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What Is the Meaning of Life?
Video 4 of 7
We've been looking at this creation story and last week we found two different creation stories, we argued two different accounts, different perspectives of the same thing. Last week we talked about creation world 1, a world in which creativity was the name of the game. Who was G-d? G-d was the Master Creator. Who are we? We imitate G-d, we're little creator, with a small c. But all of that is gone in world number 2, we don't hear about man as being created in the image of G-d in the next account of creation, we don't hear even about G-d being described Himself in these creative terms. G-d is sort of behind the sidelines while heaven and earth seem to take the main stage; These are the generations of heaven and earth. In that world what is man's goal? In that world how does he relate to the cosmos, to everything around him? How does he relate to G-d? How does he relate to earth? How does he relate even to woman? All of these are the questions that are up for grabs here in this world.
In order to start solving those questions, let's go back and try to do it the same way we did in world number 1, which is our interview with G-d. Remember you're the intrepid CNN reporter and you seek out G-d and you say, G-d, I couldn't help notice You hiding behind those curtains over there in world number 2. Excuse me, if I could just get an exclusive interview with You, I'd very much like to ask You, what is it that You have to say about man in this world over here? Do You have any message that You would like to deliver to man? If you remember that's what we did last week in world number 1, we're going to have that same conversation with G-d now in world number 2, but G-d is going to say different things. Different things about man, and different things to man.
So let's look through the text and one of the really neat things is, that G-d talks to man in this world, He talks to him about the earth, about the products of the earth, about how man is meant to relate to the earth. It's almost like in world number two all roads to G-d are going to go through the earth in this world, because the earth is at the top of the food chain, the earth is your most proximate creator. Let's see what G-d says.
Okay, so talking about man, verse 15; Vayikach Hashem Elokim et ha'Adam - G-d takes man after He has created this garden, this special garden in Eden; Vayanicheyhu b'Gan Eden - and He places him in this garden. For what purpose? L'ovdah ul'shomrah - to work it and to guard it, to watch over it. So this is what G-d says about man, what are you doing here man? Well you're here for a purpose, you're here to watch over this garden and to work the garden.
Now here I want to point out something strange to you. Because if you - remember back in the interview with G-d that we had back in world number 1, what G-d said about man and what G-d said to man were basically consistent - really just two ways of saying the same thing. Remember what did G-d say to man back in world number 1? What did He say about man? What He said about man was that you are going to be; B'tzelem Elokim - you are going to be in the image of G-d. Then what G-d ended up saying to man was just the details of what that means. Ah, you're going to be this creator just like Me, you're going to create biologically, you're going to create technologically, you're going to master everything. You're going to be the little creator on earth. So it was very easy to see how what G-d said about man and what G-d said to man were consistent with one another and just filled in the gaps.
That gets a little bit harder in our new interview session, in world number 2, because having just seen what G-d said about man, that he's here in the garden; L'ovdah ul'shomrah - to watch over it and to guard it and to work it. So you basically say, oh so I guess that's man's goal? In a way, if you would just stop right here and you knew nothing else about what G-d said you would say that man is even subservient to the land, that the land is the center of things and man is just there to take care of the land, to shepherd it and to work it - which is remarkable to think that the universe is really about the land. And in a way it might make sense; Eileh toldot ha'shamayim veha'aretz behibaram - these are the new creators, front and stage, heaven and earth, and then man is there to tend to this earth creator.
But now listen to what G-d says TO man. All of a sudden, the emphasis changes entirely and the question is, how does it all fit? Because what G-d says to man is; Here are all these wonderful trees; Mikol eitz hagan ochol tochel - please eat. Actually a direct command; Eat, yes eat, of all of these trees. Just there's this one tree that I don't want you to eat from. U'm'eitz hada'at tov v'ra'ah - from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that tree I don't want you to eat from. So that's what G-d says TO man. What G-d says to man then, if you would have to sort of formulate a vision in your mind of what man's purpose is, and all you knew was what G-d said to man, you would say, oh I guess it all has to do with how he relates to these trees. He's supposed to have the benefit of all of these trees, he needs to be very careful and to observe the commands as to which trees he's supposed to eat from and which trees he's not supposed to eat from.
But do you see how radically different that is from saying that well the point of man is there to take care of the garden and to serve the garden, work the garden? It's like, hey G-d, can I have a follow-up question please, how do these two visions relate to each other? Is he there to work the garden and that's the whole point - like that's Your ultimate goal? Or is he there to keep these commands You have about the trees? Which is it in Your mind? How do they relate to each other?
