Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Bereshit
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated to the full recovery of

R' Asher Ben Chaya Rivka Dvora

Parashat Bereshit

In the Beginning

In studying the ways of creation, we must remember that everything evolves from one ultimate source - the Torah. The Torah is the inner essence of all worldly matters. Creation is a mere manifestation - a reflection of the true essence, the Torah.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

1. Torah - The Source of Creation
2. All of History in One Word
3. Regeneration

Torah - The Source of Creation
"In the beginning, God created...." The Jerusalem Targum translates these words figuratively: "Via wisdom (i.e., Torah) God created...." Wisdom is the source from which creation evolves. It is the vehicle through which God created the heavens and the earth. "Wisdom," of course, is Torah - Divine wisdom, the word of God. Torah is the source of all creation. God looked into the Torah in order to create the world. Before studying the ways of the heavens and earth, we must remember that all of this evolves from the source of all - the Torah. The Torah embodies the inner essence of all worldly matters. Creation is a mere manifestation - a reflection of the true essence, the Torah. Hence, the more that creation is attached to the Torah, the more it exists.

Rashi, in his Torah commentary, brings Rabbi Yitzchak’s question: Why did Torah not begin with the Mitzvah of sanctifying the new moon, which is the first Mitzvah in the Torah? Why did it have to go through the entire story of creation, the Patriarchs, and the Egyptian bondage?
The answer provided is that God wished to publicize the fact that He is the Creator of the entire universe, and that He decided to give the land of Israel to the Jewish people. This, of course, is a very central message.

The Vilna Gaon explains that the Torah is made up entirely of guidance. There is not a single verse in the Torah that does not contain a Divine message for creation as a whole and for individual man regarding proper action. The Torah’s guidance is not confined to the 613 revealed Mitzvoth; it flows over into each and every verse of the Scriptures. There are no "stories" in the Torah. The Hebrew word "Torah" means instruction, and the entire Torah reflects its own name - it provides instruction regarding what to do, for every matter in creation is hinted at in the Torah. Yet, not only all worldly matters in a general sense, but every matter concerning every individual at every single moment. If an individual truly understands the Torah in all of its depth, he is able to uncover the proper guidance for every single detail in his life. There are many matters in life concerning which an individual is plagued by uncertainty and would like nothing more than to know what the Torah has to say. For example, which profession to choose. Which path to follow in life. In which area to invest his energies; questions touching upon livelihood, health, dress, and where to live. To each one of these questions the Torah has an answer - not just general instruction. Not just the "light" or "way" of the Torah, but a real and practical answer. This, of course, calls for being on a special level, and not everybody can attain such a high level. But the Vilna Gaon says that, all the same, it exists in the verses of the Torah. In other words, the Torah contains meaning that goes beyond the letter of the text - figurative, hidden, and mystic meaning as well as various other ways of interpreting the Torah. When one approaches the Torah in each of these ways, he is able to gain detailed guidance for all of his actions and to understand the significance of the creation.

All of History in One Word
The Vilna Gaon continues by explaining that the entire Torah is hinted at in the Torah’s first section; the first section of the Torah is hinted at in the first verse; and, everything is hinted at in the first word. The entire Torah, then, is concentrated into its first word - "Bereshit" (In the beginning). Indeed, in Tikkunei Zohar, there is an entire book that deals with clarifying the meaning of the word "Bereshit," for by rearranging its letters it can be read in a number of various ways. What’s more, "Bereshit has seventy different aspects, each of which breaks down into even more various meanings. All of this derives from "the beginning" and is concealed therein. The Sages teach that the verse, "The earth was without form and empty, with darkness on the face of the depths," hints at the four Jewish exiles. "But God’s spirit moved on the water’s surface." - This is the spirit of the Messiah. In other words, the history of the Jewish people is concealed in these verses.

The first chapter of the Genesis teaches us that the word was created ex nihilo. The universe was created out of nothing by the omnipotent God. Initially there was no universe, and then it was created from nothing by the Creator. And man must follow in God’s ways and be a creator as well, producing new things. In the same way that God created the universe and regenerates each day that which He created in the beginning, man must also regenerate himself each day, week, month, and year. In truth, man is constantly being regenerated, but he must make himself aware of this and cause the actual realization of this potential. He must create new worlds within himself, and make himself into a new person, to climb from one level to the next. One should not remain stationary but should constantly strive to advance and change himself for the better. Man is capable of this, for God created him in His likeness, in His image, as it were.

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