Simchat Torah & Bereshit- Twisting the Truth

As we finish our yearly cycle of Torah reading on Thursday morning and begin it anew on Shabbat, we will once again read the story of the creation of the world. Rashi, in his first of many comments on the Torah, writes:

אמר רבי יצחק: לא היה צריך להתחיל [את] התורה אלא (שמות יב ב) מהחודש הזה לכם, שהיא מצווה ראשונה שנצטוו [בה] ישראל, ומה טעם פתח בבראשית, משום (תהילים קיא ו) כוח מעשיו הגיד לעמו לתת להם נחלת גויים, שאם יאמרו אומות העולם לישראל לסטים אתם, שכבשתם ארצות שבעה גויים, הם אומרים להם כל הארץ של הקב”ה היא, הוא בראה ונתנה לאשר ישר בעיניו, ברצונו נתנה להם וברצונו נטלה מהם ונתנה לנו.

R’ Yitzchak said: There was no need to begin the Torah until “Hachodesh Hazeh” (Shemot 12:2), which is the first mitzva that was commanded to the Jewish People. So why did the Torah start with Bereshit? Because of “The stregnth of His works He related to Hi speople, to give them the inheritance of the nations.” (Tehilim 111:6). If the nations of the world will ever say to Israel ‘you are robbers, that you conquered by force the lands of the seven native nations,’ Israel can reply ‘G-d owns the entire world, He created it and He can give it to whoever He’d like- He gave it to them (the Canaanites) when he wanted to, and when he was ready, He took it from them and gave it to us.’ (רש”י הקדמה לבראשית פרק א’).

According to Rashi, our scripture begins with the creation of the world because it can serve as a proof to the nations of the world that G-d created the world, including Israel, for us to inherit the land. This first lesson of the Torah, as taught by Rashi, shows us of the impact that a small detail, like the setting of the beginning of the Torah, can have on our daily lives. While the Torah could’ve begun with Bereshit, then skipped quickly to החודש הזה, it instead goes into great detail at every step of human and Jewish development, and as we’ve seen over the past year, there are many small points along the way that also have practical ramifications to our day-to-day lives. With וזאת ברכה closing with משה רבינו’s first and final distant look at ארץ ישראל before his death and בראשית starting with this idea of creation as a connection to the land, there is no doubt of the תורה’s relevance to ארץ ישראל, one of the centerpieces of our religion and lives. Let’s learn one final lesson from this first פרשה of the תורה.

Later on in פרשת בראשית, the snake approaches חוה and makes a casual inquiry:

אַף כִּי אָמַר אֱלֹהִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן

Did G-d tell you that you shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden? (בראשית ג:א)

But not without the following introduction:

וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה ה’ אֱלֹקים

And the serpent was cunning, more than any other animals that G-d created (שם)

Many מפרשים note that the juxtaposition here teaches us that the snake used its cunning to convince חוה to fail and eat the forbidden fruit in a very subtle way, by asking leading questions and telling small white lies. This method slowly but surely turned חוה to go against G-d’s only command and eat from the עץ הדעת after convincing her husband אדם to do the same. While the snake was appropriately punished for his involvement in this incident, we cannot help but admire how smoothly he influenced חוה, using psychological methods to get into her head and twist her perspectives on the world that she knew.

Similar methods are constantly in use by the liberal media and Anti-Semitic news outlets to undermine Israel. HonestReporting, a Middle East media watchgroup, recently published a study on how many neutral stories become twisted and warped until they put Israel in a bad light- in this study, they cited a story where a mistaken post on twitter about a Gaza blockade turned into a completely false anti-Israel story on BBC scarcely 12 hours later. How did this happen so quickly? Using this method of making small changes to the reality of a story until it has become so distorted that it is has become almost unrecognizable from the truth, all to fit the agenda of erasing the connection that the Torah went out of its way to emphasize by starting with the creation of the world- our right to our inheritance.

So, as we read the end of ספר דברים on Thursday (or Friday) morning and hear משה’s longing to enter the land that was promised to our forefathers by G-d, then subsequently go back to where it all began and read about our ancient connection to said land, it is important to take a minute and appreciate the unique opportunity that we have, that we, for the first time in thousands of years, have the ability to freely fulfill עליה לרגל and ישוב הארץ, an opportunity that משה רבינו never had. With השם’s help, and in the זכות of our continued taking advantage of this chance, we will hopefully see a fulfillment of “ולמלשינים אל תהי תקוה וכל המינים כרגע יאבדו”, an end to the mission that started with the snake of undermining G-d’s will through lies and trickery, and an end to our suffering in the exile as we all gather together in Jerusalem in the third Bet Hamikdash, very very soon. Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom to all.