That, I think, opens up a very interesting question for us. It opens up a window, I think, as to how to see man's relationships [written large 6:15], all of his relationships, in world number 2. So I'd like to dig a little bit deeper with you and suggest that if we have this apparent contradiction almost between what G-d says about man and what G-d says to man, so let's try to resolve the contradiction by looking a little bit more carefully at, at least one of these things. Let's start with what G-d says to man. Exactly what is it that G-d says to man about these trees in the garden, the trees that he can eat from, the tree that he can't eat from? Because the truth is, when you look at the setup that He puts him in here, in this garden, with all of these trees, it's kind of a weird set up, there's some questions you can ask about it. If we get some clarity about that setup then things might start to fall into place in terms of understanding how what G-d says about man and to man actually jive with each other. So let's go into the garden, look at these trees and ask some questions.
The first question is a question that students always used to ask me and frankly I did my best to evade them, because I didn't really have an answer for it. It was a really good question and the question is, if G-d really didn't want us to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, from this special tree in the garden, so why did He put it there in the first place? I mean, if you really don't want us to eat it, so just don't put the tree there. There's nothing more tempting than a tree that you're not supposed to eat from. So what's the solution to that? Why would you put it there?
The implications of this question are obviously rather uncomfortable. One implication is maybe G-d really did want us to eat from the tree - and this by the way is how some modern commentators understand the story, and it's a very distressing way to understand the story. Really G-d put the tree there, He really wanted us to eat from it, and He figured that He would kind of hide behind a bush over there and wait until we ate from it and then He'd fake being really, really angry. But really G-d was very happy because He wanted us to eat from this tree all along. That is one possibility. I think it's a distressing possibility because it sets up G-d as a con man, and who would want to worship a con man? It's G-d is faking us out when He says, I'm really upset that you ate from the tree, while really He's gleefully rubbing His hands and chuckling when we finally eat from it? It doesn't seem like a very wonderful way to read the story.
So back to the drawing board, if G-d really didn't want us to eat from the tree, why put it there in the first place? Question number 1.
Question number 2, how exactly does this tree do its work? The tree of knowledge of good and evil, supposedly on the day that you eat from it you become mortal. Why would that be? There is the fairy dust possibility, the magical possibility, maybe G-d reached into His bag of tricks and sprinkled orange fairy dust on this tree of knowledge and made it this death-inducing tree? That's one possibility. But my question to you is, is there a rational way of understanding a mechanism by which the tree of knowledge would actually do its work - by which the tree of knowledge would be something that if you ate from it you would eventually die?
So is there a rational way to understand how the tree of knowledge does its work? Is there a rational way to understand why G-d would put the tree in the garden if He didn't want us to eat from it? And, one more question, is there a rational way to understand the other tree in the garden that's very special, the tree that doesn't get quite as much press, namely, the tree of life? It turns out that when G-d actually made the Garden of Eden, He created two special trees, not just one in the garden; the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. Now He never actually tells mankind about the tree of life. He tells us, the reader, about it but never addresses Adam. To Adam He only talks about the tree of knowledge and says, stay away from that tree.
Now if we think about this tree, this magical-sounding tree, the tree of life, we would imagine that if you eat from the tree it would grant you sort of the opposite of what the tree of knowledge is; the tree of knowledge is the thing that if you eat it you'll become mortal and if you eat from the tree of life, if you eat it, you'll become immortal. Almost as if mankind is thrust into the garden and given this choice - at least implicitly - between these two trees; the tree of knowledge that he's actually told about and the tree of life that he's actually not told about. But you would imagine that he would eventually get around to eating from it, because look, if I - just do the math. If I wasn't told that there was a special tree, the tree of life, and I wasn't told that I was supposed to avoid it, and it's right there in the middle of the garden - the text describes it as; Betoch hagan - right in the middle of the garden. So you'd figure I'm eventually going to get around to eating from it and that's a fine thing. Once I eat from it, it's a tree of life, so I'm going to get eternal life. So my choice in the garden is, am I actually going to live forever because I'm going to end up eating from this tree of life or am I actually going to end up eventually dying, because I'm going to eat from this tree of knowledge?
In the same way we asked about the tree of knowledge, is there some sort of rational mechanism by which that tree eventually makes you die, makes you mortal, now I want to ask, is there any rational mechanism by which the tree of life would grant you life? Or, alternatively, is it magic? Is it that G-d has green fairy dust and sprinkles that on the tree of life, and when you sprinkle that on the tree of life, well then of course you live forever? That's one possibility. Or, is there some sort of mechanism by which eating from the tree of life would grant me eternal life?
