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Are we creation’s purpose, or an afterthought to the mosquito?

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RABBI DOVID HAZDAN

In fact, this birthday marks the birth and creation of Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation. If we are commemorating the advent of the world, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to celebrate Rosh Hashanah on the first day of creation? Why is the birthday celebration delayed to the day in which Adam and Eve arrived, six days later?

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38) explains that our late arrival was to deter us from arrogance, to remind us that even an insignificant mosquito preceded us in creation. The Talmud then presents an alternative opinion. It suggests that we entered into the arena of creation as the most important guest who enters the banquet hall only once every detail is already in place. All is readied to receive the honoured VIPs of creation – Adam and Eve.

These opinions seem mutually exclusive. Is the human being an afterthought to the mosquito, or are we the very purpose of creation?

Chassidic teaching explains that every form of existence has its defined potential and purpose. The lowest form is the inanimate. It has no apparent sign of life. The vegetative world is more elevated as it has the capacity to grow and bear seed. The animal kingdom has personality, emotions, and the freedom of mobility. The human being has the sophistication of intelligence and intellectual capacity.

The spiritual ecosystem allows for the elevation of the inanimate, and for it to be absorbed into the world of the vegetative, which draws nutrients from the soil. The vegetative world is assimilated into the animal kingdom that feeds on the plants. The animal can be elevated into the world of the human, who derives energy from the brute strength and force of the animal.

But what then? What’s the next stage in this spiritual ecosystem?

Humans are far more than homo sapiens. We have been endowed with infinitely more capacity than intelligence. We have a G-dly soul that aspires to achieve meaning, purpose, and spiritual elevation. We are a composite of the dust of the earth and the spirit of holiness. We are the only creature that is not pre-programmed. We have conflicting instincts and drives to indulge in the material and reach for the divine. We have the ability to choose the direction and definition of our lives.

We are the last all-important link in the chain of elevation. We hold in our hand the key of creation. We alone can make the decisions on which the world around us depends. Will we fail the challenge and degenerate back into the world of the animal, vegetative, or even the inanimate? Or will we elevate our surroundings to reach for the spiritual purpose of G-d?

If we descend into the realm of self-indulgence, the Talmud reminds us that we are not the first parasite of creation. We are, in fact, the afterthought to a mosquito.

But if we choose the route of serving a higher, more sublime purpose, the Talmud reminds us that the entire world is waiting for the pre-eminent last creation – the human being – who is endowed with strength and ability to build a kinder, more gentle, G-dly world.

It’s on Rosh Hashanah that we re-embrace our raison d’etre, and determine why it is that we were created last. We are the author of the reason for our late arrival in creation. By our mind-set and focus on Rosh Hashanah, we determine whether we are the afterthought to the mosquito, or the honoured VIP of the banquet hall.

The birthday of the world is celebrated on the day of the birth of Adam and Eve – not before then. We celebrate the advent of our magnificent world only with the arrival of the agents who can cultivate G-d’s beautiful garden into a dwelling place for Hashem.

As we listen to the stirring sound of the shofar, let us stretch beyond our selfish entitlement. As we pray to G-d to grant us a sweet and happy new year, let our thoughts also be filled with resolve and commitment. We have the capacity to dedicate ourselves to sweeten the world for others. We can muster our talents and abilities to share, contribute, and commit ourselves to the broader needs of the community.

The sound of the shofar can pierce the heavens and awaken G-d’s mercy and kindness. But, Maimonides teaches us that we are the ones who need to be woken. The shofar stirs us from the habits of mediocrity to reach for excellence. It beckons us to move beyond our comfort zones, and aspire to a higher purpose.

On this Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of man and woman, let us resolve to unwrap our gift of a new year. More importantly, let us unwrap and reveal our own individual potential to live each day ahead with creative commitment and resolve to have a positive impact on all G-d’s children, to elevate our surroundings, and to recreate the garden of Hashem in a world redeemed.

  • Rabbi Dovid Hazdan is the dean of Torah Academy, and the rabbi at Great Park Synagogue.

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