A collection of enlightening and stimulating comments on the parashah
By Rabbi Aryeh Leib Lopiansky
Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
Rashi quotes a midrash (Osiyos D'Rabbi Akiva, 2) which states that the word bereishis can be interpreted exegetically to teach us that everything in this physical world was created for the sake of the Jewish people, and for the sake of the Torah. This exegesis can clarify a seemingly hard-to-understand Gemara.
The following aggadah is found in the Gemara.
In the future Hashem will place a sefer Torah on His lap, and announce that all those who engaged in the study of Torah in this world should come to receive their reward. The Romans will arrive first and say, Master of the universe! We set up many marketplaces, we built many bathhouses, and it was all done in order that the Jews should be able to study Torah! [Therefore we deserve to get rewarded.] Hashem will respond, Fools! Whatever you built was for your own selfish needs -- not to help the Jews. The other nations will then engage in similar dialogues with Hashem (Avodah Zarah 2b).
On a superficial level, this aggadah is difficult to comprehend. How will the nations have the audacity to lie to Hashem and claim that all their projects were intended to benefit the Jews?! Its a blatant falsehood! Furthermore, the nations will say that their sole motive was the Jews benefit. This seems even more preposterous. More so, Hashem will call them fools and not liars, which seems to indicate that they are actually telling the truth.
The explanation for this is based on a profound concept. In the initial creation of the world everything was created to assist the Jews in their study of Torah, likewise everything that is subsequently built or anything which occurs in this world is for this very same purpose. Rambam (Intro. to the Mishnah) addresses this point, and writes that an individual may build a beautiful palace and its Divine purpose is that one day many years later a pious man will find refuge in the shade of the walls and thereby save his life. Therefore it is true that everything the Gentiles built -- marketplaces, bridges and bathhouses were built for the sake of the Jews -- to facilitate their study of the Torah.
Today, one cannot discern how everything serves the Jews. It is only with the arrival of Mashiach that this will become obvious to everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike. The nations will then ask to be rewarded since they will see how everything they did was indeed for the benefit of the Jews. Hashems response will be that although that was the true Divine purpose behind all their activities, since at the time that was not their intention they do not deserve to be rewarded.
(Chidushei Maran Riz HaLevi)
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This explanation of the Gemara was told to the preeminent Rosh Yeshivah Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz. He allegedly commented, The explanation is correct, but its still a chutzpah on the Gentiles part to say what they did...
It is recorded that when the Brisker Rav said the above dvar Torah he added that the Divine purpose of the new train route between St. Petersburg and Berlin was to facilitate students traveling to the renowned Volozhin Yeshivah. Likewise, the construction of the Trans-Siberian train route was extremely costly and took its toll of human lives. It was perceived as being of no value. The Brisker Rav commented that its Divine purpose was to transport the yeshivah students from Eastern Europe to Shanghai in relative comfort during World War II.