Bereshit: Creation or Annihilation


We begin the book of Bereishit, and we could hope that, at least in the beginning, things would run smoothly. But no: In Parashat Bereishit, we meet one disaster after another – the snake, the murder of Abel, the complaint of Lemech; from the very first day of the world’s existence, God’s plan of a perfect creation goes awry. Then, to top things off, we conclude the parasha with G-d’s decision to destroy the entire world. Evil dominates to such an extent that the Almighty regrets that He created man, and decrees upon the world total wipeout. One must wonder: We had just read about the creation of the world and of man, evoking within us feelings of optimism and great promise. And then, behold, before even finishing the very first parasha of the Torah, everything is doomed!

There is a Goal

When God created the world, He created it for a purpose, a specific destiny. Man has free choice to fulfill this destiny or not to, and in any particular generation, there may be many who cling to its destiny, or there may be few. Therefore, the moment God reached the conclusion that this evil generation has no chance of fulfilling its purpose in the world, He has no other choice, so to speak, than to destroy it (after giving several grace periods to do “t’shuva”). We see a similar idea in our answer to the following question: Why did G-d wipe out all of the beasts, birds, and crawling things? If man sinned, why should the animals suffer? Rashi explains: “The entire creation is for man, and when man is wiped out, who needs all these?” That is, the purpose of the creation is not simply to exist, but rather to actualize the destiny of the Creation. The moment there is no purpose (which is the case after G-d wiped out man, for whom the world was created), then the animals must perish since there is no longer a reason for their existence. Here, too, the moment the deeds of man prove that there is no longer a possibility for him to fulfill his destiny, his existence is no necessary, and he perishes.

Noach: The Reason for the World

But we are still left wondering: All that creation, just for annihilation? All those generations before the flood (a span of 1,654 years) were for nothing? Do the verses at the end of Parshat Bereishit not convey to us a bleak message of destruction and high hopes that have gone up in smoke? The answer is no. Harsh though these verses may be, a verse appears at the very end which turns everything around: “But Noach found grace in the eyes of the Lord”. In contrast to all the previous verses which give the impression that the creation had been in vain, this verse proves otherwise. And while this lonely verse may appear to be only a small comfort to a world gone astray, the truth is that this one verse is everything. Even if we are speaking about one individual – he is the one who counts. Noach is the justification for the world’s continued existence.

To understand this deeper, we will bring down what the “Meshech Chochma” (Rabbi Meir Simcha from Dvinsk) says regarding another matter entirely. It is written in Tractate Sanhedrin (111 a): “Rabbi Sima’i says: The exodus from Egypt is comparable to the entry into Israel – just as two out of six hundred thousand entered the land [since out of all the 600,000 who left Egypt, only Yehoshua and Kalev entered the Land of Israel] so, too, did two out of six hundred thousand leave Egypt”.

All That Just For Two People?!

And the question that begs to be asked is: What does the gemara mean when it says that only two out of six hundred thousand left Egypt. Did not all 600,000 leave?! The Meshech Chochma answers as follows: “This means that all the signs and miracles wrought against Egypt, the ten plagues, the splitting of the sea – all was worthwhile so that two out of six hundred thousand would be able to fulfill the Divine purpose. And just as everything which was done in the desert was done for the benefit of two people (out of six hundred thousand), similarly, G-d has no qualms about changing nature and exercising His Power and Providence for His children and the world at large – even if they are not worthy of Divine Providence – for the benefit of a few. And hundreds of thousands of evil people will perish for the benefit of a few righteous individuals who believe in the Blessed One’s Providence.”

In other words, since the goal of the exodus from Egypt was entry into the land of Israel, and only two people actually entered, it is as if only two people really left Egypt. All the miracles were for them only! This is what we stated earlier. G-d created the world for the sake of those who will eventually fulfill the world’s destiny, and He is not deterred by the possibility that there may be just a very few out there who are willing. All the rest are considered a “klipa” (extraneous residue), and sad as it may sound (and we see from the verses that God is, indeed, sorry about it), they can, and will, perish.

Ray of Light

And so we see that though it may appear that the significant people in our world are those who make all the noise and attract all the attention, it is not they who are the focus of the creation and our reality. What really counts is that small ray of light that sometimes is not paid much attention to, but illuminates the world with the light of the world’s true destiny.

That same “But Noach found grace in the eyes of the Lord” is the ray of light which repels the darkness of his generation. He proves that despite the destruction, the Creation was not labor in vain.

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