Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky

Parshat Bereshit - Justice and Mercy: Creation One and Two

The creation of the world is introduced to us in two different ways:

Each of the days of creation is prefaced by the phrase, "vayomer Elokim," and the entire account begins with, "Bereishit bara Elokim" ; the shem Hashem is not used. However, when the Torah repeats the story, the shem Hashem is used, as it says, "Hashem Elokim" (2:4-21). Rashi (1:1) explains that originally the world was to be created through middat hadin - the strict attribute Divine Justice, as the name Elokim implies. However, the world could not function on such terms and was eventually created according to the rules of justice and mercy combined. This partnership of middat hadin and middat harachamim is alluded to in the description of Hakadosh Baruch Hu as, "Hashem Elokim". Elokim refers to din, and Hashem to rachamim.

The culmination of creation also occurred in two stages:

Chazal teach us that the entire creation of the world was dependant upon whether the Jewish people would accept the Torah. The first kabbalat hatorah occurred under the rules of middat hadin, so that when Benei Yisrael sinned they should have immediately been destroyed. Middat hadin dictates that immediate and complete punishment be meted out to one who sins. Eventually, Hashem gave Benei Yisrael another chance and instructed them in the 13 middot shel rachamim , thereby enabling a second kabbalat hatorah. It is this second kabbalat hatorah that binds us today a world of the combined middot.

This change from a pure middat hadin to one tempered by middat harachamim is not an event that occurred only at the time of creation or at the time of matan torah- this shift takes place every year. Rosh Hashana is the yom hadin in the strict sense. Corresponding to the original creation, the world should be judged according to the middat hadin. Yet, Hakadosh Baruch Hu knows that we cannot withstand judgement under those terms so He gave us Yom Hakippurim as a chance to be judged according to middat harachamim.

As the entire world could not stand up to the strictness of middat hadin so to the Jewish people could not live up to the first set of luchot. There are individuals who have reached such an elevated spiritual level that Hakadosh Baruch Hucan relate to them according to the middat hadin. These are the tzadikkim towards whom Hashem is "medakdek kechut hasearah." These are the tzadikkim gemurim who do not need Yom Kippur. Chazal tell us that such people are inscribed for life on Rosh Hashana. The day of middat harachamim is only necessary for the benoni - the average person who most of humanity is comprised of. Such people can not live up to the standards of din.

With the yomim noraim still fresh in our minds, let us focus on where we stand in our avodat Hashem as we read parshat Bereishit. Are we going to live our lives like the average person who needs a second creation? Are we going to succumb to the chet haegel in whatever form it manifests itself and need a second set of luchot? Perhaps we can elevate ourselves so that by next Rosh Hashana we are all included in the category of tzadikkim gemurim.

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