This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Bereshit (5765)
Most people, even Gentiles, are familiar with the opening sentence of the Torah: "IN THE BEGINNING G-D CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH"
But at first glance it has no practical importance.
What do we care how the world got created. or if it was created at all? In any case it happened thousands (maybe millions!) of years ago! Why can't the Torah just be like the other religions and say that G-d rewards and punishes whoever doesn't follow the rules? Who cares how the world got here?
But the teachings of Chassidut and Kabala reveal several vital messages here.
First of all, the Torah is telling us what the world is made of: that the basic element of creation is neither atoms nor quarks of energy or even spirit... all these are themselves creations.
Rather G-d created the world from Nothing. In other words, the basic element of creation (even now) is 'NOTHING'!
The story of Beresheet is only telling us how G-d BEGAN creating it. but really the world has no independent existence on its own and depends on G-d to bring it, in its every detail, CONSTANTLY from nothing into existence.
What is the vital message?
The same G-d who creates the world also created man in order to put meaning into it (Gen 2:15) and gave His Torah to the Jews to perfect it.
In fact that was (and still is) the entire PURPOSE of creation (See Rashi 1:1 and 1:31 the world depends on the Jews and on Torah).
So is impossible that anything in the world can prevent us from obeying its Creator.
In other words, although the world may seem to resist or even oppose the Torah, nevertheless if we make a firm resolution to do what is right we are assured of success.
Here is a story to illustrate.
Once I was approached by a group of three missionaries in Manhattan. As they began their pitch I interrupted and said I wanted to ask them a question. Certain that they had all the answers they eagerly agreed. "Do you think G-d is spiritual?" I asked.
They looked at me in open mouthed bewilderment; then at one another as to say 'What has he got up his sleeve? Think he's nuts?' shrugged their shoulders, turned back and answered "Of course He is spiritual!"
I answered "I'm surprised at you! You don't even know the first sentence of the Torah!" Their eyes got wider and wider as they protested, "of course we do! 'In the beginning G-d created the Heavens and the Earth"
"See!" I answered triumphantly. "That's exactly what I mean! 'The Heavens' mean all the spiritual creations, 'The Earth' is the physical. So you see G-d is not spiritual. HE CREATES THE SPIRITUAL!!"
I paused briefly, and when I was sure they were thoroughly confused added.
"Or in other words. OUR G-d creates YOUR god!"
They turned on their heels and left without another word.
This brings us to another vital lesson.
'Bresheet' also teaches that G-d loves and is infinitely close to us.
The fact that G-d creates each of us anew every instant (as well as caring, providing for and answering all our prayers) means that He is constantly and 'personally' involved with each of us. This should make us infinitely grateful and inspire us with joy and energy to constantly renew our life,
and our connection to Him.
This is certainly true and meaningful for the Gentiles as well. In fact it is the basis of their Seven Noahide Commandments: Because the Creator also creates and cares for them constantly it is unnecessary (and forbidden) for them to worship any power except for the G-d who loves and brings them into existance.
But it will take Moshiach to reveal these truths to all mankind. And that is hinted at in the second sentence.
"THE EARTH WAS CONFUSION AND EMPTINESS AND DARKNESS ... AND THE SPIRIT OF G-D FLOATED ON THE FACE OF THE WATER.
According to the Midrash (Raba 2:4) this "SPIRIT' is referring to the "Spirit of Moshiach"... In other words the 'spirit' of Moshiach existed even before the creation of Man!
What does this mean? How can Moshiach be so important? Why does he have to be mentioned in the beginning of creation? What does it have to do with confusion, emptiness and darkness?
This is very in tune with the fact that most Jews, even religious ones, know little or nothing about Moshiach. Massive Torah Tape libraries contain nothing on the subject. I recently saw a book about Moshiach written by a religious lecturer (with no less than a doctorate in religion) who had almost no understanding of the topic.
Moshiach will be a great Jewish ruler, like King David, King Solomon and Moses, who will bring the entire world to perfection: He will do this by educating and inspiring all mankind to follow the will of the Creator; the Gentiles according to the Seven Noahide commandments and the Jews according to the Oral and written Torah.
