Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Bereishit.

The Purpose of it All

The Torah begins with the narrative of creation, how G‑d brought the world into being from absolute nothingness. But what was the purpose for creation? On the verse, “And the spirit of G‑d was hovering over the waters,” our Sages comment: “This refers to the spirit of Mashiach. ” And in other sources, they state: “The world was created solely for Mashiach.”

Our Sages tell us that G‑d created the world because He wanted a dwelling, a home. G‑d wanted a place where He could reveal Himself without constraint, where who He is can come into expression. That’s why He created our world.

But He did not want that revelation to be a natural part of the world’s existence. Instead, He wanted it to be hidden at the outset, and for man to become His partner in creation, by shaping the world and developing it until he becomes aware that he is living within G‑d’s dwelling.
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Torah and Renewal

Parshas Bereishis is an experience of renewal. In this vein, our Rabbis said: “The stance which a person adopts on Shabbos Bereishis determines the manner in which he will proceed throughout the coming year.”

Our Sages teach: “G‑d looked into the Torah and created the world. Man looks into the Torah and maintains the world.” The Torah serves as the blueprint for creation; it is the treasure store for the principles and patterns on which our existence is based. Similarly, in the personal sense, the Torah can provide us with guidelines for our individual process of renewal. Each one of us can use the Torah to help us redefine our existence and develop a new means of relating to our environment.

When we study a portion of the Torah’s wisdom, be it a law, a story, or a philosophical or ethical concept, we are not just collecting information. Instead, we are uniting our minds with G‑d’s wisdom. He is the author of those laws, stories, and concepts. Through this study, we are aligning our minds — and through them, our entire personalities — to function in accordance with G‑d’s wisdom and desires.

Moreover, this study grants a person new vitality and energy that extends far beyond the intellect. G‑d has invested Himself in the Torah; therefore, when a person is studying the Torah, he is not merely establishing a connection with G‑d’s wisdom, he is establishing a bond with G‑d Himself. This taps an unlimited fountain of energy that enriches all of his activities and pursuits.
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The Contract

According to Jewish custom, when a man and woman become engaged to marry, a contract—called tena’im (“conditions”)—is drawn up, in which the obligations of each side to the other are specified. The traditional text of the tena’im begins: “First of all, —— will marry —— in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel. They will not hide away nor conceal anything from each other. They will live together in love and affection, as is the way of the world . . .”

A marriage between two human beings is an analogue of the marriage of divine forces that is the purpose of creation. This is alluded to in the opening lines of the tena’im: the very first thing the parties promise each other (after declaring their commitment to marry each other) is that “they will not hide away nor conceal anything from each other.” Here we have the male and female elements of the cosmic marriage: that the divine light which was “hidden away” by the tzimtzum—withdrawn from the void—should be restored, and that the divine light which was “concealed” within the world should be revealed.

The achievement of these two aims will herald the era of Moshiach, when the diverse forces of creation “will live together in love and affection, as is the way of the world,” in harmony with itself and its G‑d, as envisioned by the Creator.
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The Significance of Names

Shortly after his creation: “Adam gave names to all the animals, the fowl of the heavens, and the beasts of the earth.” As the Midrash indicates, choosing these names was not a casual matter. Before having Adam name the animals, G‑d asked the angels to do so, but they demurred, stating that it was not within their capacity. G‑d then gave the task to Adam, telling the angels: “His wisdom surpasses yours.”

Giving names was not just an arbitrary choice. The name of an entity reflects its inner life-force. G‑d created the world through speech and through a series of mystic permutations, the letters of the ten Divine utterances of creation became altered so that can serve as the life-force for each individual created being. Having the wisdom to name an entity implies the ability to see within an entity’s material form and recognize the spiritual energy that maintains it.

Moreover, naming the animals was not intended merely to demonstrate Adam’s wisdom; instead, it was part of his Divine service. For by naming the animals, he called forth this G‑dly potential, bringing it to the surface. Giving them names associated their inner spiritual potential with their actual existence, empowering them to fill their purpose in creation.

This concept relates to the role given Adam — and all of his descendants — in the purpose of creation. G‑d created man to reveal a different motif: that His oneness be acknowledged by a created being on his own initiative. He wanted man, even though he has an individual identity and sees the world in terms of his own self, to develop an awareness of Him.
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A Right to the Land

Torah is replete with references about the special connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Yet Rashi, the foremost commentator of Torah, sees it in the very first words of the book of Genesis: “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the Earth.” According to Rashi, the first verse in Torah provides the Jewish people with an indisputable claim to the Land of Israel; one they must proclaim to an often hostile world: