Rashi in his commentary on the book of Genesis brings down on the first verse of the Torah, the words of Rav Yitzchak – “Why did the Torah begin with the story of creation instead of beginning with the first commandment we received as the Jewish nation – the Mitzvah of declaring the new moon (Rosh Chodesh). If we look deeper into the teachings of Rav Yitzchak he was asking – why does the Torah invest the entire book of Genesis and the beginning of the second book of Shmot discussing our forefathers and the birth of the Jewish nation? Isn’t the most important goal receiving the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah? Why must we learn all the stories of our forefathers and the birth of our nation first? The answer lies in one verse in the book of Psams 111:10 “The fear of Hashem is the beginning of wisdom” The first and foremost step in receiving the Torah is the fear of G-D! The Talmud in the Tractate of Shabbat brings down on page 31b the following parable” Rabba Bar Rav Hunah says any man that has Torah and does not have the fear of Hashem is likened to a treasurer that was given the keys of the inner chamber but not the outer chamber- How is he going to get in? Rabbi Yani declared how unfortunate this man is that made a gate to a house but the house he never built! Rav Yehudah says that G-D did not create the world only for us to fear him. As it says in Ecclesiastics 3:14 “God has done it, that men should fear before him.”
If we look deeply into the words of these Rabbis we see that the purpose of creation was for us to fear G-D. The study of Torah is supposed to be a means to bring us to this highest goal of fearing Hashem. The first book of the Torah which accounts the stories of our forefathers brings us close to Hashem by teaching us to have faith and fear G-d by their lofty examples in dealing with all the tests placed before them. Only after this are we ready to receive the Torah.
Today we live in a world of intellectualism. Just like people enjoy a good meal and to have fun they enjoy a nice Daf Yomi or any other intellectual experience. We must never forget that the major goal in learning Torah is to bring us and the world to a higher spiritual level of fearing G-D. The intellectual experience, challenges and enjoyment of learning are not the goal of our study. Obviously it is fantastic that one enjoys studying the word of Hashem and takes pleasure in the intellectual experience since this will enhance his incentive to study more Torah – but let us remember why we are studying! The Torah that was given thousands of years ago, way before any secular code of etiquette, is the backbone of the entire world; it is our job to raise this banner and bring light unto the nations.
Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Moshe Golsmith, Itamar