July 19, 2024
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Creation

The Torah begins with Hashem’s creation of the world. It tells about each step of creation, but nothing about the thought process behind them. That is until we get to the creation of man. Here, before describing the actual creation, the Torah first shares Hashem’s intention: “Naaseh adam betzalmeinu kedmuseinu veyeirdu bidgat hayam … — Let us make man in our image and according to our likeness and let him dominate the fish of the sea … (Bereishit 1:26).” Man is different from the rest of God’s creations in both nature and mission. He is created in God’s image and given the ability and responsibility to control and direct the rest of His creations.

Chazal inferred from Hashem’s plural formulation (naaseh) that He discussed the plan to create man with the angels (Sanhedrin 38b, Bereishit Rabbah 8:5). He discussed not only the nature of man but also whether to create him. Many angels objected by pointing to man’s dishonesty and fractiousness. Man has free will and often makes decisions that negatively impact the world.

Angels emanate from and inhabit pure spiritual worlds above. God’s presence and their mission are both clear to them. Understandably, they find God’s creation of and investment in man surprising. Hashem created man anyway. He believed in the world and our ability to manage it properly.

Man is Hashem’s most incredible creation. In addition to fashioning him in His image, He imbued man with honor and glory and blessed him with creative ability. Man is a godly-being who is just one step below God Himself; God’s creation of such a creature is the best testimony to His greatness.

 

Answering the Angels

Chazal tells us that—even after man’s creation—angels continued to object to his existence (Sanhedrin 38b). They saw the failures of the generations of the mabul and the Babylonian tower as corroboration for their position. Hashem responded by patiently waiting for mankind to find the correct path.

Eventually, Avraham emerged as a faith leader (Avot 5:3). His mission to connect mankind to God culminated with Moshe Rabbeinu’s ascension to Har Sinai to receive the Torah. Once again, the angels objected. How could mortal man be allowed into the heavens among the celestial angels? How could the precious treasure of Torah be given to human beings? Rather than answering Himself, Hashem bode Moshe to respond (Shabbat 88b). Man is a noble and holy creature deserving of receiving the Torah—but only if he believes that he is worthy.

Emboldened by Hashem’s trust and support, Moshe answered by emphasizing that the Torah builds on man’s experiences and teaches how to face the challenges of life in this world. Angels do not live in this world and do not face these challenges. Moshe believed in his right to receive the Torah and was, therefore, worthy of the gift.

The Torah is not about God and the heavens. It is written about man and meant to direct us. In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “The real subject of the Torah is not our faith in God, which is often faltering, but His unfailing faith in us. The Torah is not man’s book of God. It is God’s book of man. He spends a mere 34 verses describing His own creation of the universe, but more than 500 verses describing the Israelites’ creation of a tiny, temporary, portable building called the ‘Mishkan—the sanctuary.’ God never stops believing in us, loving us and hoping for the best from us,” (“Judaism’s Life-Changing Ideas,” page 5).

 

Daily Reminders

Hashem reminds us of this belief and love every morning when he recreates us. We recognize this with the first words we recite when we awake: “Modeh ani l’fanecha shehechezarta bi nishmati bechemlah. Rabba emunatecha—I thank before you (Hashem) … for returning my soul to me with mercy. Great is Your faith!”

By declaring our faith in Hashem, we also recognize His faith in us. He returns our souls to us each morning because He believes we are up to the tasks He sets for us. If we believe that Hashem created and recreates us, we should appreciate the significance of our existence.

 

Faith in God and Man

Rav Tzadok HaKohen said it this way: “Just as man should believe in Hashem, so should he subsequently believe in himself (Tzidkat Hatzaddik 154).” It is meaningless to believe in Hashem without believing in the significance of His creations—the greatest of whom is man.

In fact, the strength of Hashem’s relationship with us hinges upon our faith in ourselves. The Sefat Emet explains that we refer to Hashem as faithful because His relationship with us depends upon our faith in our own godliness (Shabbat Shuva 5662, D”H Shuvah). Rav Nachman MiBreslov (Likutei Moharan 2:32) adds that Hashem only reveals Himself to those who see themselves as worthy of His revelation. The more significant we see ourselves, the more Hashem involves Himself in our lives.

Naturally, there are times when our foibles and failures cause us to lose faith in ourselves. We need to use Hashem’s faith in us to inspire our own faith in ourselves.

In the words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l: “There may be times in our lives—certainly there have been in mine—when the sun disappears, and we enter the cloud of black despair … We may lose heart; God never will. We may despair; God will give us hope. God believes in us even if we don’t believe in ourselves. We may sin and disappoint and come short again and again, but God never ceases to forgive us when we fail and lift us when we fall. Have faith in God’s faith in us and you will find the path from darkness to light,” (“The Faith of God, Covenant and Conversation,” Bereishit 5778).


Rav Reuven Taragin is the Dean of Overseas Students at Yeshivat Hakotel and the Educational Director of World Mizrachi and the RZA. His new book, “Essentials of Judaism,” can be purchased at rabbireuventaragin.com.

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