Bereishit – Finding the Truth
There are numerous applications to the concept of there being more than one valid truth. One is that a person must be very careful before dismissing approaches to Torah that differ from his own. As long as they are within the realms of Torah thought, they constitute a valid form of Avodas HaShem
“And G-d said, let Us make man in Our Image and in Our likeness.” After creating the world, HaShem proceeds to outline the creation of the being for whom this world was created – man. However, the Medrash tells us that the very creation of man was subject to a very strong disagreement amongst the Malachim.
“Rabbi Simmon said, ‘at the time that HaKadosh Baruch Hu came to create Adam HaRishon, the serving Angels went into various groups and factions; some of them said [that HaShem] should not create him… Chessed said, ‘create him’ because he will do kindness; Emes said, ‘do not create him because they [men] will be full of lies’. Tzedek said ‘create him, because he will do tzedaka’. Shalom said, ‘do not create, because he is full of disputes. What did HaKadosh Baruch Hu do? He took Emes and threw him to the land…” This Medrash is telling us that two of the ‘Malachim’, Chessed and Tzedek, were in favor of creating man, whilst another two, Emes and Shalom, were against it. Chessed and Tzedek argued that man would do kindness and give charity. In contrast, the claim of Emes was that creating man would lead to more falsehood, whilst Shalom argued that they would cause much argument. Viewing this dispute, HaShem, who evidently did want to create man, threw down Emes from Heaven, onto the land. Consequently, the single Malach of Shalom was now left alone, outnumbered, facing the two Malachim of Chessed and Tzedek. As a result, HaShem could now proceed to create mankind.
There are numerous difficulties with this Medrash, but we will focus on two of the most pressing questions. Firstly, it seems clear that HaShem wanted to create the world, and therefore wanted Emes and Shalom to be defeated, therefore He chose to send Emes to the land, in order to place Chessed and Tzedek in the majority. But why did He particularly throw down Emes instead of Shalom? Secondly, it would seem that HaShem did not agree with the arguments of Emes and Shalom. What was wrong with their argument and what did throwing down Emes achieve in overriding his case?
Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt”l addresses these questions. He begins by explaining the reasoning behind the claims of Emes and Shalom. Emes argued that there was only one ultimate ‘Truth’ in the world, which was the way in which HaShem viewed the world. Accordingly, any other opinion was by definition sheker (untrue) in that it contradicted the single Emes. By creating human beings, HaShem would create numerous beings who would inevitably espouse numerous different opinions and beliefs. Since there was only one ‘true’ belief, anything else would constitute falsehood. Therefore, the Malach of Emes argued that man would be full of falsehood and should not be created. Rav Kamenetsky elaborates further that the argument of Shalom stemmed from the same reasoning as that of Emes. Since there was only one true way, anything else would be viewed as wrong. Consequently, there could never be true peace because each person would believe that their fellow was espousing an untrue belief system and way of life. Therefore, Shalom also believed that the creation of man would only have negative consequences.
In response to these arguments, HaShem took Emes from the Heavens, and threw it to the land. Rav Kamenetsky explains the meaning of this enigmatic statement. HaShem acknowledged the arguments of Emes and Shalom. However, He knew that they were based on the fact that there was only one was truth. He changed this by removing the concept of Emes from the Heavens and placing it on the Earth. This means that He now gave man the ability to define Emes according to his own reasoning. It was very conceivable that man’s conclusions may differ from those of HaShem, but, as long as they were within certain boundaries, it was now possible for man to create his understanding of Emes. Consequently, many people could formulate a variety of opinions and beliefs, and they could all fall within the category of Emes. By throwing Emes to the ground, and creating the possibility of there being more than one truth, HaShem also allayed the argument of Shalom that creating man would cause much dispute. The reason for such dispute was that since there was only one truth, there could never be true peace because each person would believe that his fellow was espousing a false ideology. By creating the possibility of there being more than only truth, HaShem made it possible for people to have different opinions without having to believe that their fellow man’s beliefs were untrue. Rather, they represented a different, but valid way of looking at the world.
We can now answer the aforementioned questions. We asked why HaShem threw down Emes instead of Shalom. The answer is that the arguments of both Emes and Shalom stemmed from the same point – that there was only one truth. By throwing down Emes and changing that reality and creating the possibility of more than one ‘truth’, HaShem dispelled the argument of Shalom as well. We can now also answer why HaShem seemingly ignored the arguments of Emes and Shalom. The answer is that He did not ignore them at all, rather by creating the possibility of more than one Truth He responded to their arguments in such a way that would satisfy them.
There are numerous applications to the concept of there being more than one valid truth. One is that a person must be very careful before dismissing approaches to Torah that differ from his own. As long as they are within the realms of Torah thought, they constitute a valid form of Avodas HaShem (service of HaShem). Moreover, if one’s children or other family members choose a different path in their Avodas HaShem, it is important to accept that there is more than one ‘correct’ way of expressing one’s Judaism. We see this from the following story involving Rav Kamenetsky.
A family close to Rav Kamenetsky was shocked when the youngest of their seven sons informed them that he wanted to be a Skverer Chassid. They went together with the boy to Reb Yaakov expecting him to convince their son that boys from proper German-Jewish families do not become Chassidim. To their surprise, Rav Kamenetsky spent his time assuring them that it was not a reflection on them that their son wanted to follow a different path of Avodas Hashem. Obviously, their son had certain emotional needs which, he felt, could be filled by becoming a chassid and they should honor those feelings. Rav Kamenetsky even recommended a step more radical than the parents were willing to consider - sending the boy to a Skverer Yeshiva!
Similarly, a person himself who has been brought up within one stream of Orthodox Judaism, may feel that he can enhance his Avodas HaShem by delving into other streams that emphasize different aspects of Avodas HaShem. By recognizing that there are many valid paths he may be able to revitalize his Avoda and utilize certain talents or drives that are otherwise untapped. May we all merit to find the path that enables us to fulfill our potential.
From The Book "The Guiding Light 2"