Although the primary purpose of the Torah is to teach the Jewish people about the commandments, we see that Bereishit opens with the story of Creation and not with a mitzvah. Rashi quotes the explanation of Rabbi Yitzchak: Why did the Torah begin with the story of Creation? In order that His nation would know His strength to give them the territorial portion of the nations. If the nations accuse the Jews of being thieves because we conquered the Land of the Seven Nations (Israel), we are instructed to answer them that the earth belongs to the Holy One Blessed Be He. He created it and gives it to who He see fit. If He desires, He can give it to the other nations, and if He wishes He may take it from them and give it to us. In addition, since He gave it to us, it is not permitted to give any of it away. It is important not to submit to the falsehood of believing the Jewish people stole the Land of Israel. The story of Creation gives us the correct perspective.

Despite the above, the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that the reason that the Torah begins with the story of Creation cannot be only to supply an answer to a possible question that the nations of the world may or may not ask us (though today it is clearly relevant). It must also be a lesson as to how to serve G‑d.

G‑d created the world, and all of the earth is His….

The first lesson is that a Jew should not be influenced by things in the world that hinder the fulfillment of the Torah and its commandments. That a certain commandment is said to not make sense, is impractical, outdated or uncivilized is the complainer’s problem. If you hear a complaint once, you will hear it one hundred times. Our job is to remember that G‑d created the world, and all of the earth is His; He sets what is correct, and we listen to Him.

There is another lesson: Initially, the land of Israel was in the inheritance of Shem, the eldest son of Noah. Afterwards, it was conquered by the seven Canaanite nations. To change its status back from the land of the Canaanites to the ”Land of Israel” required its conquering by the Jewish people.

From a spiritual perspective, this is a hint to what is expected in the daily life of a Jew. While all of life belongs to G‑d, we often make a distinction between our Jewish lives and our daily physical pursuits. When we are in synagogue praying or in the middle of some other commandment, we are serving G‑d. On the other hand, when we are eating or drinking, involved in our work lives etc, we may unconsciously or even consciously allow ourselves to fall under the influence of the physical world.

There is no true separation between Torah and the world….

Therefore, the beginning of the Torah tells us: Everything you do should be for the sake of heaven. To serve G‑d when we are involved with a specific commandment is nice, but what G‑d really expects from us is that ”everything” should be part of our service to G‑d. On this, the gentile nations - and the gentile within each one of us - make their claim: ”You are thieves.You have conquered! You have stolen our secular orientation by conquering the secular parts of life and made them into something holy, the Land of Israel. We do not want to change!”

The Torah is teaching us that this argument is baseless. There is no true separation between Torah and the world. The entire world belongs to the Holy One Blessed Be He. The ultimate purpose of the physical reality is to “make a dwelling place for G‑d in the lower worlds”. This is the meaning of the well-known edict that, until Mashiach comes, it is every Jew’s job to transform wherever he or she is into an extension of “Israel” - to imbue every place and every aspect of this world with G‑dliness.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova, Shaul

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