Why did the Torah commence by relating the creation of the world?
(1,1) “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth”.
Rashi brings from the Midrash that R. Yitzchok said that it was not necessary to begin the Torah except from “this month is to you”, which is the first mitzvah that Yisrael were commanded. So why did He commence with “In the beginning…”? So that if the nations of the world would say to Yisrael “you are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations of Canaan”, they can reply that the whole world belongs to Hashem. When He wished He took it from them and gave it to us.
But we still don’t understand why the Torah had to open with this, because surely it would have been sufficient to write this matter later in the Torah, next to where Hashem promised us the land. Why did He write this before discussing the mitzvos?
However, it is well known that which the earlier commentaries wrote, that the Torah was given primarily to be observed in Eretz Yisrael, as the Ramban in his commentary on the Torah writes in several places. And the reason is because the way of the Torah is miraculous, beyond nature, and so too is the governance of Eretz Yisrael. As the posuk says “the eyes of Hashem are on it constantly”. And also as the Ramban wrote in explaining the statement of Chazal “anyone who dwells outside of Eretz Yisrael, it is as if he has no G-d”. Therefore, the primary observance of the Torah and the mitzvos is in Eretz Yisrael, because by keeping them we also come to be supervised by Hashem Himself, not by nature.
This is what R. Yitzchok meant, that the reason why the Torah commenced with “in the beginning…”, was to teach us this point which is the foundation of the Torah, that Hashem supervises us personally and therefore He took Eretz Yisrael from them and gave it to us. And this is not like the behaviour of thieves where the most powerful prevails, but rather everything is with Hashem's direct management.
And with this we can understand why a non-Jew who learns Torah is liable to be put to death, because a non-Jew's whole conduct is through nature and the constellations of the heavens, and thus has no portion in the Holy Torah because it is not relevant to him at all.
And with this we understand well the connection between the end of the Torah - “before the eyes of all Yisrael”, to the beginning of the Torah, because these words allude to Moshe’s breaking of the tablets of the Torah before the eyes of all Yisrael. And the reason why he broke the tablets was because Yisrael made the golden calf and thereby combined the name of Heaven with something else, something material, thereby effectively saying that their supervision was not by Hashem Himself, but rather they needed an intermediary. And so it follows that that they had no portion in the Torah, and therefore Moshe smashed the tablets.
This is the meaning of “before the eyes of all Yisrael”, that therefore Moshe broke the Torah before all of Yisrael, because “in the beginning G-d created”. That is, since the Torah started with this, it must be to teach us that since Hashem is in charge of the whole world, the nations of the world cannot say that we are thieves, to teach us that the whole foundation of the Torah depends on this that Hashem Himself governs us. And if so, Yisrael cannot receive the Torah and so he broke the tablets.
And now we can understand very well the words of Chazal, that Moshe made the following logical argument: if the Pesach sacrifice which is one of the 613 commandments is forbidden for idol-worshippers, as the Torah says “a stranger cannot eat it”, all the more so is the whole Torah forbidden to idol-worshippers, and therefore he smashed the tablets. But this logic is not well understood, because this is true specifically by Pesach, since it says so explicitly in the Torah, but for all the other mitzvos there is no specific warning to forbid non-Jews, and so how could he learn from Pesach to the rest of the Torah?
But the meaning is that the matter of Pesach is because Hashem passed over the houses of Yisrael, and this teaches about Hashem’s personal supervision of Yisrael. Therefore non-Jews cannot eat from it, since they are not in Klal Yisrael, and so have no relevance to the eating of the Pesach. If so, all the more so the whole Torah, whose giving and keeping was entirely for people who are under Hashem’s supervision. Therefore, Yisrael were certainly not fitting to receive the Torah whilst they showed that they did not believe that they were under Hashem’s direct supervision. Examine this well, because the matter is very correct.
How would the world have been different if Yisrael had not accepted the Torah??
