"And G-d said Let there be light" -- Bereshit
We are taught from an early age that the Torah's tale of the creation of the world begins with the creation of light and dark. We are told that on the first day G-d created light and dark and separated them to make the first day. If a student asks what there was before, the usual answer is "just G-d”.
In truth, the Torah narrative does not accord with this simple retelling. The Torah commences with the words, "In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and earth. And the earth was emptiness and nothingness, and darkness was over the depths. And the wind of G-d hovered over the waters”. It is only afterwards that G-d creates light and dark making the first day. The actual first things to be created were darkness, water, and wind.
Why is this true chronology in the biblical narrative not better known? I think we can posit a few answers. The one is that it is difficult to imagine something before the first day so our memories omit the true preceding events. Another is simply that as we grow older, we don't read this seemingly simple story so carefully anymore.
In any case, there is an important lesson for all of us. As we begin to read the Torah again this week, and as we encounter the world around us in general, let's try to approach each circumstance fresh. We come with many preconceived notions which make coming to a true understanding of events and texts. If we look at things carefully and try to look at them with a fresh perspective, we might realise that we misunderstood all along. We can know more about the world, about the people around us and even about ourselves. Perhaps this is the most profound lesson the Torah can teach us.