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Through The Eyes of a Woman

Bereishis: Making Light of the Creation

[In her opening words at this class, Nechoma pointed out the importance of the sichah which she was about to teach -- the second sichah on Bereishis in Volume 10 of Likkutei Sichos -- and which she had taught a week earlier at the Kinus HaShluchos in America. She also made a special request -- that anyone who enjoyed the sichah should promise themselves (bli neder) to study it again with a friend, or with their husband, or even with their older children.]

In Pirkei Avos our Sages state that HaShem created the world with ten utterances. The very first of these utterances[6] is "Vayomer Elokim, yehi or" -- "And G-d said, 'There shall be light.'" Since He created the world with ten utterances, no more and no less, then obviously each of them was absolutely necessary. Moreover, each one represents a further stage of development. Accordingly, the order in which they were uttered didn't just happen haphazardly. There was a specific order involved: The order in which things are presented in the Torah is also Torah! In other words, not only do we learn practical lessons from the content of what is said in the Torah, but also from the order in which things are written in the Torah.

Given these principles, the Rebbe now asks: Why was light the first thing to be created? When HaShem created this fantastic world, with millions and billions of things, why did He choose to create light as the first thing of all? Remember that the content as well as the order are important. "Oh," you might say, "this is obvious -- because light is so important." So the Rebbe asks further: "Granted, light is important, but whom is light important for?"

At first glance, we would conclude that light is useful only to those creatures who can see, or make use of light in some way or another. Light only reveals what is already there. We all know if we would have come into this very shul in the middle of the night when it's pitch dark, we would walk very, very slowly because we know there are benches and tables, and other objects, and so we would be afraid of falling. But all you need is one tiny bulb, and all of a sudden you feel safe. You see where the aisle is, you see where the table is. So what did the light do? Did it change anything? Did it add anything? Nothing! It just showed you what was there. But now that you know what's in the room, you feel confident. In chassidic terminology this is called gilui -- revelation.

So the Rebbe asks: Since the function of light is to reveal, then what possible accomplishment can it be to have light when there is nothing to reveal, on the very first day of creation, when there was as yet nothing else? Moreover, not only was there nothing to reveal, there was no one to reveal it to!

When we were little, my father always used to say, "Turn off the light. It's not my job to support Con Edison Electric Company. If you're in the room doing homework, bevakashah (you're welcome). But when you go out, turn off the light!" There is no reason to pay electric bills when there is no one there who needs the light. So light is only important if somebody is using it. But as soon as you go out, shut off the light! So why did HaShem put on the light on the first day of creation? There were no people until the sixth day, when Adam was created. There weren't even any animals which could distinguish between light and darkness until the fifth day. You might say HaShem wanted to create light for the plants, which also need light in order to grow. But they were created only on the third day. In other words, until the third day there was nothing in the world that required light. So at the very earliest, light should have been created at the end of the second day, so that it would be ready for the plants on the third day. Why then was it so important to create light on the first day? He could have created it even the day before. You don't want to have the beds ready long before the guests come!

Rashi comments that the light created on the first day was not the light that we are familiar with, which originates in the sun. When was the sun created? On the fourth day! So obviously, the light that shone from the very beginning of creation was not sunlight. Rashi continues, explaining that HaShem concealed the light He created on the first day for use in the future, le'asid lavo. He hid the light that He created on the first day, and will reveal it again when Mashiach comes. Based on this, the Rebbe asks a second question: Since this light was not intended to be used on earth at present, why did He create it altogether? What was the purpose of creating something, and saying, "I'm hiding it. I'm holding it in my treasure house, and I'll give it back in 6000 years!" But, if HaShem did it, there's got to be a specific reason why He did it precisely this way.

The Zohar, one of the earliest Kabbalistic works, written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, states that the Hebrew word for light, or has the same numerical value as the word raz, which means "secret." Kabbalistic teachings explain that the fact that two words have the same gematria, or numerical value, shows that intrinsically they have a connection, although that connection may not always be obvious. But it seems that in this case, although or and raz have the same gematria, they are completely opposite concepts. Light signifies revelation, whereas raz, a secret, is something concealed. A secret is thus the opposite of light. So, the Rebbe asks, how could words which have completely contradictory meaning have the same gematria?

