What a privilege it is to be able to start the Torah from the beginning again. Our beautiful custom of going through the Torah once a year testifies to our endless love for the Torah. The story of creation is obviously one of the most difficult and deepest parts of the Torah to grasp. As human beings, it is impossible for us to be able to understand all the depth that is behind the prophecy of creation. On the other hand, the fact that the story of creation is an essential part of the Torah – we must try our best to connect to some of the messages behind the verses. In this essay, I want to focus a little bit on the word “Biraishit“. בראשית]]
I mentioned many times that without the command of the Hebrew language one is limited in his ability to understand the Torah. The Hebrew language is so special in that it was the language that Hashem used to create the world. It is the language of prophecy. This is taught in the first verse of the Torah. In the beginning G-D created in Hebrew – (Biraishit Barah Elokim Et (בראשית ברא אלוקים את/ “Et” in Hebrew refers to the (Alpha Bet/ (אלף בית which starts with Aleph and ends with Tav. G-D created the world using the Hebrew language and letters. Without a knowledge of Hebrew one cannot obtain a complete picture of the Torah. It is pathetic how many claim to be authorities on Torah without having any real knowledge of Hebrew. What is even more pathetic is that people are so naïve and actually turn to these leaders for guidance in their quest for Torah study. If one really wants to study Torah he must find himself a Rabbi who is fluent in the language and has truly received a traditional orthodox ordination and most importantly, his fear of G-D must be valued more than his wisdom. Any other choice can only lead to the distortion of the Holy Word of G-D. If someone offered you and original painting or a poor copy – what would you prefer?
Putting this aside, let us begin our attempt to try and understand the first word of the Torah. The word “Biraishit” is commonly translated as in the beginning. The commentators right away bring up an important question based on Hebrew grammar. Since the word “Biraishit” is pronounced “Bi” and not “Ba” – in other words it uses the Hebrew enunciation form of a “shvah” and not the Hebrew vowel “kamatz” therefore it is what we call in Hebrew grammar “samuch” meaning the construct state. It could be looked as a noun pair like “policeman”, doorbell, car alarm, etc… This means that the word “Biraishit” should be followed by another noun. However, this is not the case. The next word to follow is the verb created ברא) /Barah). In other words, the Torah should have said something like – in the beginning of creation, G-D created… Where is the missing noun?
One of The greatest commentators of all time, Rashi (Harav Shlomo Yitzchaki – (1040-1105 France) raises this question and turns to a Midrashic interpretation. Rashi explains that the word “Raishit” is always found in the construct state in the Torah. In other words, not only does the vowel “Bi” testify to this but the word “Biraishit” itself is always used in the construct grammatical form. Rashi does add that if you want to understand this verse on the pshat level – meaning the simple understanding of the text, you have no choice but to explain the verse in the construct form and add the missing noun. This means that we must understand the verse as in the beginning of creation, G-D created the heavens and earth… This teaches us that we must not understand this verse as teaching us the order of creation. Instead, we must understand it as a general statement at the time of the creation of the heavens and earth. This he proves from the next verse that mentions that G-D’s spirit hovered over the face of the water. This means that water was already created before the earth. Although, the Torah did not mention when water was created. In addition, the heavens in Hebrew are called (shamayim/ (שמים – a combination of two Hebrew words fire (Esh/ (אש and water מים)/ Mayim) again showing that water and fire already existed. Because of this difficulty, Rashi says the verse demands a Midrashic level of interpretation. According to the Midrash, “Biraishit” means that G-D created the world for the sake of the Torah and for the sake of Israel. This is based on the fact that in Hebrew grammar the “shvah” under the “Beit” means with. Using this interpretation of the verse we should understand the verse as saying – with the beginning in mind -G-D created the Heavens and earth. In other words, with the Torah and Israel in mind G-D created the world. The Midrash proves this by showing how the Torah and Israel are called the beginning. If we look in Proverbs 8:22 “Hashem made me as the beginning of His way, the first of His works of old” This verse is referring to the Torah which was created first. The word in this verse that refers to the Torah is (Reishit/ (ראשית the same word that opens the first word of the Torah. In Jerimiah 2:3 it says “Israel is holy to Hashem, the first of His Harvest, all that devour him shall be found guilty and evil will come upon them says Hashem” Again, in this verse in Hebrew the word for first is (Reishit/ (ראשית the same word that opens the Torah. The Midrash is teaching us that Hashem created the world for the sake of the Torah and Israel. This I mentioned before comes from the fact that the (Bi/ (ב from the word “Biraishit” means with – with the Torah and Israel in mind G-D created the word.
The first question that comes to mind is – what about all the other creations of the universe? Aren’t they important as well? The answer is of course – yes, Hashem loves all of mankind. However, without the Torah and the people of Israel the world cannot reach perfection. The Divine plan would remain unachieved. This stems from the fact that Hashem created the world to bestow his love and kindness upon mankind – this will happen when the light of the Divine is revealed to the world. This can only be attained by following the guidance of the Torah through its true teachers – those that received Torah on Sinai – the nation of Israel!
This idea is amazingly hinted to in the Hebrew word (Beraishit/ (בראשית. It has the same letters as the first part of the word Israel and the word Torah – בישרא – ת. The amazing thing is that the only missing letter for the complete word for Israel is the (Lamed/ ל )this we find at the last word of the Torah that is Israel and ends with lamed. Showing so clearly that with Israel and the Torah Hashem created the world. It also has the letters of (Brit and Esh/ ברית אש) meaning the covenant of fire. It is well known that the Torah refers to the covenant of fire. In addition, Israel is the nation of the (Brit/ (ברית the covenant. Rabbi Hirsh explains that the next word (Barah/ברא) meaning created is close to other Hebrew words like (Barah (ברח/ – to run away), (Parach/פרח) – to flower, (Parah – (פרע -to reveal. The roots of these words all mean to bring into fruition. Setting free that which is chained down. In Aramaic the word “Barah” means outside. In other words, creating refers to bringing out something that was hidden within the depths of Divine Will. This plan is all outlined in the Torah and brought and set free by the people of Israel who must bring G-D’s light to the world. Like a gorgeous flower that when its bud blossoms the beauty hidden within becomes revealed to all.
In this difficult time here in Israel – more than ever we have to pray and work hard in order to reveal the beautiful goal of creation through the study and living a life of Torah. Only then we will see an end to this bloodshed and violence. The word Beraishit has the same letters as ראש בית meaning the head of the house. This hints to what is going on the Temple Mount. The site of the house of Hashem. When the Temple will be rebuilt on the Mountain and the word of the Torah will be sounded from the walls of thus holy site by the house of Israel – only then will the world reach true salvation.
Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith