1. The connection between Shabbos Bereishis1 and Simchas Torah is reflected by the reading of the opening portion of Parshas Bereishis on Simchas Torah. Afterwards, on Shabbos Bereishis, the portion is read in its totality. This year, the connection between the two is further emphasized because (in the Diaspora) Shabbos Bereishis follows directly after Simchas Torah without an interruption.2

The connection between the two requires explanation. Noting the contrast between the sacrifices of Sukkos and those of Shemini Atzeres, the Rabbis explain that Sukkos is associated with the gentile nations. In contrast, Shemini Atzeres — and thus, Simchas Torah — are for the Jews alone, reflecting a state when, “Israel and the King are alone.”

This appears to be the direct opposite of Shabbos Bereishis which describes the creation of the world. Furthermore, the world was created in a manner in which, at the outset, darkness, emptiness, and void were revealed, and only, afterwards, did G‑d declare, “Let there be light.” These concepts — included in the portion of Parshas Bereishis read on Simchas Torah — hardly seem appropriate at a time when, “Israel and the King are alone.” Indeed, it is difficult to understand why the Torah begins with such a description. Since “the Torah is light,” seemingly, the Torah should begin with the statement, “Let there be light.”

The resolution to these questions lies in the opening word of the Torah, Bereishis. Our Sages have interpreted that word as a reference to ב ראשית, “two entities which are called first;” i.e., bereishis, the creation at large, was for the sake of two entities which are called first, the Torah... and Israel.3

G‑d created the world because He desired a dwelling in the lower worlds.4 Therefore, the beginning of the creation — darkness, emptiness, and void — reflected the lowly nature of the world. Only afterwards, is the light — the light of Torah — revealed. This comes about through the service of the Jewish people who bring light into the world and make it fit to be a dwelling for G‑d.

Accordingly, the first word of the Torah is bereishis, alluding to the dwelling for G‑d established through the Jews’ service of Torah and mitzvos. Directly afterwards, the Torah mentions the setting in which this service is carried out, our lowly material world which contains darkness, emptiness, and void.

This pattern is also reflected in our approach to Torah study. Although while an embryo is in its mother’s womb, a child is taught the entire Torah, before he is born, an angel “raps him across the mouth and causes him to forget” everything he has learned.5 Thus, a child begins to study in “darkness and void” and must develop a connection to the light of Torah through his own efforts.

Similarly, when studying any particular Torah concept, one begins by seeing how the law is stated in the Written Law. There its ramifications and application are hidden and inexplicit and it is only in the Oral Law, that they are explained in a manner that can be understood in a thorough manner.

For example, the mitzvah of lulav and esrog performed on the Sukkos6 holiday: The Torah does not refer to any of the four species included in this mitzvah by its simple Hebrew name. For example, instead of using the word esrog, though it is an acceptable Hebrew word, the Torah uses the expression, “the fruit of a beautiful tree.”7 This reflects our service in transforming this lowly world into a dwelling for G‑d, taking those elements of existence whose G‑dly intent is hidden and bring it into revelation.

Based on the above, we can explain the reading of a portion of Parshas Bereishis on Simchas Torah. Simchas Torah represents the conclusion of the holidays of Tishrei, the seventh month which is full and adds fullness to the entire year. The service of Simchas Torah is one of gathering in and internalizing the influences of the holidays which preceded it in order to draw down this influence into the coming year.

For this reason, Simchas Torah emphasizes how “Israel and the King are alone,” above all connection to the gentiles. Indeed, Israel is above the Torah. To emphasize this quality, the Jews dance with the Torah on Simchas Torah, showing how — because they are on a higher level than the Torah — they can bring happiness to the Torah.

This advantage was given the Jews for the sake of carrying out their service in the world at large. They were given these essential powers in order to reveal light within a world that is, at the outset, darkness and void.

Afterwards, this dimension is given greater emphasis on Shabbos Bereishis and “As one presents himself on Shabbos Bereishis, so follows the entire year.”

2. The above concepts are also related to the opening passage of Rashi’s commentary on the Torah8 which states:

Rabbi Yitzchok said: There is no necessity to begin the Torah before the verse, “This month shall be for you...,” which represents the first mitzvah which the Jews were commanded. Why does it begin with the verse, Bereishis? Because “The power of His works He related to His people to give them the heritage of nations.” When the gentiles will accuse the Jews: “You are thieves. You have taken the lands of the seven nations,” the Jews will reply, “The entire world belongs to G‑d. He created it and He gave it to whomever He pleases. He willingly gave it to them and then, He willingly took it from them and gave it to us.”

There are several difficulties with this explanation: Firstly, if negating the gentiles’ claim that the Jews are thieves is so important, G‑d should never have given them Eretz Yisrael. That would be far more effective than giving the land to them and then, taking it away.