So these in a nutshell are the three basic questions I want to ask you about the garden, and they add up to something. Question number 1, why would G-d put the tree of knowledge in the garden if He doesn't want you to eat from it? Question number 2, how does the tree of knowledge bring death to mankind? Question number 3, how does the tree of life bring life to mankind?
Here's the picture that I think emerges from these three questions. The picture that emerges is that world 2 creates a grand opportunity for mankind, the opportunity for loving connection with the Divine. Indeed, not just with the Divine, but loving connection with all important beings around him. It begins with the Divine, here's how. One of the great misconceptions about mankind's place in the Garden of Eden is that the very first command that he received with reference to the trees was to avoid the tree of knowledge. If you look carefully at the verses you'll find that that is not so. Listen to the verse. Vayetzav Hashem Elokim al ha'Adam leimor - and G-d commanded man saying; Mikol eitz hagan ochol tochel - from all the trees of the garden; Ochol tochel - you shall eat, yes eat. U'm'eitz hada'at tov v'ra'ah loh tochal mimenu - but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat from it because on the day that you eat from it you will die.
Now let me ask you, what was the first command that he got about the trees? It wasn't to avoid the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it was to eat from all the other trees. Even the emphasis is greater on the positive command than the negative. Ochol tochel - G-d says, eat, yes eat. It comes first, it's a stronger language the positive. As concerned as G-d is that mankind should not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, He's more concerned that he should eat from all the trees.
What that adds up to, I think, is that if you had to conceptualize what G-d was doing with mankind in the garden, a parenting analogy might actually do the trick. G-d is the great parent in the sky here, the Master Creator, hiding behind the curtains, trotting out heaven and earth as sort of the most proximate creators of man. But there is G-d in the background and in the background this parent that we know as G-d gives these gifts to mankind. The gifts are all of these delicious, wonderful trees. That, by the way, is how they're described when we first meet the trees. The Torah goes out of its way to describe them as delicious trees that G-d created, beautiful to look at, delectable to eat - we'll be talking a little bit more about that later. But the trees were meant as these great gifts. But there's this one tree that you're not supposed to eat from, why? Why put a tree in the garden that you aren't supposed to eat from? Why do it?
So just consult the parenting analogy. If you were a parent and you were giving some sort of wonderful gift to your kids, a great Lego model battleship, you give it to your kid or you are a grandparent and you're giving it to your grandkid, what do yo want to see happen? The kid opens up the wrapping paper, sees the gift, what do you want to see happen? If you ask most parents these questions they'll say two things. (A) I want to see my kid enjoy the gift, and (b) a thank you would be nice, some kind of recognition that the gift came from me. Now if you think about it, the truth is, it's not really one or the other, you really do want both, and either one alone sort of isn't going to cut it. Let me just kind of play out the scenario.
Imagine that little Bobby to whom you give this wonderful gift turns to you and says, Grandpa, wow, what a wonderful gift, I've always wanted a model battleship made out of Lego. I love Lego, it's so wonderful, and he kisses you, that's the just the best thing in the world. So you got your thank you, you're feeling like a million bucks. But then Bobby runs out and he goes downstairs to play on his Nintendo 64 video games and he spends the rest of night playing his video games. Then the next day he's on the phone with his friend Paul and then the next day he's outside flying a kite and the next day he's kind of bored at home asking and whining to his mother, can we figure out something to do? Meanwhile the Lego just stays completely untouched on his shelf and he just completely disregards it. It's like you're not feeling so good, right? Like, I want to see you enjoying the gift, it's not just about the thank you. I want to see you enjoy it. It gives me pleasure as a parent to watch you enjoy that gift. It gives me pleasure as grandparent to watch you enjoy it.
So you really want the enjoyment too, but if he only had the enjoyment it's not so great either. If the kid just enjoys the gifts and it's a wonderful gift, but there's no thank you, there's nothing, there's no recognition that it came from me - what's the problem? It's not like I'm such a narcissistic guy that I need you to say thanks and I have to be recognized. And I pump out my chest and say, yes this gift came from Grandfather, and I hope you understand that, and every time that you look at me I want you to say, Grandfather, thank you very much for giving me this Lego. It's not like I need that from you. I don't even need you really to say thanks. All I want is, I'm giving this gift out of a relationship, it's a product of my relationship with you, I love you, and I'm giving you this gift, and I just want you to understand that. When you're using the gift, bottom line, I just want you to use it with an understanding that it came from me.
