Shabbat Parashat Shemini| 5766
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Essence and Purpose of Creation - From Perakim B’machshvet Yisrael, pp. 128-9
We learn much about the essence of creation and its relationship with the Creator from the writings of the Rambam and R. Yehuda Halevi. The Rambam strongly rejects any attempt to understand why Hashem wanted to create the existence we know of, and simply said, “that is what Hashem wanted” or “that is what was decreed by His wisdom.” Yet he makes us aware of creation’s nature and internal content. As Hashem is the source of the world, we can learn about the Creator from the world he created and about the creation and its direction from the Creator. As he says, “The imprint of the source should be found in that which was formed from the source.” The concept that we “should be similar to Him” now takes on a deeper meaning. Man is a spark of Divine light and contains “a piece of Divinity from above.” The reason to be similar to Him is that in fact we are indeed similar to Him, and are asked to take the ingrained potential and actualize it.
We can take a step forward through the writings of R. Yehuda Halevi. He stresses that the world was not just created once upon a time but is constantly being renewed on a daily basis. We are not like a stone that was quarried from its source but we continue to be a part of the source.
The “Tanya,” following the Ba’al Shem Tov, explains this concept in his own particular style. From the perspective of absolute truth, there is no creation. Everything is godliness. “It is You before the world was created, and it is You after the world was created” (from the morning prayers). Creation did not really change that. What we know as creation is the hiding and limiting of the Divine light to the point that we can imagine that the world is an independently existing entity. “If the eye were given permission to see and to perceive the life essence and the spirituality of every created thing … the physicality of the created and its actuality would not be seen to us at all.”
Rav Moshe Chayim Luzzato (Ramchal), as opposed to the Rambam, does put a stress on the purpose of the creation. He says that it was Hashem’s desire to provide, for others, good from the Divine good. This outlook turns out to be a cornerstone of the Ramchal’s philosophical picture of man’s place and task within the world.
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch has an approach that is characteristic of the believer within the modern world. The worldview of heresy espouses an outlook that the world is in a constant battle between different species and powers, where one mercilessly forces another into extinction and is built at the expense of another. Rav Hirsch looks at the same cosmic phenomena with the outlook of a believer, seeing one Hand overseeing all activity, and comes to an opposite conclusion. The world is not characterized by a cruel fight to destroy but by a doctrine of mutual support, “a cycle of endless love … where all receive and give, and none of them exist for its own sake alone.” This outlook serves as the cornerstone of Rav Hirsch’s worldview that man’s role is to make his contribution to the building of the world.
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