Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
The Purpose of Creation
The wisdom of Hashem is expressed to us in two ways, via the world of nature and the world of Torah. Both, the natural world and the world of Torah speak of the greatness of Hashem. Rashi comments on the first word of the Torah, "Bereishis", that there is a relationship between creation and the Torah. The Torah is referred to as reishis, the beginning, which teaches us that the entire creation of the world was for the sake of Torah. Thus, the wonders of creation testify to the wisdom of the Creator, and through the study of Torah, we are privileged to involve ourselves with the knowledge of Hashem.
This relationship between creation and the Torah requires of us to view the natural world in a unique manner. The primary purpose of all creation is to enable us to observe the Torah. If we utilize the natural world for its primary purpose, we are then permitted to benefit from it for our own needs. An example of this idea appears in the description of the creation of the sun, the moon, and the stars. The Torah tells us that they were created to be signs for the days, seasons, and years. Rashi comments that this refers to their role in determining the season of the yomim tovim. After the Torah establishes their primary purpose in assisting us to perform mitzvos, we are told that they were also created to give us light. We learn from here, that one can only benefit from the physical world if one first uses its gifts for their true purpose.
Chazal in maseches Pesachim (49b) tell us that one who does not study Torah, has no right to partake of meat. The commentators explain that one who does not study the Torah which is written on the skins of animals, in essence, is not using the animal world for its primary purpose. Such an individual has no right to use animals for his own materialistic needs.
Chazal have a fascinating interpretation for the pasuk which describes the seven species of produce with which Eretz Yisrael was blessed. Each of the foods mentioned in the description of Eretz Yisrael corresponds to a halachic measurement (maseches Eruvin, 4a). Eretz Yisrael is blessed with olives and the amount of food which constitutes a halachic act of eating is the size of an olive. Eretz Yisrael is blessed with dates - if one eats the measurement of a date on Yom Kippur, then one is subject to punishment.
Why is it significant to link the various halachic measurements to the fruits of Eretz Yisrael? Chazal are teaching us how to view all of creation. One who views creation through the eyes of the Torah sees, in an olive, a halachic concept. Stories are told of Torah scholars who would look at a fence and immediately ponder whether the fence was acceptable for an eruv. Similarly, when a Torah scholar looks at a lake he does not see a body of water but rather a potential mikva. Everything in the world was created to enable us to observe the Torah. We have to open our eyes to see the primary purpose of creation.
We not only view creation through the lens of Torah, we view the unfolding of history in a similar manner. The Beis Halevi comments on a difficult wording of a pasuk following yetzias Mitzraim (Shmos, 13, 8). We are commanded to relate the events of yetzias Mitzraim to our children. We are told to relate the story as we point to the korban Pesach, the matza and the marror. We tell our children that because of the korban Pesach, matza and marror we were taken out of Mitzraim. It would seem that the order of the pasuk should be reversed and instead say that we observe these mitzvos because we were taken out of Mitzraim, not the other way around. What do we mean when we say that yetzias Mitzraim took place because of these mitzvos? The Beis Halevi explains that the Torah is teaching us how to view history. Hashem wanted to give us these mitzvos and orchestrated history in a manner to make these mitzvos meaningful to us.
When we look at the natural world and at historical events we have to view them with the proper perspective. All of creation and all of history are to enable us to observe the Torah. May we merit that Hashem opens our eyes to view His creation and His hand in history, in their proper light.