This week’s Torah reading, Bereishis, speaks of how God created heaven and earth. The great medieval commentator Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, or Rashi, records an ancient tradition that all the vegetation and the foliage that God made remained beneath the soil and did not sprout until Adam was created. God waited, according to tradition, until there would be humans who could appreciate the need for vegetation and foliage and who would pray to God that He cause it all to grow.
God is perfect, and He doesn’t need our prayers. He doesn’t need our appreciation. But when He created the world, right at its inception He wanted to make sure that the idea of feeling and expressing one’s appreciation would be woven right into the fabric of Creation. Without appreciation, said God, there would be no world. And so all the greenery would wait until there were humans around to offer their thanks for it.
Each of us is at the center of our own world — that is part of being human. But we’ve got to learn to look beyond ourselves, to recognize that we’re part of a greater whole. We’ve got to learn to appreciate God, who gave us everything we have, and we have to learn to draw others into our world, too, to know that it is our job to be there for others and also to know that our own world is incomplete unless it has room in it for friends and family and all manner of people.
And then, too, we need to allow ourselves to feel vulnerable, to understand that we can’t do it all ourselves and we have to look to God for support and to pray to Him. That is also part of being human. And so, too, once we’ve drawn others into our life we’ll sometimes have to find the courage to accept their help.
No person is an island, and God created us to rely on relationships, with Him and with other people.
Those attitudes are so very basic to our existence that God saw fit to incorporate them into the very fabric of Creation, right at the outset when He created the world. PJC
Rabbi Levi Langer is the dean of the Kollel Jewish Learning Center. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.