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Heaven and earth – two worlds or one?

  • RabbiStern
On the second day of creation, G-d separated heaven and earth. This was something so uncharacteristic of Him, because in His world the focus is on unity and harmony rather than on separation and division. In fact, it is for this reason that the Torah does not mention the words “and it was good” on the second day of creation, although it was mentioned regarding all the other days – because when there is division, it is not good.
by RABBI YEHUDA STERN, SYDENHAM SHUL | Feb 22, 2018

Why, then, did He separate heaven and earth? The answer is that on that day of creation G-d was doing more than just defining borders and boundaries between the upper and lower spheres. By dividing heaven and earth, He was creating two different worlds within this world. One world was spiritual, represented by heaven above, and the other was physical, represented by earth below.

In our lives today, so many years later, we are still affected by this heavenly decision. We are driven by two very different forces in our lives: physical and spiritual. Some of G-d’s creations are only physically driven, such as animals. Other creations are only spiritually driven, such as angels. We, however, are positioned right in between the two worlds. Prayer, Torah study, charity and acts of kindness are examples of our spiritual pursuits, whereas work, exercise, marriage and vacations are some of our physical activities.

Are these two worlds aligned? Is there a synergy that connects these two driving forces in our lives? Often the answer is “no”. The spiritual remains spiritual, and the physical remains physical, as shown by the following examples: “What happens at shul stays at shul,” we say to ourselves. Or, “This was written for the rabbis or for the religious people, but not for me.”

The way we run our business, or what we choose to eat, seems to be unrelated to the charity we give or the regular Torah shiur we attend. They are two different worlds, and that is the way we often keep them.

There is a legend told about Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher who analysed human behaviour and taught about the purpose of man. One day his students found him involved in an act of immorality, and they were shocked. They challenged their teacher with: “How could you, after all that you taught us?!”

He replied: “Now I am not Aristotle the philosopher, but rather Aristotle the regular human being.”

This, however, was not G-d’s plan. Indeed, He separated these two worlds, but His intention was that we would bring them together again. Although He created the physical, He wanted us to transform it back into spiritual. We live in these two worlds simultaneously – so we can be the ones to merge the two together.

This is what the Tabernacle in the desert accomplished. Building a home for G-d in this physical world using wood, metals and materials was part of bringing together the physical and spiritual. And so too today, we must do what we can to make this world into a more G-dly place.

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