Beginning of the Universe

Why did G-d Choose to Create the World as He Did?

While most three-year-olds can relate the basic events of creation, the true depth of creation can only be understood by those who have attained Kabbalistic wisdom through an established teacher. We do not know the order of creation: we learn that G-d’s Spirit hovered over the waters, but we are never told when the waters were created.
Ten things were created on the first day, yet we are by no means clear of their relationship or sequence. We are not told when the higher spiritual worlds or angels were created, or when or how the minerals came into being. We are not told at all about intermediary forms and the only way we know of the ten things created Bein HaShamashot (at twilight) of Erev Shabbat is through an oral tradition from the Sages.   
In fact, the Chumash has an entirely separate agenda in telling us about creation in the first place: it is in order to tell us that the world was created for a purpose. The group of people who would fulfill this purpose is the Jewish people. Therefore, for their sake the world was created. 
The Torah tells us quite clearly that everything was created exnihilo (something from nothing) on the first day.  “These are the chronicles of the heaven and earth when they were created, on the day G-d completed earth and heaven.” However, things were still in a highly spiritual form. The later creation days were essentially a further development, taking the created potential from that first day and actualizing it.
Hence the first day uses the word ברא, creation ex-nihilo, while all the other days use words such as He formed (יצר) and He made (ויעש). יצר means to make something from something, whereas ויעש (as in עשה) means to complete a process, to place it in its final form. We also see phrases like, “Let the earth bring forth”, etc., implying that the earth already had within it what it needed to bring forth. Rashi tells us that when G-d said יהי מארת on the fourth day, these lights were already created on the first day and were now only being commanded to correctly position themselves in the Heavens.
In order that one should not now err and think that the later days were an automatic evolutionary process devoid of G-d’s input, the Chumash explicitly states “and G-d said” on each occasion to show that all of creation is but a reflection of Divine Will. Yet, the Sages tell us, the creation is set up in such a way that a concerted effort for an atheistic interpretation of these events will yield a plausible theory. On the other hand, an honest attempt to see G-d’s hand in the creation process will do so to such a degree that the Sages decreed that there should be ten verses of Malchut (Kingship), of proclaiming G-d’s reality on Rosh Hashana, paralleling each one of the Ten Sayings of Creation.
There are but two other places in the entire creation story which use the word ברא. The first is at the beginning of the creation of animal life, the Taninim, implying that the Nefesh HaBeheimit (animalistic soul) could not entirely evolve from what already existed. The transition from plant to animal life required another creation ex-nihilo.  After that, the rest of the animal kingdom could once again be directed by G-d to develop out of what already existed.
The second additional place where the word ברא is used is with the creation of Man. By man, all three words, בריאה, יצירה, עשייה are employed. The body of man appears to have emerged from existing reality while his Neshama (soul) was created ex-nihilo.
Not only was the world created over six days and in ten separate ‘Sayings of Creation’, but each thing was also developed in stages. G-d could have easily created everything to its completion in one act of creation. Why did He choose to create the world as He did?
The Sages answer that this action of G-d was to give reward to the righteous and punish the wicked. What this means is that had G-d created the world in one go, His involvement in this world would have been so obvious and revealed that there would have been no room for choice, and therefore Avodah. Instead, He partially hid Himself in the Ten Sayings, thereby creating the עולם, the world, which comes from the word העלם, to be hidden. This was achieved through the fact that with each Saying, G-d’s original light was brought lower.
Ohr Gedalyahu adds another reason. Had G-d created everything all at once, each one would have been given simultaneous existence on the same plain of existence with everything else. As a result, there would have been no connection between it and the rest of creation. However, since creation happened in stages, the whole world is connected in a chained-down form with higher realities connected to lower ones, each one receiving and giving in turn.

Written by Rabbi Avraham Edelstein, Director of Neve College for Women


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