Once the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitch Rebbe, had to journey to Moscow to intercede with the Czarist government on behalf of the Jewish people. Because the mission was crucial and there was danger involved, on his way, he stopped in Liadi to pray at the gravesite of his mother, Rebbetzin Devorah Leah, and left a note outlining his requests there.

After the Rebbe departed, with some well-intentioned impertinence, some of the chassidim took the Rebbe’s note and read it. After describing the difficulties he was facing, the Rebbe concluded with the following request: “I know that G‑d will find a way to save His people. May it be His will that I merit to have a hand in their deliverance.”

The Rebbe’s request sheds light on the concepts discussed below. G‑d has created the world and invested His intent within it. Man has been granted the privilege of choosing to make that intent his own and use it to guide his life.

Parshas Bereishis

As the Torah relates, shortly after his creation: “Adam gave names to all the animals, the fowl of the heavens, and the beasts of the earth.” As the Midrash indicates, choosing these names was not a casual matter. Before having Adam name the animals, G‑d asked the angels to do so, but they demurred, stating that it was not within their capacity. G‑d then proudly gave the task to Adam, telling the angels: “His wisdom surpasses yours.”

If naming the animals was merely a matter of finding a catchy term and associating it with them, why couldn’t the angels do this? Also, what was so special about Adam that he could?

Giving names was not just an arbitrary choice. As the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, the name of an entity reflects its inner life-force. G‑d created the world through speech and through a series of mystic permutations, the letters of the ten Divine utterances of creation became altered so that can serve as the life-force for each individual created being. Having the wisdom to name an entity implies the ability to see within an entity’s material form and recognize the spiritual energy that maintains it.

Moreover, naming the animals was not intended merely to demonstrate Adam’s wisdom; instead, it was part of his Divine service. For by naming the animals, he called forth this G‑dly potential, bringing it to the surface. Giving them names associated their inner spiritual potential with their actual existence, empowering them to fill their purpose in creation.

This concept relates to the role given Adam — and all of his descendants — in the purpose of creation. Our Sages explain that upon being brought into existence, he addressed all of creation, telling them: “Come, let us bow down; let us bend the knee before G‑d our Maker.” Not only did Adam himself recognize G‑d, he brought all existence to the awareness of His unity.

Before Adam’s creation, the world followed G‑d’s will by force, as it were. G‑d created the world and implanted within it the laws of nature. Thus the existence of the world expresses G‑d’s desire, but the world does not identify with that desire. Instead, G‑d controls it arbitrarily; there is no concept of choosing to acknowledge G‑d.

G‑d created man to reveal a different motif: that His oneness be acknowledged by a created being on his own initiative. He wanted man, even though he has an individual identity and sees the world in terms of his own self, to develop an awareness of Him.

This mission however, involves free choice. For by saying that man has the responsibility to acknowledge G‑d on his own implies that there is the possibility that he will fail to do so and perhaps, like Adam his ancestor, stumble and sin.

Nevertheless, the understanding that the potential for choice was given to us by G‑d, itself indicates that any downturn that sin will bring is only temporary. For G‑d would not give man a potential that would cause harm or misfortune.

Why does G‑d allow man to sin? “To provide an opportunity for teshuvah,” repentance and return to G‑d, for this enables man to attain a higher level of connection with G‑d than he shared before his sin. In this, we can draw on the strength generated by Adam, for the overwhelming majority of Adam’s life was spent atoning for sin and striving for such a renewed connection.

Looking to the Horizon

On the verse: “And the spirit of G‑d hovered over the waters,” our Sages comment: “This refers to the spirit of Mashiach.” What they are implying is that Mashiach’s coming is part of G‑d’s initial intent for creation. Indeed, another source says: “The world was created solely for Mashiach.”

The implication is that the world’s march to perfection is not a casual, haphazard process initiated by man, but a predestined path charted by G‑d. As stated above, man has free choice, but in the long run, that means that he has the right and the privilege to become an active partner in G‑d’s plan or to let the mission intended for him pass him by and be fulfilled by others.

The very fact that G‑d created the world from absolute nothingness implies that He did so with a purpose and a goal. Our Sages explain that His goal was to create a dwelling for Himself, to bring into being a place where He would feel at home just like we feel at home in our own dwellings. Since He created the world from absolute nothingness, there is nothing preventing His purpose from being carried out. The only question is whether we will take an active role or not.