© 2021 by Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner
Who Created the Word, and for What Purpose?
Know your CREATOR, know yourself and know the difference
We are studying the First Commandment of Adam (and Noah) namely IDOLATERY.
The Commandment as such is not mentioned in the Book of Genesis, yet it is very much at its background. Noah fought against it, Abraham was thrown to the oven alive for teaching against it, and Joseph taught Pharaoh about it, yet it does not appear as a Commandment in the Torah text.
The first time IDOLATRY comes openly in the text is at the First two of the Ten Commandments of Sinai. The Second Commandment there presents the idols, which we should not worship, while the First Commandment there presents G-d whom we should worship.
Of course, a rebellious rejection of the First Commandment is considered IDOOATRY.
Last class we saw that in the First Commandment of Sinai , God presents Himself by special Names that come in a special order. It s
- I Am (THE SELF)
- YHVH your ELoKiM (ATTRIBUTS)
- Who took you out of Egypt Land (KINGSHIP)
The Commandment says that it is incumbent on every person to KOW these Names and to COMPREHAND them.
Moses does not explain the meaning of the Attributes – YHVH and ELoKiM- here at Sinai. He correctly assumes that the reader is already familiar with them from reading Genesis Chapter One.
Today we start learning about the Attributes YHVH and ELoHiM from Genesis Chapter One. In the process we’ll also learn how Adam was born and how IDOLATRY became an option along with Adam’s birth.
You’ll see that indeed, Genesis Chapter One is probably the most important chapter in the entire Torah (Bible).
1: Who created the world, and for what purpose?
If I question the average person in the street of an average American city:
“Excuse me sir, lady, who created the world, and for what purpose?”
Most likely he/she would say:
“Of course, G-d created the world, who else?
Indeed, the English Bible says –
“In the Beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth!” (Genesis 1: 1)
“If so,” I’d ask, “for what purpose did He create the world?”
“Purpose?” – Now the person is perplexed. The verse does not seem to offer a purpose.
“Yes, it does,” I’d insist.
Now he/she would offer several purposes, like “G-d created the world for the Messiah…for
Israel…for good people…” none supported by the verse!
“But the verse does inform us the purpose of CREATION”! I would insist.
Amazingly, if people are unaware of who created the world and for what purpose, what else could they know about the Bible?
2: Meet the All-Mighty JUDGE, ELoHiM
So Who created the world and for what purpose?
The answer, as you already know, is given in the Hebrew text that says
“At the Beginning, ELoHiM created the Heavens and the Earth….”
The difference? Instead of “GOD” it says “ELoHiM.”
And the difference is huge. The Hebrew term EeLoHiM means “The All Mighty JUDGE.” (Rashi in Exodus 20). Hence the first verse, the first message of the Torah is
“In the Beginning, the All-Mighty JUDGE EeLoHiM created the world to withstand JUDGMENT.”
Now don’t get me wrong. The English term “G-d” expresses awe and reverence and is a holy Name. Only that it lacks the specific message that THE WORLD WAS CREATED BY THE ALL-MIGHTY JUDGE TO WITHSTAND JUDGMENT.
And this message should never be overlooked.
Note that the Hebrew term ELoHiM refers to any judge, even a human judge. Like in the verse: “ELoHiM in your midst you should not curse, nor should you curse a prince in your nation…” (Exodus 22: 27.) Here “elohim” – like the prince – is clearly human
Since EeLoHiM is a Holy Name, we should not mention it in vain, even for study. Henceforth we’d replace it with EeLoKiM, or in short ELKM (skipping the vowels, as it is customary in Hebrew)
Let’s repeat: ELKM is not a separate God but rather a separate Attribute of One G-d, a Title describing the way the CREATOR may act. Thus, at CREATION, the CREATOR set on the “Throne of Judgment” acting as the All-Mighty JUDG
On other occasions, the same CREATOR would sit on different Thrones, such as the Throne of MERCY, assuming different Names such as The Attribute of MERCY Y*H*V*H.
Thus, the Infinite, nameless CREATOR may have infinite number of Attributes. He may wear different ‘hats’ on different occasions or sit on different Thrones at different times – as He wishes and as it is needed.
Thus, the first message of the Torah is that that the world, including Man, was created to withstand a trial – whether or not we believe in it or accept it. The judgment is the purpose of CREATION
The world on trial?
