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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Bo

Parashat Bo

The First Mitzvah

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In this week’s parashah, we read: "Hachodesh hazeh lachem rosh chadashim; rishon hu lachem lechodshei hashanah." "This month shall be for you the beginning of the months; it shall be for you the first of the months of the year."

Rashi opens his commentary on the Torah with the question: The verse, "Hachodesh hazeh lachem," is the first commandment given to Israel. Why, then, does the Torah begin with the story of Creation? Answers Rashi: "For should the people of the world say to Israel, ‘You are robbers, for you took by force the land of the seven nations of Canaan,’ Israel may reply to them, ‘All the earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed Be He; He created it and gave it to whom He pleased.’"

At first glance, it would appear that Rashi fails to answer his basic question. If the purpose of the Torah is to teach us mitzvot, the story of Creation should not have preceded the first mitzvah. It could have been told in a separate book, like the book of Yehoshua.

The Torah is comprised of taryag mitzvot, 613 commandments. Ramban in his enumeration of the taryag counts yishuv Eretz Yisrael - conquering and settling Eretz Yisrael - as one of the 613 mitzvot. Rambam does not include this mitzvah in his count. Yet Rambam codifies all the laws pertaining to yishuv Eretz Yisrael like all the other halakhic authorities. The reason may very well be that Rambam does not consider yishuv Eretz Yisrael as a separate mitzvah, like the mitzvah of sukkah or shofar. Yishuv Eretz Yisrael is, however, the foundation for all the other mitzvot. Without Eretz Yisrael we cannot fulfill all the taryag mitzvot.

This may be what Rashi is telling us. Before the Torah teaches us the first mitzvah, it assures us that Eretz Yisrael belongs to us. Now that we are in possession of our God given country, we are in a position to proceed and obey all 613 commandments.


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