Friday 28 Tishrai, 5781 / October 16, 2020 Bareshis Issue #98
Complete and unfinished
This week's portion is the first portion of the entire Torah, Breishit. It discusses the Creation of the world and Adam and Eve's function in the world.
It is something of a paradox that from the very beginning, while still in the utopian setting of the Garden of Eden, Adam was immediately put to work. Quite contrary to the popular image, Adam never had a chance to enjoy complete rest or relaxation, free of duties and responsibilities. Even before violating the Divine command, the innocent Adam's raison d'etre was "to work and watch it (i.e. the Garden of Eden). Yet Adam's life in the Garden at that time is considered the epitome of "good living." Obviously, hard work and the good life are not incompatible. In fact, hard work makes the good life, as we shall soon see.
The question may be asked: Could not the All Merciful G-d have shown even greater kindness by creating a perfect world where nothing would be lacking, work would be superfluous and labor unnecessary? Where man would subsist on His Grace alone and be able to "take it easy" instead of working and earning a living?
We are told that man was created after everything else so that he should find all his needs already provided for. Then why this need for work? If work, and improvement of the world is called for, then obviously Creation was not yet at its best. Yet the Alm-ghty seemed to be satisfied with this imperfect state of affairs, for every successive development of the first six days of Creation is called "good". Here is a clear indication that it is these very imperfections and faults - requiring improvement and work - that are part of the ultimate good.
G-d did not wish to shower undeserved bliss and good on humans. On the contrary, he wanted to leave an area for people to work at and exercise their creativity. G-d wanted to give a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, something we could consider our own. There is definitely a greater appreciation of that which a person earns by the labor of his own hands than what he receives as a "handout". In fact, the Talmud tells us that people prefer a single bushel of their own produce to nine bushels received as a giveaway.
Things would certainly have been easier and less complicated if we were to receive everything on a "silver platter" without effort and sweat on our part. But that would be eating "the undeserved bread of shame" as the Zohar puts it.
There is a saying, "it is hard to be a Jew," a minority in an alien (if not hostile) society, where one finds the going rough, discouraging and difficult. Nothing comes easy; yet this too is for our own good. Only that which we rightfully earn through persistent work and effort gives true satisfaction; a feeling of victory comes only after a challenge. Perhaps if things were easier and hardships were eliminated much more would be achieved. But, then again, the "examination papers" of life are marked for effort even more than for accomplishment.
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