How can Nature stand a trial? Does it possess a mind and discretion?
One good answer is that Nature must comply with the Natural Laws set up by its CREATOR, ELKM. Even a tiny deviation from those Natural Laws would incur a harsh retribution. A mere change in the size of the atom, for example, would yield a completely different Universe. Our Universe is “elegant and precise” and must abide by ELKM’s Laws. This is one aspect of Nature’s trial by ELKM.
You see ELKM’s judgment in the story of Genesis.
At the end of each Day of CREATION, ELKM passed a JUDGMENT to see whether the passing Day was good or not. A “good” verdict meant the Day could stay on. A “not good” verdict meant the Day would be eliminated. The dinosaurs were not good anymore and therefore terminated. This way, ELKM built and destroyed many worlds” (says Rashi.)
Adam’s trial is, first of all, no different than other creatures in Nature that preceded us. But each creature is judged according to its own talents and gifts. Since Adam is blessed by an intelligent mind, our trial by ELKM involves ALSO moral issues
Is our interpretation of the first verse of Genesis true? Is it genuine? Does the term ELKM stand for the All-Mighty JUDGE?
As it turns out, the Jewish New Year celebrates the annual anniversary of CREATION. It is called “Rosh HaShanah”, the “Head of the Year.” It is a day dedicated to Universal Judgment by ELKM.
Here are some quotations from the New year Prayer Book
“Today is the birthday of the world,
Today you ascend again on your Throne of Judgment
when all the creatures of the world pass before your Throne
as You examine each and every one of them
and dictates their fate for the next year…”
The 13 attributes of Judgment
To fulfil Moses’ First Commandment, that calls for Knowing G-d, we need to comprehend ELK’S ways. Since He created and Judged the Six Days of CREATION, we can derive His Ways from observing Nature
Reading the Story of Genesis, and following tradition, the rabbis came with several classical features of ELKM’s Ways. I’ve summed them up as the following 13 ways (attributes) of Judgments. They are:
- ELKM judges the whole world every Day. In Genesis, ELKM Judges every Day. Tradition says He Judges the world, including us, every minute and every second.
2: ELKM pursues Absolute Justice and Truth
ELoHiM the JUDGE seeks ONLY the Absolute Justice and Absolute Truth. He is JUST.
He is called a “TRUTHFUL JUDGE.”
His nickname is “TRUTH,” Emeth.
His signature is “TRUTH,” Emeth.
For instance: at the cemetery we acknowledge His harsh yet truthful verdict by saying: “Blesses is the Truthful Judge
3: ELKM pays back “Measure for Measure” (Midah for Midah)
ELKM exercises His retributions in a precise way, “measure for measure”. Under His rule, creatures are allowed to eat others, because they too would be eaten in turn. Creatures are allowed to inflict pains on others, since they too would suffer pains in return. Nature is built along these principle of Absolute Justice (with no mercy.)
An example: Years ago, I watched with my children a National Geographic video. It showed a small green snake crawling along a lakeshore, eating on the way tiny frogs one after the other. We felt so sorry about the frogs. But then Then the green snake passed by a huge frog that had been patiently waiting for it. The moment the snake came close, the huge frog snapped the snake head and cut if off. In a moment it swallowed the snake, with the little frogs still twisting in the snake’s belly. Watching this, I jumped up and down shouting: “ELoKiM is here! Measure for measure…” – to the laughter of my children.
Note that being vegetarians won’t remove one from ELHM’s verdict. For who can value the life of a vegetable against the life of an animal? Only the CREATOR would!
- ELoHiM’s judgment is harsh
ELKM judgment is harsh (in our eyes) yet just. He exercises, by definition, NO MERCY. At CREATION, the creatures He deemed “not good’ were eliminated right then and there.
In the Torah, ELKM’s Justice is expressed by the line: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” The verse there says that this law was written by “The Finger of ELKM” (Exodus 32: 15 Justice. But as we’ll see, another Attribute- the Merciful YHVH- steps in and changes the verdict to monetary compensation only.