The gemora in Avodah Zorah 3a writes that R. Shimon ben Lakish said: What is the meaning of that which is written “and there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day”? It teaches that Hashem stipulated with the works of creation - if Yisrael accepts the Torah, then fine, but if not, I will return you to תהו ובהו (bewilderment and void). And this is what the posuk says, “If not for my covenant of day and night (the Torah, which is to be observed day and night), the statutes of heaven and earth I would not have established”.
We need to understand this gemora according to what the Ramban wrote on the posuk “and the earth was תהו ובהו”, that this itself was a creation, an ethereal substance from which all of creation was afterwards derived. That is, initially, immediately on the first day, Hashem created from nothing a very thin substance which had no real form but had the potential for such, and in the six days of creation Hashem brought out from this potential into reality two substances, heaven and earth. See there at length.
According to this, since we have said that all of the creation of the heavens and the earth were dependent on the Torah, if Yisrael did not accept it then even the תהו ובהו would not be necessary, and so what did Reish Lakish mean when he said “and if not I will return you to תהו ובהו”? He should have said "and if not I will abolish all of creation completely", including the תהו ובהו.
However, it seems to me that there is a deeper meaning in the words of Reish Lakish, which we can understand from the seemingly superfluous word "statutes" in the posuk “if not for my covenant of day and night, the statutes of heaven and earth I would not have established” - it should have said simply "heaven and earth I would not have established".
But the explanation of this word is that behold, the creation of the world was in order that the glory of Hashem’s kingdom would be revealed to the whole world, and all of creation would recognise and know that Hashem, He is G-d, and there is no one besides Him. However, since the world was created with a fixed nature, which will remain the same all the days of the earth, it gives a place for the heretics to claim that everything in this world is conducted according to nature and the arrangements of the planets, and Hashem does not supervise this lower world at all, G-d forbid.
Therefore, to remove this false opinion from their hearts and to embed in them faith in Hashem and faith in His supervision of the lower creations, He chose us to be His treasured people, and through the Holy Torah that He gave us He elevated us above all the designation of the planets. We are the emissaries of the concept of Divine supervision, to clarify to all the world the truth of faith in the Oneness of the world, and this is the purpose of the creation of the world, the completion of which we hope for with the coming of the Righteous Redeemer, speedily in our days.
However, all this is only if Yisrael accepts the Torah. But if Yisrael do not accept the Torah, then it would be necessary to publicise His Oneness and the belief in His supervision through creation itself. Therefore, it would be necessary for the creation to be in a different manner, that is, that there will constantly be a change in the conduct of the world in order that we will know and recognise through this change His Oneness and His supervision.
This is the explanation of the posuk “if not for my covenant of day and night, the 'statutes' of heaven and earth I would not have established”. That is, Hashem would not have established fixed rules in the creation of the heavens and the earth, but rather He would have created the heavens and the earth with a constantly changing set of rules.
This is what Reish Lakish was saying - Hashem made a stipulation with the works of creation after He had created six days and placed in them the power of nature, to have a constant nature, without change. Hashem said to them that this is only if Yisrael will accept My Torah. But if not, then I will return you to תהו ובהו, that is, to the ethereal potential substance as it was at the time of the first creation of something from nothing, and afterwards I will bring into reality the creation in another fashion constantly, in order that through this the Kingdom of heaven and earth will be revealed in the world. Thus we find that the statutes of heaven and earth depend on the Holy Torah. Examine all this carefully, because it seems to me that this is very correct according to the explanation of the Ramban.
Why are women obligated in Kiddush?
The sefer חוט המשולש brings a Midrash which says: Why does the Torah not write "And there was evening and there was morning..." at the end of the section of Shabbos? Because women are obligated from the Torah in the mitzvah of Kiddush on Shabbos. This Midrash is a real puzzle, but it seems that we can explain it as follows:
The reason why women are obligated in Kiddush is learned from the comparison of the word זכור (Remember) to שמור (Observe). That is, in the first tablets of the ten commandments it says “Remember the Shabbos”, but in the second it says “Observe the Shabbos”. And since we are taught that both these words were uttered by Hashem simultaneously, we learn that anyone who is obligated to observe the Shabbos is also obligated to remember the Shabbos, which includes making Kiddush on the night of Shabbos. And since women are obligated to observe Shabbos, they are therefore also obligated in Kiddush.
