Ten things were created on the eve of Shabbos at twilight. These are: the mouth of the earth, the mouth of the well, the mouth of the donkey, the rainbow, the mannah, the staff [of Moses], the shamir, the writing, the inscription and the tablets [of the Ten Commandments]. Some say also the burial place of Moses and the ram of Abraham our father. And some say also the spirits of destruction as well as the original tongs, for tongs must be made with tongs.

Ethics of the Fathers, 5:6


What would you think of the host who begins preparing the food and setting the tables only after his guests have arrived? This, explains the Talmud, is why the human being was created after all other creatures, on the sixth day of creation. Man is G‑d's "partner in creation," charged to refine and develop the world to its Creator's vision of perfection; so G‑d first readied for him the entirety of creation, "so that he may enter immediately into the banquet."

Nevertheless, the Ethics tells us that ten (or twelve or fourteen) things were created after man, in the closing moment of the sixth day of creation. It would seem to follow, then, that these objects are not part of the furnishings for man's "banquet" and life's work; that while all the other elements of creation serve as the resources and tools with which man completes G‑d's work, these creations lie beyond the scope of human achievement.

Indeed, the Mishnah’s list of things created "on the eve of Shabbos, at twilight" is basically one of supernatural phenomena, whereas our development of the world is specific to the natural arena. We use our natural faculties to refine and sanctify his natural environment; the miraculous, on the other hand, is G‑d's involvement in creation in a manner that seems to preclude any participation on the part of His mortal "partner." In fact, or sages have stated that a mitzvah that is performed by supernatural means is not valid. The entire point of the Divine commandments is that we utilize the natural resources of creation to fulfill G‑d's will.

A significant exception, however, is the final item on the Mishnah’s list - the "original tongs." As the Talmud explains, since the forging of a metal object requires a pair of tongs, how could the first pair of tongs be made? This is why G‑d created the original tongs at the twilight of the sixth day of creation. But assuming that human iron-working could indeed not have commenced without a Divinely fashioned pair of tongs (the Talmud itself goes on to question this premise, pointing out that the first tongs could have been poured out in a mold), why were they created "on the eve of Shabbos at twilight?" Do not the prosaic tongs fall within the category of the tools and resources used by man to develop the world?

More Questions

Also problematic are the exclusion of the 13 other, miraculous “twilight creations” from the “banquet” prepared for man.

In the opening verse of the second chapter of Genesis, the Torah states:

"And G‑d concluded, on the seventh day, His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. And G‑d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it He rested from all His work which G‑d had created to do."

Our sages address the apparent contradiction between the words "And G‑d concluded, on the seventh day, His work" and those which immediately follow, "and He rested on the seventh day." Did He or did He not work on the seventh day? Indeed, since our observance of Shabbos is the reenactment, on the human side of the partnership, of G‑d's resting on the seventh day, how can we say that G‑d concluded His work on the seventh day itself?

In his commentary on the verse, Rashi cites two explanations:

"A man of flesh and blood, who does not have absolute knowledge of his times and moments, must add from the mundane [weekday] on to the holy [Shabbos]. But G‑d, who knows His times and moments, entered into Shabbos by a hairsbreadth, so it seemed as if He concluded His work on the day itself. Another explanation: What was the world lacking? Rest. With Shabbos there came rest, and the work of creation was concluded and finished."

Immediately after telling us that "G‑d concluded, on the seventh day, His work which He had done," the Torah establishes man's partnership with G‑d in creation by concluding that all the "work which G‑d had created" was made "to do." Our sages explain the phrase “to do” (laasot, in the Hebrew) to means "to perfect"; in the words of the Midrash, "all that G‑d created requires perfection" on the part of man.

From all this, one thing is clear: the things that G‑d created in the last hairbreadth of the sixth day of creation, and even the phenomenon of rest created on the seventh day itself, are also part of what "G‑d created (for man) to perfect." So why were these creations not awaiting Adam when he opened his eyes?

Hovering Upon The Waters

From this we conclude that there are two aspects to man's mission in life:

(a) The "banquet" prepared prior to his creation so that he may find everything he needs to refine and develop his environment.

(b) Those elements of creation (the "twilight" creations and the "rest" of Shabbos) that followed man's own and that represent a latter stage in the fulfillment of his function in G‑d's world.

Our Sages compare G‑d to an architect who provides his workers with the raw materials, the tools and the blueprint with which to construct the edifice he has designed. The tools and materials are our faculties and our world's resources, the blueprint is the Torah, and the completed edifice is the world of Moshiach.

Thus, when the Torah says in the opening verses of Genesis, "And the world was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of G‑d hovered upon the waters," the Midrash expounds: "`The spirit of G‑d hovered' - this is the spirit of Moshiach." The spirit of Moshiach is the soul of creation itself, for the Messianic Era is the realization of the world which G‑d envisioned at creation.

But what will we do after this goal has been achieved, after we have eradicated evil and ignorance from the face of the earth? Is history over? Does humanity enter a "golden age" of retirement? G‑d is infinite and He has created us in His image. So our potential for perfection is also infinite: after we attain what is to our eyes the ultimate in perfection, we recognize that another, higher perfection awaits beyond our present horizon of achievement.

But there is a major difference between our current quest to perfect our world and the future challenges of a post-Moshiach world. Today, the focus of our efforts lies in combating the negative. Virtually all "achievement" is defined in these terms: a disease cured, a criminal rehabilitated, a street cleaned. Doing good means feeding the hungry, enlightening the ignorant, bringing peace to warring factions. So our vision of perfection is the obliteration of all evil and suffering from the face of the earth.

