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Parashat Bereshit - 5774

My friends,

The month of Tishrei and all its holy days is almost over. This Shabbat is the first regular Shabbat of the year, and in synagogues throughout the Jewish world, the first portion 'Bereshit' is read. That's how we begin the cycle of reading - one portion each week, concluding on Simchat Torah, and starting over the Shabbat that follows.

The first verse of the Torah is "Bereshit bara Elohim et haShamayim ve-et HaAretz" - "In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth." Rashi the classic commentator asks this question: "Why does the Torah start with the story of creation? Why not with the first Mitzvah - commandment - given to the Israelites?" Rashi, who lived in France over 900 years ago, answers, "If the nations of the world shall ever tell the Jewish people, 'You are thieves, because you took away the land of Canaan from the seven nations who dwelt there,' the children of Israel will answer: 'The whole universe belongs to God who created it. He promised it and gave it to the Jewish people.'"

Our generation has been privileged to see the Jewish people return to their historic and G-d-given land, the State of Israel. Israel is a reality, the home of the largest Jewish community in the world. Most of the nations of the world have recognized and accepted the new/old people's return to their old/new Israel. However, its immediate neighbors continue to deny its existence and call Israel "a foreign entity in that part of the world." Rashi's answer should resonate in their ears. Accept Israel, because of its historical rights to the land as promised by G-d, or face the reality, that Israel is there to stay.

Now, let's find a way for the two people to live side by side in peace and security.

As we begin the new year of 5774, let's hope that this is the year when, G-d willing, peace will finally come to our people and that part of the world. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom,