In the beginning... (1:1)
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
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)
l l l
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.