But if this is so, then this is true only after the second tablets had been given.But from the time of the first set of tablets where it only says “Remember”, why were they obligated in Kiddush? To answer that in fact they were not obligated at that time, or to answer that since these two words were said together, then this comparison existed even then, even though it had not yet been written in the second tablets, are both desperate answers.
However, we see from the Midrash that the reason why it does not say "there was evening and there was morning" on Shabbos, was because that Shabbos was all light. The meaning of this is that Shabbos is above time, because Hashem blessed it and sanctified it and made the Shabbos, and since it was sanctified with the holiness of Hashem, it does not fall under the category of time. Unlike Yom Tov which is sanctified by Beis Din, and that which is done by people falls under the category of time. But the holiness of Shabbos comes from Hashem, and is therefore above time, and so it was not relevant to write by it "and there was evening and there was morning".
However, it seems that all this was true before the sin of the golden calf, but after Yisrael sinned with the calf, and they needed to observe Shabbos in order to rectify the sin, from then on Hashem gave the Shabbos to Yisrael, that they should make the Shabbos. As is explained in the Torah in the second tablets, the observance of Shabbos was because of their going out from Egypt, and therefore Hashem commanded them to make the Shabbos. And since Shabbos was given to Yisrael, that they should make the Shabbos through their preparations, from then on it fell under the category of time.
Thus we have answered our question - before the sin of the calf, Shabbos did not need the sanctification of Yisrael at all, and so it was above time. Therefore it was not included in the time-bound mitzvos, and so women were obligated in all the mitzvos of Shabbos, as they are obligated in all positive mitzvos which are not bound by time. But after the sin of the calf, when Shabbos required the sanctification of Yisrael, it became included in the time-bound mitzvos, and so now needed the comparison of "Remember" and "Observe", in order to obligate women in the positive mitzvah of Kiddush.
And now we understand well the meaning of the Midrash, that for this reason it did not say "and there was evening and there was morning" on Shabbos, because women are obligated in Kiddush from the Torah. And the reason is because Shabbos is above time, and so it is not relevant to say "and there was evening and there was morning".
Indeed, we can understand even better why after the sin with the calf Hashem gave the Shabbos to Yisrael, that they should make the Shabbos, with the words of the Ramban, who wrote that the extra soul that is given on Yom Tov is not taken from Yisrael - since the Yom Tov is through the holiness of Yisrael, it remains with them. But the extra soul of Shabbos is removed from them after Shabbos, because Hashem gives it and takes it away.
Now, they sinned with the calf because they thought that they needed an intermediary between them and Hashem, and this was by the removal of the holiness of Shabbos, which teaches about Divine Providence, Hashem's direct supervision of Yisrael. And therefore, to instill in Yisrael the matter of Divine Providence, Hashem commanded them to keep the Shabbos and to make it, so that Shabbos would also contain Yisrael's input, in order that its holiness should remain after Shabbos. Understand this well, because I have been brief.
And according to this we can understand that which Chazal said, that all who those who make the Shabbos a delight are given an unlimited inheritance. The commentaries ask why it does not say this about those who give themselves pleasure in the honour of Shabbos? They wrote that only someone who makes Shabbos a delight is rewarded, but one who gives himself pleasure for the honour of Shabbos is not rewarded. But to my mind this is a difficult thing to say, because it requires a very high spiritual level to give make the Shabbos a delight without benefiting himself, and G-d forbid that we should say about those people which give themselves pleasure for the honour of Shabbos that they get no reward for Shabbos delight.
But it seems to me that the meaning is that since a person is limited, and all his deeds are limited, therefore his reward should also be limited. However, one who makes the Shabbos a delight without any intention to give pleasure to himself, if so he wishes to give pleasure only to the Shabbos which has in it the holiness of Hashem, and since He is unlimited, so too his reward is also unlimited. But one who gives himself pleasure for the honour of Shabbos, since it is also for the person himself, his reward is limited. But to say that he has no reward at all - G-d forbid to say such a thing. Study well all that I have written.