PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu hosts a Bible study..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Rashi’s famous comment on the opening verse of Genesis – that the Torah begins with the story of Creation to rebuff the nations who say that the Jewish people has no right to the Land of Israel – figured prominently in the Bible study circle hosted Sunday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
When Education Minister Shai Piron alluded to the commentary in passing, Netanyahu urged – jokingly – for him to continue.
In his Torah commentary, Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1040-1105) quotes Rabbi Yitzhak – who Piron said was Rashi’s father – as asking why the Torah begins with “In the beginning” and the account of Creation, instead of with the verse that gives the Jewish people their first commandment.
Rashi says that the reason is that if the nations of the world say to Israel that they “are robbers, because you took by force” Canaan, Israel could reply that all the world belongs to God, he created it and can give it to whomever he wants.
Piron was one of some 24 rabbis and academics who took part in the study group, which is meeting for the sixth time since it was established two years ago in the name of Sara Netanyahu’s father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, who was a noted Bible educator. Along with Sara, Netanyahu’s two sons – Avner and Yair – took part.
Netanyahu opened the event saying that the Bible is studied at least once a week in his home, and that his son Avner – who won the National Bible Quiz for Youth in 2010 – is his teacher.
Among the invited guests this year were the parents of the three teens – Naphtali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah – kidnapped and murdered this summer.
One of the participants, Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, who is affiliated with the Tzohar rabbinical group, noted that the first part of Genesis deals extensively with giving names to things. He said that the same word can have different meanings, and that in the current world, meanings are often corrupted, and “what is good is bad, and what is bad is good.”
Picking up on this theme, Netanyahu said that at the recent UN General Assembly an ambassador from one of the Latin American countries approached Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and talked to him about the situation in the region, saying, “You know what the word Israel means? It means ‘to deceive.’” What this shows, Netanyahu said, is that there “are those who look at us differently. We are involved in a battle against endless defamation that accompanies us from antiquity.”
This defamation of the Jewish people is happening now as well, Netanyahu said, pointing to the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and saying there is an increase in the “basic anti-Semitism that has accompanied us for thousands of years.”
He said Israel’s is a perpetual “struggle for the truth, for our rights – on the first Rashi and the last Rashi – on our very existence.”