Read It

(Torah Portion Beraishis ) Read It!

I had a friend who was much older I was. He was very sharp, determined and a bit stubborn. From time to time we would discuss…well…much more like argue over Torah concepts, such as, belief in G-d, and the authenticity of our G-d given Torah.

Our discussions would inevitably end with him saying to me, “You’re telling me that the Torah was Divinely written through Moshe, but I don’t agree or accept that.”

I would retort, “Let me ask you, did you ever read or study the Torah from cover to cover to enable you to make such a bold statement?” and he would answer, “No I didn’t.”

Although I presented him with a Torah with a concise and clear commentary, this well-read man with many thick books in his library never read the Torah about which he had such strong opinions.

So how did we remain friends? For one, he loved to argue and I enjoyed trying to reason. Secondly, we never took it personally.

A short while before this man passed away, I visited him in his home, and during the course of our conversation which had nothing to do with our past arguments, he looked at me, and with a smile on his face said, “I have thought about it, and there must be something unique and Divine about the Torah and its message and the endurance of our people.”

This Shabbat we begin reading the Torah from the first portion of the Torah – Beraishis. There is a law in the Code of Jewish Laws that requires us to read and look over the weekly portion twice along with a translation/commentary so that we all become proficient, knowledgeable and aware of the Torah.

The Torah, due to its Divine source is unlike any other text book – such as math books – which change as one advances in its study. The Torah studied by a five year old is the same as that studied by the greatest scholar. Of course, with the advancement of one’s knowledge and expansion of his wisdom, the Torah and its message becomes clearer and one’s understanding becomes deeper – but it all comes from the same source – the Torah!

The first word of the Torah is Beraishis – In the beginning. There is a lot embedded in this first word of the Torah. The Zohar – our Kaballah comes up with seventy different ways of rearranging the six letters of this word, and each teaches us a concept of how to draw closer to G-d.

For example the letters can be arranged to spell out Yirah Shabbos – Reverence of Shabbos; the world was created so that we appreciate and revere the Holy day of Shabbos. Another arrangement is Bris Aish – the covenant of fire – a hint to the Torah which is compared to fire.

The Medrash also mentions a number of laws and ideas derived from the first word of the Torah which is Raishis: Raishis refers to the Torah, to the Jewish people, to Moshe, and to the laws of tithes, Challah and Bikurim – gifts that are given to the Kohain – priest.

The Medrash teaches us that at the get go – Beraishis – G-d created the world for the sake of the Torah, the Jewish people, Moshe and the priestly gifts.

We can understand that G-d created the world for the sake of giving the Torah, through his servant Moshe with the purpose of giving it to the Jewish people to keep and abide. But what is it about the gifts that one gives to the priests? What is unique about these gifts that G-d created the world for this purpose?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. explains: The law of Bikurim – concerns the first fruits that emerge from the seven species that Israel is noted for. These fruits are marked and designated by the owner of the field and then brought up to Jerusalem and presented to a Kohain with a ritual declaration. The fruits then belong to the Kohain.

Rabbi Feinstein points out that the farmer worked extremely hard to produce a yield from his field and can’t wait to taste the fruits, yet, the Torah obligates him to show restraint and offer the first emergence of his precious fruits to the Kohain. These fruits mean the world to the farmer. After all it’s the result of his toil and hard work. However to the Kohain, the recipient of these fruits, they are not necessarily the first quality produce. The later crops of the field may be of better taste and quality.

With this we can understand what it means that G-d gave the Torah for the sake of Bikurim. G-d wishes that His creations learn from this law to give what is most precious to them, without making a calculation if it will be as precious to the next person and thus possibly refrain from giving.

So too, in regard to the Torah given to us by G-d through Moshe. G-d tells us that it is the most precious gift that He has to give us, and the world was created for its sake. G-d entrusted it to us – to study, seek, observe and open our hearts and minds to continually recognize the invaluable worth of G-d’s treasure – our precious and holy Torah!

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos
Rabbi Dovid Saks