Friday, July 07, 2006

Creation of the world: How

THE CREATION OF THE WORLD

It isn’t a simple matter to create something. In fact, it is not possible.

Before the world, there was only Hashem. In fact, Hashem WAS the world. There was no space, time, dimensions, only Hashem. We can’t even say Hashem was “everywhere”, since there was no space to say “where.” There was only Hashem.

And there can only be Hashem. Being that Hashem is perfect, it means He is, for lack of a better term, every "where”. And every “thing”. It can’t be any other way.

So you can’t really create a world, because then there is something in existence BESIDES Hashem. And if there is something besides Hashem, that means there is a “place” where Hashem is not. A physical world is not a spiritual, Perfect G-d. So where one is, the other is not.

Yet, if Hashem is every “where” (and every “thing”), how can there be “room” for a physical world?

The answer is that Hashem had a way to “make room” for the universe. This is called the “Tzimtzum” (something like “constriction”, or “limitation”). Exactly how it works is a subject of big time controversy, and it was THE primary dispute between Chassidim and Misnagdim in the days of the Vilna Gaon. (Moderator’s Disclaimer: The following explanation is not intended to touch upon this disagreement, but rather to explain, in the simplest terms possible, the basic idea. If it seems for some reason that I have “sided” with one opinion or another, it is purely unintentional.)

Basically, Hashem did not need to “make room” for the universe because the universe does not “take up” space. The universe was created not through adding something to the world, but rather by removing, or even better, by HIDING something. Hashem created the world by hiding His presence and making it APPEAR as if imperfection (that is, physical, material stuff) exists. When you create something, that usually means that you produce something where previously it was not. The “after” is more, better, than the “before”. But when Hashem created the world, it was the opposite: “Before”, there was Hashem’s light, His essence, all over. Hashem hid some of that light, made it “invisible”, blocked it from the eyes of the universe, so that where there was Perfection, there now appears to be imperfection. Where there was G-d, there now appears to be sticks and stones. Where there was infinity, there now appears to be time and space.

G-d created the universe out of darkness, or rather, the lessening, “constricting”, “limiting” of His light. The “after” of the universe is on a lower, lesser level, than the “before”.

G-d hid a certain amount of His light in a certain way, and there appeared a mountain. A different amount of light, in a different way, and there appeared a horse. It’s kind of like scratchboard – you create shapes and sizes by scratching away the ink, not by adding something. Or like making shadow images by blocking light. So too the world was created by concealment and constriction, not by additions or improvements.

Therefore, the world seems like an imperfect place, but that’s only because we are only granted the ability to see part of the light. The word “physical” really means: “where only part of G-d’s light shines”.

As an example: Where Hashem is, there is no such thing as time. Past, present, and future all happen at the same, well, for lack of a better term, “time”. Time only seems to be there because Hashem hides from us the future and the past. Imagine a piece of cardboard, with a tiny hole in it. Look through that hole at the world. You can only see part. Now move that cardboard to the right and the left. You see different parts of the landscape, one after the other, even though all parts are always there. That’s time. G-d allows us to “see” part of the picture now, another part later, another part later, another part later, like one of those binocular-machines on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. As you move it, you get different views. To us, what we view is all that exists. To Hashem, Who lives on the other side of the cardboard, kaviyochel, the entire view – past, present, and future - is visible at once.

So everything in the universe – the universe itself – is created through hiding and blocking of Hashem’s Light (i.e. His visible presence). Hashem Himself, Who exists outside of His creation, is not bound by time, place, or any physicality whatsoever.

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