Thought of the Week: Bereishis - 5781


based on Ner Uziel: Perspectives on the Parashah

Rashi opens his commentary of the Five Books of the Torah with the question, Why does the Torah begin with an account of Creation? It would seem more logical for it to have begun with the verse “This month shall be for you the first month...” (Shemos 12:2).

The basis for Rashi’s question is the fact that the Torah is neither a history book nor a genealogical record. It is an instruction manual that teaches us how to fulfill the will of God through mitzvah performance. This being the case, the Torah should have omitted the entire book of Bereishis and begun instead with the very first mitzvah that the Jewish people were given - “This month shall be for you...”

In answer to his own question, Rashi cites the verse “He declared to His people the power of His deeds, in order to give them the homelands of the nations” (Tehillim 111:6). He explains that the first book of the Torah establishes God’s sovereignty over the world and thereby justifies the Jewish people’s claim to Eretz Yisrael. When the gentile nations will accuse us of having “stolen” the Land of Israel from its rightful possessors (as is the case today), all we will have to do to validate our claim is to open the book of Bereishis and show the nations this account of Creation. When they see it, they should immediately retract their accusations and recognize our claim to the land. Evidently, the book of Bereishis was included in the Torah specifically for the benefit of our generation.

Parashas Bereishis teaches us, though, that man does not have power over space. God wields sole control over all dimensions. Only He may determine which nation will take possession over the Land of Israel. If only we would internalize this concept and believe it, the nations would change their attitude toward us and recognize our claim to Eretz Yisrael.

At this point, one might protest, “But many Jews believe that Eretz Yisrael is ours!” The problem is that our very belief that Eretz Yisrael belongs to us is misguided, for it is based on a falsehood. We must ask ourselves, why do we think it belongs to us?

Some people think it is because the Jews won Israel’s War of Independence. But anyone who contemplates this logic will quickly realize that it is sheer nonsense. Since when is violence a legitimate method of taking possession of a piece of land? In plain language, that method of possession is considered outright theft!

Others say that Eretz Yisrael belongs to us because we were subjected to the Holocaust. This is even more ridiculous. If anything, the Holocaust might have justified a Jewish takeover of Germany; but what does the Holocaust have to do with Eretz Yisrael?