(Torah Portion Beraishis) Precious Letters!
This Shabbos we begin reading Beraishis, the first portion of the Torah and starting a year of weekly public readings of the Torah which we will finish next Simchas Torah. The Torah makes every one of us responsible to become proficient in the Torah through its study. One popular regimented structure of Torah study, is reviewing the weekly Sedra – portion – with traditional commentaries.
The Torah with its Divine message, guidance and laws is our window and instruction book as to how G-d wishes us to live our lives. The Torah also shows us our destiny. In the first verse of the Torah, Rashi, our greatest Torah commentator, cites Rebbi Yitzchok who asks why does the Torah, which is the book of law, not begin with the mitzvah of the sanctification of the new moon which is the first law given to the Jewish people?
He answers that G-d began the Torah with the description of His creation of the world so that there will be no question that G-d owns the world. Once that is established, we understand that it is up to G-d to apportion the various lands to whomever He wishes. Thus, when G-d deeded the Land of Israel to our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov, their children, the Jewish people, have a firm and undisputable claim and right to the Land of Israel.
Rashi raises another question, “G-d began the Torah with “Beraishis Barah Elokim” which means, “in the beginning G-d created.” However, the order of the words can be misinterpreted to mean “The beginning created G-d.” Why Did the Torah begin in a way that can be interpreted in a heretical fashion?
The answer offered is that G-d wished to begin with the word Beraishis in order to impress upon us that the purpose of the world’s creation was entirely for the nation of Israel who are referred to by the name Raishis!
But why give fuel for a heretic to base his arguments on a verse in the Torah? The answer is that G-d knows that a person viewing the Torah from an objective point of view will not err, for he will examine the sources which will lead him to clarity. Also the Torah gives the opportunity for those who wish to approach the Torah with prejudice to base their errant views on the Torah. It is G-d’s way allowing us to choose right from wrong.
Every single letter in the Torah is precious, sacred and has eternal meaning. In order for a Torah scroll to be Kosher every single letter and word must be written clearly and completely. I’ll share a few examples where a single letter in the Torah has a major impact on our destiny. Our Sages tell us that the Torah begins with the Hebrew letter Bais – the second letter of the Alef Bais in order to impress upon us that we should not delve into what was before creation. Additionally, Bais was chosen to begin the Torah because the word Brocha – blessing – begins with a Bais and the world was created with G-d’s blessings.
When the Torah describes the creation of mankind, the word Vayitzair – and He created – is spelled with two Hebrew letter Yud’s. Our Sages explain that the two Yud’s represent the two levels of creation of man; one is in the physical world – where he is to accomplish and reach his potential and connectivity to G-d, and the second is after his soul departs it enters into the eternal existence of the World to Come depending on how he lived his life. An extra letter Yud impacts on our eternity!
When the Torah describes the creation of animal life the word Vayitzair is spelled with just one Yud. This is to indicate that for animals only one world was created; this physical world.
The Torah lists all the days of creation saying, one day, a second day, a third day, etc. however, the Torah refers to the sixth and final day of creation as The Sixth day. Our Sages wonder why the sixth day is highlighted more than all the other days of creation. The answer offered is that it is referring to another major event that was to take place on a sixth day – that day is the sixth day of Sivan when G-d revealed Himself at Mount Sinai and gave us the Holy Torah. The highlighted Sixth day teaches us that the entire creation hinged upon our acceptance of the Torah 2448 years later.
The Torah in this portion relates that Kayin killed his brother Able and his Divine punishment was that he had to constantly be on the move. Kayin asked G-d for protection. The Torah tells us that G-d placed a letter on his forehead. Our Sages tell us that the letter was the Hebrew letter Vuv.
Why Vuv? Rabbi Meir Shapiro o.b.m. explains: The letter Vuv is a prefix which means “and”, thus Vuv as part of word is a connector, however when it stands alone it has no meaning. You need two people in order to connect. Kayin harbored jealousy towards his brother as our Sages point out that Kayin was jealous of Able over how to split the inheritance of the entire world. Kayin was not satisfied and wanted more. The isolated letter Vuv that Kayin carried, indicated his fault – Kayin stood alone not connected to anyone else.
The numerical value of the Hebrew letter Vuv is six. When we revere and respect our sacred and holy Torah which was given on the sixth day of Sivan – we deepen our bond and connectivity to G-d and our people, and have a positive impact on the entire world!
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid Saks