And yet, there also exists a higher mode refinement and development. Not the development of an evil-free society, but development within the realm of good itself. Not the separation of the gold from the dross, but a refinement of the gold itself, to attain a new, unprecedented level of quality.

Snippets Of Future

In his commentary on Genesis, Nachmanides writes that G‑d's six days of creation correspond to the six millennia of human endeavor. Just as the six days of creation culminate in a seventh day of Divine withdrawal and rest, 6,000 years of human achievement result in the "day of eternal Shabbos and tranquility" - the era of Moshiach.

But, as explained above, the "rest" of the messianic Shabbos is not an absence of achievement, but a new manner of achievement. Our present-day labors, which largely involve the battling of adversary, are characterized by struggle and toil. Not so the future attainments of the Shabbos-millennium of Moshiach (and, to a lesser extent, those of the present-day weekly Shabbos), which involve only the harmonious progression toward ever-greater levels of perfection.

So the supernatural creations created at the point of time that straddles the six days of creation and Shabbos, and even the element of "rest" created on Shabbos itself, are also elements to be developed in our partnership with the Almighty. Yet these belong to a later phase of our perfection of our world.

All that is part of our present-day efforts preceded our creation, so that the banquet of life's challenges and achievements was laid out when the first human being entered the banquet hall. On the other hand, those elements that represent a toil- and adversary-free mode of development were created later - in order to underscore the fact that, even as we deal with these elements today, they are of a "futuristic" nature.

True, we experience Shabbos for one day of each week of our lives. In contrast to the six workdays of the week, in which we struggle to extricate ourselves from our enmeshment in the corporeal and direct our lives towards positive and holy ends, Shabbos is a day of harmonious refinement. Everything is holier, more spiritual. We withdraw from the challenge to change the world, for the inherent goodness of G‑d's creation is a touch closer to the surface on this day. We cultivate this goodness and enrich it, rather than battle the negative visages of the material. The same is true of the "borderline Shabbos" elements that were created at twilight of the sixth day: they all represent points in history and aspects of our lives where we attained and attain a semblance of this higher, harmonious development process.

But these are all "tastes" of a future world. The fact that they appear only after man has begun his mission upon earth implies that, in essence, they follow the fulfillment of his initial struggle-rife development efforts. That, ultimately, their true time and place is the seventh millennium, the Shabbos that culminates the embattled workday phase of human history.

Means and Ends

The "original tongs" represent a certain aspect of this higher form of refinement. G‑d did not create this pair of tongs for the "banquet" that represents the initial stage of man's development of his world - as pointed out above, humanity could have managed to work iron also without this Divine headstart. Rather, they were created in order to establish a certain truth in creation, one that serves as a prototype and "foretaste" for a refinement within the realm of good itself.

The mitzvah lies at the heart of our refinement and perfection of the world. A person uses his prowess and expertise to earn money, and then appropriates a part of it to charity; a person eats, and then uses the physical energy derived from the food for prayer and study; animal hide becomes tefillin, wool becomes tzitzit, flour and water become matzoh for Passover. Through these acts, we direct our talents and resources to serve G‑d's will, thereby implementing His blueprint for creation.

Obviously, not everything we possess or come in contact with is actually made into a instrument of a mitzvah. But if only 10% of a person's earnings are contributed to charity, the other 90% enables him to sustain his life and his business so that he may continue to give his annual 10%. The same applies to all mitzvos: while only a relatively small percentage of our energies and resources is directly involved in doing a mitzvah, a much greater part of our lives can be utilized to serve as "accessories" to the Divine commandments we fulfill. Indeed, a person can transform his entire existence into a vehicle for implementing the Divine will: his every act and endeavor is either a mitzvah, or an "accessory" that enables or enhances the performance of a mitzvah, or "the accessory to the accessory of a mitzvah," and so on.

According to this, different components of our lives may be viewed in terms of varying degrees of refinement and specialty. For example, the energies one devotes to help another are seen as "better" spent than those exhausted on earning a living. The first is directly involved in one's "partnership with G‑d in creation" while the second plays only a secondary (or third-level or fourth-level) role.

But this grading of areas in our lives by degrees of importance and “holiness” is significant only when the driving force behind one's dedication to G‑d's will is the desire to feel a sense of “involvement” and “partnership” with the Almighty. When such is the case, those activities that more directly involve the realization of the Divine purpose are deemed more lofty and spiritual than the "secondary" aspects of life, and are the source of greater satisfaction and fulfillment.

However, there is a higher, more selfless approach to life. When a person seeks only the fulfillment of G‑d's will, without any thought to his own "achievement" or "involvement," all this is irrelevant. The most spiritual of his attainments and the most mundane detail of his life are equal in his eyes, as they are both vital to the development of creation in accordance with the Divine desire.

This is an example of a further refinement within the realm of good itself. After you have eliminated the negative from your life, after you have directed your every act and resource to your partnership with G‑d, a further challenge awaits you. Your life, while wholly dedicated to the Divine will, now includes elements of "greater good" and "lesser good," measured in terms of the immediacy of their involvement in the fulfillment of a mitzvah. Now, your challenge is to further refine these lower tiers of your life. By shifting the focus of your life from your own sense of closeness to G‑d to the simple desire to fulfill His will, all elements of your existence, including those farthest removed from any direct participation in an overt command of G‑d's, become equally imbued with sanctity and significance.

A pair of tongs, by definition, serve no purpose of its own. Its function is to create other tools that, in turn, will serve some useful function. The "original tongs," formed for the purpose of forging other tongs, is even further removed from any direct utility. The fact that G‑d Himself troubled to create them in the hairsbreadth of time that opens the day (and era) associated with harmonious creation and development, means that also the accessories and secondary instruments in our lives can be elevated to a level of primary connection to the essence and purpose of all existence.