"And G-d saw... and, behold, it was very good."
"And G-d saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:12) Thus G-d concludes after each day of creation. At least for the first five days. But on the sixth and final day, having just created man, the crowning glory of all creation, G-d withholds comment. Yes, we are told that "And G-d saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31) But that was an appraisal of the entirety of His creation, not of man specifically. Why is that so? Was G-d mystified by His own creation of man? Was He uncertain as to the results of His own efforts?
By declaring His creation "good" on days one through five, G-d is neither heaping praise upon Himself for a job well done, nor is He expressing His hope that all will be well. By declaring "good" He is stamping creation with His moral imprimatur. He is making it good.
Man, however, is unlike all other creation. It was G-d's will to instill within the very essence of man the ability to choose between good and evil. We call it "free will," but there is nothing free about it. Each choice we make exacts its own price. By liberating man from being a pre-determined good, like all other creation, G-d was preparing man for a long and difficult journey through time and through space, in which man would, (and immediately did), make every mistake humanly possible.
Adam and Chava, (Eve), may have chosen poorly by eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, but by choosing at all they were fulfilling G-d's will for mankind. Their choice in effect took the place of G-d's "and it was good," as it proved the efficacy of His creation of man.
Of course, G-d's will is for man to ultimately choose good and not evil, to attach himself to G-d and to walk in His ways. His love and concern for man can be seen immediately upon following Adam and Chava's error and their subsequent attempt to hide themselves from Him. Not only does He clothe them in order to assuage their own new found sense of shame, and also to provide them with protection from the now harsh elements of the world, but, as Midrash teaches us, G-d made some literally last-minute adjustments in creation, adding ten additional phenomena to the world just moments before the first Shabbat entered, for the sole purpose of aiding man in the millennia to come in his ceaseless quest for redemption:
"Ten things were created at twilight of Shabbat eve. These are: the mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach]; the mouth of the well [Miriam's well that accompanied the Israelites in the desert] ; the mouth of [Balaam's] ass; the rainbow [that appeared to Noach]; the manna [that fell in the desert]; [Moses'] staff; the shamir [worm that ate stone and was used for hewing the stones for the Holy Temple]; and the writing, the inscription and the tablets [of the Ten Commandments]." (Ethics of the Fathers, 5:6)
Each of these ten creations embodies aspects both of the physical world and of the spiritual world, and each served in its specific moment in time as a portal between man and G-d's will that mankind will successfully stay the course that G-d has set out for him, ultimately proving himself worthy of his own Divine origin.
At the conclusion of the first Shabbat it was a new reality that man faced, one that we will be reading about throughout the rest of the year as we proceed through the five books of Torah. An early and terrifying crescendo in history occurs during the generation of Noach, the generation of the flood. Noach, like Adam, received instruction from G-d, but Noach, unlike Adam, adhered strictly to G-d's word. No doubt this was a step in the right direction for mankind, but still, Noach seems to fall short of the mark that G-d had set for him. Why did he not raise his voice in prayer to G-d, and beseech Him, (as did Moses on behalf of the children of Israel, concerning the incident of the golden calf), to show mercy on mankind, righteous and sinners alike?
It would seem that only as man travels through history and comes face to face with the many challenges and tests that G-d has set before him, does he begin to realize his own awesome potential for good. Today the choices that are set before man are every bit as profound and every bit as fateful as those choices that confronted first Adam and then Noach. It is not simply our own personal salvation at stake, but the redemption of all mankind. There is no doubt that the concluding chapters of man's saga include the continued ingathering of the children of Israel into the land of Israel, the establishment of a Torah-led society in the land, and the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, "a house of prayer for all nations." (Isaiah 56:7) May we prove through our actions to be worthy of the appellation G-d is patiently awaiting to bestow upon us: "And G-d saw... and, behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31)
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the annual transition from the spiritually charged holiday-filled month of Tishrei to the holiday-barren month of Cheshvan, from the warm sun-filled summer season to the beginning of winter's rains in the land of Israel, and from the hope-filled opening chapters of the book of Genesis which we read on Tishrei's last Shabbat, (parashat B'reishith) to the desperate situation mankind finds itself in by the following Torah reading of Noach and the narrative of the flood. Plus some reflections on the historic Hakhel events that occurred over the recent Sukkot holiday, and the much deserved recognition granted to Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute, and recipient of this year's Israeli Ministry of Education Award for Jewish Culture.
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