The Torah begins with the words, “In the beginning, G‑d created…,”1 and goes on to recount the details of Creation. In commenting on these opening words, Rashi2 notes: “By right, the Torah should have specifically begun from ‘This month is to you….’3 Why does it begin with ‘In the beginning’? Because ‘He related the power of His actions to His people.4 ’ ”

Rashi goes on to explain that this forestalls any complaint by the nations of the world. Should the nations say: “You are thieves; you have conquered the lands of the Seven Nations,” we can reply to them: “The entire world belongs to G‑d; He created it and gave it to whoever found favor before Him.”

Rashi’s terminology — “By right, the Torah should have specifically begun from ‘This month is to you…’ Why did it begin …” — indicates that the portions from “In the beginning” until “This month is to you…” should indeed have been included in the Torah, but that they need not have come at the very beginning.

This being so, it is understandable that the answer Rashi provides also explains why the story of Creation is found at the very beginning of the Torah.

Even if the story of Creation were written after “This month is to you…,” we would still be able to reply: “The entire world belongs to G‑d. He created it and gave it to whoever found favor before Him.” The question thus remains: why does the Torah begin with Creation?

An additional question: if the Torah should indeed not have begun with Creation, why would the order have been changed so drastically, simply to negate a possible complaint by the nations?

We must perforce say that beginning with Creation not only provides an answer to the nations, but is of major import to the Jewish people regarding their spiritual service.

The Tzemach Tzedek explains5 that the spiritual aspect of “conquering the ‘land’ of the Seven Nations,” refers to the Jews’ spiritual service within the “land,” i.e., within this physical world as a whole. When a Jew employs the physical world for a spiritual purpose, he is in effect “conquering the land” for spirituality.

The nations’ complaint is that everything within the realm of the physical “belongs” to them, so that using it for a sacred purpose and thereby “expanding the boundaries of holiness”6 constitutes an act of piracy.

The answer to their accusation lies in the fact that “In the beginning G‑d created….” Everything derives from the A-mighty, and He gave it to whoever found favor before Him; objects which, prior to man’s spiritual service, were not within the realm of holiness, existed where they did specifically so that man could reclaim and “conquer” them through his service, returning them to the domain of holiness.

This is also the meaning of “By right, the Torah should have specifically begun from ‘This month is to you….’ ” The Torah spiritually precedes and is thus loftier than Creation, including the spiritual service of conquering the physical and transforming it into the spiritual. For when a person is occupied with Torah, he is immersed in a sacred matter that is loftier than the world, while when he is occupied with worldly matters, even for a spiritual purpose, he is still involved in things that are close to his corporeal nature.

But if this is so, the question as to why the Torah begins with Creation becomes even stronger! Since the service of Torah and Mitzvos is loftier than the conquest of the physical, this service should have been mentioned first; the tale of Creation and the conquest thereof should have been related only afterwards!

Although the service of “conquest” is of a lower order than Torah and mitzvos, G‑d’s intent in Creation was a desire to have “a dwelling place in this physical world.”7 This desire is best fulfilled through the conquest of the physical — involving as it does the transformation of that which is of the lowest level into a dwelling place fit for G‑d.

It is for this reason that the Torah begins with Creation.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XX, pp. 1-4