TANACH’S CENTRAL THEME: OUR ETERNAL CONNECTION WITH ERETZ YISRAEL
Rashi begins his Torah commentary with the following analysis:
In the beginning: Rabbi Isaac stated: The Torah – insofar as its purpose is to teach Divine Law to the Jewish people – should have commenced with Exodus 12 (“This month is for you the first of the months”), for that is the first mitzvah which God commanded. Why, therefore, did He commence with “In the beginning?” Because of [the verse] “The strength of His works He related to His people, in order to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Ps. 111:6). For, if the nations should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” Israel will be able to reply, “The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it [this we learn from the story of the Creation] and gave it to whomever He deemed proper. When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.”
Rashi’s first comment in Chumash sensitizes us to the fact that the entire sweep of Biblical history addresses Israel’s eternal relationship with Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, from Bereshis through Ezra, Nehemiah and Divrei Hayamim, the relationship between B’nai Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael is arguably the most consistent, ongoing historical subtext.
Rashi’s concern for this overarching theme is likewise manifest in his comment to Bereshis 37:2:
This is the history of the children of Yaakov: [Meaning] “These are their settlements and their wanderings until they [finally] arrived at their ultimate settlement [in Eretz Yisrael].
In other words: Rashi is pointing out that Bereshis chapter 37 is actually the beginning of an overarching narrative that begins with the sale of Yosef – which, ultimately, caused Yaakov’s children to leave Eretz Yisrael for Egypt – and does not end until when B’nai Yisrael returns from Egypt and successfully settle in the Land.
Rashi is thus teaching us that the “Joseph Story” is the beginning of a narrative unit that ends with Hamelech Shelomo’s reign in the Book of Kings!
This approach is reflected in the Dayeinu, the Pesach Haggadah’s poetic summary of the Exodus, which culminates with the building of the Bais Hamikdash by Shelomo.
Sefer Melachim implicitly reinforces this approach, when it dates the building of the Bais Hamikdash from Yetziyas Mitzraim [Chapter 6 verse 1]:
וַיְהִ֣י בִשְׁמוֹנִ֣ים שָׁנָ֣ה וְאַרְבַּ֣ע מֵא֣וֹת שָׁנָ֡ה לְצֵ֣את בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל מֵאֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַיִם֩ בַּשָּׁנָ֨ה הָרְבִיעִ֜ית בְּחֹ֣דֶשׁ זִ֗ו ה֚וּא הַחֹ֣דֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִ֔י לִמְלֹ֥ךְ שְׁלֹמֹ֖ה עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּ֥בֶן הַבַּ֖יִת לַיהוָֽה׃
In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites left the land of Egypt, in the month of Ziv—that is, the second month—in the fourth year of his reign over Israel, Solomon began to build the House of the LORD.