1. The Previous Rebbe publicized an adage concerning Shabbos Bereishis, “The stance which we adopt on Shabbos Bereishis determines the nature of our conduct in the entire year to come.” This statement is somewhat problematic, for the month of Tishrei as a whole is an inclusive month, containing festivals which influence the entire year. This is indicated by the name of the first of these festivals, Rosh HaShanah, which means “the head of the year.”

It is explained that just as the head contains the life-energy for the entire body, Rosh HaShanah contains the life-energy for the entire year.1 Similarly, the holidays that follow, Yom Kippur,2 Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah, generate influence that affects our conduct in the entire year to come. Why then does the above adage convey such distinction on Shabbos Bereishis alone?

In resolution, it can be explained that Shabbos Bereishis represents the transition from the holiday atmosphere of the month of Tishrei to the day-to-day life of the months that follow. Thus Shabbos Bereishis represents:

a) The conclusion of the month of Tishrei — for it is the Shabbos following Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah collect and internalize all the influence of Tishrei. This in turn is elevated and brought to a state of perfection by Shabbos Bereishis, for Shabbos always elevates the service of the previous week.

b) The beginning of the service of the year that follows — Shabbos Bereishis is the Shabbos on which the month of MarCheshvan is blessed. MarCheshvan has no holidays; thus it represents the ordinary day-to-day service of the year. This is the service of “And Yaakov went on his way,”3 service within the context of the natural order.

Since Shabbos Bereishis contains both these dimensions, it has the potential to influence the entire year which follows. In the month of Tishrei as a whole, the influence is spiritual in nature, above the level of worldly experience. In contrast, Shabbos Bereishis conveys the influence of Tishrei into our worldly frame of reference.

The above is further enhanced by the fact that the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah begins on Shabbos Bereishis. The Alter Rebbe instructed us to “live with the times,” modify our lives according to the teachings of the weekly Torah reading. Since this cycle begins on Shabbos Bereishis, Shabbos Bereishis contains within it the influence for the entire year.

Moreover, the Torah reading of Shabbos Bereishis describes the creation of the world. Studying this narrative grants the potential for the renewal of the entire creation as the Zohar states, “The Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the Torah and created the world. A man looks into the Torah and renews the world.”

The above concepts can be clarified by our Sages’ interpretation of the word Bereishis (בראשית) as beis reishis, (ב ראשית) literally “two firsts.” The intent is that the entire creation was brought into being for two entities called “first,” the Torah and the Jewish people. The intent in this interpretation is not to negate the simple meaning of the word Bereishis, “in the beginning,” but rather, to emphasize its purpose and intent. From the outset, the creation was intended for the Torah and the Jews. Although our Sages describe the Jews and the Torah as existing “before the world,” the intent is not that their existence is totally above the world’s nature, but rather that they are the purpose of the world’s existence.

This concept can be clarified by analyzing the analogy the Tanach uses when describing the Jews as “first,” “the first of His crops.” Thus the Jews are comparable to Terumah, which is described in a similar manner. Terumah is part and parcel of the harvest as a whole. Afterwards, however, it is separated and thus designated to be on a higher level of holiness.

Similarly, the Jews are described as “the chosen people.” In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that this choice refers to a Jew’s “physical body which, in its physical makeup, resembles the bodies of the na­tions of the world.” To explain: The concept of free choice is applicable only in regard to two entities which are seemingly alike in all respects. For if one entity differs from another, the reason one selects it is be­cause of the advantage granted by the quality it possesses and not because of one’s own choice. In such a case, this advantage forces one’s power of selection as it were. When is free choice possible? When both entities resemble each other and one, nevertheless, chooses one as an expression of one’s own will and desire.

Thus when speaking of G‑d’s choice of the Jewish people, it is appropriate to speak only about the body. It is not appropriate to say that G‑d chose the souls of the Jewish people above those of the gentiles, for the Jews’ souls are “veritably a part of G‑d,” and thus are infinitely above the gentiles’ souls. In contrast, since there is a similarity between the Jews’ bodies and those of the gentiles, on this level, the concept of free choice is relevant.4

Thus the Jews’ position as “the first” of the creation as a whole is not referring to the soul as it exists in the spiritual planes, but rather to the bodies which resemble those of the other nations, for it is on that level at which G‑d chooses the Jews.5 Through this choice, a point of connection is established with G‑d’s essence, for the quality of choice relates to this level.6

