At the beginning of Bereishis, Rashi quotes Rabbi Yitzchok’s statement, “The Torah should have begun with the mitzvah of proclaiming the new month, the first mitzvah given to Israel. Why then does it start with Bereishis? … So that the nations should not say, ‘You are robbers…’” The Kli Yakar asks: Is this a reason to change the order of the Torah? He answers that such an accusation would lead to atheism, for they would say, “There is no justice and no Judge, and whoever is stronger prevails.
[Here is the full quote from the Kli Yakar:
: So what if they accuse us of being robbers? Is that so important that it warrants a change in the order of the Torah? The answer is that the accusation of robbery would lead to a complete denial of G-d, for they will say, “There is no justice and no Judge, and whoever is stronger prevails. For if the world had a Manager, who takes care of all that goes on, why did He not stop you when you took the land of the Seven Nations by force and by robbery?
Presumably the Kli Yakar means that the rest of the Torah from Shemos and onward, which says that Hashem not only let us take over Eretz Yisroel but actually commanded us to do so and intervened to help us, would not satisfy these people, for they would not accept a G-d who could condone such an injustice, and therefore they would either deny His existence or refuse to worship Him. Therefore it was necessary to emphasize that G-d taking land from one people and giving it to another is not an injustice, since He is the creator of that land and therefore only He can decide who should own it and for how long.]
He writes at length on this subject and then adds that when Rabbi Yitzchok said that the Torah should have begun with the mitzvah of proclaiming the new month, he does not mean that the Torah did not have to write the story from Bereishis up to the mitzvah of the new month at all. Of course there is a great need to know about the world’s creation, and many other fundamental subjects in the book of Bereishis. Rather, the question is that since the main purpose of the Torah is its commandments, it should have begun with the first mitzvah and told the story of creation later on. The answer is that writing it that way would have left the door open for sinners to deny the Torah [because they might not read the entire Torah; they might stop after the first mitzvah and say, how could Hashem have given all these mitzvos in which He warns us against theft (for example, taking the Pesach offering from our own sheep) if He did not stop you from committing theft?]. Therefore the Torah placed the story of creation first in order to teach that they did not take the land by robbery. See his entire lengthy discussion of this.
Now, we can debate about whether he is correct that any sort of robbery leads to heresy. It is well known that Hashem granted man free will. Robbery is no different from any other sin, an act which is against Hashem’s will, yet we have free will to commit it, and Hashem does not intervene to stop us. [So perhaps Hashem did not really command the Jewish people to conquer Eretz Yisroel; they did so on their own, it was indeed a sin, and He did not approve but still did not intervene.]
However, in this particular case, the conquest of Eretz Yisroel and freeing ourselves from exile, his words are very true, for those matters are in the hands of Hashem alone, reinforced with His oath.
[The Rebbe is now reinterpreting the Kli Yakar to say that our concern is not only what the nations will say, but what the Jews themselves will say. It’s not just that the nations will say: “If there is a G-d, why did He not intervene to stop the theft of Eretz Yisroel?” It’s the the Jews who will say: “Our ability to carry out this theft shows that G-d does not intervene in the world.” To this, the Rebbe responds that regarding theft in general, this is debatable. Maybe G-d doesn’t intervene to stop all thieves because He grants man free will. But conquering Eretz Yisroel is different. Other sins are analogous to running a red light or cheating on taxes, where the pertretator recognizes the government’s existence and its right to make law; he is merely violating it for his own personal convenience. But conquering Eretz Yisroel is usurping Hashem’s role, analogous to taking an army and declaring war on another country in the name of one’s own country. Doing such a thing implies that the perpetrator does not recognize the government; so too here, Zionism implies that one does not recognize Hashem as the one in charge of exile and redemption. The religious Zionists might therefore feel that if Hashem didn’t stop them, He must approve of their actions.
Indeed we find that this is one of the most common Zionist arguments. Rabbi Ovadiah Hedaya writes (Shailos Uteshuvos Yaskil Avdi, v. 5, second introduction, paragraph 3, published in 1958): “Every Jew believes in Divine providence: that there is nothing, great or small, that happens in the world that does not come from Hashem Yisborach, as Chazal say (Chullin 7b), ‘A person cannot knock his finger down in this world unless they decreed it upon him from above.’ And so too everything, good or bad, is decreed above, and cannot happened unless it is decided up in Heaven, as Chazal say (Berachos 58a and Bava Basra 91b), ‘Even the man in charge of the well water is appointed in Heaven.’ And so the Midrash says on the posuk, ‘This is the book of the generations of man’ (Bereishis 5:1): ‘The Holy One, blessed is He, showed Adam Harishon each generation and its speakers, sages and leaders.’ Certainly, He showed him the establishment of the State of Israel and its leaders. Hashem showed everything to Adam Harishon, they were appointed by Heaven and we cannot question Hashem’s decisions. For everything, there is a time: a time to destroy, a time to build, a time for war and a time for peace. I don’t know why [the anti-Zionists] protest, since this is what Hashem’s wisdom decreed. Even a man in charge of a well is appointed from Heaven, all the more so a whole country with ministers and leaders.”
Rabbi Yoel Kahan in Maaneh Chochom (section 14) also makes the claim that Hashem removes man’s free will when it comes to the state, but he portrays this as the Satmar Rebbe’s view, and takes it in the opposite direction. In Rabbi Kahan’s view, Hashem would never allow a Jewish state before moshiach because that is kefirah. His absurd conclusion is that the current State of Israel must not be a real independent Jewish state and is therefore permitted.
However, the truth is that even in the case of exile and redemption, Hashem does allow free will. He expects us to decide right from wrong based on the Torah and not based on world events. True, He decrees who will be a political leader or even a well water coordinator, because countries are allowed to exist and there is no sin in appointing one politician as opposed to another. But when it comes to mitzvos and aveiros, man has free will. It was a human decision to create a Jewish state in violation of the Torah, not Hashem’s decision. But once there is a state, the sin is the same no matter which politicians are in charge, so Hashem controls who the political leaders should be.]