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World of Love #3 - ness of Mankind

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

The gift of a Divine soul separates man from the rest of God's creatures.

The creature destined by God to bring about [the world's] ultimate purpose is man. It is man who will enjoy this ultimate closeness to God in the Future World, and thereby fulfill God's purpose in creation. He therefore tells us through His prophet, "I have made the earth, and have created man upon it" (Isaiah 45:12).

Every man must personally look upon himself as a partner with God in fulfilling this purpose. Creation exists for the sake of man, and it is man's duty to work toward fulfilling God's goal. Our sages thus teach us that every man should say, "The world was created for my sake." (Talmud - Sanhedrin 37a)

The Talmud provides us with an excellent example. A king once built a lavish palace, decorating it beautifully, and stocking it with the best food and drink. When it was all finished he invited his guests, saying, "If there are no guests, then what pleasure does the king have with all the good things that he has prepared?"

How can such God care about man, a mere speck of cosmic dust?

It is for this reason that God made man last in the order of creation. All the world had to be prepared for its special guest. After everything had been prepared, the guest -- man -- was brought into the world.

One may wonder how God can consider man. God is King over the entire universe, billions of light years in diameter, containing hundreds of billions of galaxies and quadrillions of suns. How can such a God care about man? How can he place His goal of creation on a mere speck of cosmic dust that we call our planet earth?

This question was actually first raised by the psalmist. It might have been on a clear night, and as he gazed at the heavens, he saw them illuminated with a myriad of stars, and realized how small man really is. He then burst forth in song:

When I look at Your heavens,
The work of Your fingers,
The moon and stars
That You have established -
What is man that You think of him?
Mortal man that You remember him?
Yet, You have made him little less than God,
You have crowned him with glory and splendor.
(Psalms 8:4-6)


We know that God exists independent of space. It is therefore not too difficult to imagine that size alone is of little consequence to Him.

However, we also know that man is among the most complex things in all the universe. There is nothing that we know that is more complex than the human brain. It is infinitely more complex than even the largest galaxy. The brain of the smallest infant is vastly more wonderful than all the visible stars.

It is little wonder that the psalmist introduces his question with the remark, "From the mouths of babes and sucklings, You have founded strength" (Psalms 8:3). He is providing the answer even before he asks the question. The heavens and stars may be awe inspiring, but a single word uttered by a child is vastly more wonderful.

The brain of the smallest infant is vastly more wonderful than all the visible stars.

Besides being complex, man is also the most aware thing in the universe. He is both perceptive and introspective. Even the stars and galaxies cannot match him in this. Since these are things that really matter to God, it is not so very surprising that He thinks of us.

Beyond this, man is in creation because of his Divine soul. In one place, Job says, "What is a portion from God on high?" (Job 31:2) He is here speaking of the human soul, which is called "a portion from God on high." Man's soul comes from the highest possible of Godly levels, and is therefore a portion of the Divine.

The Torah describes the creation of man with the words, "God formed man of the dust of the earth, and He breathed into his nostrils a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). Our sages tell us that the Torah uses the expression "He breathed" for a very special reason. Just as human breath comes from the inner recesses of the body, so the human soul comes from the innermost depths of the Divine. Man's soul is therefore nothing less than a breath of God.

The deeper meaning of this is that man's soul was God's very first thought and ultimate goal in creation. As such, it is closer to Him than anything else. In order to express this closeness, we call the soul a breath of God.

More than anything else, it is this soul that makes man in creation. It is closer and more meaningful to God than any star or galaxy. In a spiritual sense, we may say that a single human soul is even greater than the entire physical universe. This is what the Talmud means when it says, "The deeds of the righteous are greater than the creation of heaven and earth." (Ketubot 5a)

In Part 4, we'll examine the human pleasure of accomplishment.

Reprinted with permission, from "If You Were God" (NCSY-OU)


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