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IN THE BEGINNING

by Rabbi Norman Schloss    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"Bereishit bara Elokim In the beginning of Hashem's creating the heavens and the earth. . ." (Genesis 1:1). "Hashem created the world for the sake of those things that are called 'Reishit - first', i.e. the Torah and the Jewish people" (Midrash on the above verse quoted by Rashi).

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"Bereishit bara Elokim In the beginning of Hashem's creating the heavens and the earth. . ." (Genesis 1:1). "Hashem created the world for the sake of those things that are called 'Reishit - first', i.e. the Torah and the Jewish people" (Midrash on the above verse quoted by Rashi).

The Talmud (Tractate Avodah Zarah 2b) relates that in the future Hashem will take hold of a Torah scroll and proclaim that all who involved themselves with the Torah should come forth and receive their just reward. Immediately, all of the nations of the world will gather. Rome will step forward and declare, "Master of the universe, look at all we did. We developed marketplaces and amassed great wealth, all for the sake of the Children of Israel so that they could learn Torah." Hashem responds, "Fools that you are! Everything that you did, you did for your own glory and needs."

Rome will leave and Persia will enter. They also proclaim, "Master of the universe, we constructed bridges and roads, and waged great wars, all for the sake of the Children of Israel so that they could learn Torah." Hashem again responds, "Fools that you are. Everything that you did, you did for your own glory and needs." So it will continue for all of the nations of the world.

Regarding this passage, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveichik, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the first part of this century, wondered how can it be that at the time of reckoning and ultimate moment of truth, that the nations of the world will have the audacity to come before Hashem and say that they did everything for the sake of the Jewish people and their study of the Torah. Moreover, why does Hashem respond by calling them fools when the term "liars" would seem more appropriate?

The answer, he suggests, is as Rashi, the fundamental Torah commentator, explains on the first verse of the Torah quoted above. Just as the world was created for the sake of the Jewish people, so too all that will be discovered and developed from the beginning of creation until the end of time is all for the sake of the Jewish people. So in truth, everything that the nations create and develop is for the sake of the Children of Israel. However, it is not disclosed to them until it is too late. Then they want to take credit retroactively for all of their past deeds. That is why Hashem calls them fools and not liars. Although their intentions were only for themselves, Hashem knew all along that there would be benefit for the Jewish people.

Along these same lines, Rabbi Soloveichik's illustrious father, Rabbi Chaim Brisker, once remarked upon the news that a railroad was being built from St. Petersburg to Berlin: "This will make it easier for the boys to get to the Yeshiva in Volozhin." Similarly, if not for the construction of the Siberian Railroad (an undertaking that many thought was wasteful and foolish), the Mir Yeshiva in Russia would never have made it to Shanghai and escaped the destruction of Europe. (Incidentally, the story of the Mir Yeshiva's escape is truly a remarkable series of obvious miracles saving hundreds of people from the death camps.)

Yes, everything in the world was and is created for the Children of Israel. The nations of the world will realize their foolishness too late, but we also must be forever cognizant of our unique relationship with Hashem, forged through our acceptance and practice of His Torah, and realize our full potential. If a person will wonder, "How could I observe Shabbat?" Hashem will respond, "Look at all of the labor-saving devices that were developed for your sake just so that you could keep Shabbat." If a person will say, "How could I keep Kosher?" Hashem will answer, "Look at all the food technology, everything from non-dairy creamer to Baco's, all invented just so that you could keep Kosher." If a person will say, "I didn't have time to learn Torah," Hashem will respond, "Look at all the electronic wonders I have given you. Computers for Torah on the Internet, tape recorders for Torah tapes, telephones for all sorts of classes - from Daf Yomi classes on the Talmud to Shmirat HaLashon (Guarding your tongue) messages - all were created for the sake of the Torah and the Jewish people."

As we begin again the cycle of Torah readings, let us renew our commitment to Torah and take full advantage of all of the wonders and miracles that Hashem has put at our disposal.

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Rabbi Norman Schloss writes from Atlanta.

You are invited to read more Bereishit articles.

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