When the Torah was given 3318 years ago through Moses, he instituted that it be read publicly at least once a week to insure that it never be changed or forgotten (G-d forbid).
So this week marks the 3318th time that we begin reading the Torah since it was given.
The first thing we notice is that the Torah begins with how G-d created the world 5766 years ago (which can be derived by adding the generations listed later on).
Interestingly Judaism is the only religion that cares about this date; when the world was created.
In fact, the Jewish New Year’s day, Rosh HaShanna commemorates the sixth day of creation (when man was made) and a check dated for the year 5766 will be honored in Israel, even in the most secular places.
But even more important, this date tells us something very essential and unique about G-d.
He created the world from nothing.
In other words, the universe and world we are living in right now with everything in it (including us) is not made from atoms, energy, or even spirit. Rather its basic building block is….nothing!
So in addition to G-d creating the universe long ago; He also must bring it into existence CONSTANTLY lest it revert to its basic nothingness!
That is the message of Bereshit; G-d must be constantly bringing this wonderful, miraculous, infinitely complicated world in it’s every detail; every mineral, plant, animal and human, from nothing to ‘something’.
This the G-d of Israel that gave the Torah.
But that is only the beginning.
The second sentence of the Torah tells us that the ‘Spirit of G-d hovered over the water’.
The Midrash explains that this ‘Spirit on the water’ is the spirit of Moshiach. (Tanya 1, Berashes Rabba 2:4)
What has Moshiach got to do with all this? What is Moshiach? Why is he mentioned on the first day before anything was created? And What does it mean that he is above the waters?
To understand this here are two stories.
The Talmud in tractate Taanit (23b) relates that it so happened that one year there was a draught in Israel. Rain hadn’t fallen for almost a year, all the fasts and public prayers hadn’t helped, the wells were drying up, food was running out and things looked bleak.
There was no lack of holy, devoted Jews in Israel but for some reason their supplications were not answered and no one could imagine where salvation would come from.
There was one Jew that was a bit different than the others. His name was Rabbi Yona. The Talmud tells us no more than he was so exceedingly humble that even his wife and family had no idea of his spiritual achievements.
Rabbi Yona couldn’t stand the suffering of his brothers. He waited and waited for rain and when it became obvious that rain was not coming he took an empty sack and the remaining money in the house and told his wife he was going to the town to see if he could buy some grain to replenish their food supply.
His wife blessed him with good luck and he made his way toward the market.
When he was sure he wasn’t noticed he turned to the outskirts of the city then walked even farther to a desolate rocky spot far into the hills where he was certain that no one had ever been.
He found a place to lower himself in the cleft of some rocks, wrapped himself in his prayer shawl and began to pour his heart out to G-d.
After several minutes the clear blue sky turned grey, then ominously dark. Soon thunder and bolts of lightning announced the end of the heavenly decree and rain began to first drizzle and finally fall in torrents.
Rabbi Yona climbed out of his hiding place put his prayer shawl back in the sack and headed home.
On the way people were dancing in the streets, faces to heaven weeping in gratitude and soaked with blessed rain.
When he arrived home his wife too was dancing for joy at the rain. She showed him into the house, gave him a dry set of clothes and asked if he had managed to make it to the market and get some grain.
“No” he answered “Before I got to there it began to rain and I reasoned that soon there will be plenty of food for everyone at lower prices. So I came home.”
No one ever knew that he saved the entire country.
The second story is about a Tzadik called Pinchas Ben Yair.
In a certain town was a kind Jew who, in his spare time, dug wells, cisterns and irrigation ditches for those traveling or passing through the area so water would be easily accessible and travelers would never suffer from thirst.
This kind Jew had a daughter who reached the age of marriage. He found a proper match for her and the date of the wedding was set.
But then tragedy struck. The girl was crossing a river on the way to make preparations for the wedding and somehow slipped and fell into the rapids and drowned.
In fact the waters were so turbulent, deep and murky that her body was never found.
When the people in the area heard the heartbreaking story they went to the man’s home to comfort him but to no avail. The poor fellow was so beside himself with bitterness, grief and pain that he refused all consolation.
When Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair happened to pass by and see the crowd of people entering and leaving, he understood that they were comforting a mourner and he too entered. But the mourner refused him as well.
“What type of a Jew is this?” Rabbi Pinchas asked one of those present. “Is he the first person to ever be bereaved? I agree that death is awful but why is he different from every other mourner? Why is he so bitter?”
“Rabbi,” the reply was soon in coming “This man used to dig wells and provide everyone with water and now his daughter drowned in water!!”
Answered Rabbi Pinchas “What? Can it be that he honored his Creator with water and he now suffers because of water?!”
Just moments later cries of jubilation came from the city. “The girl returned!”
Some say that she grabbed onto a pole that suddenly appeared in the water, others say that an angel with the form and face of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair saved her. (Yerushalmi D’mai 1:1)
This begins to answer our questions. True G-d creates everything in the world constantly but constantly the world hides this fact. Indeed the Hebrew words for ‘world’ and ‘concealment’ are almost identical: “HaOLOM”.
That is why G-d created man.
If man purifies his motives, intellect, emotions, thought, speech and deeds like the Tzadikim in the above stories, he can actually reveal the truth: That G-d is really the Creator and the world is a constant miracle.
This is why the Torah begins with Moshiach.
Because Moshiach is the goal of all creation.
Moshiach will be a man who will teach ALL mankind to walk in the path of the Torah (Noahide commandments for the non-Jews) by convincing them that G-d is infinitely close, is creating them, listens to all prayers and provides all needs.
That is why the Moshiach is above the water.
The Torah is likened to water (Isaiah 54).
Tshuva (repentance) is likened to water (Lamentations 2), and pleasure and life are likened to water (Tanya chapt. 1).
Moshiach will, through the Torah, bring the world to repentance and fill with world with the pleasure of serving the Creator like water fills the ocean (see the very end of Rambam).
And, as Pinchas ben Yair did in the second story, Moshiach will eventually raise the dead, which is also likened to water (second blessing of the Amida prayer).
In fact, the Lubavitcher Rebbe in his last speech to the Shluchim (his thousands of representatives throughout the world) pointed out that Moshiach himself, like water, may come from the dead.
Just as rain begins as water on the ground, then evaporates to ‘spirit’ (the spirit of G-d floating on the water) and finally miraculously (as in our first story) descends to be physical once again, so will the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe return to be Moshiach. (Chaye Sarah 5752 end of paragraph 13).
This is the theme of the Torah; that man can and must purify himself and the world around him through observing the Torah, encouraging Jews and gentiles to serve the Creator through the Torah, and doing EVERYTHING possible to bring….