Start of the Mission

Any story are defined by their beginning. This idea is put forward by Rashi in his first commentary on the Torah. There on Genesis 1:1 he wrote:

Rabbi Isaac said: The Torah which is the Law book of Israel should have commenced with the verse, “This month shall be unto you the first of the months”(Exodus 12:2) which is the first commandment given to Israel. What is the reason, then, that it commences with the account of the Creation? Because of the thought expressed in the text (Psalms 111:6) “He declared to God’s people the strength of God’s works (i.e. He gave an account of the work of Creation), in order that God might give them the heritage of the nations.” For should the peoples of the world say to Israel, “You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven nations of Canaan”, Israel may reply to them, “All the earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be God; God created it and gave it to whom God pleased. When God willed God gave it to them, and when God willed God took it from them and gave it to us” (Yalkut Shimoni on Torah 187).

Rashi on Genesis 1:1

Why not just start with our story of us as a nation? Rashi’s answer is that the creation story gives us a claim to the land of Israel. But like most things the question is better than the answer. I would offer that a stronger answer might have been that this singular origin story creates a common context for the beginning of our story as humanity. This start forms the ethical foundation for our society ( see: Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5). No one is better or more important than anyone else because we all come from the same beginning. By starting with our common biological origin we all live in the context of a story where despite or because of our differences we have moral obligations to each other.

But, we read Bereirshit a few weeks ago. Why am I bringing this question up now when we read Lech Lecha, this week’s Torah portion?

Here at the start the story of the first Jewish family. There we read:

The LORD said to Avram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you.And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth. Shall bless themselves by you.” Avram went forth as the LORD had commanded him, and Lot went with him. Avram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

Genesis 12:1-4

Why doesn’t Rashi ask his question here? Again we could have started our collective story with “This month shall be unto you the first of the months”(Exodus 12:2) which is the first commandment given to Israel. You can claim the same answer that this is the proof of God promising to give Avraham and us the Promised Land. But, I would argue that just as Adam and Eve gave us a common biological origin, Avram and Sarai give us a common ideological origin. By starting our national story with Lech Lecha, our ideological origin story, we all live in the context of a story where despite or because of our ideological differences we are bound to each other. Even if it does not always seem like the case we are all on the same mission. Though we might debate and fight, we are all beneficiaries of their project. No one is better or more important than anyone else because we all trace the idea of Judaism back to this moment when Avram set out to ” make a great nation”. Lech Lecha literally and figuratively gives birth to Judaism as a movement.

0 Responses to “Start of the Mission”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 229 other followers

Archive By Topic


%d bloggers like this: