PARASHAT BERESHIT: The truth that is thrown to the ground

The truth waits to be collected with due respect.

MAN’S ROLE is to collect sparks of truth and connect them, until the entire truth arises from the earth.’ (photo credit: PUBLICDOMAINPICTURES.NET)
MAN’S ROLE is to collect sparks of truth and connect them, until the entire truth arises from the earth.’
On the first Shabbat after Sukkot, we once again start the annual cycle of reading the Torah portions. Every Shabbat we convene in the synagogue for prayer and reading of the Torah portion, one section of the Five Books of Moses. The first portion, which we will read this Shabbat, is Parashat Bereshit. As its name depicts, the parasha deals with the story of Bereshit, the creation of the world and of humanity.
The beginning of the beginning is described in the first few verses of the Torah: “In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth” (Genesis/Bereshit, 1:1). Seven days of beginning, during which everything was created. Each stage of creation culminated in the saying, “And God saw that it was good” (Genesis/Bereshit, 1).
Man was created on the sixth day: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...’ And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis/Bereshit 1:26-27).
The words, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” are written in the plural. Who was Hashem talking to when He decided to create man?
The Midrash mentions the first person who wrote the Torah, i.e., Moshe Rabenu, who wondered what this was all about: “When Moses was engaged in writing the Torah, he had to write the work of each day. When he came to the verse: ‘and God said: let us make man,’ etc., he said, Sovereign of the Universe! Why do you give an excuse to heretics?” (Genesis/Bereshit Rabbah, 8:8)
Many solutions were given to this question, with the most astounding being that quoted by the Midrashic sages:
“When the time came for the Holy Blessed One to make the first human being, the ministering angels made themselves into competing counsels. Some of them said, ‘don’t create humans,’ and the others said, ‘create them.’ The angel of kindness said, ‘create them, for they will do acts of loving kindness.’ Then the angel of truth said, ‘do not create them, for they will be full of lies.’ The angel of righteousness said, ‘create them, for they will establish justice.’ The angel of peace said, ‘do not create them, for they will be in constant strife!’ What did the Holy Blessed one do, but grab up truth and hurl it to the earth. Whereupon the ministering angels said before the Holy Blessed One, ‘Ruler of all worlds, what have You done? Why have You so chastised the chief of your court? Let truth arise again from the earth’” (Bereshit Rabba, 8:8).
This wonderful Midrash describes Hashem’s consultation with the angels whether He should create man or not. Our sages bring this Midrash as an example of the complexity of the human being: on the one hand, man is righteous and kind, but on the other, he is full of lies and strife. Humanity has succeeded in reaching to the most amazing peaks of morality and goodness, but has also gone down to the lowest pits of disgusting behavior. This is the same humanity, which portrays both beautiful and ugly sides. Was the creation of man a successful enterprise? Was the free will given to man to choose between good and bad not too much of a risk?
How did Hashem deal with this dilemma? He threw truth down to the earth and when the angels cried out against the humiliation of the truth, Hashem calms them down, saying, don’t worry, truth will arise from the earth.
One of the great Jewish leaders of Kabbalah, the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, 1534-1572) explained the throwing of the truth and its arising from the earth that pure truth is, in fact, contradictory to human nature. But when truth is thrown to the ground, it splits up into many shards which are dispersed throughout the world. These are “sparks” of truth, embedded in each and every human being. Man’s role is to collect these sparks of truth and connect them, until the entire truth arises from the earth.
This approach is cautious. It does not glorify man, which might lead to moral injustice and even to the creation of an anti-moral approach. But, it also does not humiliate man and regard him as the epitome of lies and one who is not worthy of appreciation. True, man is a complex being. He has the tendency to lie, but he also has the spark of truth, which will not die out. No man can be annulled; the voice of each deems worthy of being heard. The truth has been thrown to the ground and it waits to be collected with due respect – from the voices of human beings, from the questions of children, and from the answers of their parents. It is out there and we approach man, every man, who carries it with the greatest of respect.
The greatest of respect, but also with the greatest of care – because there is no one person who represents the ultimate and complete truth. There will always be another person, regardless of his status, background or profession, who carries within him another spark of truth, slightly different to the one we know. There will always be another shade of truth, giving a new dimension to the larger picture of reality. Modesty – this is the first characteristic that we must acquire. Even before man was created, this was clear: without modesty, truth will remain thrown to the ground, neglected and abandoned. Only if we learn to lower our outlook and search after it – will we find more and more sparks of truth – in our hearts and in the hearts of our fellow man.

The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites.