Rabbi Oury Cherki
Rosh Hashana - The World is a Created Entity
On Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, we mark the anniversary of the creation of the world.
It is remarkable to note that in the Jewish tradition there are two different dates for creation. Rabbi Eliezer indeed considers the first of Tishrei as the date, while Rabbi Yehoshua sees the beginning of Nissan, in the springtime, as the time when the world was created.
Thus, there is a world that began in the spring, and another one that began in the fall. This seems to be quite strange. Evidently the point of the argument is that there are two ways of looking at the world. On one hand, it can be seen as something that is always being eroded, where reality becomes steadily more difficult, just as in the fall, when the world seems to deteriorate. Alternatively, the world can be viewed as constantly being renewed, like what happens in the spring.
The explanation of this apparent discrepancy is that there are really two types of history. With respect to human history, if not for the nation of Israel the world would consist merely of deterioration and forgetfulness. But it is to the credit of Israel, who were freed from slavery in the month of Nissan, that there is hope for the world, which can be lifted up from a status of erosion to a renewal. And that is why in our calendar there are two alternate dates for the creation of the world.
Let us take a closer look at the concept of the creation of the world. What is the meaning of this phrase?
If we look at the Torah, we see that the very famous first verse is, "In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the earth" [Genesis 1:1]. What new thing does this verse tell us?
Is the Torah telling us that the world was created? This fact appears many times in the Torah. For example, in the Ten Commandments, it is written, "... for G-d created the heaven and the earth in six days" [Exodus 20:11]. Thus, the beginning of the Torah was not needed in order to teach us that the world was created. Evidently the purpose of the first verse in the Torah is to teach us that behind all of the "confused state" [Genesis 1:2] and the lack of order that we see in the creation there was something that was "first" (in Hebrew, this is "reishit," part of the word used for "in the beginning").
What does it mean when we say that something was "first"?
It means that everything else was preceded by an intention and a will. Everything was planned out by Someone, and it is important to be aware of this fact. For when we see that the world is very unorganized and full of suffering, we might ask ourselves if we can expect any good to come out of it in the end. Will this unorganized state ever lead to some sort of order?
When the Torah teaches us that before the unorganized state there was the intention and the will of the One who created it by His word, we can be confident that the unorganized state and the suffering in the world is merely temporary and that in the end good will come out of it. The fact there is a "first" clearly indicates that there will be a continuation. Moreover, if the world is an entity that was created, we can clearly see that nature is not an absolute. It is not nature that dictates our behavior, and it is not nature that provides the guidance of G-d for us in His world.
If, on the other hand, the world had not been created but rather had existed forever, nature would have an independent status that transcends the Creator and limits His abilities. But since we know that G-d created everything, this fact is morally significant. Everything is part of a broad and far-ranging Divine plan which will eventually lead to good and a blessed status. The fact that the world was created is therefore a source of great joy for us, not only as a metaphysical and philosophical concept but also as an ethical statement. There is a Master in this universe, and He is guiding the world to its better end state. This indication that the world was created by G-d is thus the basis for our optimistic feelings on Rosh Hashanah.
Have a happy holiday.