Bet of Bereishit; What is Blessing?

This guest Drash is by Rachamim Bitton of Jerusalem's Nahar Shalom Yeshiva located in the Nachlaot neighborhood.

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This week’s parsha begins with the famous question Rashi quotes from Rabbi Yitzchak, whom some say is referring to Rashi’s father.

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ:

In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth.

Rashi:

בראשית: אמר רבי יצחק לא היה צריך להתחיל [את] התורה אלא (שמות יב ב) מהחודש הזה לכם, שהיא מצוה ראשונה שנצטוו [בה] ישראל, ומה טעם פתח בבראשית, משום (תהלים קיא ו) כח מעשיו הגיד לעמו לתת להם נחלת גוים, שאם יאמרו אומות העולם לישראל לסטים אתם, שכבשתם ארצות שבעה גוים, הם אומרים להם כל הארץ של הקב”ה היא, הוא בראה ונתנה לאשר ישר בעיניו, ברצונו נתנה להם וברצונו נטלה מהם ונתנה לנו:

In the beginning: Said Rabbi Isaac: It was not necessary to begin the Torah except from “This month is to you, ” (Exod:12:2) which is the first commandment that the Israelites were commanded, (for the main purpose of the Torah is its commandments, and although several commandments are found in Genesis, e.g., circumcision and the prohibition of eating the thigh sinew, they could have been included together with the other commandments). Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning?”

Because of [the verse] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Ps. 111:6). For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan], ” they will reply, “The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.

Rabbi Yitzchak is asking why the Torah doesn’t begin with the first Mitzvah, Counting the month of Nisan as the first month and sanctifying Rosh Chodesh.

He answers that there is a great significance to the lessons we learn from all the parshiot until the mention of the first mitzvah and the significance in these parshiot is so great that Hashem preceded the first mitzvah by these lessons.

There are a few ways of interpreting the words of Rashi to understand the reason of great significance in these parshiot. The simple understanding is that these parshiot teach us about how Hashem created the world and therefore owns the world. This is to teach us that He has the authority to give Eretz Yisrael to whomever He chooses. He first gave it to the seven nations and then took it from them and gave it to us.

This simple interpretation is that the importance of knowing Hashem’s power and authority over the creation that He created (and creates) is so great, and that this realization legitimatizes our right to the land, that it needed to precede the first mitzvah given to Am Yisrael when they were redeemed from Mitzrayim.

There is a deeper interpretation on these words.

The Sefat Emet explains that the Torah is made up of two main parts. These two parts represent the purpose of the Torah in this world and the revelation of the Torah in the higher spiritual realm.

The essence of the Torah is to connect us to consciousness of the divine and godly consciousness. Torah is not just another piece of knowledge. Torah is a springboard for experiencing Hashem and the most powerful connector to Hashem.

If we don’t feel this way when we study Torah then we need to learn what to adjust and how to adjust our way of learning.

These two parts of the Torah are represented by the written Torah and the oral Torah. The deeper distinction between the two is that the written Torah is the Torah we received on Mt. Sinai. It represents the Torah as it is in source. It represents complete revelation of Hashem which beyond our capacity to properly receive in this physical experience as human beings.

The oral Torah represents the Torah when it is brought into this physical world and integrated into our everyday life.

The Torah Shebe-Al Peh represents what happens when our greatest sages, holy men, saints, and greatest Neshamot devoted themselves and their lives completely to drawing from the Torah into every aspect of physical life. They completely devoted themselves to applying the truth and light of the Torah in every detail of life, even the most mundane and simple.

These are the laws of the oral Torah. It is the lessons of how Hashem’s will is applied to elevate and rectify the mundane physical life in this world.

The written Torah itself has a representation of these two parts, and these two purposes. The Mitzvot in the written Torah are a representation of Hashem’s will as it is in source. They are a representation of the Torah in source.

The stories of creation teach us how everything we see in this physical world is a creation of Hashem. It shows us how the mundane physical life and world isn’t mundane at all because it is inherently connected to its creator. It is a constant product and expression of that creator.

This is what we are to take away from the Breishit, the story of creation and the lives of the forefathers.

Hashem preceded the part in the Torah that teaches us about the mitzvot by first teaching us about Bereishit, about the holiness in creation, the holiness in physical life, to teach us that this is the purpose of giving us the Torah in this world. This is the purpose of creation. The purpose is to draw Hashem’s truth into every detail of the physical and that is the essential preparation and intention that must precede all our fulfillment of the mitzvot.

The holy Berdithever Rebbe, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak, asks in his “Kedushat Levi” what was the question of Rabbi Yitzchak quoted in Rashi. How and why would I think to begin the Torah with Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem if the Torah needs to begin with the letter Bet!

The Kedushat Levi is referring to the medrash that Hashem rejected the idea of beginning the Torah with any of the letters in the Alef Bet except for the letter Bet (Bereshit- בראשית) because they all represent a certain concept that is inappropriate to use for the the beginning of revelation of Torah except the letter Bet which represents the word Bracha (ברכה) which begins with a Bet.
How then can the Torah begin with Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem, that would mean the Torah begin with a Heh!?

The Sefat Emet answers this question based on what we just explained. He says that the Torah only begins with a Bet which represents Bracha and blessing because of the purpose of the content being conveyed to us in Bereishit. The essence of blessing is drawing light and life to a point of being multiplied. This is what is being done when we draw the revelation of Torah, the knowledge that Hashem created everything, into the mundane and physical-to elevate it and rectify it.

If the Torah began with Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem, as Rabbi Yitzchak suggests in his question, it would mean that the Torah is beginning with its form and its way of revelation in source, in the higher realm. If it began with the first mitzvah instead of the drawing out the belief in Hashem into the physical, it would not begin with a Bet. If it began with the first Mitzvah it would mean that the Torah in this world is identical to the Torah in source. This would mean that the revelation of Hashem in this world would be identical to that in source. Then there would not be a need for Bracha, drawing out from source to a place of need or a place of limit, because this world would also be in the same state as source, a state of being limitless.

The purpose of this world, however, is to draw from the limitless into the limited, the definition of Bracha, in order to elevate the limited to a state of Ein Od Milvado, limitlessness divine bliss.

May merit this speedily in our days with the coming of Mashiach and the final redemption Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

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