And ONLY he can do it.
Just as without Abraham there would be no Jewish people and without Moses there could have been no Exodus or receiving the Torah .. so all mankind cannot leave its egotistic limitations and realize its true G-dly potential without Moshiach.
But there is a vital lesson in this to us NOW.
The Rambam writes that we must believe in and long for Moshiach and anyone who does not do so actually denies the entire Torah. (Laws of Kings 11:1).
Other Torah giants explain even further that this faith and longing will actually help bring Moshiach. (In fact ALL of our prayers are essentially only for Moshiach and the perfect world will bring).
The Rambam explains earlier that each deed we do can change the entire world and reveal Moshiach immediately. And the Lubavitcher Rebbe even gave a detailed plan of action (see last chapter of Moshiach essay at
But the Rebbe explains that there will be two periods of Moshiach and our deeds will bring them about.
At first, Moshiach will educate and enlighten the world, beginning with the Jews, to do only good deeds. He will dissipated the 'CONFUSION, EMPTINESS and DARKNESS' that has been supreme for thousands of years. The Temple will be rebuilt, all the Jews will return to the land of Israel and will be free to learn Torah and pursue Judaism; there will be no hunger or war and peace and prosperity will prevail in the world.
In other words; the first stage of Moshiach will see 'natural' changes that have precedence in the history of man.
But the second period will be completely outside of nature. The world will be transformed to be filled with the revelation of G-d and great miracles culminating with the most incredible of all: the raising of the dead, will occur.
That is why the Torah tells us that 'spirit' of Moshiach came first.
To teach us that not only is Moshiach the goal of Judaism but also that our deeds will cause these two stages.
The first period, when there will be no hunger, war or other obstacles will be caused by our service of G-d with joy and determination as though there are no obstacles.
But the second period, when all nature will change, will be brought about by our service of G-d in a totally new ways; with totally new powers completely ABOVE our natures.
Here is a story to illustrate.
An elderly Jew with a large black Yarmulke once appeared in the Chabad House of Ben Gurion Airport in Israel.
He stepped up to the counter and when he was asked if he would like a cup of coffee gratis, he answered that he would. but only if it was full to the brim.
The perplexed Chassidim standing behind the counter did as he said; they filled the cup, with his constant encouragement, to the point that the slightest quiver would cause it to spill. Then to their amazement the old fellow lifted the cup without spilling a drop and drank it.
When he finished he smiled proudly and said.
"I did that to show you how great your Rebbe is!"
"I'm not a Chassid Chabad" He explained "My name is Rabbi Baker and years ago I was the Rabbi of a large Shul in New York. We had a Mikva for women and everything. But then, like so many Shuls in the U.S.A. the older people either died or moved away and the neighborhood filled with gentiles. The board of directors of the Shul began hinting that they would like to sell out and make a nice profit .. but I was against it.
"First of all, it is forbidden to sell a Synagogue and, not only that, men kept coming to Shul and women kept using the Mikva. Then an interesting thing happened. The lady that was in charge of the Mikva told me that almost every evening the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shneerson, would call her up ask her how she was feeling and encourage her work.
"This continued for several months until one evening I was in the middle teaching a class in Talmud in the Shul when she burst into the room and shouted almost hysterically that someone had put a large lock on the Mikva door.
"I understood that it must have been the directors trying to discourage women from coming but I didn't know what to do. I am not the strongest of people and I held myself to be an honorable Rabbi.. certainly not one to go fighting battles.
"Well, I don't know how I did it but I ran to my car, somehow found a metal saw (to this day I don't know how it got there) ran to the lock and began sawing away in public. A bunch of people even stopped to look but I didn't care. About a half hour later the door was open and the women were able to enter.
"The next day the Mikva lady told me that the Rebbe called her the previous night after the incident and when she told him what I had done he said "Blessed be the hands that sawed off that lock."
"That is what I wanted to show you." The old Rabbi concluded. "Today I am over ninety one years old and my hands are steady as a child's because of that blessing."
May we all realize our potentials, exceed even our wildest dreams of success and do all we can to fulfill the purpose of creation and bring....
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