When my daughter was six years old and we were discussing Bereishis
(Creation), there was one issue that she couldn’t come to terms with.
“Abba,” she said to me. “I understand that before Hashem created the world
there was nothing, not even light and dark, but what color was it?”
The difficulty she was having was that we are so used to the world as it is
that the concept of before Creation is difficult for us to fathom. The idea
of the absence of anything — before there was a world, before there was even
matter, space, or any substance to hold it in — is very difficult for us
corporeal beings to comprehend. We keep falling back to our way of viewing
things in a physical setting, and absolute void has no place in our world.
But let’s try for a moment to envision a vast empty nothingness. There is no
space, no matter. There isn’t even time because time only exists in a
physical world. And Creation begins. Out of nothing — because there is
nothing. From nowhere — because there is no place. At this absolute first
moment in time, Hashem brings forth matter, the very building blocks of
Creation. Then come darkness and light, not even separated, but intermingled
— a patch of light here, a flash of darkness there. Next come the heavens
and the earth, then the planets and the stars, the fish in the sea, the
birds in the sky, and all of the animals of the earth. And on the final day,
at almost the last moment of Creation, comes man.
Every part of Creation had to be thought out. There were no givens. There
was no imitating or accepting the status quo because before Creation, there
was nothing to imitate or use as a model. Every part and every element of
this world had to be planned and designed from scratch. When we take this
huge leap of understanding, we will see the abundance of goodness that
Hashem has bestowed upon the world.
Let’s start with something basic — color. The world is fantastically rich in
color, with so many gradations, shades, and hues.
Color is something that we take for granted. Of course, there is color in
the world; it was always there. But Hashem created this thing that we call
color, and He put it in the world for a particular reason: so that we should
enjoy what we see. The world didn’t have to be this way. If Hashem was only
concerned with functionality — creating a world that could be used — black
and white would have sufficed. We would still be able to recognize
everything, even shadows and depth, within the spectrum of the gray scale.
If you remember watching black and white TV, it did a fine job, but it
lacked a dimension, and so it wasn’t as enjoyable. Hashem wants us to enjoy
this world, and so He created the entity called color.
Look out on a fall day and see the trees in their glory, the seemingly
endless array of brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows forming a magnificent
tapestry stretching across the mountains. Look out at the sun as it sets and
see the full radiant spectrum of an artist’s pallet, painted against a
powdery gray backdrop.
If the world was created for practical reasons only, all of the beauty
within it wouldn’t have to exist. But Hashem put it all here — from
magnificent floral scenes to exotic sea life, from the glory of the night
sky to the clear aqua green of the ocean, from a flower in bloom to the
plume of a jungle parrot, all of the pomp and ceremony of a sunrise — a
world created in Technicolor. Why create it that way? Keep it plain and
simple. Why go through all of the effort? The answer is for one reason: so
that man should benefit. Hashem did all of this for us so that we should
look out at the world and enjoy its beauty.
Taste, Texture and Aroma
Color is only one of the pleasures that we enjoy but take for granted. What
about food? Food is something that we need to maintain our energy levels and
health. If its only function were nutrition and nothing more, then all the
foods that we eat should taste like soggy cardboard. Yet they don’t. There
are so many different types of foods, each with a unique flavor, texture,
and aroma. Why create them that way? Why not make it all taste like oatmeal?
Again, for one reason: so that man should enjoy. So that eating, which we
have to do, shouldn’t be a chore, but a pleasure. Taste is something that
Hashem added solely for our benefit — for our delight.
Did Hashem Succeed?
Focusing on this gives us a hint to the giving, loving kindliness of Hashem.
And it shows us how much He wants us to enjoy this world. However, it also
brings us to a critical question: do people notice these things? All of
these features were designed with us in mind. Do we benefit from them?
It seems that for most people the answer is no, the world doesn’t bring them
much enjoyment at all. And this is a rather curious fact. Hashem invested
incredible care to bring forth everything that we need to enjoy life — and
most people don’t even notice it, let alone appreciate it. But why? Why
don’t we benefit from all of these pleasures?
Even more perplexing is that Hashem is very capable. We see from the
vastness, complexity and intricate wonder of Creation that Hashem is very
effective at doing that which He does. It is clear that Hashem wants man to
enjoy this world. Yet when it comes to man actually having pleasure — if it
could be — it seems that Hashem failed. How is that possible? What does it mean?
The solution to this dilemma isn’t simply for us to learn to “appreciate
what we have.” Rather, it underscores a basic element of the human
personality and requires a fundamental understanding of man.
This is an excerpt from the new Shmuz on Life book: Stop Surviving, Start Living. It is powerful, thought provoking, and life changing. The book is available for purchase at Judaica stores, Feldheim.com and TheShmuz.com.