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Home » Vayelech

Vayelech : Why We are Here

Submitted by on October 6, 2005 – 5:51 pmNo Comment | 1,201 views

A Perfect G-d

The High Holiday liturgy marks Rosh Hashanah as the anniversary of creation, a good time to ponder the meaning of creation and of life. (1) Was there a purpose? Does this purpose endow our life with meaning?

G-d is perfect. There is nothing he could gain that he doesn’t already have. What could he have possibly gained through creation?

For our Sake

There was, indeed, nothing for G-d to gain but there was much for us to gain.(2)

We believe that G-d is absolutely benevolent. His love is boundless and his capacity for giving, infinite. Yet generosity cannot exist in a vacuum. Without a person in need, generosity cannot be exercised. Before he created the world, G-d couldn’t offer his love, simply because there was no one to love. There was no one outside of himself. (3)

Creation of man altered that. There was now a recipient, a vehicle upon whom he could shower his love.

What kind of good would G-d want to bestow? When you think about it, the answer is obvious. G-d, who is absolutely loving, would want to bestow the greatest possible good, and the greatest possible good is G-d himself. The purpose of creation was so that G-d could offer himself to man. How did he accomplish this? Through the Torah.

Maimonides taught that G-d and his intelligence are intrinsically one. (4) The Torah, a manual of divine intelligence, is thus a manifestation of G-d’s very essence. G-d granted this manifestation of himself to us and permitted us to absorb its knowledge, thereby suffusing us with the totality of his essence. (5) (6)

The wise reader will ask why G-d made it so difficult to find him. If he wanted to bestow himself freely upon man, why did he create a universe that conducts itself according to natural laws that conceal his presence from us? Why does he demand that we seek him out through Torah rather than make himself abundantly available through life itself?

Self Esteem

The primary urge that drives man to work and earn his keep, is self-esteem. It is difficult to maintain a positive self-image when we are on the receiving end of generous hands. why we are here - innerstreamWe are naturally uncomfortable with gifts that we deem beyond our worth. If we don’t deserve it, we would rather not have it. (7)

If G-d were to make himself readily available, we would feel ourselves unable to resist his sacred allure, our entire being would be drawn to him. We would enjoy it immensely and yet, on some level, we would feel unworthy of the gift. A loving G-d would not want that.

By forcing us to reach for him, he offers us the illusion of self worth. Because we are made to reach for the divine, to work for it and earn it, we deem ourselves worthy of it.

A Choice Made Below

Asking us to seek him out, rather than making himself abundantly available, is not only beneficial to our self image but is also essential to his overall goal.

The Midrash teaches that G-d desired an abode for himself in a lower realm. The higher realms are the ethereal worlds of angels and souls, where awareness of G-d is manifest. The lower realm is the physical world, where awareness of G-d is minimal. (8)

G-d wanted both. An abode, where his presence is revealed, carved out from a lower realm where his presence is by nature concealed. G-d could not have achieved this balance by revealing himself.

If the divine presence were truly revealed, would we be free to exercise our will? Does a man feel free and unconstrained in the presence of a king? If we were fully and constantly aware of the heavenly king’s presence, would we not feel compelled to obey his will?

Indeed we would, and when we did, our world would cease to be the lower realm. Playing his hand would have transformed the lower realm into a higher realm and he didn’t want that. G-d already had a higher realm. He didn’t need another one. He had already created an abode for himself and didn’t want another one. No, this time he wanted something different, something novel.

This time he wanted us to effect that transformation for him by virtue of our own free will. He did not want a lower realm that he would need to convert. He wanted a lower realm that could convert itself. (9)

He wanted us to discover him. He wanted us to create his abode. To achieve this, he made himself available through the Torah but only discreetly so, thus preserving the lower realm. He then asked us to seek him out, to find his discreet presence, and thus, of our free will, create an abode for him within this lower realm.

Fulfilling this desire was G-d’s purpose in creation. 

Granting us the opportunity to fulfill it is G-d’s ultimate gift.

How privileged and fortunate we are to receive this gift. (10)

Footnotes

  1. In the Musaf Amidah, Rosh Hashanah is described as “the day that is the beginning of your work, a remembrance of the first day.” See Vayikra Rabba 29, 1, that the world was created on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul, marking Rosh Hashanah as the sixth day of creation, the day G-d created man. Chassidic philosophy teaches that man is the purpose of creation, thus making the anniversary of the sixth day of creation more appropriate for Rosh Hashanah than the first day. For more detail, see Sefer Hamaamarim 5704, p. 3 (R. YY Schneerson, sixth Rebbe of Lubavitch 1880-1950).
  2. See Derech Hachayim, Section 1, ch. 2 (R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto of Padua, Italy 1707 – 1746). See also If You Were G-d, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (New York, 1935-1983).
  3. See Psalms 25: 6. This was not a defect in his perfection; it was a product of it, a product of his perfect omnipresence.
  4. Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah, 2, 10 (Maimonides, R. Moshe ben Maimon Egypt 1135-1204).
  5. See Vakira Rabba, 30, 13. Shemos Rabba 33, 1. See also Bab. Talmud Shabbos, p. 105a.
  6. This is consistent with the Midrashic teaching (quoted by Rashi (Shlomo Yitzchaki, Troyes 1040-1105 France) on Genesis 1:1) that G-d created the world for two purposes, that of Israel and that of Torah. According to our understanding, the Midrash implies that the purpose of creation is to enable the Jew to study the Torah and thus bond with the divine.
  7. The Zohar’s term for achievements that come for free, as opposed to those we earn, is “Nahama D’kisufa,” bread of shame. The Talmud (Bab. Talmud Baba Metzia, 38a) teaches that man would rather have one measure of his own than nine measures bestowed by others.
  8. Midrash Tanchuma Parshas Naso, section 16. See also Midrash Rabba Shir Hashirim 5, 1.
  9. Tanya ch. 36 (R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chassidus Chabad, 1745 – 1813).
  10. It is important to note that we truly do not understand why G-d desired this abode for himself. As the Midrash teaches (Vayikra Rabba 25, 8), G-d created the world simply because he desired to. The ultimate purpose of this desire exceeds human understanding. For more detail, see Sefer Hamaamarim 5666, p.7 (R. Sholom Ber Schneerson, Fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch, 1861 – 1920.)
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