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Divrei Yoel Bereishis


1. In his first comment on the five books of the Torah, Rashi questions, in the name of R' Yitzchak, why the Torah begins with the account of Bereishis. It should rather begin with the first mitzvah that was begin to Klal Yisroel as a nation: the commandment to begin counting the months from Nissan. Rashi answers by explaining that the Torah begins with Bereishis in order that we will have an answer to the non-Jews who claim that we stole Eretz Yisroel from the seven nations of Canaan. We can answer that it was Hashem who created the world, and He decides who should be give which area of land. The Satmar Rebbe, ZY"A, (Divrei Yoel, Parashas Bereishis pp. 12-13) elaborates on this answer.

The Maharsha quotes the Midrash, which teaches that Yaakov took Olam Haba, while Eisav took Olam Hazeh. The Maharsha asks that this seems difficult to understand, since the truth is that the existence of This World is dependent on the "upkeep" of Olam Haba, that is, the Jewish People's performance of the mitzvos. How then is this a fair deal, if Yaakov could potentially cause Eisav to lose his portion? The Maharsha answers that in truth, this is not a difficulty at all, since even before the creation of This World, Hashem made a condition with the heavens and earth that if the Jewish People would learn Torah and observe the mitzvos, then all would be well, but if not, the heavens and earth would be returned to nothingness, as before creation. Therefore, there would be no concept of Olam Hazeh without the Jewish People's Torah and mitzvos. The entire world was created for the sake of the Jewish People involving themselves in the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvos.

This concept is all the more apparent regarding Eretz Yisroel. Chazal tell us many things regarding the greatness of Eretz Yisroel as a tool in our avodas Hashem. They state that "Eretz Yisroel was given to the Jewish People only so that they should learn Torah there," and that "The air of Eretz Yisroel makes one wise." The Gemara in Bava Basra relates that at one time, the boys and girls of Yerushalayim would play together, when they were as old as 17 or 18, and they would not be tempted to sin, The Gemara in Bava Kamma teaches that principles of honesty must be observed at a higher standard in Eretz Yisroel than in Chutz Laaretz. All the other nations of the world have an angel in heaven appointed over them except for Eretz Yisroel, which is guarded only by Hashem Himself. Our tefillos go up to Shomayim through Yerushalayim. From all of these statements, it is clear that the purpose of our possession of Eretz Yisroel is in order that we should climb the latter of spirituality and come ever closer to our Father in Heaven.

Chazal teach us about the greatness of someone who truly has yiras Shomayim, stating that the entire world was created for his sake. This is not simply a poetic or dramatic way of explaining the greatness of a yarai Shomayim. We must closely analyze the words of Chazal in order to understand their true meaning. The Chovos Halevavos, in the “Sha'ar Yichud ha-Ma'aseh”, explains that there are two different types of yiras Shomayim. One level of yiras Shomayim is necessary in order to begin learning Torah, as it is stated: "Reishis chachmah yiras Hashem, the beginning of wisdom (which is Torah) is fear of Hashem." This yirah is essential in order that we should understand that the Torah is the Word of Hashem, and hence an exceedingly sacred matter. We must have yiras Shomayim in order to avoid sin and to learn with a clear mind and a firm commitment.

There is, however, a second level of Yiras Shomayim that is acquired only after learning Torah. This is the level of yirah called "yiras haromemus," awe of Hashem brought about by the realization, on some level, of His unfathomable greatness. The truth is that this level of yiras Shamayim can only come about after having learned Torah, for the greatness of Hashem is to be found in the Torah. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that the ohr haganuz, the special spiritual light that was created on the first day of creation and later hidden away, is to be found in the Torah. (As an aside, it should be noted that the only way for us to understand the greatness of Hashem at this time is through the Torah. This is in contradiction to many people who mistakenly believe that one can come to yiras haromemus through studying science and nature. This path was a viable option many millenia ago, and tzaddikim such as Avraham Avinu used this method to achieve an understanding of Hashem. Today, however, we are simply not capable of successfully implementing this methodology of avodas Hashem, and we must steer clear of attempting to use it. This is in addition to the fact that today, virtually all outlets for the study of science are saturated with heresy and immorality, and it is clear that those who deeply study science and nature become very weak in Torah, emunah, and tznius.)

