’
(Bereishit 2:1 ff.). From there, you will succeed in understanding that the
expression, ‘Because six days Hashem made’ is not missing the letter BET.
Rather, the sense of the verse is that G-d made six days and on the seventh day
He ceased from work and rested” (see 31:17).
What does the Ramban mean?
Kesef Mezukak (super-commentary to Ramban by R. Avraham Lieblein) explains the
connection. On the verse in Bereishit 2:3, Ramban elucidates that the six days
of creation hint at the six thousand-year duration of world history, based on
“For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past.” The
seventh millennium will be the purifying desolation of the Messianic era: it
will be wholly a Shabbat and will bring rest for life everlasting. (See
Sanhedrin 97a, Avodah Zara 9a and Ramban’s comments to Vayikra 23:36.) In this
case, “Because six days Hashem made” means, literally, that Hashem made a
"six-day" that is to say, a six-millennium-world. SHESHET YAMIM therefore
alludes to the end of history.
Alternatively, it might be suggested that Ramban is referring to the beginning
of history. Rabbenu Bachya (ben Asher ben Hlava, 13th Century) connects this to
our verse explicitly: “The ‘six days Hashem made’ are included in the origin [of
the universe]. This teaches that time was created. Were it to have said "in six
days," it would have indicated that time is pre-existing. According to Rabbenu
Bachya, the verse should be read as a list of Hashem’s creations, beginning with
the dimension of time:
Because Hashem made six days, the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is
in them . . .
Whether or not Ramban had this in mind in his commentary to our verse, he
certainly agrees that time was created, as he states in his commentary to
“And G-d called the light day.” It says that time was created,
and He made the measure of day and the measure of night.
Rambam explains the fundamental concept that time is one of Hashem’s creations
in The Guide of the Perplexed (II, 13):
. . . the opinion of all who believe in the Torah of Moshe our
Master, peace be on him, is that the world as a whole I mean to say, every
existent other than G-d, may He be exalted was brought into existence by G-d
after having been purely and absolutely non-existent, and that G-d, may He be
exalted, had existed alone, and nothing else neither angel, nor a sphere, nor
what subsists within the sphere. Afterwards, through His will and His volition,
He brought into existence out of nothing all the beings as they are, time itself
being one of the created things.
The Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo (c. 20 BCE-c. 50 CE) writes, in
"Allegorical Interpretation" (1.2):
It would be correct to say that the world was not made in time,
but that time was formed by means of the world, for it was heaven’s movement
that was the index of the nature of time. In other words, time is a property of
the universe that Hashem created.
Most scientists today subscribe to the theory that observable phenomena point to
a beginning of the universe, which they call “the big bang.” According to this,
time itself began at “the big bang,” as Stephen Hawking explains in A Brief
History of Time (p. 46):
“As far as we are concerned, events before the big bang can have
no consequences, so they should not form part of a scientific model of the
universe. We should therefore cut them out of the model and say that time had a
beginning at the big bang.”
The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 3:8) goes even further:
“Said R. Yehudah son of R. Simon: It is not written here "Let
there be evening." Rather, ‘And there was evening’ (Bereishit 1:5). From this,
it is learned that there was an order of time before this.” As explained in Etz
Yosef (commentary to the Midrash by R. Chanoch Zundel ben Yosef, d. 1867),
Hashem first initiated the progress of time, when He wrote the Torah (see
Shabbat 88b) and created other worlds and destroyed them (see Bereishit Rabbah
9:2). Afterwards, He brought our universe into existence. Time was created
before the creation of the universe.
There is a parallel between our actions and those of Hashem:
“Six days (SHESHET YAMIM) shall you work . . . Because six days
(SHESHET YAMIM) Hashem made.” By sanctifying the time of Shabbat in our lives,
we emulate Hashem, attesting to our belief in Hashem as Creator of the Universe,
and of Time itself.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
ALIYA: ARE YOU COMING OR GOING?
One of the most important - and emotional - subjects in the Jewish World
today is the complex relationship between the Jews of Israel and the Jews
of the Diaspora. Although Parshat Yitro glosses over the intricacies of
Moshe's parting with his father-in-law, the Torah details their dialogue
in Beha'alotcha (Bamidbar, 10:29-32), and this conversation encapsulates
countless discussions regarding Aliyah which have been spoken through
history to today.
On his way to Eretz Yisrael, Moshe confronts his father-in-law Chovav (Yitro)
and implores him: "...come with us, and we will be good to you, for Hashem
has spoken of bringing good on Bnei Yisrael." Yitro declines. "I will not
go; but to my land and my family I will go - Ki im el artzi v'el molad'ti
In these seven choice words, Yitro employs the classic arguments against
My land: "How can I leave all my possessions behind for the uncertainty of
an unsown land?" Furthermore, "The place I come from is 'mine.' I'm
comfortable with the language, culture, and the ins and outs of that
place. I may never acclimate to a new life in Israel."
My family: "How can I leave my
elderly parents, my brothers and sisters, etc.? I need them, they need me,
and they are staying put..."
Moshe tries one more plea with Yitro: "Please, do not forsake us," and
then he returns to his first point: "If you go with us, then the good
which Hashem bestows on us, we will bestow [of it] on you." Moshe knows
that he cannot counter the emotional arguments of kin and comfort. So he
reiterates the same promise Hashem told Avraham when he said "Lech-LECHA,"
go FOR YOU, namely: "ISRAEL IS GOOD FOR THE JEW!" While Diasporas appear
comfy and cushy, they all eventually turn tragically hostile. Centuries of
Jewish settlement in the Galut can disappear in short order, taking all
the shuls, schools and people with it. History, alas, does not lie.
Does Yitro reconsider and come to Israel? No one knows for sure; the text
doesn't say and the evidence is inconclusive. So, too, the ongoing
tug-of-war over Aliyah remains an open question. It is the answer to that
question - which lies in the hands of each and every Jew - which may very
well determine the fate of Klal Yisrael.
RABBI STEWART WEISS, RA'ANANA
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320