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FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

by Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

We are introduced to Hashem’s Torah with the bedrock principle of faith that it was G-d who brought the universe into being by creating heaven and earth.

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We are introduced to Hashem’s Torah with the bedrock principle of faith that it was G-d who brought the universe into being by creating heaven and earth. This opening verse, however, communicates more than the Jewish position on the genesis vis-à-vis Darwinism. The Midrashic comment on this verse enlightens us to what can be considered the defining attitude for authentic Jewish living.

The Midrash relates that when humans endeavor to construct an edifice, they begin at the bottom and build upward. Hashem, on the other hand, begins with the heavens above and proceeds downward, as indicated by the language of the Torah that it was heaven and then earth that was created.

It is not reasonable for us to assume that the Midrash calls Man to task for not building our skyscrapers beginning with the 85th floor and working downward. One does not need to be Newton to recognize the folly of such a project. What then is it that the Midrash seeks of Man in emulating Hashem’s formula for creation?

Rabbi Shmuel Alter, author of Lekuti Basar Lekuti, a popular digest of commentary on the weekly Torah portion, offers an illuminating insight that speaks to us with much urgency. Rabbi Alter notes that young people are consumed with building their future. They have grandiose dreams which include the exquisite home, the need to gain social and professional prominence, and whatever they consider essential to their security and material well-being. To be sure, religious life is not ignored. A kosher kitchen, Jewish education, and mitzvah observance are hallmarks of the Jewish home. But somehow the bulk of our energies are directed toward the pursuit of the material, whereas the spiritual component of our lives, although paid generous lip service, is relegated to a secondary tier of importance. Daily minyan is attended if we have time, and Torah classes are attended if our schedules do not include prior commitments. We are obsessed with upgrading our hard drives, but how often do we entertain the thought of upgrading our Jewish value system?

This is what the Midrash exhorts. When the Torah says that Hashem created the world starting with the heaven, it means Hashem desires that the heavenly and spiritual realm be Man’s focus in creation. However, we construct the edifices of our lives from the bottom, making earthly pursuits and material successes the foundation of our lives. May we merit that the foundations we lay for ourselves and our families follow the blueprint of the greatest of all architects.

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Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich has been a teacher at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta for over a decade.

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