We begin our cycle of Torah readings this Shabbat, having completed the festival of Sukkot. Certainly we all know the opening words of Genesis, “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” A better translation might be: “when God began to create, He created the heaven and the earth.” If you are a baseball scholar, it truly reads, “in the Big inning, God created…”
Rashi, the French Bible master, writing in the eleventh century, wants to know the reason the Torah does not begin with one of the earliest commandments, “this month shall mark for you… (the month of Passover)” from Exodus 12. So Rashi asks, why did the Torah begin with ‘creation,’ and he answers with the words from the Psalmist, “He revealed to his people his powerful works, in giving them the heritage of nations,” from Psalm 111. Rashi is explaining that Israel did not steal Canaan, for the entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He. In this famous commentary, Rashi, the quintessential teacher, is saying that the world belongs to the Almighty, and at a certain time, God decided to give us freedom and land of Israel. Hence it makes sense to start the story of the world with a creation story, for this is the beginning for all of us.