Bereishis - The Purpose of Creation Part 1
To Learn and to Teach
By Rabbi Aron Tendler
When discussing the origins of the universe, the term "creation" in
contrast to the term "chance" means "creation with purpose." The purpose of
creation was not left up to us to figure out or decide. G-d gave us the
Torah, both Written and Oral, as a detailed instruction manual for
realizing the purpose of creation. If we follow His Torah and listen to His
instructions we will accomplish G-d's purpose for creating the universe and
for creating us, His only free willed creature.
Succinctly put, the purpose of creation is to recognize and accept G-d's
total dominion over all things. Logic then dictates that if we accept G-d's
dominion we should follow His rules. Our place as the only free willed
creatures is to subjugate our free will and decide to listen to G-d's rules
so that we will accomplish both our individual purposes for being created
and the purpose of all the other non-free willed creations in the universe
having been created. The universe and all it contains is the medium through
which G-d's presence is manifest and the medium through which humans are
able to recognize His presence. Once realized, the ethical human should
commit himself to ascertaining G-d's rules and following His wishes.
The first verse in the Torah states this in clear and unambiguous terms.
(1:1) "In the beginning G-d created Heaven and Earth." Who created heaven
and earth? G-d created heaven and earth! Therefore, regardless of our
acclaimed free will and our illusions of independence we must do as G-d
says. If we do not do as G-d says we are thieves. The Halacha (Jewish law)
states that a Bracha (blessing) should not be recited over a stolen item.
The Talmud states, "One who makes a blessing over a stolen item is not
blessing G-d; instead, he is cursing G-d!" Why? Because everything in the
world was created by G-d to serve His intended purposes. He instructed us
through the Torah how to use each item, and if we do not use G-d's world as
He wishes we have no right to partake of His world!
The story of Adam and Chava in the Garden of Eden further illustrates this
principle. The Garden of Eden was a mini universe. The two humans G-d
created were endowed with free will. G-d placed them in the garden to "work
and safe-keep the garden;" meaning, to work within the limits of G-d's
universe to further reveal G-d's total dominion and to keep the world safe
by using it as G-d instructed. Unfortunately, they did not listen to G-d's
command and they ate from the single tree that G-d had forbidden to
them. Therefore, G-d expelled them from His garden / universe.
So long as Adam and Chava did as they were told they lived in G-d's garden,
reveled in His revelation, and exalted in His bountiful generosity. The
moment they stopped listening to G-d and began doing what they wanted, they
lost the rights to living within the garden. When we say that a righteous
person goes to "Gan Eden" after passing from this world it does not mean
the actual Garden of Eden. Gan Eden was a physical and materialistic place,
and spiritual entities such as souls do not exist in a physical setting
such as Gan Eden. However, the meaning of going to "Gan Eden" follows the
"measure for a measure' that is the foundation of G-d's perfect justice.
The righteous person lived his or her life following the Torah and
realizing the purpose of creation. By subjugating his or her free will in
service to G-d the righteous person realized G-d's total dominion and
attempted to make the world outside of Gan Eden like the world inside Gan
Eden. Therefore, the just reward for such a righteous person is that it
will continue existing in a setting (Heaven / Gan Eden) that is in total
concert with the manifestation of G-d's dominion and glory.
The world was clearly divided between two types of creations, free willed
and non-free willed. If the free willed creation, the human, does as G-d
intended then the rest of the non-free willed world is justified in its
existence. It has purpose! However, if the human goes against the wishes
and intentions of the Creator, the non-free willed creations have no
purpose to exist.
Rashi on verse 1:1 references the Medresh that says that the world was
created for the Torah that is called "Rayshis - the beginning" (Mishlei
8:22), and for the sake of the Jewish people who are called "Rayshis - the
beginning" (Yirmiyah 2:3). This Medresh demands further elaboration.
In the beginning there was no Torah and there were no Jews. In the
beginning there was only the universe, prophecy (G-d's means of
conversing), and the single human creature Adam. Adam was the only free
willed creature in existence. (The Nachash (serpent) was a one-time
occurrence for the purpose of challenging Adam and Chava.) Adam's purpose
was to follow G-d's spoken (not written) instructions (2:15-17). However,
this was not G-d's final intention for the creature called Adam. The Torah
presents us with the "decision making process" that G-d underwent in
finalizing His purpose for the free willed creature. (2:18-25) "The Adam
creature should not be alone. Let us make him a helpmate."
The Adam creature was then instructed to name all the other animals. In the
process it became clear to the Adam creature that he was unique in the
entire universe. He was the only free willed creature. Furthermore, it
became clear that his purpose for being created was in some way related to
theirs. By "giving them names" he identified their individual purposes as
they related to realizing G-d's total control and dominion. However, it
also became clear that his purpose was equally dependent upon sharing his
increasing realization of G-d's manifest presence.
The problem was that there was no other free willed creature with whom to
share his knowledge. Therefore, G-d split the Adam creature into its two
inherent components, the Adam - male side and the Chava - female side. The
Chava side was called the "the helpmeet," because through the interaction
of the two components male and the female, the human creature could further
its recognition of G-d and share that knowledge with each other.
According to the Medresh, the original Adam creature was hermaphroditic and
could have reproduced itself. If so, why did G-d go through the process of
splitting the Adam into the male and female? Let the Adam continue as it
was and eventually it would reproduce itself (and you wondered where
cloning was mentioned in the Torah!) and there would be another human
creature with which Adam could share his awareness and understanding of
G-d's manifest presence?
The Chasam Sofer in his introduction to his responsa on Yoreh Deah asked
the following question. Why does G-d send down souls to the world? If
life's purpose is to attain purity so that the soul can return to G-d in a
state of purity, then keep the souls in heaven and avoid the entire
process! The Chasam Sofer explained that in heaven there is a level of
purity that is unique to heaven; however, that is not the purity G-d
intended for the soul. As pure as the soul is before it is sent to the
world it is not complete. The purity that G-d desires for the soul can only
be attained through acts of Chesed (kindness) and in heaven there are no
opportunities for Chesed. Therefore, G-d sends the Neshama (soul) to our
world for opportunities to do Chesed and attain its intended purity.
As Avraham's descendants we are imprinted with the ability and the
obligation to do Chesed. Like Avraham, we know that the greatest Chesed we
can do for each other is to share our awareness and understanding of G-d
with each other.
The Adam creature was created singular and alone. True, it was
hermaphroditic and could have reproduced itself. However, for the period of
time that it would have taken for the second human creature to be born Adam
was alone. Therefore, G-d said, "It is not good for Adam to be alone!"
Alone there is no way for Adam to engage in Chesed! Alone there is no
purpose for Adam's existence! Therefore I will make for him a helpmeet with
whom he will be able to do the Chesed of sharing My manifest presence and
accomplish the purpose of creation.
Rashi's referenced Medresh on the first verse of the Torah says this
beautifully! Why did G-d create the world? For the Torah that is called
"Rayshis - the beginning" (Mishlei 8:22), and for the sake of the Jewish
people who are called "Rayshis - the beginning (Yirmiyah 2:3). The text of
the Torah and its attendant Oral Law encompass all the knowledge of G-d
that is humanly possible to comprehend. The Jewish people were chosen to
"work with the Torah and safe-keep the Torah." meaning, to work within the
limits of G-d's Torah to further reveal G-d's total dominion and to keep
the world safe by following G-d's commandments.
However, the awareness of the Creator and its attendant obligations must be
shared with each other and with all the other nations. That is G-d's
intended purpose of life. That is G-d's intended purpose for creation.
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.