Also, the question arises: Why is this the very first lesson with which the Torah begins? Surely, it would have been possible to include it somewhat later in the Torah.

These difficulties can be resolved according to the above concepts: Just as the Torah begins with darkness and void and then, relates how G‑d commanded, “Let there be light,” so, too, Eretz Yisrael was first given to the gentiles, and only then, given to the Jews. Since the dwelling for G‑d must be established within the “lower worlds,” Eretz Yisrael was made the “heritage of nations,” to the point where even the Torah mentions their accusation that the Jews are “thieves.”

Nevertheless, the Torah answers this claim with the explanation that the creation was for a specific intent, “for Israel and for the Torah.” Therefore, G‑d ultimately “gave the land to whomever He desires,” i.e., the Jews. However, the manner in which He gave it to the Jews reflects His desire for “a dwelling in the lower worlds.” Therefore, Eretz Yisrael first became “a heritage of nations,” and only afterwards, was transformed into a place of holiness. To communicate this concept, the Torah “begins with bereishis,” showing how from a situation of darkness and void, we proceed to light.

In this context, we can understand why Rashi deviates from his usual pattern and mentions the name of the author of the quote from the Midrash, Rabbi Yitzchok. By doing so, Rashi clarifies by allusion questions that could be raised by an advanced student.

In this context, it is worthy to mention the explanation given for the mention of Rabbi Yitzchak’s name by certain commentaries. They maintain that Rashi mentions Rabbi Yitzchak’s name as an expression of respect for his father who was also called Rabbi Yitzchok.

This explanation, however, is not entirely appropriate for it is difficult to expect that Rashi would depart from his goal of explaining the simple meaning of the Torah without any additions merely to show honor to his father.9 Therefore, it can be assumed that by mentioning the name, Rabbi Yitzchok, Rashi is clarifying another aspect of the claim that the Jews are “thieves.”

This concept can be explained as follows: On the surface, even the gentiles should know that “the land is G‑d’s, He created it...” and therefore, He has the right to give it to whomever He pleases for they also accept that G‑d created the world.10

Their claim comes about because although they believe in G‑d, they believe that He controls the world through intermediaries.11 Therefore, it is possible to explain that although originally G‑d created Eretz Yisrael, He entrusted it to intermediaries, thus, it became “a heritage of nations,” and should not be taken from them.

In response to this claim, the Jews relate that not only did G‑d create the world, He is the sole power controlling the world and governing its existence. All intermediaries He uses are merely “axes in the hands of the chopper,” with no autonomous control over what happens. Accordingly, since G‑d desired to give Eretz Yisrael to the Jews, the land rightfully belongs to them.

Rashi alludes to this concept by showing deference to his father with the mention of the name, Rabbi Yitzchok. To explain: Our Sages equated honoring one’s parents with honoring G‑d Himself for all three (G‑d and one’s father and mother) are partners in bringing a person into being.

On the surface, granting honor to one’s parents parallels paying respect to the intermediaries with which G‑d creates and controls the world. Just as these intermediaries are honored because they play a role in controlling our existence although ultimately, their power has its source in G‑d, a person honors his parents because they helped bring him into being although ultimately, they are granted this power by G‑d.

There is, however, a difference between the two. The intermediaries created by G‑d have no choice whether to transmit influence or not. They are nothing more than, “an axe in the hand of a chopper.” Therefore, there is no reason to honor them. In contrast, a person’s parents have the choice whether to conceive him or not. Since they willingly did so, they are considered partners in his existence and are considered worthy of honor.

In this context, the name of the author of the above passage (and Rashi’s father) takes on added significance. From a deeper perspective, the gentile nations’ conception that the intermediaries G‑d uses to convey influence have free choice is not only an error, but is also a denial of G‑d’s Oneness. Why is a Jewish parent given free choice — and thus a partnership — in the conception of a child? Because a Jew is “truly a part of G‑d,” “Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.” For this reason, the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents in a complete sense was given only to the Jewish people.12

This concept is alluded to by the name, Rabbi Yitzchok. Yitzchok relates to the era of Redemption (for then Yitzchok will be given prominence over the other Patriarchs), the era when the bond of unity between G‑d and the Jewish people will be openly revealed.

The knowledge that ultimately, our service will lead to such an era, inspires us to carry out that service within the darkness of the world, illuminating it with the light of Torah.13

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3. An additional connection to the above concepts can be found in Rashi’s commentary on the verses, “And G‑d saw that man’s wickedness was increasing... and G‑d regretted that He had made man and became sad of heart.” Rashi comments:

The Holy One, blessed be He, sees the future.... Although it was revealed before Him that ultimately [men] would sin... He did not refrain from creating him for the sake of the righteous men who would ultimately arise.14

Rashi prefaces those statements with a problematic passage:

I wrote the following as a response to non-believers. An apikores (heretic) asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha: “Don’t you acknowledge that G‑d sees the future?” Rabbi Yehoshua answered: “Of course.” If so, [the apikores continued,] “Why does the Torah tell us that He became sad, [since He already knew what would happen, He should not have been affected]?”

