“Bereishis bara Elokim es hashamayim v’es ha’aretz.” With these words, the Torah proclaims that nothing existed before Hashem’s act of creation, teaching us that the world was brought into being from nonexistence, yeish mei’ayin. This is the basis of the beliefs the Torah seeks to instill in us. The opposite, belief that the universe has no beginning, is a cornerstone of atheism until today.
This belief is not only philosophically false, but even worse: it undermines morality. If matter came before Creation, then the creator of the universe would have only been able to work with the material given Him to create the best world possible under the circumstances—not necessarily a world that is absolutely good. In that case, evil in the world would be due to the inherent flaws in the raw material, and not even Hashem could save it. Freedom would vanish, and the world, including its G-d and the people who live in it, would be propelled by a blind, irreversible fate.
This bleak picture is disproven by the Torah’s very first words: Bereishis Bara Elokim! Everything that exists was created by a free, almighty Creator, who rules over the matter and form of every existing thing, the forces that act upon them, and the laws by which these forces operate.
The world that was created Bereishis is not the best world that could have been created—it is the only good world. This world, with all its seeming flaws, is the plan of the Creator. Had He willed it, He could have created a different one.
This is a truth of which we remind ourselves continually in the Kaddish prayer, in which we express our deep faith that His great Name will be recognized and sanctified in the world di v’ra kirusay, which He has created according to His Will.
Furthermore, the world as we know it continues to exist only by the ratzon Hashem. When man creates, the work exists in its own right, sometimes gaining control over its creator. We have the power to unleash forces, but we are unable to control our creations.
Not so Hashem. The world as a whole, and everything in it, not only came into existence through the ratzon Hashem, but continue to exist only because He wills that it should be so. Even after Creation, Hashem observes His work. Its continued existence is only because it meets with His approval.
We affirm these basic tenets of belief in the first of our thirteen ikrei emunah. “I believe with complete faith that the Creator, yisbarach Shemo, creates and guides all creatures—and that He alone made, makes, and will make all things.”
Have a wonderful Shabbos,
Ani Maamin Foundation
Please note: The “Gem of the Week,” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s collected writings, with permission from the publisher.