On Rosh HaShannah God created the world, not exactly
By Avi Lazerson
Actually, G-d did not create the world on Rosh Hashanah, He created man. He started creation several days before, each day adding another element until finally the world and the universe was completed, like a new home completely furnished waiting for someone to move in. It was on Rosh HaShannah that he created man and gave him dominion over all of creation.
How did G-d create the world?
Well it says clearly in the first chapter of Genesis that He spoke and somehow 'poof' the world came into being each item according to His desire. Yet this explanation seems to lack depth for many after all, does G-d speak? We know that he does not have a body, so what does speech mean when the Torah says that He spoke?
Our holy mystical teachers explain that although G-d's 'speaking' can not be understood exactly in terms of human speech, yet it must be understood in some manner since the Torah sees fit to relate it to us.
What is speech? Speech is a method by which we reveal that which is hidden in our minds, in our thoughts. Prior to a person's speech, no one can properly determine what he thinks. Now when the Torah ascribes speech to G-d, it means that G-d is revealing something that up until now has been unrevealed and hidden. Speech is the Torah's way of saying that something was revealed and came into existence.
But yet there is something deeper here. When G-d spoke, He spoke in Hebrew, the holy language. He created the world with ten utterances, such as, "Let there be light". Each of these ten utterances brought forth a new level of revelation for the world. But how did this revelation create something that was physical? We can understand a revelation on a mental or emotional level, but that speech should bring forth a material and physical revelation, a creation, is difficult to understand.
The Torah stresses that He spoke; that means words like our words which are composed of letters. When G-d spoke, he imbued in each letter a particular strength, a particular character, that no other letter possessed. He created the Hebrew alphabet consisting of twenty-two letters; each possessing a particular ability similar to the basic chemical elements that make up the entire physical world. He created twenty two separate and distinct powers that combined to become words and worlds. The non-physical words descended to the lower worlds and as they descended they became the physical objects, in a manner similar to water vapors going into a cold environment becoming first water drops, then ice or snow. The letters of the words broke up and created other words and as these fell the created other objects.
The world is an extension of G-d's speech and only continues because G-d's speech and his words continue to exist since He wills them constantly to continue their existence. This is unlike human speech which soon disappears moments after the person utters his speech, G-d's words stand forever since this is His will. If for one moment, He were to remove His will from the letters, the world would become void and disappear without a memory that it had existed.
It is specifically related to G-d's ongoing will that the world continues. But even more important to our understanding is that through His constant willing the universe to continue, He knows everything that is within it. Therefore nothing can be denied to Him nor hidden from Him. Therefore on Rosh HaShanah when we stand in front of Him, and we are always in front of Him no matter where we are, whether we are in the synagogue or at the beach, He knows us for exactly what we are. No one can conceal from Him the truth. In reality it is just the opposite, it is incumbent upon us to reveal the truth to ourselves. We do not confess our sins so much to Him, but to ourselves.
It is absurd to think that G-d does not know what we think and what we have done and the reasons for it. Rather our job on Rosh Hashanah is to make a truthful accounting of what we have accomplished with our lives. Have we been honest, have we been decent, have we strived to improve and to improve our relationship with Him?
These are the basic issues on Rosh Hashanah that we must tackle as we sit in the synagogue for the long hours of the services. If we can reach down to the bottom of our souls and bring out to ourselves the truth and see ourselves as we really are and that we compare it to what we should be, then we are going in the correct direction. But intellectual honesty does not come easily; it requires much self criticism and discipline.
But Rosh HaShanah is a special day and He gives us this time that we may contemplate on where we are holding. When Adam sinned, G-d came to him and said, "ayekha", meaning "where are you?" That is our job on Rosh Hashanah. We are in the place of Adam and G-d is asking us, "Where are you?"
Although the time spent in the synagogue on Rosh HaShanah is long, yet between the holiday melodies, we must find time to be alone with ourselves, that we may answer back to G-d exactly where we are and to where we are planning to go. We must answer the question, "Where are you?" both in the physical world and the spiritual world.
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For more on Rosh HaShanah, see our Rosh HaShanah Archives
from the August 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine