Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why the Storytelling in Genesis?
A Lesson for the Jews.

Right from the very outset of Torah an alert reader could ask, "Why would a manual of instruction to the Jewish people preoccupy itself with storytelling, first about the creation of the world and later about the patriarchs?" All of Genesis, in fact, is heavily narrated with stories. "Torah" in Hebrew comes from the word "to teach", so what does all this storytelling teach us?

It turns out, the sole purpose of the entire book of Genesis, with all its stories, is to provide the basis for the Jewish people upon which to stake their claim to the Land of Israel! It's the ammunition they should fire back with when accusers charge them with "occupying someone else's land".

In his very first commentary on Torah, Rashi asks, "Why not start the Torah from the first commandment to the Jewish people (concerning Passover; Exodus 12, 2)?" Why get sidetracked with storytelling in a book of laws?

Says Rashi. "Know that the Jewish people will be accused of conquering and displacing other peoples." (Note that Rashi lived some 1,000 years ago, when no one heard of a country called "Israel", nor could even dream of these scattered Jewish outcasts as an "aggressor nation"! Which testifies to Rashi's prophecy.)

He says to the Jew, "The reason G-d started the story from creation and tells the stories is - so you should know how to respond to your Gentile accusers! Here's what you tell them: G-d created the world; He gave the land to whomever He saw fit and wanted to give it to; He then took it away from them and gave it to us!" Period.

Says Rashi, "This is what King David meant in Psalms (111, 6): 'The might of His deeds He narrated to His people, to give them land inherited from Gentiles.'".

So why the Torah's long preamble? Why the seeming distraction with the entire Book of Genesis and 285 verses into the Book of Exodus, before it gets to the first commandment?

The answer is - to teach Jews they must invoke this demonstrable power and will of The Creator of the universe Who granted them this land - to lay claim to it! All that scripture serves as a living document with which to justify the claim. G-d "wastes" 1,819 verses so Jews should know how to respond to nations who accuse them of being usurpers of this land!

The reason Israel faces so much opposition most probably stems from saying everything but these words! Most religions acknowledge the Torah; Therefore most Gentiles would accept the message. But once we cite economic, military, humanistic or other reasons, to justify our claim to the land, instead of invoking the divine gift - that's when things get muddled up.

We must say clearly what Torah wants us to say, what it teaches right at its outset; And not stray one iota from that Torah instruction.

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