In the Beginning

We recite in our Rosh Hashanah prayers, "This is the day which is the beginning of Your acts." A Midrash, however, reveals that the world was created on the twenty-fifth of the month of Elul - six days before. Why, then, do we declare on Rosh Hashanah, "This is the day which is the beginning of Your acts?"

It is also necessary to understand the very concept, "beginning of Your acts", for this infers that "Your acts" include both a beginning and an end. The Talmud, however, informs us that on Rosh Hashanah, "All of Creation is seen in a single Divine glance." The implication is that within an instantaneous glimpse, beginning and end are equivalent. If that's the case, what could the "beginning of Your acts" mean? Rosh Hashanah and the Creation of the world relate exclusively to the Inner Lights…

An additional question arises. The phrase, "Your acts" is written in plural. But G‑d viewed the entirety of Creation in a momentary look. A single act was performed which embraced but one entity.

Due to these apparent contradictions, Chasidut teaches that "Your acts" allude to the Inner Lights which are enclothed within the system of worlds. For, it is specifically the Inner Lights which manifest differentiation, one entity from the other. Likewise, they exhibit sequence and position - beginning and end. We must understand why Rosh Hashanah and the Creation of the world relate exclusively to the Inner Lights.

A Delighting Drive

The Sages asked, "What motivated G‑d to create the world in the first place?" A Midrash answers, "G‑d desired a dwelling place in the physical world." This particular rationale exceeds all others, for it addresses G‑d's deepest aspect: His Supernal Desire and Delight.

Midrash Rabba draws support from the verse, "The world was established with the six attributes". (Songs 5:15) The Hebrew word King Solomon chose to express "the world" actually means "delight". The sages of Midrash Rabba understood the world was created as a result of G‑d's Delight from other verses also. The conclusion of the Creation narrative states, "Thus the heaven and the earth were completed". (Gen.2:1) "Completed" is derived from the same root-word as "delight" as in, "My soul yearns, indeed it expires from ecstasy". (Psalms 84:3).

G‑d's dwelling below is brought about by man's divine service. It's known that Adam, himself, caused G‑d's abode in the physical world; likewise, Jews, through their divine service, achieve a similar result for the Talmud teaches, "Israel is called Adam."

Pleasure Principles

G‑d's desire for a dwelling place below has two components. The first aspect is the simple fact that He desired. His supernal delight exceeds all manner of reasoning and knowledge and is the most sublime of G‑d's attributes. It manifests His Innermost Being.

The second element is the delight itself. What did G‑d delight in? He expressly desired to obtain a dwelling below; in a revealed manner within the confines of Creation. G‑d isn't satisfied with His invisible Presence…

G‑d is above time and space. When He wants something, it automatically comes to fruition. It follows that a perfected world replete with an exposed Divine Presence, in fact, already exists. The moment the Six Days of Creation were completed - relative to G‑d's Delight - His earthly dwelling place was established.

But relative to us, the observers, His lower residence remains concealed. G‑d isn't satisfied with His invisible presence. His ultimate intention is to be revealed within the boundaries of Creation. This is the innovation achieved by man's toil: Divinity's exposed presence in the world.

Revelation Reason

Adam was the first one to introduce Divine revelation into Creation. G‑d wants us to repeat Adam's feat, manifesting the verse, "The L-rd is King; He has garbed Himself with grandeur". (Psalms 93:1) G‑d becomes King when His Majesty is acknowledged, and, as a result, every living creature recognizes, feels, and submits themselves to G‑d's Kingship.

In a similar fashion, we effect G‑d's revelation in Creation by learning Torah and observing mitzvot. That's why David's aforementioned verse concludes, "The L-rd has robed Himself, He has girded Himself with strength"; (Psalms 93:1) a Midrash posits, "The only strength is Torah."

It follows that the principle innovation regarding G‑d's dwelling place below brought about by Jews' effort - is its revelation. Chasidut explains that the culminating fulfillment of the physical world's creation - indeed the very reason it was created - is the Messianic Era and the Resurrection of the Dead. For, at that time Divinity will be illuminated as Isaiah prophesized, "The glory of G‑d will be revealed, and all flesh together will see that the mouth of G‑d has spoken". (Isaiah 40:5)

The future revelation is also present today. Chasidut elucidates how G‑d's power is constantly found within His Creation: The cause is always inside its effect. King David said, "Forever, G‑d, Your word stands firm in the heavens" (Psalms 119:89) which the Baal Shem Tov interprets the verse as, "G‑d's speech brings every entity into existence. It is always present within the object, continuously sustaining and enlivening it." Mashiach's Torah…will be transmitted in a manner of sight, openly revealed to everyone…

Today, with the exception of a few rare individuals, we can't see G‑d's life-sustaining power. But in the Future Era it will be revealed to all. That's why Isaiah said, "All flesh together will see that the mouth of G‑d has spoken." Everyone will observe Him with their physical eyes.

A similar state of affairs will prevail regarding Mashiach's Torah. The novelty of his Torah will be the method of its instruction. It will be transmitted in a manner of sight, openly revealed to everyone.

