Parashat Bereshit: Producing Biological and Spiritual Children
There is a longstanding tradition among Torah scholars to find connections between the end of the Torah and the beginning of the Torah. This enterprise is aimed at underscoring the fact that the Torah is "circular," that the process of learning never ends, that we always have more knowledge and insight to gain. As we know, each year on Simhat Torah, as soon as we finish the Torah reading, we immediately read the first chapter of the Torah, demonstrating that we never consider ourselves "finished" learning Torah. Some have suggested that this is the deep meaning of the "Hakafot," our dancing in circles on Simhat Torah to celebrate the conclusion of the Torah reading. We dance in circles to show that Torah is "circular," that there is no beginning and no end. Similarly, Darshanim (lecturers) throughout the ages have sought to identify connections between the end of the Torah and the beginning, as part of this effort to emphasize the "circular" nature of Torah learning.
One such connection is drawn by Rav Haim Palachi (Turkey, 1788-1868), in his work Birkat Moadecha Le’Haim. He writes that if a couple is struggling to conceive, they should donate a Sefer Torah, as this is a Segula for begetting children. The reason, Rav Palagi explains, is that the final Misva in the Torah is the Misva to write a Sefer Torah (Debarim 31:19), and the first Misva in the Torah is "Peru U’rebu" – the obligation to procreate (Bereshit 1:28). These two Misvot are closely linked to one another, and thus in the merit of writing a Sefer Torah, one earns the privilege of fulfilling the Misva of "Peru U’rebu."
On a deeper level, the Kabbalists explain that there are two forms of "procreation" in which we are to involve ourselves. The first, and more obvious, form is biological procreation. Quite simply, we are required to try to beget and raise children. But in addition, we are bidden to involve ourselves in spiritual procreation, to produce Kedusha. This is done by writing Torah scrolls, but also by producing other forms of Torah literature. The Tur (Rabbenu Yaakob Ben Asher, 1269-1343) cites his father, the Rosh (Rabbenu Asher Ben Yehiel, Germany-Spain, 1250-1327), as ruling that nowadays, when we learn not from Torah scrolls, but from texts such as the Talmud and its commentaries, we fulfill the Misva of writing a Sefer Torah by producing and purchasing these texts. Accordingly, the Kabbalists teach, when a Torah scholar conceives of new Torah insights and writes them down, this is a form of "procreation." The pen is comparable to the male, and the paper corresponds to the woman. Just as a man impregnates a woman to produce a child, the pen applies ink to the paper to produce a "child" – written Torah.
It has been suggested that this is why the Tur and Shulhan Aruch present the laws of writing a Torah scroll in the 270th chapter of the Yoreh De’a section. The letters representing the number 270 are "Ayin" and "Resh," which spell "Er" – the name of Yehuda’s son, who, as we read in Parashat Vayesheb (Bereshit 38), did not want to produce children, and engaged in marital relations in a manner that would not result in conception. This sin is rectified not only through begetting biological children, but also by begetting spiritual children, by writing Sifreh Torah and other books of Torah literature, whereby we increase sanctity and spirituality in the world.
May Hashem grant us the assistance we need to both produce and raise biological offspring, and also produce holiness in the world through our efforts to learn Torah and facilitate the proliferation of Torah learning throughout the Jewish Nation.