Parashas Bereishis

Bereishis Rabbah 1:1 teaches that the Torah mapped out the plan of creation. The starting point for the teaching is the following verse (Mishlei 8:30): “I [the Torah] was then His ward – I was then His rapture every day, playing before Him at all times.” Building on the similarity between the between the word אָמוֺן for ward, and the word אֻמָן for artisan or architect, the Midrash expounds:
The Torah says, “I am Hashem’s architect.” When a man builds a palace, he consults an architect. And the architect consults his files of blueprints to work out how to construct the building. Similarly, Hashem consulted the Torah, and afterward He created the world. The Torah then declared: “On the basis of ‘the beginning,’ God created the heaven and the earth.” And “the beginning” is none other than the Torah, as it is written (Mishlei 8:22): “Hashem took me [the Torah] as the beginning of His path, [preceding His works of yore].”
The Maggid comments that this teaching is bewildering. What does it mean to say that Hashem consulted the Torah to see how to create the world? Does Hashem need guidance? Besides, the Torah itself is His creation. And when the Midrash describes the Torah declaring, “On the basis of ‘the beginning,’ God created heaven and earth,” what is the Midrash trying to say?
To explain the Midrash, the Maggid turns to Shlomo HaMelech’s teaching in Koheles 3:14: “I realized that everything God will do endures forever – it cannot be augmented or diminished – and God made it so that He be feared.” There is a message, the Maggid says, in Shlomo’s choice of the phrase “will do” rather than “has done.” The phrasing stands out as unusual. The Maggid explains it as follows. We know the creations of the world are perishable. Man and his various material assets all have a finite lifespan, and all are vulnerable to damage and decay. But, Shlomo says, we must not think that Hashem made the world this way due to an inability to do otherwise. The phrase “will do” tells us that Hashem has the potential to make His creations enduring, if He so chooses. It must be, then, that Hashem deliberately chose to make His creations perishable.
Why did He do so? Shlomo tells us: “So that He be feared.” When man notes that he and his assets are vulnerable, he feels fear of Hashem. And why did God want man to feel such fear? In order that he be careful to follow the Torah scrupulously. Thus, God designed the world with the specific goal of firmly emplacing the Torah within it. When the Midrash says that Hashem created the world “on the basis” of Torah, it is teaching us this lesson.
The Maggid comments further on the last verse that the Midrash quotes: “Hashem took me [the Torah] as the beginning of His path, preceding His works of yore.” The last phrase seems redundant, but the Maggid shows that it conveys an important insight.
The general rule in the formation of an entity, our Sages say, is that the subordinate elements emerge before the primary element. Thus, with a stalk of grain, the straw is formed before the grain, and, with a fruit, the peel is formed before the main part of the fruit. On a larger scale, at the time man came into being, the rest of the world had already been created, as the Zohar on Bereishis 1 discusses at length. As the saying goes, “what goes in first comes out last.” The first step of any activity is defining the goal, but the goal is reached only after preparatory work is done. In this vein, Hashem’s initial goal in creating the world was to reveal His Torah, but only after He created the rest of the world did He bring forth the Torah’s light.
Given the rule that the most important feature comes forth last, we are led to wonder why the Torah prides itself, so to speak, on “preceding His works of yore.” The Maggid explains the Torah’s stance with a parable. Two youths were quarreling, and one said to the other: “How dare you speak to me with such disrespect! Don’t you know that my father, from his early days, has been the head of our town?” His antagonist replied: “Well, these days, the area is crawling with bandits. In such times, lowly people are usually put at the head, so they can bear the burden of dealing with such hooligans.” The first youth retorted: “You fool! Is it just now that my father has been put at the head? Just take a minute, please, and remind yourself that my father was put at the head years ago, when the area was in peace. So, in truth, he is a great man, most worthy of his position.” Thus, the town leader, although he would not have been put in his position at the time this story took place, deserves double respect for having been appointed still earlier. The parallel is as follows. It is true that the world was founded under the rule that the least important emerges first and the most important last. But, before the world was created, the opposite applied. Thus, the Torah can well pride itself on coming into being before the creation of the world.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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