In Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah,
the Alter Rebbe states that "the name with which every created being is called in the Holy Tongue is a divine channel for the life-force... which grants it vitality."
On numerous occasions, the Rebbe Shlita has explained that this principle receives greater emphasis with regard to names that share a connection with the Torah, for in contrast to entities in the world at large, the Divine life-force of the Torah is more openly revealed.
Using these concepts as a foundation, the Rebbe Shlita has often spoken about lessons that could be derived from the name of each weekly Torah portion at Shabbos farbrengens (gatherings).
On certain occasions, he has demonstrated how the name relates to all the different elements of the Torah portion, while on others, he has confined himself to explaining the general message the name conveys.
These talks were recorded in writing after the conclusion of the Shabbos.
At times, these notes were edited by the Rebbe Shlita, and at times, they were published without the Rebbe's editorial input.
On certain occasions, these concepts were published as Likkutei Sichos, and thus received further attention from the Rebbe Shlita.
This installment is the first of a series which intends to share these concepts with the public at large.
With this intent, we have not restricted ourselves to a mere translation of the Rebbe Shlita's thought. Instead, we have adapted and explained t hese ideas so that they can be grasped and will interest even those readers who are unfamiliar with the style of the Rebbe's talks.
May the study of the Rebbe Shlita's teachings arouse Divine blessings for his complete and speedy recovery, and may he lead us to the Redemption in the most immediate future.
7 Tishrei, 5754
- (Back to text) Ch. 1.
When a person is sent to accomplish a task, his purpose should be clearly outlined.
Sometimes, however, an explicit statement of intent is not made.
Instead, an allusion is given, and the person charged with the mission is left to discover its purpose on his own.
Why would someone choose to issue instructions in such a manner?
When the purpose is clearly spelled out for the agent, its realization is not his own.
He is borrowing someone else's conception.
When, by contrast, he comes to this awareness on his own, it rings far truer within him; it is part of his own thinking.
Similar ideas apply with regard to G-d's creation of the world.
When the Torah begins describing creation, its first words are not "Let there be light."
Instead, before mentioning light, it speaks of "nothingness, void and darkness."
Our Sages explain G-d's motive for creation as "a desire" for "a dwelling in the lower realms."
A dwelling means a home, a place where His essence is manifest.
The term "lower realms" refers to our material world where G-dliness cannot be perceived.
Moreover, G-d wants that dwelling to be part and parcel of the lower realms themselves. His intent is not to nullify the limitations of our material existence, but rather to manifest Himself within our present framework.
Had G-d begun the creation with light, i.e., were He to have created a world that recognizes Him effortlessly, there would never been a "lower realm"; all existence would have been one with Him.
This was not His desire.
G-d wants man to exist in a world which by nature makes man feel separate from Him, but that man should, nevertheless, ultimately achieve the awareness described by Isaiah:  " the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."
Reaching such awareness represents a fusion of opposites.
But precisely such a fusion reveals G-d's essence.
For He is neither light, nor darkness; neither finite, nor infinite. No worldly quality - nor its antithesis - can define Him.
When, however, we see two contradictory thrusts joining together, we can appreciate that this is possible only because He has manifest Himself.  And precisely such a manifestation will characterize the Era of the Redemption, the era when it will be revealed that the world is G-d's dwelling.
To make this possible, G-d began creation with "nothingness, void, and darkness."
This would insure that there would be a concept of "lower realms."
But to insure that these "lower realms" would be transformed into a "dwelling" for Him, "in the beginning" He invested two unique elements within creation.
Thus with regard to the name of this week's Torah reading, Bereishis, Rashi comments: 
It is as if this word bereishis, "in the beginning" begs "Extrapolate upon my meaning."
[The word can be divided as beis reishis "two entities which are called `beginning'".
As our Sages commented: [creation is] for the sake of the Torah which is referred to  as "the beginning of His path" and for the sake of the righteous  who are referred to  as "the beginning of His crop."
In a similar context, our Sages state  that the existence of the Jewish people and the Torah preceded that of the world.
The intent here is not precedence in time, for time - like space - did not exist before creation.
Rather, the concept of precedence highlights the unique spiritual potential of the Jewish people and the Torah.
As opposed to the world at large which appears to exist independent of its G-dly source, "Yisrael, the Torah, and the Holy One, blessed be He, are all one." 
Every Jew's soul is "an actual part of G-d"  and the Torah is G-d's will and wisdom. 
Since the Torah and the Jewish people are one with G-d, the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos by the Jews in this material world consummates G-d's dwelling and expresses the purpose of creation.
"A mitzvah is a candle, and the Torah, light." 
Using the light of Torah, the Jews can reveal the fundamental G-dly intent imbued within the world and show that it is G-d's dwelling.
And yet, the above emphasis on the Torah and the Jewish people is not explicit in the word Bereishis.
On the contrary, the simple meaning of the word is "in the beginning," indicating that creation is the first phase in an ongoing process of growth.
This highlights the importance of man's contribution.
For man is intended to be G-d's "partner in creation,"  continuing and bringing to fruition G-d's desire for a dwelling.
G-d created a material world.
He left to man the task of revealing the spiritual, showing how the world is His dwelling.
Man begins in a world of darkness, and endeavors to endow it with light.
And each glimmer of light encourages others, for "a little light banishes a great deal of darkness,"  and leads to the ultimate light, the light of Redemption, when it will be openly revealed that the world is G-d's dwelling. 
The Tzemach Tzedek used to say, "According to the stance one adopts on Shabbos Bereishis, the entire year follows."
For every year  is a renewal of the cycle of creation.
The Zohar states that "G-d looked into the Torah and created the world. A man looks into the Torah and maintains the world."
As we begin the study of the Torah anew on this Shabbos, we have the potential to renew the entire creation, and bring it to its ultimate goal.
Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bereishis, 5751
- (Back to text) Genesis 1:2.
- (Back to text) Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3.
- (Back to text) 11:9.
- (Back to text) To cite a parallel: our Sages (Yoma 21a) relate that the place of the ark (the resting place of G-d's Presence) in the Holy of Holies was not included in the measurement of that chamber. Although there were 10 cubits from each wall to the ark, and the ark itself was two and a half cubits long, the width of the entire Holy of Holies was only 20 cubits. In the Beis HaMikdash, where precise measurement was crucial, a dimension that transcended all measure was revealed.
- (Back to text) Genesis 1:1.
- (Back to text) Proverbs 8:22.
- (Back to text) Which in an extended sense applies to the entire Jewish people as our Sages commented (Sanhedrin 10:1), "Your nation are all righteous."
- (Back to text) Jeremiah 2:3.
- (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 1:4.
- (Back to text) Zohar III, p. 73a.
- (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 2.
- (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 4.
- (Back to text) Proverbs 6:23.
- (Back to text) Shabbos 10a.
- (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 12.
- (Back to text) In this vein, our Sages (Sanhedrin 98b) commented that the world was created solely for the purpose of Mashiach. Moreover, this purpose was also expressed at the beginning of creation, thus on the verse (Genesis 1:2): "And the spirit of G-d hovered over the waters," our Sages (Midrash Rabbah 2:4, quoted by Rashi) comment: "This refers to the spirit of Mashiach."
- (Back to text) Although the creation is renewed every moment (Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 1), in a larger sense, there is a yearly cycle. It is at the beginning of every year, that the life-energy for the creation as a whole is renewed.