In order to answer all of the above questions, the Rebbe quotes an analogy given by the Midrash for the process of creation: When a king of flesh and blood wants to build a palace, he first prepares architectural plans and blueprints. When everything has been planned out on paper, only then does he actually start the construction. The same idea applies to the way HaShem built the world, declares the Midrash.

The Rebbe explains that of course the reality is exactly the opposite. A king of flesh and blood builds this way because this is the way HaShem designed and built the world. Everything down here is the way that it is, because it stems from the way things are Above. That is why our Sages state that the Torah was the blueprint of creation. "HaShem looked into the Torah and created the world." The Torah preceded the world, and therefore if we want to know how things should be, we must look into the Torah to find out. Nevertheless, the Midrash uses the analogy of a king of flesh and blood so that we will be able to relate to the concept and understand it more easily.

In terms of human behavior then, before a person makes up his mind to do something which requires some effort and organization, he first decides what the purpose of the proposed action is. Only once he has done that, does he begin to plan how to go about it, and finally actually put the plan into effect. Now, at each stage of the implementation of the plan, although one has the ultimate goal in mind, one generally concentrates only on that particular aspect of the activity, and not on the enterprise as a whole. Let me give you an example: Since the year 5748 (1988, when the Rebbe first spoke about how birthdays should be celebrated), birthdays have become a big thing in our lives. (My children, for instance, made me a birthday party and they put my age on streamers on the window in giant letters....) Now, how could you make a birthday without a cake? You have to have a birthday cake! Although I'm not such a big baker these days, I realize the necessity, and so I bake the kids a cake. Of course, not every cake is the same, so you have to take orders -- what kind of cake, what kind of decoration, a chocolate cake, white icing, pink icing, etc. So one day my kid comes home from his friend Yankie's birthday party and says, "Yankie had a chocolate cake with white icing and sprinkles, and make me a cake just like that!"

"Sure, anything you want."

I look through the cookbook and find a recipe for the cake, and another one for the icing. First and foremost, I ask myself, what do we need to make the cake? The recipe says flour, baking soda, margarine, sugar, etc. Oops, I'm out of margarine, so I'll have to send one of the kids to the store, and another one to borrow a round pan from my upstairs neighbor. I get out the flour and the sifter and start sifting. So I have to do a few activities before I can create a cake like the one my son ate at his friend's house. Meanwhile, the kid's getting nervous. He says, "Mommy, what about the cake? You're wasting so much time, going to the store and sifting the flour."

"Tattele," I reply, "in order to make a cake there are a few things you have to get first. I don't have all the ingredients."

A previous cake-baking incident comes to mind, while I'm explaining the finer points of cake-baking to my son. For her last birthday, my daughter decided that she would bake the cake herself. So she said, "Mommy, I'll bake the cake and I'll just, you know, ask for help." So far, so good. The recipe was in Hebrew, so I figured that nothing could go wrong. She puts it all together, and then calls me to the kitchen, "Mommy, can you come in and taste it, just to see if it's okay?" So I go into the kitchen, and something tastes funny. The cake is bitter as wormwood. "What did you put into this cake?" I said, "Did you follow the recipe exactly?" So we started reading the recipe. "You put in two cups of flour?"

"Yes."

"A cup of coffee? You put in a cup of coffee like the recipe says?"

"Yeah," she replies. "I measured out a whole cup of instant coffee and I put it into the cake, just like it says here -- 'kos cafey!'" OK.

"But wait a minute," I say to myself. "This needs some clarification. Did she mean a spoon of coffee and a cup of water, or a whole cup of coffee? Coffee as she is drunk, not half of the can!" Well, you might have guessed why the cake was so bitter. So what did we learn from that? That in order to make a cake taste good, you have to do things exactly right. A lesson in life!

While I'm reminiscing, the kid is getting nervous. I'm wasting too much time getting all the pans and the ingredients and sifting the flour. "You're going to have a cake," I assure him. "Just watch." So finally I get the mixer out and start baking the cake. After two hours the cake is on the table and I take out the decoration and get to work on stage two. Finally, some three hours later, we have a cake, just like his friend had. This finished product was exactly what he had in mind. I'm greatly relieved.