{A similar concept applies in regard to the Torah; the most complete expression of the Torah is in this physical world. The Torah “is not in the heavens,” and the decisions of Torah law are dependent on the understanding of the Jewish people as they live within this world. For the Torah has descended to the level in which it deals with physical entities as they exist within our material world. It is on this level that the essence of the Torah is revealed.7

There is, however, a difference between the Torah and the Jewish people. As the Torah descends into our physical world, it remains holy. In contrast, the Jews as they exist in a material body resemble the gentile nations. Nevertheless, the concept of G‑d’ choice is relevant to the Jewish people and not to the Torah.8 }

Based on the above, we can appreciate the significance of the interpretation of Bereishis as referring to the “two firsts,” the Torah and the Jewish people. The intent of this teaching is not to convey the idea that the Jews and the Torah are “firsts,” essentially above the level of the world at large. Instead, it intends to explain that as the Jews and the Torah exist within the world, they are the purpose of the creation. For this reason, this concept is expressed at the very beginning of the narrative of the creation, to emphasize how by allowing for expression of the uniqueness of the Torah and the Jewish people, the world reaches its own state of perfection and completion.

On this basis, we can understand the first commentary brought by Rashi:

If the nations of the world tell the Jews; “You are robbers, for you have taken forceful possession of the lands of the... nations,” the [Jews] will reply, “The entire world belongs to G‑d. He created it and He gave it to whom He saw fit.”

Here also, the emphasis is on the Jewish people as they exist within the world. Indeed, their involvement with the world is such that they can be called “robbers” and Eretz Yisrael can be considered as belonging to the gentiles. Nevertheless, even at this level, it will ultimately be revealed how G‑d gave the Jews Eretz Yisrael as an eternal heritage, “the chosen land” for “the chosen people.”

On this basis, we can understand the position of Shabbos Bereishis in the transition from the month of Tishrei to the other months of the year. Tishrei with its many festivals emphasizes the quality possessed by the Jewish people which transcends the world.9 In contrast, the months that follow focus on the Jews’ life within the world. Shabbos Bereishis represents an intermediate level which shares both these perspectives and thus has the potential to convey the spiritual influence of Tishrei within the world at large. Thus, “the stance which we adopt on Shabbos Bereishis determines the nature of our conduct in the entire year to come.”

* * *

2. Since G‑d’s choice of the Jewish people relates to them as they exist within the context of our material world, a Jew must realize that even within the exile,10 regardless of the difficulties with which he is faced, he is part of G‑d’s chosen people and the world was created for his sake. Although during exile, the spiritual qualities he possesses may not be openly revealed, the gentile authorities have no ultimate power over his existence. This applies not only to our spiritual existence, but also to our material existence. Even within this context, the Jews are “first,” the purpose of the creation and they are the purpose why the gentile nations and the world as a whole was brought into being.11

Although the Jews are living under the dominion of the gentiles and in such circumstances, the Torah teaches “The law of the land is your law,” “Do not rebel against the nations,” and “Do not challenge the nations,” this does not mean that the Jews must fear the nations. On the contrary, even in such circumstances, the Jews represent the purpose of the creation of the world as a whole.

The above restrictions, rather, resemble the Torah’s command, “Do not aggravate Moav or challenge them with war.” The Jews had no reason to fear this nation, nor did they have to rely on it for anything. Nevertheless, since G‑d had ordained that the Jews would not be given their land, there was no reason to challenge them.

Similarly, the commands “Do not challenge the nations” and “The law of the land is your law,” are not instituted because of fear, but rather because this is the order which G‑d established in the time of exile. Even during the exile, however, the Jews are still G‑d’s chosen nation and the purpose of the entire creation.

The principle “The law of the land is your law,” applies only in regard to certain material matters, e.g., business law, taxes, and the like, but not in regard to the Torah and its mitzvos. In regard to the latter, we have the clear assurance of the Previous Rebbe that “our souls were not sent into exile.” Furthermore, even in regard to material matters, the dominion the gentiles have over us is limited in nature and exists only because this is the order which G‑d decreed as punishment for our sins.