In other words, I don't want you to live in an illusion, which is that my room comes with Lego battleships and you cut Grandpa out of it, and it's just that this is the way things are. So that's not so great for Grandpa. Even though - Grandpa, even if he's banished back to Florida and the kid never wants to see him again, he can take some sort of vicarious happiness, I suppose, the kid is playing with his battleship. It will be much nicer if somehow when Grandpa wasn't around anymore, when the kid played with battleships he felt almost like Grandpa was there in the room because he's enjoying this gift of Grandpa. It's almost like hugging Grandpa all over again, that would be so much richer.
So if you think about it, thank you, is one way to kind of help achieve that richness. Thank you is a way that the child recognizes that this did come from Grandpa and therefore when the child uses it he's using it with that consciousness, so it's great. But if you think about it, thank you is not the only way for a kid to achieve that recognition. There's actually other ways to do it where a kid never even has to say thank you, but he still has the recognition that the gift came from someone, came from you, came from Grandpa, or came from parent. And the way to do that is kind of the way that G-d sets up the deal in the Garden of Eden. I want you to enjoy all of these trees, enjoy these trees and I'm not even asking you to say thank you, I'm just asking you to abide by one request. See that tree over there, that's My tree. Please don't eat from My tree, eat from all of the others.
You see, if the kid abides by those rules what's he really doing? When he's eating from all the trees and not eating from your one tree he's understanding that it's not like the world comes with trees, this is just a facet of the world and I cut G-d out of it, and there are all these trees and whatever, they're my trees. Because if that were the case you would eat from all the trees. You see, when you avoid G-d's one, special tree, what are you really saying? You're saying I understand who I am, I understand that I am a guest in the garden here, and there's a Master in the garden and that's the Master's special tree. When I eat all of the other trees now while avoiding that one tree, I understand that the Master has given me a gift. The trees are all the more wonderful and delicious because as I eat them I don't just get the physical enjoyment of eating those fruits, but I get the sense of love and of giving that the Master has provided me with this because He loved me and made these delicious trees for me. Every time I eat one of these trees it feels like Grandpa is hugging me all over again - which leads us directly to the tree of life.
Remember that question I asked you about the mechanism by which the tree of life might work, was it just fairy dust that makes you live forever? I mean, after all nothing lives forever. Look around in the world, all the animals they die, everything dies, and all of a sudden you're going to be the only living thing in this world that doesn't die? Could there possibly be a rational explanation for that? There might well be. What is the only living thing that doesn't die? It's actually a being that's not from this world, that's out of this world, that's just sort of hanging out in the garden, it's G-d Himself. Might it be that the mechanism through which the tree of life grants life is that eating from the tree of life in some strange way is a way of clinging to G-d Himself - clinging so deeply to G-d that you shake off your mortal coils and share in G-d's own immortality?
Now, the idea here is a kind of hard idea to process, what does it mean to cling to G-d, you can't touch Him, you can't feel Him, you can't actually hug Him? But that sort of brings us right back to our Grandpa analogy because you can't hug Grandpa when he's in Florida either. But somehow when you play with those Legos and you receive that gift in the right way with the consciousness that it's from Grandpa, it's like Grandpa is there, it's almost like Grandpa is there giving you that hug. That's the richness of the relationship. Let's try and think about that in terms of the garden now. Here you are in the Garden of Eden and G-d has given you all of these wonderful trees, He wants you to eat from all these trees, eat from them, yes, eat from them, just stay away from that one tree that's Mine, and you do it and you're enjoying the gifts that the Master has given you. When you do that you achieve something larger than just the delicious taste of a fresh orange on your palate, you achieve connection with your source, you achieve connection with the Master.
In Hebrew we have a word for it, the word is Deveikut - in a moment I'll show that that word actually appears within world number 2 itself - but Deveikut really means connection. It's even deeper than connection, clinging to, a reunification-with-your-source kind of connection. Because the Master is hard to connect to, in some crazy way He's just like Grandpa in Florida, you can't just reach out and hug Him. He's the ultimate extraterrestrial, you can't touch Him, you can't feel Him. So if you wanted to give G-d a hug, how would you do it? If you wanted Deveikut - connection, with the Divine how would you do that with G-d? If I want to connect to a person I hug them, if I want to connect, to become whole, to unite with G-d, how do I do that? I do that by accepting the loving gifts that He gives me and understanding that the gifts come from Him out of love. I do that when I eat from all of the trees that He gives me while simultaneously abiding by the command to avoid the Master's own tree.
