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Our Right to The Land of Israel - בראשית

Friday, 13 October, 2023 - 11:00 am

Our Right to The Land of Israel 

The choice of where to start a story will affect the entire narrative.

The Torah begins with the story of creation: 

In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.

The Midrash, quoted in the very first Rashi in the Torah, questions this choice. Why does the Torah - (from the root word Horaah, lesson)  begin with the story of creation, rather than beginning with  the first instruction, commandment, to the Jewish people in Egypt? After all, isn't the primary purpose of the Torah to teach us the will of G-d expressed in the commandments?

The Midrash explains that the Torah begins with the stroy of creation in order to establish the bedrock of the Jewish people’s right to the Land of Israel. In the future, we may be accused of robbing the land of the Canaanite nations. The Torah, therefore, explains that all of the earth belongs to the creator, who desired to give the land to them and then desired to take it from them and give it to us. 

In the beginning: Said Rabbi Isaac: It was not necessary to begin the Torah except from "This month is to you," (Exodus 12:2) which is the first commandment that the Israelites were commanded, (for the main purpose of the Torah is its 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" (Psalms 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.

The accusation about the "conquest" of "the land of the seven nations" also applies to the figurative and spiritual "Land of Israel". Creation is divided into heaven and earth, the spiritual and material. Indeed, many faiths understand the divide to be absolute, where one must separate and escape the material in order to experience spiritual transcendence and enlightenment. The Jewish people, however, are different. Every day of our life, we are engaged in the conquest of the mundane, the figurative "land of the seven nations", in order to transform it into holiness, the figurative holy “Land of Israel”.

The claim of the nations of the world is that the physical and spiritual are diametrically opposed; when one is engaged in physical life, one cannot have any connection to spirituality. To refute that mistaken notion, the Torah begins with the story of creation to emphasize that everything in the universe was created by G-d, who desires that we reveal its potential and transform it into the "Land of Israel", into a dwelling place for the creator. 

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos 20 Bereshis 1            

 

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