Judaism: The Seamlessness of Torah
Rabbi Berel WeinRabbi Berel Wein is a noted scholar, historian, speaker and educator, admired the world over for his audio tapes/CDs, videos and books, particularly on Jewish history.
Because of the intricacies of the Jewish calendar, the end of the Torah – Zot Habracha – and the beginning of the Torah – Bereshith – follow each other in rapid succession this week. This is a timely reminder to us of the seamlessness of Torah – an understanding that will help us appreciate all of the Torah portions that we will hear and study in this new and blessed year.
The rabbis of the Talmud have taught us that words of Torah which seem poor and unimportant in one Torah text contain rich and meaningful information and insight when viewed in the perspective of another text. Thus the Torah has to be viewed in its totality and not only in analysis of individual and particular words and phrases.
The immortal greatness of Rashi’s commentary to Torah lies in its ability to present both the trees and the forest at one and the same time to its readers and students. Without knowing Bereshith, Zot Habracha descends into poetry and narrative devoid of its ultimate spiritual content and purpose. And without knowing Zot Habracha, Bereshith itself remains an unfathomable mystery of creation and primordial life without apparent purpose and relevance to later human generations.
That is what Rashi is driving at in his initial comment to the Torah. Creation had a purpose; God is not a random force in human existence, and Torah – the Torah of Moshe – and the continued existence of the people of Israel are integral parts of the purpose of creation and human life. Thus, these two parshiyot of the Torah, the last one and the first one, are intimately joined in the great seamless Torah that is our inheritance. Each one accurately describes the other.
The rabbis teach us that each individual person must always believe and say to one’s self that this entire wondrous universe was created only for me. By this they meant to reinforce the idea of the purposefulness of creation itself and of the role that each and every human being can play in determining the destiny of that process of creation.
By fulfilling our role as devoted Jews, with a moral understanding of life and good behavior patterns, we inherit the blessings of our teacher and leader Moshe as well as becoming partners, so to speak in God’s handiwork of creation.
Nothing in life is wasted and even acts that we may deem to be somehow insignificant are important in God’s cosmic scheme of human existence. The blessings of Moshe are individual and particular. No two of them are alike. So too are human beings – no two of them alike. It is one of the many wonders of creation. Since the blessings are individual and human beings are unique, it is obvious that each of us has a role in the human story - each one of us individually. Thus our own individual lives take on greater purpose, influence and meaning.
And that is the true blessing of creation itself.