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For the Love of G-d

Friday, 17 January, 2020 - 12:13 pm

This week we begin reading the second of the five books of the Torah, Shemot – Exodus. Psalms 119:130 states: “The beginning of Your words illuminates.” Rashi comments that this means the beginning of Your (G-d’s) words in the Ten Commandments, (I am the L-rd your G-d) illuminates the hearts of the people of Israel. The Rebbe suggests, based on a Midrash, that it would also be possible to apply this to the “beginning of Your words” in each of the five books of the Torah. Indeed, Rashi, in his commentary to the opening verse of each of the five books, directs the meaning of the verse to the love the G-d has for the Jewish people.

So let’s take a moment and examine each one.

Genesis begins with the story of creation. Rashi comments, “Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning (instead of the Mitzvahs and the narrative of the Exodus)?” Because of [the verse] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Ps. 111:6). For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations,” they will reply, "The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whomever He deemed proper when He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it from them and gave it to us.”

Exodus begins by recounting the names of the twelve tribes who came to Egypt. Rashi comments, “Although [G-d] counted them in their lifetime by their names, He counted them again after their death, to let us know how precious they are [to Him].”

Leviticus begins by G-d calling to Moses to instruct him about the offerings in the Sanctuary. Rashi comments, “Every [time G-d communicated with Moses,] it was always preceded by [G-d] calling [to Moses by name], an expression of affection.”

Numbers begins with the census of the Israelites in the Sinai desert. Rashi comments, “Because they were dear to Him, He counted them often.”

Deuteronomy begins with the rebuke of Israelites by Moses. Rashi comments, “Since these are words of rebuke and he [Moses] enumerates here all the places where they angered the Omnipresent, therefore it makes no explicit mention of the incidents [in which they transgressed], but rather merely alludes to them, out of respect for Israel.”

So now we have a deeper appreciation for the meaning of “The beginning of Your words illuminates.” Each beginning illuminates the hearts of the Jewish people by shining a light on the profound love and care that Hashem has for His people. Even in a “negative” context, Hashem is careful to preserve the honor of His people and the love He has for them.

Were it only that we could emulate our Creator by speaking lovingly and respectfully about each other, thereby bringing out only the best of each and every one of us.

This might be a good segue to a reminder about the upcoming JLI course entitled Judaism’s Gifts to the World. At Chabad Uptown, the class will be offered on six Wednesdays starting January 29. For more information and to register, see www.chabadneworleans.com/jli. The first class will be free and open to the public at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, January 29. For more info see www.facebook.com/events/776308576203260. Dinner will be served. Please share this with anyone who may be interested.

At Chabad Metairie, the course will be offered on six Tuesdays starting January 21 (with a week off for Mardi Gras). For more information and to register, see www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli. The first class will be free and open to the public at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, January 29. For more info see www.facebook.com/events/603993793697142. As above, Dinner will be served. Please share this with anyone who may be interested.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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