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Saturday, January 22, 2022
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The Torah begins with the story of Creation—not just because our world begins there historically, but also because it starts there philosophically. Hashem’s creation of the world is the foundational backdrop to the Jewish view of the world and ourselves.

Rav Elazar Ish Bartuta encourages us to “tein lo mishelo she’atah v’shelcha shelo” (give God what is His, because you and that which is yours are His).1 Tehillim 24 explains that the world is Hashem’s because He created it: “LaHashem ha’aretz u’meloah teivel v’yoshvei vah. Ki Hu al yamim yisadah v’al neharot yichonenehah.”2

How We Get What We Have

This pasuk speaks of Hashem’s ownership over three distinct components of our world. The first is the framework—the land (aretz) and the universe (teivel). Later in Avot,3 the Mishnah identifies “shamayim” and “aretz” as one of Hashem’s five kinyanim (possessions).4

The pasuk also mentions Hashem’s ownership of a second component: the world’s contents (meloah). During the first three days of creation, Hashem created the containers; during the last three, He created their contents.5 People often see money6 and other objects—the meloah of the world—as their own; actually, they are owned by Hashem, their Creator.7

There is a second basis for Hashem’s ownership. The pasuk in Mishlei directs us to honor Hashem “mei’honecha, from your wealth.” The Midrash Tanchuma8 reads the word “honecha” as “chininecha”—the gifts God graces us with. We ought to recognize that in addition to creating all objects, Hashem is also responsible for specific objects being in our possession.

This connects to the Midrash Rabbah, which quotes Hashem as saying:

“Who gives Me praise before I give him the neshamah that allows him to give me praise? Who sings my praise before I give him a son to sing about? Who builds a parapet on a roof before I give him a roof? Who puts a mezuzah up before I give him a home? … Who separates a korban before I give him the animal?”9

Sometimes we take what we have for granted and therefore don’t always show appreciation for Hashem, Who created them and gives them to us.

We Too

One question remains. What is Rav Elazar Ish Bartuta adding when he says that we should give God what is His? David Hamelech already made this very point in the pasuk Rav Elazar himself quotes: “Ki mimcha hakol u’miyadcha natanu lach” (Because it is all from you and from your hand we give to you).10

I believe that Rav Elazar Ish Bartuta’s chidush here is one word: “She’ata v’shelcha shelo.” It is not just the world and its contents that are Hashem’s, but we as well. We should “give Hashem what is His” not only because the objects are His, but because we, the “owners,” are His as well. As the Gemara in Pesachim11 says: “mah shekanah eved kanah rabo” (that which a servant acquires, his master acquires).”

This is the critical point of the first perakim of Sefer Iyov. God challenges the satan to see if he can get Iyov to sin. Despite the satan destroying all of Iyov’s possessions, Iyov responds nobly: “Hashem natan va’Hashem lakach yehi shem Hashem mevorach” (Hashem gives and takes away. May his name be blessed).12 In Perek Bet, the satan asks Hashem for permission to strike Ivov’s health.13 After he does so with Hashem’s OK, Iyov curses the day he was born.14

Man naturally takes his existence and good health for granted. In truth, we are created and sustained by God.15 We should, therefore, see ourselves as His as well.16

This is the third component of the aforementioned pasuk, “LaHashem ha’aretz u’meloah tevel v’yoshvei vah.” It is not only the contents of the land, but also its residents, that belong to Hashem.

All three of these things—land, possessions and our very selves—are what we are referring to in the first bracha of Shemoneh Esrei when we describe Hashem as “konei hakol’ (the owner of all).17 We turn to Hashem in prayer with the recognition that we are His and gratitude for His having created us.

Next week we will iy”H see how this perspective should impact our appreciation of everything we encounter in God’s world.

*Written by Yedidyah Rosenswasser

1 Avot 3:7.

2 24:1-2.

3 Avot 6:10.

4 Vayikra 25:23 uses this idea to explain our inability to sell land beyond yovel. Rashi famously begins his commentary to the Torah by building off this idea.

5 See also Tehillim 104:24.

6 See Chagai 2:8.

7 We express our appreciation of this fact by reciting brachot (that recognize Hashem as Creator) before eating or receiving pleasure.

8 Midrash Tanchuma, Re’eh Perek 14. The Midrash reads the hey in “honecha” as a chet to get “shechinenechah.”

9 Midrash Rabbah, Acharei Mot, Parsha 27:2 based on Iyov 41:3.

10 Divrei Hayamim I 29:10-16. This is a continuation of the piece “Vayevareich David et Hashem” that we know from Shacharit.

11 Pesachim 88b.

12 Iyov 1:21.

13 Iyov 2:5.

14 Iyov 3:1.

15 As we emphasize in Modeh Ani and Elokai Neshama, this creation reoccurs daily.

16 See Yechezkel 18:4.  The Gemara (Taanit 22b) uses this fact to explain the prohibition against self-inflicted damage (See also Rambam Rotzeach 1:4 and 11:4, Choveil 5:1 and Sanhedrin 26:3, Radvaz Sanhedrin 18:6, and Be’er Hagolah Choshen Mishpat 427:90). We build off this idea in Selichot when we exclaim, “Hanishama lach v’haguf pa’alach...”

17 See Bereishit 14 for the source of this phrase.

By Rabbi Reuven Taragin*

 

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