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The Turning Point in Egypt – Part II

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Leah Kohn

Pirke Avot tells us, Hashem created the world with ten utterances. Couldn’t He have created the world with just one? The sages explains that Hashem used ten utterances to give good reward to the righteous who give existence to the universe that was created with ten utterances, and in order to decimate the wicked who destroy the world that was created with ten utterances.

The Torah begins with the words, “Bereishit bara Elokim et hashamayim v’et ha'aretz.” The word et is mentioned twice. The commentators explain that it comes to add something. Chazal say that in the very first moment of creation, the building blocks of all of creation came into being. For the next six days, Hashem shaped and formed each of the different parts into specific creations. If Hashem would have created the whole world with one utterance, people could deny this one utterance and it would be all or nothing in terms of their spiritual state. A wicked person who would choose to do evil would have only one choice to make, to believe in Hashem as the source of everything. If he does, he fulfills his purpose, and if not, he is ultimately destroyed. Hashem in His mercy did not want it to do this. Thus He created the world with ten utterances.

In Hebrew, the world is called olam, from the root word ulam, to hide. Hashem conceals Himself in this world so that free choice can exist. It is possible to go through life without ever recognizing Him. But it isn’t a matter of one mistake or good choice. A person can be a partial believer. He can believe Hashem created the world, but he might think He is not involved in its day to day running.

In the process of creating, Hashem covered Himself with ten layers. Every creation created levels of more concealment. He enabled people to make ten mistakes. When a person reveals Hashem in this world, when he brings kavod shamayim, he can do it on many different levels and his reward in turn is very great. Similarly, if he degrades His name, his punishment too will be greater.

Hashem hid Himself so we would work to reveal Him. One can understand this by looking at a human relationship. At first a relationship is based on superficial things. You cannot see much at first glance. But as the relationship gets stronger people come to understand more about each other. In order to reveal one must invest and give of oneself. This is what makes the relationship meaningful. The more one successfully reveals, the better the relationship gets. Hashem wants us to enjoy a profound connection with Him. It can go deeper and deeper, as He is endless. He covered Himself to enable us to reveal Him. To the extent that we invest effort to do so, our relationship will grow stronger and more fulfilling.

Hashem hides himself behind the veil of nature and the laws of cause and effect. We can forget Him. But He’s not hidden enough so that we are unable to find Him. This concept is rooted in the word Elokim with which creation begins. Elokim signifies justice, the laws of nature, and cause and effect. One can also read it as Mi Eleh, who are these? On the one hand one sees a reality that seems self-contained and independent, running on the laws of nature. But Hashem is not so hidden that we cannot discern Him. Nature begs the question, “Who created all this?”


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