Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Bereshit
To dedicate this lesson

From the End to the Beginning


Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Cheshvan 5 5783
We again rolled the sefer Torah to Bereishit, after going forward for a year from "In the beginning Hashem created" to "before the eyes of all of Israel," from darkness on the face of the world to the heights of the heaven. We go back from the doings of Moshe, who saw Hashem face to face, to the first light that broke forth over the void, as Hashem commanded, "Let there be light."

Indeed, there is a tight connection between the divine revelation that found expression in the creation of the world and that which shaped world history, which reached its peak with the revelation at Sinai when Hashem gave the Torah. Each one teaches about the other. On the one hand, the first word of the Torah, "Bereishit," teaches us that the world was created for Israel and for the Torah which were both called reishit (beginning of) (Pesikta Zuyrata 1:1). On the other hand, without the connection to "before the eyes of all of Israel," there is no point to creating the world. A creation that does not know its Maker does not know itself or find the secret behind its existence, but remains in void. This is what characterized the world in its initial 2,000 years.

The world cannot appreciate its Maker without the giving of the Torah. The Kuzari (1:25) pointed out that the first of the Ten Commandments does not begin with "I am Hashem who created the world" but rather "I am Hashem who took you out of Egypt." The G-d of creation is one that remains elusive, but rather the element of Hashem that we "get to know" is the One who is involved in the world and particularly in Jewish history. That is the logic behind Rabbi Yitzchak’s question that the Torah should have started with the first mitzva related to the Exodus, for through that event, the realization of Hashem entered our hearts.

The final goal of history and the giving of the Torah is to return us to the light of the seven days of creation, to show the connection between the world and its source. From "before the eyes of all of Israel," we get to some sort of an appreciation of the creation of the heavens and earth.

Hashem commanded: "Let there be light!" The world did not come about by some sort of blind struggle between great powers without a purpose. The ex nihilo creation was the Divine Will and done by Him, so that the purpose was already embedded in the Creation before man walked on the earth. It is not man with his intellect who will lead the world, but man is just one more creation who is subservient to Hashem, whether he realizes it or not. How much better is it for a person if he agrees to it willfully?!

The Torah teaches in great metaphoric form how the first human tried to break loose of his position of dependence. He strove to "be like gods" (Bereishit 3:5), which was the sin instigated by the venom of the snake, which wants to use the mind as a tool of the desires of the eyes and taste and separate the tree of life from the tree of knowledge. Mankind made this mistake over and over again (see Yeshayahu 14:14). In our generation, when we have the threats of nuclear weapons and inter-continental missiles, we see palpably the terrible danger of the separation between the tree of knowledge and the tree of life.
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