A Fresh Start by Rabbi Yosef Grossman


            The second sentence of our Torah says; "and the earth was unformed and void and darkness was on the face of the deep and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters."  In Masechet Chagiga (11b), we are taught that one who reflects upon the nature of the world before its creation is not worthy of having been created.  The Gemara offers a parable comparing it to a king who built his palace on a garbage dump.  He told his servants  to keep this quiet as it would take away from the palace if it was publicized how the land was beforehand. The Gemara concludes that similarly, we should not talk about how the world looked before creation since it would take away from the glory of God.  Rav Moshe Feinstein asked a question on the comparison of this Gemara.  Regarding creation, there is no greater way to praise God then to remember that He created the world out of nothing, which is different from the situation in the parable of the king.  Rav Moshe answered that if we only remember that God created the world it would seem that it was a one time event.  We must realize that God is constantly involved in the events of this world, and we therefore shouldn't reflect upon the state of the world before, and the act of, creation.  The best thing is to realize שויתי ה' לנגדי תמיד, "that God is always in front of us," involved with our lives and we always need his help.  This is the message of celebrating Yom Tov. 

            One of the most important commandments we can fulfill is the mitzvah of Tzedaka, giving charity and helping out those who are less fortunate than ourselves.  On Rosh Hashana we said that this is one of the three ways we can change a bad decree to a favorable one.  Rav Moshe teaches us that this very important mitzvah is alluded to in the opening phrase of the Torah, בראשית ברא.  The Midrash Rabbah interprets this phrase to mean that God created the heavens and earth for the sake of ביכורים, first fruits, which are called ראשית, beginning.  Our יצר הרע tries to push us away from following the Mitzvah of ביכורים.  Why should someone take his precious first fruits which he put so much effort into and give them to the Kohen to whom they are no different from any other fruits?  Yet, in spite of this inclination, we fulfill the Mitzvah. 

            If it doesn't make a difference to the Kohen, why did God command us to give ביכורים to him?  This Mitzvah teaches us an important lesson.  If we simply perform Mitzvot by rote, then we can be induced to delay their performance because the יצר הרע can suggest other ways to spend our time and money.  If we listen to this we will have no time to perform מצות and no money for charity.  If the מצוה of צדקה is dear to us, we will make it our highest priority, and when we earn money we will be sure to give צדקה before thinking of our own pleasure.  Putting aside our ביכורים, first fruits, for the כהן shows that we want to put God's מצות before our desires.  For that מצוה alone it would have been worth creating the world explains Rav Moshe Feinstein.  The Rambam in Hilchot Megila (2:71) says, "there is no greater joy than making the lives of the poor... better since if you do that you are compared to God Himself."

            This important idea is conveyed to us in the first phrase of the Torah because once we realize it, the rest of the Torah will be easier for us to fulfill.  In Pirkei Avot we are taught, "Put God's needs before our needs so He will put our needs before His."  Now that we just completed the holiday season of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Succot, we prepare for the long hard winter ahead and start the Torah anew. We must take this precious point to heart and live our lives accordingly, not allowing the יצר הרע to cause us to push off our chance to do a Mitzva and strengthen our commitment to studying Torah.  As we say each night during Maariv, כי הם חיינו וארך ימינו - that the Torah is our life and the length of our days.

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