Wednesday, October 10, 2012
INSIGHTS IN RASHI - BEREISHIS
Rashi, Bereishis, 1:1: “Rebbe Yitzchak said, ‘[G-d] need only have begun the Torah from ‘This month shall be to you” which is the first Mitzvo which Israel was commanded. For what reason did it begin with ‘Bereishis’?...so that if the nations of the world will say to Israel, “you are bandits, for you conquered the lands of the seven nations’ Israel will say to them, ‘the whole earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed is He; He created it and He gave it to the one found proper in His eyes. By His wish He gave it to them, and by His wish He took it from them and gave it to us.” Rashi opens his monumental commentary on the Torah, quoting Rebbe Yitzchak , who tells us that the Torah should have begun with the first Mitzvo of sanctifying the new moon, and it only opened with the story of Creation and the subsequent events in order to teach us that the Jewish people have a G-d-given right to Eretz Yisrael. The commentators ask why this point is so significant to the extent that the order of the Torah is drastically changed because of it. The Levush Haorah answers that if it is true that the Jewish people stole Eretz Yisrael then the whole Torah is undermined because in the Torah there are Mitzvos prohibiting stealing and hasagas gevul (encroaching on the property of another person). Accordingly, the nations of the world will say that the Jews who claim to follow the Torah do not keep to its commands because they stole the land from the Seven Canannite nations. And if the Jewish people will answer that HaShem allowed them to steal it from the nations, then that is even more problematic as it demonstrates that even HaShem Himself, does not, so to speak, observe His own commandments such as ‘do to not steal’ and hasagas gevul. This would cause a great Chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) and undermine the whole message of the Torah. Rebbe Yitzchak explains that the Torah addresses this argument, saying that there is no thievery here at all as HaShem created the whole world and He determines who owns which land; It was His will that the nations have it at first, and it was His decision to take it from them and give it to the Jewish people. The Levush Haorah teaches us a fundamental lesson with this explanation; Chillul HaShem is so serious that it is necessary to alter the nature of the Torah in order to avoid this possibility. This is because the whole purpose of Creation is Kiddush HaShem, the sanctification of G-d’s name, the antithesis of Chilul HaShem. This is expressed in Pirkei Avos: “Everything that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in His world, He only created for His honor.” The Mishna is teaching us the purpose in our lives should be to elevate HaShem in the eyes of the world. The exact opposite of this is Chilul HaShem – acting in such a way that causes people to, chas v’Shalom see the Torah or the Creator in a negative light, That is why it is so important that the Torah immediately assert the G-d given right of the Jewish people to own Eretz Yisrael. Thus the Torah begins with a vital message for all of us – just like HaShem is extremely careful to be seen to be consistent with His Torah, so too we must be careful that our actions also be consistent with the Mitzvos of the Torah.