Why Do We Exist?

BEREISHEIT…IN THE BEGINNING

shatteringofvessels

Why Do We Exist? 


Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed, known as the Ari (1534-1572) taught a powerful lesson about the role of humanity in the world. The myth/midrash in known as “The Shattering of the Vessels” (shevirat ha-kelim). It offers us a glimpse into our purpose in life.

As we begin our Torah reading anew this week, with the story of creation, perhaps we can be inspired by this 500-year-old teaching:

Before the beginning, God filled the universe. When God decided to create this world, God needed to make space for creation. In a great act of love, God  drew in God’s breath, contracting God’s self. It was called “tzimtzum.” From that contraction, darkness was created. And when God said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), the light that came into being filled the darkness, and ten holy vessels came forth, each filled with primordial light.

God sent forth these ten vessels as one commentator described “like a fleet of ships, each carrying its cargo of holy light.” Had they all arrived intact into existence, the world would have been perfect. But the vessels were too fragile to contain such a powerful, divine light. They broke open, split into shards (k’lipot), and all the holy sparks (nitzatzot) were scattered like sand, like seeds, like stars. Those sparks fell everywhere in this world.

That is why human beings were created – to be God’s partners – to gather the sparks, no matter where they are hidden. God created us so that we could and would raise up the holy sparks. This is our job…le-takein et ha-olam… to repair the world. It is ours to do tikkun olam. 

How do we do that? Whenever we bring God’s goodness and light into the world…whenever we lift up our fellow human being and grant him or her the dignity of being viewed as created in God’s image.

What shall we do to repair our corner of the world… 
this day…this week…this year?