Shira Sohn
Bat Sherut at Torah MiTzion (2015-16)
Currently a Mechanical Engineer

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Midrash Bereshit Rabba describes that the angels argued with G-d about the creation of man – some told G-d to create man due to man’s good traits of chessed and tzedek, and some told G-d not to create man due to man’s bad traits of sheker (untruthfulness) and quarrelsomeness. The Midrash concludes by saying that while the angels were still arguing with one another, G-d created man and said to the angels – what are you still arguing about? Adam has already been created. This Midrash shows that HaShem created man despite His knowledge of his flaws and evil impulses.

In Parshat Noach, G-d declares His plan to bring a flood to the world. Before bringing the flood, He comments on the nature of man: “G-d saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how every plan devised by his mind was nothing but evil all the time. And G-d regretted that He had made man on earth, and His heart was saddened” (Bereshit 6: 5-6). Rashi comments (on pasuk 6:17) that when G-d brought about the flood, He agreed with the angels that had cautioned Him not to create man. As noted above, this was not a surprise as G-d knew about man’s propensity for sin from the start.

After the flood and upon smelling Noach’s korbanot, G-d again comments on the nature of man: “Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living being, as I have done” (Bereshit 8:21). As we have seen, G-d created man despite knowing his flaws. Once again, although G-d acknowledges man’s shortcomings, He concludes that He will still never destroy mankind. G-d knew about and knows about man’s ability to choose sin, yet created him anyway.

The story of G-d nearly destroying the world is puzzling given the Midrash that G-d created man despite knowing his shortcomings. The answer to this difficulty can be found in the sign G-d gives following the flood. The rainbow is given by G-d to Noach and his sons as a promise that He would never again bring a flood.  Abarbanel asks: What kind of token could this be when the rainbow is a wholly natural phenomenon caused by the refraction of the sun’s rays through raindrops? In other words, if the rainbow is a natural physical phenomenon that existed since the days of creation, how has this now been given to Noach as a sign? The answer is that the sign needed to be a natural physical phenomenon embedded into the natural order of the world! Just as the Midrash explains, G-d knew man would sin from the moment before He created him, yet embedded into the world is His compassionate promise that despite inevitable mistakes, G-d will never fully forsake man.

Eruvin 13b relates a two and a half year machloket between Bet Hillel and Bet Shamai on whether it is better that man has been created or if it would have been better had man not been created. What is the deeper meaning behind each side of this machloket? The Ben Ish Chai, a 19th century Baghdadi commentary, comments about the deeper meaning behind each side of the machloket in his work, Ben Yehoyada. He writes that one side holds that we go quantitatively while the other side holds that we go qualitatively. In other words, one believes that there are more sins than mitzvot in this world, therefore it would have been better had man not been created (quantitative), while the other holds that mitzvot hold more value than sins, so even though there are less mitzvot than sins in the world, the mitzvot carry more weight (qualitative). Although man will inevitably sin, he has an even greater ability to do good in this world. The promise of the rainbow shows us that HaShem has faith in our ability to imbue more good than bad into this world.

Tizku l’mitzvot! Shabbat Shalom!