Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Breishis 5631 First Ma'amar

וַיְכַל אֱ-לֹהִים בַּיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה ... /On the seventh day God completed his work that he did …” (Breishis 2:2) This pasuk implies that God’s work was completed on the seventh day itself, not before. What work did God do on the seventh day? Rashi answers that the world was still lacking מְנוּחָה/rest. God created rest on the seventh day.

We usually think of rest as a cessation from activity. Rashi, however, relates to rest as something positive. What is this positive entity called מְנוּחָה/rest? God created the world to bestow His light and good. The vehicle that God uses is nature. Since God’s good comes through nature, His hand is not apparent. Looking around us, it seems as if the universe operates autonomously. The Chidushei HaRim points out that God’s concealment in the Creation is alluded to by the Hebrew word for world – עוֹלָם – which has the same root as the word for concealment – הָעָלַם.
There are places and times when God’s presence is more strongly felt just as there are places and times when His presence is not felt at all. When we view the Creation as a whole, though, when we see the harmony that exists in the universe, each part of the Creation performing its unique task, doing the will of God, so that the entire system that we call the universe works, we become aware of God’s presence in the Creation. The universe, then, while concealing God, is also a tool for revealing Him.

The following p’sukim and Chazal allude to the idea that the completed universe is a tool for revealing God's glory. “כָּל פָּעַל ה' לְמַּעֲנֵהוּ/Everything that God made, He made for His own sake.” (Mishlei 16:4). Chazal tell us, too, that He created everything for His honor. Also, we find in this week’s parsha, “וַיַּרְא ה' אֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וְהִנֵּה-טוֹב מְאֹד/ God saw all that he had done and behold it was very good.” (Breishis 1:31) Since God Himself is the ultimate “Good”, the deeper meaning of this pasuk is our concept; the completed Creation, as a whole, reveals God. The common denominator in these p’sukim and the Mishnah is the word כָּל/everything implying completion. The completed Creation enhances God's glory.

This idea is hinted at also in the pasuk signifying the completion of the Creation which begins, “וַיְכֻלוּ/ They were completed.” (Breishis 2:1) This word has the same root as the Hebrew word for vessel and tool - כְּלִי. The Midrash says that once the Creation was completed, it became a tool. The completed Creation is a tool for revealing God’s glory. The word “וַיְכֻלוּ/ They were completed” also has the same root as the Hebrew for yearning as in the pasuk in Tehillim (84:3), “... כָּלְתָה נַפְשִׁי ... /… my soul yearns …” indicating that each part of the Creation yearns to do the will of God.

Before the Creation was completed, the harmony of the universe was not apparent. It was not apparent that every creation was fulfilling the will of the Creator. The universe was not yet a single system working together. However, once the Creation was completed and there was a cessation from creative activity, it became apparent that the Creation was one complete system wherein every part, by doing it’s own unique function, accomplishes God’s will. This state that the universe achieved on the first Shabbos is what Rashi refers to as מְנוּחָה/rest. A system can be said to be at rest when all its parts are working smoothly and efficiently. There is no “noise” in the system.

This idea sheds light on an enigmatic Zohar which states that Shabbos is the name of God, a name that is complete in every aspect. The Sfas Emes explains that God’s name represents His influence in the Creation. God, of course, does not change. He was One before the Creation and He is One after the Creation. The Creation is the mechanism by which God reveals Himself, His Oneness, as it were. When the entire Creation works harmoniously to do God’s will, God is essentially revealing Himself through the Creation. The Creation reflects God, in a manner of speaking. When the prophet says that God’s Name is One , he means that God’s oneness is revealed in the harmony we see in the Creation. On the first Shabbos the universe became a completed tool for revealing God’s greatness. On the first Shabbos, His Name became One. This is why the Zohar associates Shabbos with the name of God. The first Shabbos was the first time it became possible to recognize God’s oneness through the harmony of the completed Creation.

The Hebrew for complete – שָׁלֵם – has the same root as the word for peace –שָׁלוֹם. On the first Shabbos with completeness came peace. Chazal teach us that only a vessel of peace can hold blessing. When the Creation became complete, it became a vessel that was able to receive God’s blessing.

All the different creations that make up the universe were created to do the will of God. When we subordinate our own will to the will of God we, too, work with the rest of the Creation to reveal God’s glory. Then we find מְנוּחָה/rest and שָׁלוֹם/peace in the Creation and merit God’s blessing.

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