The holidays of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are behind us and we settle into the new year with the first six chapters of the Torah. After all the intensity and excitement of the past month, we can catch our breath and reflect on some broader questions about Torah and Judaism.
Rashi (11th century Germany), considered to be the essential Torah commentator, asks why the Torah begins with the creation of the universe, the human race and the early, mythic history of humanity? He suggests, quoting R’ Yitzhak, that from a Jewish perspective it would have made more sense for the Torah to begin with the first commandment, “This month shall be unto you the first of the months” (Exodus 12:2), which is the first commandment given to Israel. Rashi answers that it begins with the creation of the universe to show that the land of Israel was given to the Jews by Divine plan and to prove the centrality of Torah to all of creation.
Another answer is that Torah begins with creation and the history of humanity to remind us that God is the God of all humanity and that the Jewish message of monotheism and morality is a universal one; also to teach us, as Jews, that we are part of the greater tapestry of human existence and must live out our religious lives in relation to others.
In other words, if God is one, then humanity is one, and nature is one. We are all connected. We are all in relationship. We must live together in mutual care and concern for one another.