The answer is based on what we have learned already, that in order to receive the Greatest Level of Good, it is necessary for us to “become one with Hashem”, and this is only accomplished by becoming “like him”.
Yet there are two things related to our essence as created beings, that make it a logical impossibility for us to actually “become one” with him – and in order to remove those impediments, we must come to this world to “do something” for Hashem.
The first of these impediments is that the only way for any two entities to truly “become one” on a spiritual level is by having similar internal characteristics and there is one specific characteristic that we will seemingly never be able to have like Hashem.
When we describe “becoming one” and close with Hashem on the spiritual plane, we cannot use physical proximity to determine distance or closeness, because the concepts of physical closeness and distance are nonexistent. The measure of closeness or distance among spiritual existences is the similarity, or lack thereof, of their intrinsic properties: the more similar they are, the ‘closer’ they are; conversely, the greater the divergence of their internal traits, the greater the spiritual “distance” between them.
In light of this, we can easily discern that there is one distinguishing factor that will always cause us to be – not only a little distant, but – as distant ‘as could possibly be’ from the creator. Since Hashem is ‘the creator’ and we are “the created” – he will always be ‘giving’ to us and we will always be ‘receiving’ from him. In this regard, we are diametric opposites.
Thus, no matter how much we strive to “become one” with Hashem by aligning all of our other internal characteristics (such as truthfulness, love, etc.) with his, we will always remain ‘distant’ and separate from him spiritually because of the intrinsic difference in character that stems from our being created and always “receiving” and him being the Creator and always “giving”. this presents a serious impediment to achieving Hashem’s ultimate Goal in creation – that man “become one” with him in order to receive the Greatest level of Good that he wants to give him.
Bread of Embarrassment
A second impediment that makes it logically “impossible” for us to receive the Greatest Level of Good without our souls coming to this world, is the sense of embarrassment that the neshamah (soul) feels when it only receives.
According to what we have passed down from traditional Jewish sources, even before the soul comes to this world, it was already experiencing Hashem’s Good and Giving Benevolence; just that it couldn’t really enjoy that Benevolence because it was overcome with a sense of embarrassment. This is termed in the sources as “Nahamah D’kisufah” – the embarrassment of ‘eating bread’ without having to do any work for it. ‘Eating bread’, is the most basic example of physical sustenance and is a metaphor for the experience of the souls having received the full satisfaction for all their needs from Hashem – which is itself the most basic level of all-inclusive “pleasure” – without having had to do any work for that level of satisfaction.
Since the soul had never done anything for the Creator, everything that was experienced was in the form of a gift, making the soul feel tremendously dependent and embarrassed and thus detracting from its experience of the Good.
This embarrassment is somewhat similar to the feeling of a rich man who became poor, and suddenly finds himself forced to accept handouts from others. Because of his uplifted sense of self respect, he feels that he’d rather take nothing from others and die of hunger than to continue to feel more and more like a ‘charity case’ each time someone gives to him. So too, the souls have a naturally uplifted “sense of self-respect” because they are ‘part of’ Hashem; yet when they are granted individual existence and a willful sense of independence and then they solely receive, they feel overwhelmingly dependent and embarrassed.
Being in a situation where we are only receivers would cause us to feel so much embarrassment that it would block us from being able to fully receive the Good that Hashem has intended to Give us. So much so, that we might not even be able to receive and experience any sense of good at all.
In order to solve the above two issues and give us the opportunity to ‘deserve’ the good we’ll receive by “doing something” for him, and, more specifically, in order to give us the opportunity to become “GIVERS” – Hashem created this world. He created a reality whereby we would actually be able to “give something” to him by fulfilling something that he requests of us.
Hashem Becomes a “Receiver”
To solve these issues and to remove the impediments, Hashem created this world.
The Hebrew word for “world” is “olam”, which implies concealment. This “world” is a place of “cover-up”, a place where Hashem’s All-inclusive Presence is “hidden”.
That Hashem even created such a place as this, physical “world” is atypical. On all other levels of spiritual existence preceding the creation of this world, it was overtly clear that Hashem’s All-inclusive Reality is the source for all creation; it was evident that his Presence permeates everywhere. this world is unique in that was created – to be different from all the spiritual levels above it – to be a place where it is actually “possible”, at least on the perceptible level, to hide the fact that Hashem’s Presence is really everywhere.
Hashem then says to our souls: “I have created a place, a “world” and a ‘reality’ where my Presence is hidden. And now I want you to do something for Me:”
What We need to “Give”
“Take leave of the place where you are presently (before coming to this world), and ‘go down’ to this “covered-up place” that I have created – a place where the beings don’t really ‘see’ me. Once you are there, I want you to be the one to reveal My Presence – so that everyone will clearly see that My Presence is even there, even in the one place where My Presence is seemingly concealed.”
By doing this ‘task’ for Him, we then become “givers”. We reveal His Presence initially to ourselves in our hearts, and following that to the external world around us. We can reveal through our actions what we know in our hearts to be true, that his tangible Presence really permeates everywhere in the world – even though on the perceptible level it seems hidden. We now become similar to Hashem even in that one characteristic in which we were initially opposite. Now, it is not only the Creator who is giving to us and we are receiving from him, but we are also giving to the Creator and He is “receiving” from us.
This solves the issue of the two impediments and allows us to fully “become one with him” on the spiritual plane. Now all of our internal characteristics can be similar to his – we are also “givers” and we also do not feel a sense of embarrassment when receiving the Good because we ‘did something’ for Hashem to ‘earn’ it; we are now truly ready to “become one” with him and thus benefit from that Greatest level of Good that he has within himself.
That is why this world is needed: only once our souls come to this world can Hashem’s ultimate goal for creation – to Give Good to the created beings – now be achieved.
Adapted from “It’s All for the Good” by Rabbi Nachum Chaimowitz. Available at http://www.israelbookshoppublications.com/store/pc/It-s-All-for-the-Good-p1150.htm