When one learns Torah properly and acquires yiras haromemus, he comes to a realization of what the purpose of the world is. Everything in the world is meant to be used in avodas Hashem. Slowly, one's mindset changes, and his entire life becomes a life devoted only to Hashem. Even the physical and mundane aspects of life become ways of serving Hashem, upon Whom one's thoughts are singularly focused.

This understanding and lifestyle is the purpose of creation, as we stated above. This is why the entire world was created for the sake of this person. He knows how to use the world for its intended purpose. This ability was arrived at only through his study of Torah. Hence, we are taught: Hashem made a condition with the world before creation: "If the Jewish people accept the Torah, fine, but if not you will return to emptiness and nothingness.”

With this understanding, we can now answer a puzzling question. The Torah says regardng Amaleik: "And he did not fear G-d." (Devarim 25:18) With all the many things that the Torah could have said about the evil nation of Amaleik, why did it merely say, "He did not fear G-d." There are many people, much less evil than Amaleik, who have not yet attained Yiras Hashem. Is this the full extent of the great evil of Amaleik? However, if we understand what true Yiras Shomayim is, we can answer this question. Amaleik wanted to wipe from the minds of Klal Yisroel the concept of using the world to serve Hashem. Amaleik rejected the idea of using physicality to serve Hashem. Amaleik viewed the world only as a means to serve itself.

Additionally, we can gain deeper insight into just how destructive such a mentality is by looking at how this attitude has been the cause of so much tragedy in this generation. Look at how the Zionists have destroyed the holiness of Eretz Yisroel by settling there with the very opposite of yiras Shomayim. The Zionists have done everything they can to uproot from the minds of Klal Yisroel that Eretz Yisroel is a holy place, to be used exclusively in the service of Hashem. This is, perhaps, the meaning of the statement of the Chofetz Chaim that the Zionists are the true Amaleik of our times.

When we distance ourselves from Hashem by refusing to realize that we must sanctify our lives and attain yiras Shomayim, Hashem responds by distancing Himself from us. When this happens, the midas hadin takes hold, bringing about the scenario described by the Rebbe in Al Hageulah v'al Hatemurah. The Rebbe explains that when the midas hadin has control, the Satan is given permission to perform miracles for the wicked, causing great confusion to Klal Yisroel. But, as the Rebbe explains (Al Hageulah v'Al Hatemurah, Siman 24, p. 58), it is forbidden to be swayed by miracles against the Torah.

We must work to insulate ourselves from all apikorsus. One way to do this is to engage in intensive limud haTorah. The Beirach Moshe (Parashas Bereshis p. 4) explains that pilpul haTorah generates simchah before Hashem, so to speak, even after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. The Gemara in Bava Basra teaches that since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, the power of prophecy was taken from the nevi'im and given to the talmidei chachamim. One becomes a true talmid chacham through the give and take of learning with others. This generates a simchah before Hashem which in turn causes Him to shower simchah upon us. This simcha is a pure and holy joy, the type of joy that brings one to ruach hakodesh. This is similar to the statement of the Gemara (Meseches Sukkah) that at the Simchas Beis Hashoeiva, some of the scholars reached such an exalted level of joy that they received prophecy. Although there can be no prophecy today, since we no longer have the Beis Hamikdash, and hence the level of true spiritual joy necessary to attain nevuah, we can still attain the simcha that is generated through pilpul haTorah, and perhaps this is enough to give us a taste of divine inspiration. It also will give us the clarity of mind necessary to retain our rock-solid emunah, and to never be swept up in the sea of heresy that pervades the world.

2. We can now understand why it was necessary to start the Torah with the parashah of Bereishis. This was done in order to tell the people of Klal Yisroel the power of their deeds. The Holy One, Blessed is He, gave Yisroel a power greater than that of Eisav. The Jewish People were given the power to uphold the entire world through the observance of Shabbos Kodesh. Through the observance of Shabbos, we will be granted an inheritance that has no bounds, and the non-Jews will not be able to protest." (Kuntres Chidushei Torah Bereishis, p. 15)