LTTN med xp logo The First Day of Creation

September 25, 2000

© 2000 Light to the Nations, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved
A Message for the New Year from the Temple Institute
 
According to Jewish tradition, today, the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Elul, is the first day of creation…the day that G-d brought forth the heavens and the earth into existence. Rosh Hashanah, the New Year that we will observe at the end of this week, is the anniversary of the creation of man, thus the birthday of all humanity. But the creation of man was the last act, the finishing touch of the creation process, which actually began today.
 
In recognition of the importance of this day, a united call has been issued for special prayers to be recited today all throughout Israel. These prayers are scheduled to take place simultaneously today at the Western Wall, Rachel’s Tomb, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and at other holy sites throughout the Land. Contrary to the recklessness and frivolity with which many others usher in the “new year,” the Jewish people see the beginning of a new year as a time of intense introspection and repentance…of taking responsibility for what we have done thus far with G-d’s creation, and especially with the crown of that creation… ourselves. For today is literally the first day.
 
Thus today, the 25th of Elul, gives us an excellent opportunity to reflect upon that creation, and the state it is in now. We can begin by recalling the very foundation and purpose of creation. The Talmud teaches that “the Holy One, blessed be He, contemplated the Holy Temple before creation.” Thus the Holy Temple is concealed in the plans of the foundation of the world, and was a factor in the Divine plan of creation…the anticipation of its eventual establishment even preceded creation.
 
The Holy Temple in Jerusalem represents the apex of human longing: the ability for man to engage in a direct relationship with G-d. The world awaits the day when the Temple in Jerusalem will once again be the global center of spiritual values. At this one spot on earth, unlike any other, it will be revealed to all that “G-d is one and His name is one” (Zechariah 14:9). The prophets teach that in the future, all will converge upon Jerusalem to receive the truth of Torah and to return to the way of G-d in sincere repentance. It is in the Holy Temple that mankind will merit to the higher consciousness that will be revealed at that time: the spirit of Divine Inspiration.
 
How ironic that Jerusalem today, on this eve of a new beginning, seems bewildered and confused (Esther 3:15); an entire city suffering from an “identity crisis.” Who will claim her identity? What does the future hold for her? Contacts between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators continue; American pressure has Israel rushing to make more and more concessions “while a small window of opportunity is still open.” What kind of peace is it, can someone tell us, if it has to be rushed through a small window, quickly, furtively, while no one has time to examine its details or object to its content?
 
The media has carried many ideas regarding the possible future of the Temple Mount, ranging from UN sovereignty, to a confederated Moslem sovereignty headed by Arafat, to allowing the Temple Mount to remain under “G-d’s sovereignty.” This last idea, an arrogant one coming from people who do not act like they are thinking much about G-d, is a code for leaving things exactly as they are. None of the ideas we have heard, apparently being considered by the “peacemakers,” calls for Israeli sovereignty; on the contrary, they vary only in the degree that Israel must relinquish her own claims. Indeed, regarding the Temple Mount, Israel is never mentioned as having any rights at all. Minister Yossi Beillin has said that “all that is needed now is just a search for the right adjective” of what to call the Temple Mount. Although Prime Minister Barak gave a beautiful speech at the conclusion of the “failed” Camp David accords wherein he declared that he would never give up on “the holy places of Israel,” the true extent of just how much he is willing to concede in Jerusalem has already become public knowledge. But if the negotiators have already had the audacity to cynically bring G-d into the picture by deigning to consider offering Him the sovereignty over this place (as if He needs them to give it to Him), perhaps they should really consider G-d’s take on the situation.
 
One need not look very far. Anyone who has been following the weekly Torah readings lately would know that as far as the G-d of Israel is concerned, Jerusalem has no identity crises and no uncertain future.
 
In the haftorah/prophetic portion that was recited this past Sabbath, we read:
 
“For the sake of Zion I will not hold my peace, and for the sake of Jerusalem, I will not be still, until her righteousness goes forth like radiance, and her salvation like a burning torch. And the nations shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory…
You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the L-rd…
You shall no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall your land be termed any more Desolate, but you shall be called “My delight is in her” and your land, “Espoused…”
 
“I have set watchmen upon your walls, O Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace day or night; you that make mention of the L-rd, take no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes, and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth…”
 
“The L-rd has sworn by His right hand, and by the arm of His strength,
Surely I will no more give your corn to be food for your enemies,
And the sons of the stranger shall not drink your wine for which you have labored,
But they that have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the L-rd;
and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of My sanctuary…”
 
“And they shall call them, the holy people, the redeemed of the L-rd;
and you shall be called, Sought Out, a city not forsaken.”
 
    (Isaiah 61-62)
 
Today has even more significance…as if being the first day of creation were not distinction enough. The book of Nehemiah testifies that today, on the 25th day of Elul, after 52 years of labor, the wall which the prophet Nehemiah built around the city of Jerusalem was finished. This was a day of great rejoicing for Israel. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile and found the city in ruins ­ its walls breached and its gates scorched with fire ­ he instructed the people to rebuild. Judah’s enemies were very angry and tried to disrupt the building and cause confusion in Jerusalem by fighting against her. But instead of weakening, the men of Jerusalem prayed to G-d and also appointed watchmen by day and night. “And the builders of the walls were girded with swords; one hand was occupied with work and the other held the sword.”
 
Thus, “when all of our enemies heard, and all of the nations in our environs saw, they were very crestfallen, and they knew that this labor was accomplished through our G-d.”
 
There is a parallel between the two themes expressed by this day: the beginning of creation and the completion of Jerusalem’s wall by Nehemiah. Man, the crowning achievement of the Divine plan, was preceded by the rest of creation. The Holy Temple, apex of mankind’s spiritual fulfillment and hope, was preceded by the wall around Jerusalem…in each equation, the first stage was today. The wall of Jerusalem to the Temple, is the beginning of creation to man.
 
With best wishes of Shana Tova, a good year to all our readers. May this be a year of Divine blessing for you, and for Jerusalem and all who love her.
 
Rabbi Chaim Richman
THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE
PO Box 31876
Jerusalem, Israel