Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Breishis 5631 Third Ma'amar
Note: This week on Tuesday was the yartzeit of Rebbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev zt"l. The following ma'amar is based on a question that Rebbi Levi Yitzchak asked in his sefer Kedushas Levi. May it be a nachas ru'ach for him and l'ilui nishmaso hatehora.
The Torah is primarily a book of instruction to teach us the mitzvos. The Midrash asks, why then, does the Torah not begin with the first mitzvah? The first mitzvah that God gave us as a nation was the mitzvah of keeping the calendar, “הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים .../This month shall be for you the beginning of the months …” (Shmos 12:2) Why is this not the beginning of the Torah?
Before we get to the answer the Midrash gives, Rebbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev asks that Chazal taught us the Torah has to start with the letter ב/beis. How then can the Midrash ask that is should have started from the first mitzvah?
The reasons that Chazal give explaining why the Torah must start with the letter ב/beis gives us a clue to the answer. Chazal teach us that the Torah had to start with the letter beis because it is the first letter of the word בְּרָכָה/blessing. Beis is also the second letter of the alphabet. It is a hint that God created two worlds, this physical world and the next spiritual world. The Zohar, as well, explains that each letter came to God to ask that the world be created starting with it. God’s answer to each was specific to that letter but the general idea was that it would have been inappropriate for the physical world to be created with that letter. The only letter that is appropriate is the beis because of its association with blessing.
While this is certainly a beautiful Midrash, why are these reasons compelling enough for the Torah to begin with beis rather than from the first mitzvah? After all, as we noted, the Torah’s primary purpose is to teach us the mitzvos.
The Sfas Emes explains. God created the physical world as a screen that hides Him. The physical world works according to natural laws that hide God’s presence. Looking around us we do not see God. We see nature. Because God’s presence is not apparent, the world needs special blessing from Him to continue to exist.
The ultimate goal of Creation is to be close to and experience God. Since this world is physical and therefore conceals God, it cannot be the end goal of the Creation. This goal is alluded to in the very first letter describing the Creation. The beis hints at another world, spiritual in nature, in which God is revealed.
With these ideas, we can understand the question posed by the Midrash. Since the purpose of the Creation is being close to and experiencing God, what need is there for a world in which He is concealed? Why is there not a world in which He is much more revealed and in which everything and everyone in it are drawn naturally towards Torah and mitzvos, the only path for coming close to Him?
In a world like this, there would be no need for the Torah to start with the letter beis. Since God would be revealed, the world would need no special blessing and there would be one not two worlds. In this type of world, the Torah could start from the first mitzvah.
The Midrash answers this question by citing a pasuk in Tehillim (111:6), “כֹּחַ מַעֲשָׂיו הִגִּיד לְעַמּוֹ .../He told His nation the strength of His works …” The purpose of Creation is not simply to be close to and experience God. The purpose is for us to struggle to come close to God. This struggle is only possible in a world in which He is concealed for if He is revealed there is no struggle. His presence is obvious. In this pasuk God is telling us that His works – the physical universe – contain His strength. Even though this is not apparent, we can reveal His strength that inheres in the world by fulfilling His will – keeping the Torah and the mitzvos.
In our world, we need special blessing and its structure as well is hinted at in the first letter. We need a Torah that starts from beis and not from the first mitzvah. May we merit fulfilling God’s will, bringing the Creation towards its ultimate goal of God’s revelation. Amen!