|Did G-d Have A "Need" To Create The World ?
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:44:37 AM
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Throughout the act of Creation, after each major step such as the creation of light, water and vegetation, the Torah tells us that va-yar Elohim ki tov, "and G-d saw that it was good." Taken literally, these passages strike us as grossly anthropomorphic, as if the Creator of the universe is a Cosmic Artist who, after every significant addition to His composition, steps back to admire His masterpiece. But Onkelos and Rambam teach that G-d has no human needs or emotions. What, then, does it mean when the Torah tells us "G-d saw it was good ? "
G-d said (i.e,. He willed), "let there be light", and va-yar Elohim. He brought this light into being. He made it visible. So, upon willing the existence of the land, the waters, the luminaries, the vegetation, and the animals, He made them visible. He called them into existence. But why did He do so? The answer is: Ki tov, because He is good! Not "that it was good," but because He, G-d, is good. It is the goodness of G-d, not of the world, that the Torah is teaching us. G-d's creativity is a function of His goodness, for goodness is givingness.
The Kabbalah taught this secret, too. One of the Sephirot (the ten stages of Divine self-revelation) is Chessed – love and goodness- and this is identified with hitpashtut, the overflow, the emanation, of the existence from G-d. "He creates" means He gives of Himself, and this He does ki tov, because He is good, because He is the essence of Chessed. G-d = Good.
The most valuable expression of human creativity must likewise be that of goodness-givingness. To be good is to do good. Thus, to give of oneself is to be good, and to be good is to be creative, and to be creative is to be G-d-like. "In the beginning, G-d created" ultimately means, "In the first place, man must do good by giving of himself", like G-d gave of Himself.
R' Shneur Zalman of Ladi, the great founder of ChaBaD Hasidism, and the author of the Tanya, taught that the ideal mitzvah, the perfect commandment, is tzedakah (the giving of charity), for it is the act in which man most closely imitates G-d. Just as G-d's most significant act, creation, is an act of goodness by virtue of His giving (existence), so the apex of man's G-d-likeness is his goodness expressed in giving – whether charity or time or money or love or compassion. A good person, like the good G-d, is a giving being.
This insight to the meaning of tov provides us with a new understanding of the Biblical view of marriage. Adam finds himself in Paradise, yet lo tov heyot ha-adam levado, "it is not good that man should be alone" (Gen, 2:18). The companionship of man and woman is good: loneliness and solitude are not. But this divine judgement of the undesirability of celibacy is not merely a question of the welfare of the male of the species: that it is better for him psychologically and existentially to be married. It is also an ethical judgement, in terms of our definition of tov: when man is alone he cannot be "good", he has no one upon whom to shower his innate love and affection, no one to whom to give and with whom to share his gifts. With no wife to love, no family to provide for, and no other human being to whom to extend his compassion and his assistance, how shall man be good? Goodness, as the act of giving, requires another human being to express itself. Therefore, Eve was created so that two human beings should now have each other to inspire and express the divine-human attribute of tov (goodness), by giving to each other.
Marriage is the maximum potential for the most intimate act of giving. To rephrase the famous words of President Kennedy, "Ask not what your spouse can do for you, ask what you can do for your spouse." Thus, the act of marital goodness is truly creative, imitating G-d's Creation of the world.