Home rituals for your holiday table Rosh Hashanah 5778!
בראשית אָמַר רַבִּי יִצְחָק לֹֹֹֹֹא הָיָה צָרִיךְ לְהַתְחִיל אֶת הַתּוֹרָה אֶלָּא מֵהַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם,שֶׁהִיא מִצְוָה רִאשׁוֹנָה שֶׁנִּצְטַוּוּ בָּהּ יִשׂרָאֵל, וּמַה טַּעַם פָּתַח בִּבְרֵאשִׁית? מִשׁוּם כֹּחַ מַעֲשָׂיו הִגִּיד לְעַמּוֹ לָתֵת לָהֶם נַחֲלַת גּוֹיִם (תהילים קי”א), שֶׁאִם יֹאמְרוּ אוּמוֹת הָעוֹלָם לְיִשְׁרָאֵל לִסְטִים אַתֶּם, שֶׁכִּבַּשׁתֶּם אַרְצוֹת שִׁבְעָה גוֹיִם, הֵם אוֹמְרִים לָהֶם כָּל הָאָרֶץ שֶׁל הַקָּבָּ"ה הִיא, הוּא בְרָאָהּ וּנְתָנָהּ לַאֲשֶׁר יָשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו, בִּרְצוֹנוֹ נְתָנָהּ לָהֶם, וּבִרְצוֹנוֹ נְטָלָהּ מֵהֶם וּנְתָנָהּ לָנוּ:
בראשית IN THE BEGINNING — Rabbi Isaac said: The Torah which is the Law book of Israel should have commenced with the verse (Exodus 12:2) “This month shall be unto you the first of the months” which is the first commandment given to Israel. What is the reason, then, that it commences with the account of the Creation? Because of the thought expressed in the text (Psalms 111:6) “He declared to His people the strength of His works (i.e. He gave an account of the work of Creation), in order that He might give them the heritage of the nations.” For should the peoples of the world say to Israel, “You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven nations of Canaan”, Israel may reply to them, “All the earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whom He pleased. When He willed He gave it to them, and when He willed He took it from them and gave it to us” (Yalkut Shimoni on Torah 187). (Rashi on Genesis 1:1) **
The question Rashi is asking, why does the Torah start with creation and not with the Jews receiving Torah? The answer: because we didn’t come out of nothing, there was a world existing before we came to be. This is the world G-d created. It then talks about how G-d chose the Jews as the keeper of this world. (There is a lot more to say about chosenness here. And debates on who/ how this has come to be!)
For me, the text talks about how we came to be! The High Holidays cause us to self-reflect. We may think about the newness of the year, the changes we want to make, or how to be grateful for every new day.
When we do so, how do we ground ourselves within our roots, or think about where we came from? This may help us better understand the world we hope to see. How do we create a better world for ourselves, and future generations? When you reflect on where you came from, what does it bring up for you?
A happy and healthy 5778 to you and yours! May you continue to evolve into your best self.
Elyssa Cherney at www.tacklingtorah.com
**This text was taught to me by my teacher Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer. It is commentary by Rashi about the first verse of the Torah.