5: ELKM created the Six Days as a Sole Dictator (“Awesomely Alone”)
During the Six Days of Genesis, ELHM created the world Day by Day by “orders.” Thus, He said “Let there be Light” and Light was there. He said “Let the Earth grow grass” and it did. He said “Let Luminaries hang in the sky to be seen” and they hung in the sky. He ruled Alone, and Nature complied with no one there to reject. Hence, He ruled the world as a “Dictator, awesomely alone,” asking no one’s opinion, consulting no one’s advice. This was change before making Adam.
6: ELKM the JUDGE and BUILDER
At CREATION, ELHM acted not only as an All Mighty JUDGE but also as a BUILDER of a “Six Floors Building” – Nature. Each Day comprised a Floor. At the end of each Day, or each Floor, the BUILDER came and checked whether it was ‘good’ or not. The term “good” meant “in the eyes of the BUILDER,” that the Floor was solid, viable, capable of carrying another Floor on top. A “not good” verdict in the BUILDER’S eyes meant that the Floor would be terminated. Again, ELK’S verdicts as a Builder carried no moral value. They were based on efficiency, and clinging to the Master Plan of CREATION. A creature could be good on one Day, and not good anymore on the next Day, since it has already fulfilled its role in CREATION.
Since we live on the Sixth Day, on the Sixth Floor, we are also judged by ELKM whether we’ve fulfilled our role and are able to support the next Floor. In our case, though, the next Floor or Day is the Seventh Day, the eternal Sabbath.
- ELKM is WISE
ELKM built our Universe by His Wisdom. A hint for that is given in the Hebrew word for “In the Beginning, ELKM created the Heavens and the Earth” The Hebrew for “Beginning” – Be-reishit – can be easily read as “”In the Head of the events.”
Thus, the rabbis said that “ELKM used His Head” (or the wisdom in His Head) to create the Heaven and the Earth. His Wisdom is reflected in Nature and its Laws.
- ELKiM is Kind, the Ultimate Provider.
Merciless and Harsh as He is, yet He is Kind. He is the Ultimate Providerwho cares of His creatures’ needs, providing them with the talents they need for survival. Thus,
1.He gave the vegetation born on the Third Day the talent to perform photo synthesis
2. He gave the fish born on the Fifth Day the gills and fins to breath and swim and eyes to see and a digestive system to consume vegetation
3. He gave the birds of the Fifth Day wings to soar up and catch fish
4. He gave the crocodiles of the Fifth Day the talents to lie like a log and catch birds
5. He gave the cattle of the Sixth Day the talent to consume vegetation
6. He gave the beasts of the Sixth Day he talent to prey on the cattle
7. He gave the crawling creatures of the Sixth Day the tools to bite and swallow other creatures
8. He gave Adam of the Sixth Day the talents to thrive in our habitat, Earth. In His Kindness He also gave us the Torah to show us how to win our Judgment.
- ELoHiM is at the “heart” of Nature
Is ELKM “above” or “below”? The Torah says He is INSIDE everything. How we know? His Name appears 32 times in the Six Days, where 32 is written “Lb”. Now Lb in Hebrew means “heart.” Hence the teaching that the ELKM is at the Heart of Nature, sustaining it as the heart sustains the body. ELHM fills the World as the blood fills the body. There is no Place without Him
Miraculously, the numerical value of the word ELHM is 86, the same as for ‘The Nature,’ Ha-teva. Hence, ELKM is the CREATOR of Nature (rather than Nature itself)
- ELoKiM’s retributions use waters
It is said: “And the wind (spirit?) of ELoHiM was hovering over the waters…” (Genesis 1:2.) The verse implies that
1. ELHM’s Throne of Judgment hovers over waters
2. ELHM uses Water as a whip, as in Noah’s Floo
11: ELKM sees everything
ELHM’s Justice penetrates everything, like water
12: ELHM’s justice is equal for all
Like water surface.
13 ELoHiM weights our merits on His Scale
Our merits on one side, our sins on the other.
The tilt of the scale would determine our verdict and fate
Righteousness and wickedness
When the scale tilts in our favor, we are RIGHTEOUS in His eyes.
When the scale tilts against us, we are SINNERS or WICKED in His eyes.
Hence “righteous” (Tzadik) and “wicked” (Rasha) are verdicts of the Heavenly Court (Maimonides) rather than describing our character
Read also: “Genesis Vs. Science, Can They Match?” By Zvi Aviner, at www.smashwords.com
END OF IDOLATRY- 4