Rosh HaShannah: HaYom Haras Olam
- Rabbi Solomon Drillman
- Sep 25, 1995
Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonan
Editor’s Note: The following is based upon a private conversation between HaRav Drillman, zt”l, and the editor which took place on Erev Rosh HaShannah 5755. BGK
As we all know, Rosh HaShannah commemorates the creation of the world. This idea is reflected in the Mussaf of Rosh HaShannah which states “HaYom haras Olam...”, “Today the world was born.” According to Chazal as brought down in Maseches Rosh HaShannah (27a), however, the world was created on the 25th of Elul, so that the day that we Rosh HaShannah, the first of the month of Tishrei, actually marks the sixth day of creation, the day on which the Ribbono Shel Olam created Adam HaRishon and Chava.
HaRav Drillman was bothered by the fact that we commemorate the creation of Man and not the creation of the whole world? This question is especially vexing as it would appear that the greater miracle occurred on the 25th of Elul. The Ramban, on Bereishis 1:1, and Rashi on Bereishis 1:14, explain that on the first day of Creation HKB”H created the entire universe ex nihilo, from absolute nothingness. On the five following days HKB”H “formed” the various creations, making new entities though from existing substance. As the Ba’al HaTanya explains in the Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 20, only the Ribbono shel Olam’s essence, which is free of all limitation, can bring about being from utter nothingness.
HaRav Drillman pointed out that our question is made even more perplexing in that the Torah itself refers to the 25th of Elul, the first day of the world's existence, in Sefer Bereishis 1:5 as “yom echad” (“one day”). As Rashi (loc. cit.) brings down from Bereishis Rabbah (83:8) this terminology is used as opposed to the more intuitive “yom rishon” (“the first day”), thus indicating that on the first day of creation, G-d was “alone in His world.”
Therefore, despite its uniqueness, the 25th day of Elul is overshadowed by Rosh HaShannah because the creation of man opened up a new and deeper relationship between G-d and the created world.
As the Rambam explains in Hilchos Teshuvah (ch. 5) of all the beings created by HKB”H, Man alone can choose to accept Divine sovereignty through the use of the gift of free will. Though obviously HKB”H creates and regulates everything in the universe, those creations do not consciously choose to accept this relationship. In the words of The Rav, zt”l, their link with the Ribbono shel Olam flows from His creativity; and does not result from their own decision making.
With the creation of Man, HKB”H introduced the potential for voluntary acceptance of consent to His will. HaRav Drillman cited the following analogy which he heard from his father, zt”l: the difference between HKB”H's relationship with Man and His relationship with the remainder of creation can be understood by contrasting two distinct forms of absolute rule, tyranny and sovereignty. A tyrant exercises dominion over his subjects without their consent simply by virtue of his might while the subjects of a sovereign, even if he is an absolute ruler, may willingly accept his authority and seek his sovereignty.
Understanding that Man, unlike every other aspect of Creation, has the choice of assenting to Divine dominion or rebelling against the same still leaves us with a question. Why must Divine sovereignty be consciously accepted by Man? HKB”H’s influence and presence in the world encompasses every facet of creation and, in truth, Man is rarely able to recognize the Divine Presence from this perspective. Why, then, should our awareness and recognition be of any importance?
Chazal teach us in the Midrash Tanchumah on Parshas Bechukosai (sec. 3) that HKB”H created the world because He “desired a dwelling place in the lower worlds.” In order to completely realize this desire the establishment of a dwelling place requires not only that the Divine be extended into those realms, but also that those same worlds be aware of, and accept, the Kedushah in their midst. Only then is the Makom HaShechinah in this world complete.
Before the creation of Man, Kedushah and this world appeared to be opposites; this world, the Olam HaTachton, did not relate to the potential with which it is invested. It is only with the creation of man did the possibility for an internalized awareness of Kedushah come into being. Man was created not merely as an end in and of itself, for the purpose of expressing oneness with HKB”H in his own life. Rather Man was also given the potential to inject into the world an awareness of the Divine. The Zohar HaKadosh teaches us that Adam HaRishon gave expression to this possibility on the very first day of his existence by suggesting to all of the rest of Creation, as Dovid HaMelech writes in Tehillim 95:6: “Come, let us bow down; let us bend the knee before Hashem, our Maker.”
Chazal in Maseches Shabbos (10a) explain that by our refraining from work on Shabbos we are sharing this superior relationship with HKB”H with the entire world, and thus Man becomes the Ribbono Shel Olam’s partner, K’vayachol, in Creation. This approach to HKB”H’s relationship with Creation and Man makes Rosh HaShannah, the day of man's creation, eclipse the Creation that began on the 25th of Elul, as the potential for oneness with the Ribbono Shel Olam that came into being only with the creation of Man overshadows all previous levels of creation.
The question, however, remains as to why do our tefillos on Rosh HaShannah proclaim that the world was formed on the first day of Tishrei? Even if it is acknowledged that Rosh HaShannah takes precedence, it was still on the 25th of Elul that the world itself was created.
HaRav Drillman stated that this question can be answered by looking at the Halachos of Tumah v’Taharah, the laws of ritual purity. According to the Rambam in Hilchos Keilim (5:1) the Halachos of Tumah v’Taharah only apply to objects that are complete. For example, a piece of metal that is shapeless cannot become impure until it is fashioned into a Keli, a useful object. Though obviously the metal itself exists, the Halachos of Tumah v’Taharah do not yet apply to the material.
On the other hand, certain types of objects may be deemed to be complete at any one of a number of stages. For example, animal skins can be used at one stage as a blankets or, with further work, can be made into clothing. With such items the question arises as to wether or not the object can become Tamei, ritually impure, in a less developed, though still useful state .
The Mishnah in Maseches Keilim (Ch. 26:7-8) rules that the status of the hide is dependent upon the owner. We mean to say that if the owner would be content with the hide as a cover then the skin is considered impure. However, if the owner were a tanner who would ordinarily be expected to further refine the skin, it is pure.
With an understanding of this halacha we can now understand the status of creation before the creation of Man. The 25th of Elul and the five days following revealed stunning Divine powers. However, the creation of Man totally overshadowed the previous creations because Man revealed a deeper purpose to Creation and revealed that the world's prior existence was to be considered unfinished. Through the creation of Man, HKB”H established a new definition for Existence, according to which the world did not previously exist as a complete entity. Therefore, the anniversary of the Creation of Man is considered to be the anniversary of Creation as a whole.
At the end of his discussion of the Tekufas HaGeulah in Hilchos Melochim, the Rambam quotes the Navi Yeshayahu who prophesies in 11:9, that in the times of Moshiach “the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed.” In other words, the ultimate state of unity between HKB”H and the world will be expressed through universal understanding of the Ways of Hashem and that this will be accomplished through the efforts of Man. However, the reaching of such a madreigah, a level, depends on our ability to perceive and express the Kedushah within the world. It is only by developing a conscious bond with HKB”H and extending that relationship into every element of our existence that we can bring closer the time when that connection will blossom into complete fulfillment in the coming of the Geulah Sheleimah.
May it be that this goal be attained in the immediate future.