1 When Hashem began to create heaven and earth—
b’-ray-SHEET ba-RA e-lo-HEEM AYT ha-sha-MA-yim v’-AYT ha-A-retz
א בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃
1:1 When Hashem began to create heaven and earth
If the Bible is essentially a book of law, why does it begin with stories of Genesis? Would it not make more sense to skip the stories and start with the legal sections of the Torah? Rashi, the famed medieval commentator, answers this question with an essential lesson that should inform our reading of the entire Tanakh. According to Rashi, one day the nations of the world would accuse the Jewish People of stealing Eretz Yisrael. In response, the Jews will point to the Torah which begins by telling us that God created the heaven and the earth. Since Hashem is the Creator of the world, He may give the land to whomever He wishes, and it is the divine will that the Land of Israel will belong to the People of Israel.
1:1 When Hashem began
The first word in the Torah is Bereishit (בראשית), which begins with the letter bet (ב), while the last word in the Torah is Yisrael (ישראל), ‘Israel,’ which ends with the letter lamed (ל). Together, these two letters spell the word lev (לב), which means ‘heart’ in Hebrew. The first lesson hinted at in the very first letter of the Tanakh is that Torah is the heart of the People of Israel, and the ultimate expression of Hashem’s love for us. By studying the Torah, from the first letter through the last, we can access the ‘heart’ of Hashem.