[Rabbi Yehoshua answered in allegory:] “Did you ever father a son?” “Yes.” “What did you do?” “I rejoiced....” “Didn’t you know your son would ultimately die?” “At a time of joy,” [the apikores answered,] joy is appropriate. At a time of mourning, mourning is appropriate.” “The deeds of G‑d reflect a similar pattern,” Rabbi Yehoshua replied.

Among the questions raised by this passage are: a) Although it is important to “Know what to respond to an apikores,” this is not the goal of Rashi’s commentary on the Torah. On the contrary, Rashi sets as his goal explaining the simple meaning of the Torah. Why does he mention “a response to non-believers?” b) On the surface, the question: “How is it possible for G‑d to have a change of heart?” is one that is likely to be asked any Jewish child. Why does Rashi associate this with apikurses (heresy)?

The answer is that Rashi is teaching us how a Jewish child should ask a question. An apikores comes with a challenge: “Don’t you acknowledge that G‑d sees the future?” In contrast, a Jew believes that the Torah is true and he believes that G‑d knows the future. There is room for questions, because a Jew is obligated to attempt to understand G‑d. However, a Jewish child must ask in a way which reflects his faith in G‑d. This implies a responsibility for teachers, that they must instruct their students in a manner which inculcates faith and belief.15

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4. A portion of Parshas Noach was also read in the Minchah service. Hence, it is appropriate to focus on a verse from this portion. The opening verses of Parshas Noach state: “These are the toldos of Noach. Noach was a righteous man.” On this verse, Rashi comments: “This teaches that the primary toldos of the righteous are good deeds.” It is questionable why Rashi whose commentary focuses on the simple meaning of the Torah brings this interpretation. The simple meaning of the word toldos is “offspring.”

Some commentaries explain that Rashi chooses this interpretation because Noach’s offspring, Shem, Cham, and Yafes, are mentioned previously, at the conclusion of Parshas Bereishis. Since the Torah is not redundant, we can assume that, in Parshas Noach, toldos, has a different interpretation.

This explanation is not entirely satisfactory since we find several occasions in the Torah where mention of a person’s siring of offspring is repeated. For example, Parshas Bereishis mentions the birth of Adam’s son, Shes, twice. Instead, it appears that the reason Rashi is forced to adopt this interpretation of toldos — in contrast to the simple one — is because the verse begins, “These are.”

Our Sages teach a general principle: Whenever the Torah uses the expression, “And these are,” a continuation of the previous subject matter is implied. In contrast, use of the expression, “These are,” implies a break with the previous subject matter. Since this verse uses the expression “these are,” we can assume that, instead of a continuation of what was mentioned previously, the Torah uses the word toldos in a new context.

From a deeper perspective, the mention of Noach’s offspring in Parshas Noach, indicates that they too were elevated to a higher level. After the flood, “Noach saw a new world,” i.e., the entire existence was given a new potential after its purification in the flood. This represents, in microcosm, the revelations which will characterize the Messianic age when, there will be revealed, “a new heaven and a new earth.”

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5. The passage from the Midrash quoted from Rashi’s commentary has particular relevance at present. We are in the midst of unique period and have seen changes in the international political arena which are truly characteristic of the present years, 5750, “a Year of Miracles,” and 5751, “a Year when ‘I will show you Wonders.’ ”

Thus, we have seen nations which for years were dominated by totalitarian regimes giving way for regimes based on righteousness and justice. (The present regimes also allow freedom for religious observance.) Similarly, one of those regimes has allowed hundreds of thousands of Jews to emigrate and many have chosen to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael, an act which reflects the ingathering of exiles that will take place in the age of the Redemption. Furthermore, the present Persian Gulf crisis can be interpreted as portentous of Mashiach’s coming as explained within the context of the Yalkut Shimoni.16

Nevertheless, in this time, the accusation, “You are thieves,” is being leveled against the Jewish people. In particular, they are being criticized for taking possession of Jerusalem. Even nations whose response to the Gulf Crisis demonstrated their concern for justice and righteousness have joined in the outcry.

This accusation is also one of the signs which portend Mashiach’s imminent coming. By standing fast and declaring as Rashi teaches, “The entire world belongs to G‑d. He created it and He gave it to whomever He pleases,” we will refute this claim and hasten the coming of Mashiach.