Friday, October 24, 2008

Breishis 5631 Second Ma'amar

The Torah essentially is a book that describes the mitzvos. Why then, did the Torah not begin from the first mitzvah that was given to us – mitzvas hachodesh? What is the purpose of the entire Sefer Breishis? The first Rashi in Breishis quotes Chazal who address this question. The answer, Chazal teach us, is to give us a response to the nations of the world. As we find in Tehillim, “כֹּחַ מַעֲשָׂיו הִגִּיד לְעַמּוֹ לָתֵת לָהֶם נַחֲלַת גּוֹיִם/He declared the power of His works to His people, to give them the heritage of the nations.” If the nations accuse us of being usurpers, that we stole the land of Israel, we can answer that the world belongs to God. He took Israel away from its original inhabitants and gave it to us.

The Sfas Emes asks, however, that this answer explains only the first chapter of the Torah that describes the Creation. What is the purpose of the rest of the book of Breishis? Why is it necessary for the Torah to include the story of Noach and the Flood, all the trials and tribulations of the patriarchs, Yosef and his brothers and the exile in Egypt?

To answer this question we need to understand that the Torah is more than a scroll containing words. This Torah is also the spiritual entity through which God created the world. The entire world is therefore imbued with the power of the Torah. It is only because of this power in the Creation that the world continues to exist. Regarding this Chazal taught that God looked into the Torah and created the world.

This power is generally not apparent. Through our actions, though, we have the ability to reveal the power of the Torah which inheres in the Creation. This, the Sfas Emes teaches us, is an aspect of the oral Torah. It is that component of the Torah in which each of us has the ability to make a unique imprint. The written Torah is apparent for all to see. The oral Torah is not. It is up to us to reveal it through our actions. When we intend to fulfill God’s will with our actions, then our actions reveal the Torah’s hidden light within nature.

This is the reason for all the stories in Breishis. God wanted to show us that our actions, like the actions our forefathers, can become Torah. This is the meaning of the beginning of the pasuk quoted above, “כֹּחַ מַעֲשָׂיו הִגִּיד לְעַמּוֹ .../He declared the power of His works to His people …” His works are the מַעֲשֵׂה בְּרֵאשִׁית/workings of the Creation. The power of His works is the power of the Torah inherent in the world. God taught us that the Creation owes its continuing existence to the power of the Torah within it.

Our purpose is to effect a revelation of this power. In fact, the purpose of the Creation is to reveal God through it. By revealing the spirituality underlying the Creation we become partners with God in the workings of the Creation.

The Zohar actually says this explaining the pasuk in Yeshaya, “וָאָשִׂים דְּבָרַי בְּפִיךָ ... לִנְטֹעַ שָׁמַיִם וְלִיסֹד אָרֶץ וְלֵאמֹר לְצִיּוֹן עַמִּי־אָתָּה/And I have placed My words in your mouth … to implant the heavens and to establish the foundation of the earth and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.” The word עַמִּי/My people can also be read as עִמִי/with Me. God is telling the prophet that just like He created the world through words, so too, we are partners with Him when we study Torah. However, the Sfas Emes broadens this to include recognizing the point of spirituality within each thing. The word צִיוֹן/Zion, can be read צִיוּן/indicator. The pasuk then is teaching us that one who attaches himself to this point recognizing God’s life-force in everything and every action, becomes a partner with God in the workings of the Creation.

One who lives in this way merits the end of the pasuk from Tehillim, “... לָתֵת לָהֶם נַחֲלַת גּוֹיִם/… to give them the heritage of the nations.” By connecting the natural world with the motive force behind it, nature cannot hide the power of the inherent holiness. As a result, that person is not bound by the physical world’s restrictions. That person merits an inheritance with no boundaries, the inheritance of all the nations.

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