23 Tishrei 5774
The Torah begins by telling us that Hashem made order in the creation by separating - light from darkness, waters above from waters below, land from sea, day from night and each living thing multiplied after its own kind. Why should the world be surprised then when Hashem separated out a nation for His own - Israel - and put it in a land of its own - the Land of Israel?
In fact, it is from this first parshah of the Torah that we get this famous Rashi:
The Torah begins with an account of the creation of the heavens and the earth. Rashi asks an important question. ...Why does the Torah begin with an account of creation?
...He explains that Hashem promised the land of Israel to Bnai Yisrael. However, the Jewish people would not occupy an empty region. They would dispossess other nations. The Torah teaches justice. How can we justify the seizure of the land of Israel from these nations?
The account of creation provides the response. The Almighty created the universe. Therefore, He has the right to apportion the earth to various nations. He also has the authority to command the dispossession of these nations.
Rashi’s answer is difficult to understand. The nations, which Bnai Yisrael would expel, were idol worshippers. They did not accept the authenticity of the Torah. Certainly, they would question the assertion that the Creator had promised the land of Israel to Jewish people. They would not agree that the Almighty – the true owner – had confiscated the land from them.
We encounter this very situation today. The nations of the world are familiar with the Torah, its account of creation, and its record of the Almighty’s promises to the Jewish people. Yet, these nations do not recognize the Jewish people’s Divine right to the land! Are we to assume that the Almighty did not fully understand the nature of his creatures? Did He think the entire world would accept the message of the Torah?
Rav Yisrael Meir Lau explains that we must carefully consider Rashi’s comments. Rashi does not say that the nations of the world will be convinced of the Torah’s argument. It seems that Rashi did not maintain that the message is addressed to these nations. Instead, the Torah is speaking to Bnai Yisrael!
According to Rashi, Hashem recognized that the morality of the Jewish people would be challenged by the nations. He also realized that Bnai Yisrael would be sensitive to this reproach. We need to know that, despite all accusations, we have a Divine right to the land of Israel. Therefore, the Torah teaches us the basis of our claim.
It is certainly no coincidence that it was during the week of Parshat B'reishit that President Barack Hussein Obama spoke to the UN General Assembly in New York on 24 September 2013 and said the following:
"...the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state. [In the midst of the Land of Israel.] ...The time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace. [A euphemism for taking the Land of Israel away from the Jews.] ...Current talks are focused on final status issues of borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem."
This is the perfect time for every Jew to read and absorb Rashi's explanation for why the Torah begins with the story of creation.