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Darkness to Light

In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the earth. This memorable verse is the very first in the Torah. But why does the Torah begin at the beginning? The Torah's commentators repeatedly emphasize that the Torah is not a book of history. It is a book of laws, giving guidance and direction for life. Therefore, the Torah should more logically have begun with "This month shall be for you" - the commandment to sanctify the new month, which was the very first commandment given to the entire Jewish people. Why does it start with creation?

Rashi, in his first commentary on the Torah, provides this explanation:

Rabbi Yitzchok said: ... When the gentiles will accuse the Jews saying, "You are thieves. You have taken the lands of the seven nations," the Jews will reply, "The entire world belongs to G-d. He created it and He gave it to whomever He pleases. He willingly gave it to them and then, He willingly took it from them and gave it to us."

However, if the Torah begins with creation only to negate the gentiles' claim that Jews are thieves, why did G-d allow the non-Jews to settle the Land of Israel to begin with? If the seven nations had never taken possession of the land, that would have been far more effective at preventing accusations against the Jewish people.

The second verse of the Torah describes the primordial state, before the world was created: "Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep... And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light." The world was created according to this operant principle: First there was darkness, and then there was light. The darkness was created first, to be transformed into light.

Similarly, G-d created the Land of Israel to be a Holy Land, a blessed land. But not right away. First, G-d gave the land to the seven Canaanite nations. G-d wished His dwelling to be established in the lower worlds. Therefore, the Land of Israel had to be made first the "heritage of the nations," to the point that even the Torah mentions their accusation that the Jews are "thieves." Then G-d granted the land to the Jews, to transform and elevate it.

We are now living in a time where our claim to the Land of Israel is once again being challenged by the nations of the world. In truth, our arguments sound very weak when we attempt to defend our claim on a political or historic basis. Our only claim to the land is that it was promised to us in the Torah, to elevate it and make it holy. We make the land our own by living in it according to the Torah's laws. By observing the mitzvot, particularly in the Land of Israel, we turn the darkness into light and demonstrate to the world that the land is indeed ours. This is the only way for us to achieve a secure and lasting peace in the Land of Israel.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Bereishit 5751) 

 

 


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