Afterlife Compensation

The primary reason we study Torah and perform commandments is to reveal G‑dliness in the world. It follows that every mitzvah produces its own, specific illumination of divinity. The Talmud terms this revelation, "The reward the mitzvah's performance engenders." Elsewhere it is referred to as the "Garden of Eden". Every mitzvah we do creates its own Paradise, reserved to benefit the person who fulfilled it.

The Talmud tells us, "A mitzvah's reward is not given in this world." The inference is that we enjoy its benefit only in the World to Come. When does the World to Come commence? Maimonides sheds light on this issue, saying, "The World to Come isn't in the distant future - after the six thousand-year lifetime of the physical world. Rather, it's called the World to Come since it arrives on the heels of an individual's life on earth." In other words, when a person passes away his soul enters the World to Come. The upshot is that the World to Come is extant, even today.

What does "an individual's life on earth" encompass? His daily activity includes the observance of Torah and mitzvot. Through their performance we create our own Paradise. Our contemporary divine service already contains its recompense and attendant revelation. Mishna Avot confirms, "A mitzvah's reward is the mitzvah itself." Although it is imperceptible in our corporal state, nevertheless, it is here.

Now we can understand the Chasidic teaching that every world possesses its own particular the Garden of Eden. Generally, Torah identifies but two levels of the Garden of Eden: Upper the Garden of Eden - the World of Beriya and Lower the Garden of Eden - the World of Yetzira. However, in truth, degrees of the Garden of Eden exist in all worlds, including the bottommost World of Asiya.

Man Model

Regarding Adam, the verse states, "G‑d took Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and to guard it". (Gen.2:15) The Zohar tells us, "'Work' alludes to the two hundred and forty-eight positive commandments; 'Guard' hints to the three hundred and sixty-five Torah prohibitions." Adam's activity serves as a template for all Jews. By observing mitzvot we reveal the Garden of Eden of this physical world. By observing mitzvot we reveal the the Garden of Edenof this physical world…

Elsewhere in Mishna Avot it says, "Better is an hour's worth of repentance and good deeds accomplished on earth than all the life of the World to Come." Why is that? G‑d's Supernal Desire and Delight are realized specifically by our divine service in the physical world. Souls who dwell in the highest spiritual worlds - The World to Come, i.e. Upper and Lower the Garden of Eden - don't generate such intense divine pleasure.

Chasidut elucidates why: "A cause is much stronger than the effect it induces"; since divine service on earth causes the Future Era's revelation, it's axiomatic that it is more exalted.

Notwithstanding these teachings, the consummate fulfillment of the world's creation, the very reason it was created, will be realized in the Future Era. This is because the ultimate purpose of our establishment of a dwelling place for G‑d below is in order for Him to be revealed. And G‑d's illumination within the physical world will occur in the Future Era.

Rosh Hashanah Royalty

Acceptance of the "Yoke of Heaven" is the foundation of man's divine service. This is the gist of Rosh Hashanah, for, at this time, we crown G‑d as our King; in the words of the Talmud, "They enthrone Me upon them" - we submit ourselves before the Heavenly King. And by doing so, G‑d becomes King over Israel and the entire world.

That's why we recite in our Rosh Hashanah prayers, "This is the day which is the beginning of Your acts." For, on Rosh Hashanah, man was created. Precisely by means of man's divine service a descent of G‑d's Presence into all created entities and the system of worlds is affected. And that brings to fruition G‑d's ultimate intention.

By doing so, we reach G‑d's "beginning", as in our Shabbat Eve prayers: "Last in action, first in G‑d's Thought". We attain G‑d's uppermost aspect, above His initial creation Thought.

Ahead of Thought

G‑d's "Beginning" is beyond His initial Creation, Thought. Of that Thought, the Talmud relates, "All of Creation was seen in a single Divine glance." The totality of space-time, our every thought and feeling, are encompassed within this lofty Thought. Yet, on Rosh Hashanah we obtain a realm which has but a "beginning."

Since the principle innovation of our labors is to effect G‑d's revelation, our Rosh Hashanah prayer states, "This is the day which is the beginning of Your acts." The word "this" indicates revelation, as in the verse, "This is my G‑d and I will glorify Him" (Ex. 15:2) at the Song of the Sea; the Talmud relates that even a maidservant pointed her finger and exclaimed "This is my G‑d", such was the exposed appearance of Divinity. "Day" also signifies revelation, in that during daylight hours all can be seen.

Sea Sight

By means of our service we will merit the Divine objective, expressed above by Isaiah, "The glory of G‑d will be revealed, and all flesh together will see that the mouth of G‑d has spoken." This will transpire in the immediate future. The Mashiach will appear; he will redeem us and bring us, upright, to our land. And he will teach us Torah in a manner of sight.

This is as Maimonides asserts, "At that time delicacies will be as common as the dust. The sole preoccupation of the entire world will be to know G‑d, as Isaiah prophesized, 'The whole earth will be filled with knowledge of G‑d, just as the waters cover the ocean bed' (Isaiah 11:9)." (The Laws of Kings) Ocean waters cover the sea - everything in the sea is enveloped by its waters; similarly, G‑d's revelation will blanket the world. His Light will be seen by all. Consequently, all living beings will recognize Him.

Then, mitzvot will be performed in perfection. May the ultimate Redemption occur in the immediate future.

Based on a discourse on Rosh Hashanah 5733 (1972)

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