Both Talmudic opinions about the dictation of the Torah to Moses (either at once or scroll by scroll, Gittin 60), agree on the fact of the dictation. Therefore the Torah must reflect that fact and, just as it mentions it elsewhere, start with "And God spoke [this Torah] to Moses, saying: "in the beginning..." etc.

Also, this would "prove" that the historical parts were also dictated by God and not passed orally, or invented.

Why doesn't it?

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    How would it prove anything? Anyone could have added in that incipit – Double AA Feb 28 at 2:36

This is actually discussed in two sources. One is Zohar to Bereshit 15b and afterward. The second is Me’or Einayim to Parshat Terumah 3.

The essence of this is that Moshe is present in all generations. (אתפשטותא דמשה בכל דרא ודרא)

Sometimes that is in a revealed state and sometimes it is in a concealed state.

In the case of the beginning of creation, and Israel which precedes creation, Moshe is in a concealed state in that context.

The explanation of this subject could fill volumes.


Rashi asked this question, too. The famed Bible commentator Rashi wrote:

“In the beginning…,” the Torah should have only had to begin with “This month shall be to you…” (Exodus 12:2) which is the first of the commandments that Israel was instructed. And why did it begin with Genesis?"

Rashi answers:

"Because of “He has told of the strength of Hid deeds to His people, to grant them the heritage of nations” (Psalms 111:6); that if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, that you conquered the land of seven nations,” Israel shall respond to them, “All the land belongs to the Holy One; He created it, and gives it to whoever He deems appropriate. By His will, He gave it to them, and by His will, He took it from them and gave it to us.”

Rashi to Genesis 1:1 (relying on a Midrash)

Rashi is saying that the Torah begins with the Creation story to teach people that G-d created the world, it belongs to Him alone, He can do what He wants with it, and He gave the land of Israel to the Jews (Abraham). No one should argue with G-d's decision. The story narratives about the deluge, patriarchs, and Exodus serve as context and other means. Why didn’t the Torah begin with the first commandment in Exodus? Because the Torah is not a history book. It’s a guidebook, toras chaim. The Torah teaches theological, political, and moral messages about G-d and laws.

In contrast, Rambam felt that the Torah did begin with the first commandment. He did not read Genesis 1 literally but as a parable, teaching that the term, “image of G-d” means that people are like G-d in the sense that they can think.

The Mishneh Torah begins with the first fundamental principle of Judaism:

“The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a primary being [G-d] who brought into being all existence.”

Notice that he does not say to believe in G-d, but to know that G-d exists (Exodus 20:2). How does one get to know G-d? By studying the sciences. Thus Genesis 1 promotes the learning of physics.

Maimonides said, “The only path to knowing G-d is through science—and for that reason the Bible opens with a description of the creation.” (See Gerald Schroeder, The Science of G-d, at vi, 17.)

  • The questioner is asking why the Torah doesn't being with: "G-d spoke to Moses saying 'in the beginning I created the heavens and the earth" – Derdeer Feb 28 at 1:10
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    This seems like an answer to why start with stories instead of commandments. I understood the question, however, to be asking why (even with starting with stories) the stories are not introduced with the typical preamble that God told it to Moses. – Alex Feb 28 at 1:11
  • This doesn't answer the question at all. – Tesvov Feb 28 at 1:34
  • @Derdeer Because Moses did not exist during Genesis 1. – Turk Hill Feb 28 at 3:10
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    @Eliyahu good point – Turk Hill Mar 1 at 4:10

Like all good stories, the Bible, which is not a history book, begins by setting up the time and place before setting up the characters. Just as fairy tales begin with "Once upon a time..." It is so with the Bible.

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