For this reason, the Jews are obligated to be grateful to the gentiles for the kindness they receive from them as implied by the verse, “Seek the welfare of the city.... for its welfare will bring you peace.” Nevertheless, this does not mean that the Jews need the gentiles for their kindness, on the contrary, “the kindness of the gentiles is sin.” When, however, we receive from them kindness and support for our service of Torah and mitzvos, this is not “the kindness of the gentiles.” Rather, it is G‑d’s kindness which He has chosen to grant the Jews through the medium of the gentiles. When this kindness is appreciated as such, it is not “sin.” On the contrary, this is G‑d’s will. The above concepts are particularly relevant because of the nature of the present year, shnas niflaos bah, “a year imbued with wonders.” Niflaos, “wonders,” is plural, implying that there will be many wonders. Indeed, the letters identified with the date of the year also form an acronym for the words tihiyeh shnas niflaos bakol, “It will be a year of wonders in all things.”

More particularly, the word niflaos (נפלאות) can be divided as נ פלאות, meaning “50 wonders.” The number 50 is associated with the concept of eternity by our Sages. This implies that the wonders of the present year will have an eternal effect.

The wonders of the present year will surpass those of the previous year. Furthermore, just as the wonders of the previous years were openly revealed, for it was a year when “I will show wonders,” the wonders of the present year will be manifest and apparent. Moreover, the phrase shnas niflaos bah, (“a year imbued with wonders”) implies that not only will the year contain wonders, but that the year will be characterized by wonders and these wonders will be bakol, “in all things.”

These wonders will emphasize G‑d’s choice of the Jewish people. An example of this is the Russian Government’s granting permission and assistance for thousands of Jews to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael and other countries. This reflects a trend towards the appreciation of the Jewish people that has continued to grow in the world at large. We are approaching the Era of the Redemption, at which time the prophecies “And the gentiles will follow your light” and “kings will be your servants” will be fulfilled. As a foretaste of that Era, the gentiles’ appreciation of the Jews has grown.

Throughout the centuries, the Jews have been recognized as “the chosen people.” In the world at large, and in particular, in the United States, the Jews are allowed to carry out their service of G‑d without persecution, indeed, amidst rest and prosperity. Furthermore, the Government offers assistance to the Jews here and those in Eretz Yisrael, enabling them to progress in the service of G‑d.

This has been made possible by the activities of many of the Torah sages in their relations with the gentiles, including the activities of the Chabad Rebbeim.12 May these activities increase the regard the gentiles have for the Jews, increase the nature of the assistance they grant them, and increase the gentiles’ support for the Jews’13 control over Eretz Yisrael.14

Based on the above, we can understand how inappropriate are the statements which certain Rabbis have recently made that the Jews must comply with the demands of the gentile nations in regard to Eretz Yisrael. These statements continue, stating that, heaven forbid, such compliance is necessary because the existence of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael is dependent on the kindness of the gentile nations.

The lack of faith shown by these statements is horrifying. They imply that:

a) The future of the Jewish people is in doubt. This is impossible, for the Jews are an eternal people as the verse states, “I, G‑d, have not changed, nor have you, O Children of Israel, been destroyed.” b) Every Jew knows that, as explained above, the Torah begins with Bereishis to emphasize how the entire world exists for the sake of the Jews. Thus there is no way that the gentile powers can have true control over the Jews. Indeed, since this is the first teaching of the Torah, it can be understood to be the basis of the entire Torah.15

Despite the fact that these concepts are obvious, a Jew made such statements before many other Jews who came to hear him teach Torah. Even more surprising is that these statements were made in the month of Tishrei, a month in which there is an emphasis on G‑d’s choice of the Jewish people (as reflected in our Mussaf prayers).

The principle, “Do not challenge the nations” is not relevant in this context, for this principle can never override an explicit teaching of Torah law. In this instance, we are clearly bound by the decision of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 329) that if gentiles threaten to attack a Jewish settlement we must take up arms and defend ourselves against them. And if that settlement is located on the border, we must take up arms against them even if they are demanding “straw and hay,” for by acquiescing to them, we “open the entire land to them.”

Since such statements were made, it is obvious that greater emphasis has to be placed on recognizing the uniqueness of the Jewish people and on emphasizing their connection to Eretz Yisrael. Similarly, emphasis must be placed on Torah study, in particular, the study of Chitas (Chumash, Tehillim, and Tanya). And this will lead to the ultimate wonder in this year of wonders, the coming of the Redemption. And then we will proceed together with the entire Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Beis HaMikdash.