Let's get back to the main point. Just like a mother baking a cake begins her task with an image of the finished product in her head, but must go through a long and involved process until the cake comes out the way she imagined it, so too, lehavdil,[7] when HaShem created the world, He had in mind what he wanted the world to be, and a master plan for achieving it. In order for the world to achieve the final product which He originally had in mind, every ingredient has to be taken care of, and every stage has to come in the right order.

When Mashiach comes, and everything will be revealed, when the light that HaShem was saving will be turned on, everything will be revealed. Then we will see clearly what was concealed during the galus. We'll understand why there had to be illness and tragedy, pain and suffering, that to our understanding seemed completely unnecessary. Now we do not understand, just like the little boy who doesn't understand why his mother is wasting so much time with the eggs and the flour and margarine. He wants a cake! In the era of Mashiach the final plan will be revealed and we will then see everything very clearly.

The revelation of this G-dly light that was created on the first day is the ultimate goal of creation, the Rebbe explains, and will be revealed when Mashiach comes. But in the meantime it is hidden from us (but only from us, not from HaShem). Thus, when He created light on the first day of creation this was both the statement of His purpose in creating the world, and the blueprint and plan of creation.

The Rebbe explains further that the expression, Yehi Or -- "There shall be light," is in the future tense -- signifying the light that will be, things will be revealed, when Mashiach comes. However, this is not only a prediction, so to speak, about what will be in the future, but also a promise -- "I promise you that the day will come when all of this darkness will be light." When Mashiach comes, you will see that everything that happens in the world will be revealed as G-dliness.

Nevertheless, the revelation of this light is very much dependent upon the avodah -- the divine service -- which we do during the galus, as a result of the Torah and mitzvos which we do now, as the Alter Rebbe states in Tanya (Chapter 37). Through Torah and mitzvahs, in which the light has been hidden, the entire creation will come to the fulfillment of its purpose.

Here the Rebbe adds another point -- which makes the entire sichah particularly relevant to us as baalabustas (homemakers) and the mothers of small children. Since we are involved in the daily nitty-gritty of homemaking, it is vital for us to remember that in every detail of the daily activities which are required to keep our homes running smoothly, and our children headed in the right direction, there is a nitzotz -- a "spark" of G-dliness. In order to reach the final target, we have to carry through all of these other details. But we must never get so caught up in the humdrum of daily survival, that we fail to see the purpose of our existence -- to reveal light. There are numerous, numerous opportunities for revealing light. We just have to keep our eyes and ears open for those opportunities. And then we are promised -- "there shall be light," even though we do not see it now.

Although the ultimate good -- when all of creation will be filled with light ("there shall be light") -- will only be revealed in the future, nevertheless, HaShem regards every step along the way as also good. That is why, after the completion of every stage of creation, the Torah states, "and HaShem saw that it was good," just as it states regarding the light created on the first day. In fact, light in the Torah is always associated with good. When Moshe Rabbeinu was born, it is written that Yocheved, Moshe's mother, "saw that he was good." Rashi explains, "because the house became filled with light." (Incidentally, there is a tradition we have from the Baal Shem Tov that the most important feature of an apartment is not if it has a big kitchen, or a private bathroom off the parents' room, but whether or not it is bright or not. If it is a lichtige apartment then consider buying it.)

HaShem regarded each aspect of creation as good. This means that the "light" and the purpose of creation was imbued within every aspect of creation -- in rocks, in the trees, in fish, etc. -- so that every creature will be able to achieve the ultimate purpose for which it was created. In every part of the creation the light, the divine spark, exists, even if we don't see it. The same thing applies to every event in the universe, even the most painful. Since everything takes place by hashgachah peratis (Divine Providence), everything plays its part in the realization of the ultimate purpose of creation.

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Although our Sages state that the word Bereishis is also one of the ten utterances, nevertheless, it refers only to the creation of primordial matter, as explained by Ramban. Ed.
  2. (Back to text) "To make a distinction between the holy and the mundane."
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