Here’s the good news.

G‑d could have kept His plan and motive for creation a secret, leaving us to grope in the dark; in His kindness, He did not.

Here’s the better news. This is what He was thinking:

“In addition to submissive angelic beings, I shall create assertive human beings, and give them a mind and will of their own.

“Moreover, instead of dominating man, I shall give him dominion. Even more, in place of creations, I shall make creators.”

Just think about it for a moment.

But why would a perfect G‑d create an imperfect world?If G‑d would so have desired, the stork baby-delivery system could have worked. Imagine: no hormone-distorting, energy-sapping, nine-month stretch of misery. While the thought carries great mom-appeal, that plan was vetoed since the result would strip us of creatorhood.

Now, where I come from, the powerful try to control the powerless, and the mighty retain—as opposed to delegate—their strength. So if I were G‑d, I’d have kept creation for myself. After all, you don’t want people to get the wrong idea.

The Creator of creators, however, is clearly more trusting, and created our world not for power, but in order to empower.


But there’s actually more astonishing news.

Not only did G‑d give humans independence and autonomy, He was even willing to partner with them in creation!

“All that G‑d created in the six days of creation, He created in need of mending. As it says, ‘G‑d created, in order to do.’1 This teaches that the world was created imperfect.”2

But why would a perfect G‑d create an imperfect world? For no other reason than to grant others the opportunity to fix it.

But who other than He could mend a break in our world? To whom might He allocate the ability to perfect?

That would be us humans, G‑d’s partners in creation.


The mystics, constantly “pushing the envelope,” take this idea to the next level, in saying that G‑d created the physical world in order to be welcomed into it by creation.3

Meaning to say: instead of imposing His will on creation, He left to their discretion the decision whether to recognize and worship Him.

We are more than G‑d’s chosen nation, we are also His choosing nationIn addition to choosing man, G‑d desired to be chosen by him. We are more than G‑d’s chosen nation, we are also His choosing nation. Chosen in order to choose.

Which brings us to this mind-boggling conclusion: We’re much more than partners; it’s we who provide the pay!

G‑d created creators, who would also partner with Him, who would also make true His deepest wish.

The Ascetic Who Deprived G‑d

A lovely story comes to mind.

The holy Baal Shem Tov, before he became renowned, made it a custom on his travels to ask after the wellbeing of those he encountered. He would delight in hearing the endearing expressions and praises of G‑d that his inquiries would evoke, thus bringing merit to those who laud G‑d’s name.

On one of his visits, he heard about a village elder whose piety was said to be unmatched. This man would wake early, pray and learn in the synagogue with intensity through the day, and break his fast—on water and bread—only late at night.

Intrigued, the Baal Shem Tov went to see him. Upon entering the synagogue, he noticed the man in a corner of the hall immersed in study. As per his custom, the Baal Shem Tov inquired after his health and livelihood. The sage didn’t pay him much attention. The Baal Shem Tov asked again, but was again ignored. This repeated itself until the fellow motioned for him to leave.

At this point the Baal Shem Tov asked softly, “Rebbe, why won’t you give the Almighty His livelihood?”

Upon hearing these words, the scholar was taken aback. This was no simpleton after all.

“G‑d anticipates our praises; who, then, are we to hold back?”The Baal Shem Tov continued: “All of creation is sustained by G‑d, but what of G‑d’s ‘nourishment’? It is in reference to this that King David says in Psalms,4 ‘And You, O Holy One, are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.’

“G‑d anticipates our praises; who, then, are we to hold back?”

A Joint Effort

This empowering idea runs through much of Jewish thought. Take the Torah portion of Bechukotai for example. It both opens and concludes with this theme.

The first verse of the reading:

“If you will go in My statutes and observe My commandments . . .”5

Our sages explain6 that “going in G‑d’s statutes” is a reference to rigorous Torah study.

Both Torah study and mitzvah observance are prime examples of the G‑d-human alliance. The Torah as given at Sinai, though unlimited in spirit and potential, was limited in body, much like a seed—so much contained in so little. From allusions to codes, much of the Torah requires deciphering and explication. Even the explicit is implicit, containing instruction and direction for future times and circumstances, but heavily in need of application.

Ever since Sinai, the Torah’s corpus has grown exponentially through the efforts and contributions, expounding and expanding, of millions of Jews throughout the ages.

But why didn’t the perfect G‑d create a perfectly clear and exhaustive document to begin with? That would have rendered the Talmud and Jewish codes of law and responsa redundant, saving Jewish scholars billions of precious hours spent in debate!

But it would have rendered our Torah input redundant as well, leaving nothing for us to contribute.

Instead, G‑d endowed us with the ability to take part in developing this seminal piece of Divine wisdom.

We are enabled to create holiness from the mundaneThus, one might say that when speaking of Torah as a gift, we are expressing gratitude not only for having merited a slice of Divine wisdom, but for the ultimate gift of being allowed to grow it.

His Holiness

Mitzvot, as well, are a program of empowerment, providing us with the ability to sanctify ourselves and all things material.

Not only are we granted the ability to welcome holiness into the mundane, we are enabled to create holiness from the mundane.7

The tefillin or mezuzah, for example, transform coarse animal hide into a refined vehicle for communion: an item not inherently sacred, made so by man’s actions.

This brings us to the closing of the reading of Bechukotai, which highlights further the sacred touch of man.

“A firstborn that will become a firstling for G‑d among livestock, a man shall not consecrate it . . . it is G‑d’s.”8

Here we learn that firstborn cattle are “born to be holy.” A holiness whose presence we facilitate, but take no part in creating—“A man shall not consecrate it.”

In the final verses of the reading, however, we encounter the full scope of man’s ability to mirror G‑d’s creation of holiness:

“Any tithe of cattle or of the flock which passes under the staff, the tenth one shall be holy to G‑d.”9

Here it isn’t G‑d who chooses which animal will become sacred; rather, it is the act of man, through his staff, which produces holiness.10

What’s in It for Me?

Making place for others is a divine attribute.

Let’s build and empower our fellows, as G‑d does.11

After all, “In man G‑d trusts.”

Let’s do Him proud.