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Jaron Engelmayer

Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Austria

Why did G"d create the world?

Why has G"d created the world? This question involves a complexity because: if G'd created the world, it concludes that G'd has seen in it a necessity: something seemed to be missing before the creation of the world. Maybe he was bored? On the other hand, we assume that G'd is perfect and that his perfection consists in itself, without being dependent on anything external. Therefore the question is back again: What did G"d create the world for?

The Jewish Kabbalists, such as Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, give an interesting answer to it: G'd is perfect, so among other things He is good and merciful, but He had no one on whom this goodness could be expressed! In order to give an expression to G`ds goodness there is a need for creatures, which can accept the goodness!

Imitation of the ways of G`d

We humans have no way of understanding G´d's essence. Since G´d is incorporeal and not part of his creation, but we, on the other hand, do not know anything but alone this creation - our world – so we are not in a position to recognize G`d Himself.

The Kotzker Rebbe asked once his students where to find G'd. One pointed upward, toward the sky, another pointed out of the room into the world, since G'd is everywhere. Thereupon the Kotzker Rebbe pointed to his heart and said: "G`d is wherever you open Him a door and let Him in..."

If we want to know about G 'tt, we can do that only by recognizing his work in the world.

One of the commandments of the Torah is the instruction to attach ourselves to G`d: "To adhere to him" (5th Book of Moses 4: 4). The Talmud asks the legitimate question (Ketuwot 111b), how would it be possible to attach to G'd, since He is like the burning fire (5th Book of Moses 4, 24)? The sages explain, how this instruction is really meant: "Thou shalt walk in his ways - just as He is merciful, you also should be merciful. Just as He is kindhearted, you also should be kindhearted. Just as He is forgiving, you also should be forgiving

" During the week before the Jewish New Year, which we currently happen to be in, we describe G´d by thirteen properties and quote them every morning in the special Selichot-prayer: (2. Genesis 34: 6-7) "The Eternal, G'd, merciful, kindhearted, slow to anger, full of goodness and truth ..." G´d's properties are described, so that we humans take these for us as an example and imitate them! If we behave kindly, patient, forgiving and openhearted with other people, then we are very close to G'd! Then we follow his path and connect with his properties – so we attach ourselves to Him!

One way to recognize G`d in the world is to see His revelation in the behavior of those people which are close to G`d and fulfill His will. The great role models in Judaism are our forefather Avraham and our great prophet Moses.

Avraham is regarded as the symbol and embodiment of human goodness per se: While the whole world at that time was busy exploiting foreigners and to seek their wifes, like the Egyptians under Pharaoh did, or the Philistines under King Avimelech, or even to seek their lifes, as in Sodom and Gomorha, was Avraham's concern to host the strangers as guests and to make them feel like kings! And when G`d decided to destroy the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorha, Avraham prayed for their well-being, regardless of their wickedness and the Divine justice behind G`d`s decision! Avraham stands for "Hesed", goodness, and we, as his descendants, see in his behavior a role model and recognize in it the Divine goodness.

Also the great prophet Moses first distinguished himself in the property of goodness before he was chosen to be the leader of the Israelites. The Midrash tells us that he was looking after the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro in the wilderness of Midian, as a lamb ran away. Moses did not leave it and ran after to protect it. Finally, he realized that it was looking for water and was thirsty. After the lamb was refreshed by a sources water, Moses took it on his shoulders and carried it back, while the sun was burning on his head. Thereupon said G'd: "Who cares for the weak of the flock like Moses, is suitable to look after my people, for he is also determined to pay special attention to the weak of the people and protect them"!

The Torah therefore does not describe G`d, but the humans, how they should be and behave, being the "image of G" G´d" by imitating His ways. Where ever humans behave in such a way, there we meet G´d!
G`d's guide for goodness and mercy

But not only in the actions of our great models are able to recognize divine goodness and mercy for guidance in human life, but also and especially in the divine laws of the Torah.

From the numerous possible examples I would like to outline two particularly. This week we finish not just another Jewish year, since next week the New Year takes place, but also a very special year: The "Schmitta-year". It returns every seven years, and the Torah instructs the owners of fields to open their gates and provide their fruits and grain for all equally! How can field owners be given such a law? By what reason should farmers be instructed to give up the income of an entire year and leave it to everyone passing by? For this gives G`d in the Torah the probably only logical explanation: "Since mine is the land – I own it - and you are inhabitants in it with Me". This explanation underlies a deeply religious experience: the peasants do not really own their fields, since the fields belong to G`d. They only have the right to cultivate the fields and to retain those fruits for themselves what the true owner - G'd - has not meant for others, such as the fees for the poor and needy, or, during the Schmitta year, for all!

Another example we find in the famous commandment: "Love the fellow man as yourself!" This commandment is probably well known to all. Perhaps less known is the fact that the commandment comes from the Torah, the third book of Moses (19, 18). Moreover, we should ask ourselves: why? Why should we love the fellow man as ourselves? Is there any logic for this? He is just a stranger to me! How can I love him and care for him as for myself? And why should I do that? The answer to this question we find in the same sentence of the Torah, because it did not yet end: "Love the fellow man as yourself, I am the Lord!" What is the connection between the two parts of the sentence?

A human tends by nature to take care of his needs. It belongs to his natural biological instincts. However, there are outside his person even more beings whom he feels close to and therefore cares for them: His family. Because in them he sees a part of himself, an extension of his own person! The Torah reasons and explains, why we should also involve strangers in our charity and care for them as well: "Because I am the Lord!" The same Lord who created all people and is therefore all theirs father, wants his children take care of each other and love each other fraternally! Because all mankind comes from one origin, actually all people are one family, and should accordingly feel connected to each other!

Exactly this kind of solidarity can be felt at the wonderful meetings of St. Egidio - may it shine through the whole year and have an effect and impact a lot of people throughout the whole world!