Now I want to make a somewhat radical statement. When you do that it's only a matter of time until you eat from the tree of life. Right, G-d didn't even tell man that there was a tree of life in the garden, He just said, go eat from all the trees and He put a tree of life in the middle of the garden, eventually you're going to eat from the tree of life. It's almost as if all the trees are the tree of life, we don't even know which tree is the tree of life, it's just that being in the garden and accepting all of these gifts and abiding by that one restriction not eating from the Master's tree, all of that is tantamount to eating from the tree of life. When you do that you're accepting G-d's gifts and accepting those gifts is hugging G-d and connecting to Him, and if you hug and you don't let go then death cannot take you, because you're holding on to the source of eternal life. That's what it means to eat from the tree of life; to cling to G-d and not let go.
But of course you have a choice because you don't have to eat from the tree of life, there's another special tree, the tree of knowledge. And that confers death and it doesn't confer death through orange fairy dust either, it confers death because eating from that tree, the tree of knowledge, that is letting go. You're letting go of the source of eternal life, you're succumbing to an illusion that I can have all the trees, I want ultimate control, it's all mine, these aren't gifts, this is just the way the world is. Well, if these aren't gifts and you want to play that game and pretend this is just the way the world is, you can have that but you're having that at the expense of the relationship. When you pretend that the battleship is just part of your room you might have the battleship but when you play with it you're not hugging Grandpa anymore. In the Garden of Eden you might now have all the trees including the very last one, but you've sacrificed the relationship, you're letting go. When you let go then you can't help but die like any other mortal being.
Okay, and now let me come back to our question. Now, having understood what's happening with this setup in the garden - these commands involving the trees - having understood that a little bit better, let's come back to our interview and try to make a little bit more sense of that interview. What is it that unites the two things that G-d says; that which He says about man and that which He says to man? To man are these commands about the trees, that revolves around this idea of Deveikut which we've been talking about, of clinging to G-d, what does it mean to hug G-d. How would that relate to the other piece of what G-d says about man - He's there; L'ovdah ul'shomrah - to work the garden, to take care of it?
So the first thing we might notice is it's not any old place that man is being called upon to take care of, it's G-d's garden. What that might mean is that G-d is adding a bilateral aspect to this relationship. It's not just that G-d is unilaterally providing all of these wonderful things to man, this bounty of all the trees in the garden, that man is just a taker in the relationship. G-d also gives man the opportunity to be a giver, to do something for G-d, as it were; he can take care of G-d's garden.
So when we add it all up then we find this. Man has two jobs in this world, two things that he needs to do to achieve Deveikut. He needs to be a good receiver on the one hand, to take these gifts from G-d, to enjoy with pleasure these delectable gifts of the trees and to do it and recognizing the existence of the giver. He needs to do all of that. But somehow, if all you do is take, take, take gifts given to you, that's not the whole way that love and connection are achieved, there has to be a bilateral aspect of it too, you have to be able to give back. As strong as there is a desire to get the pleasure that someone wants to give you who loves you, there is the desire to somehow reciprocate. What could you give G-d after all - G-d has everything? But G-d allows you to give something back. He says, I showed you how to garden when I first planted it, now you take over, you take care of My special place, this place that you and I can be together, this garden. Your job here is; L'ovdah ul'shomrah - to work the land and to guard over it, to preserve this place, this special place that we have together.
Okay, so now let me ask you a question here, could we extend this idea further? Might it be that this Deveikut notion, this notion of clinging to your source, of reuniting with your source, of lovingly connecting to it, is not just something that animates man's relationship to G-d in this world, but it animates other relationships too? For example, man's relationship to land. We've seen in this world that land is a kind of stand-in for your creator, it's the place from which you've come, so to the extent that man looks to land as the place from which I come, might he then seek to come back to land?
Here too, the commands in the garden can be seen as a way of coming back to land. On the one hand, I work the land, I take care of it, I give gifts to land. The way world 2 seems to characterize man's agricultural prowess, it seems to characterize it as a gift that he gifts to land. Remember the very first verse or two in this world that described the land as parched because not only was there not rain but man wasn't there to be able to tend to the earth. Man gives a great gift to the earth by tending to it. So man gives gifts to earth, gives pleasure to the earth, so to speak, and the earth gives pleasure back to man in the forms of all these fruits.
So through the commands involving the trees; to enjoy all the trees and to take care of the land, really two things are happening at once. Man is relating to two different kinds of sources; G-d, an ultimate kind of source, but also land, his most proximate source from which he comes, from which his body comes. He's establishing a kind of unity with land too.
And, it may be that we can extend this Deveikut idea even further. The idea of becoming whole with that which you were once part of, really in a way is what makes this entire world go around, because it animates not just our relationship with G-d and not just our relationship with [man/land 31:20], but man's relationship with woman too. Because look at how world 2 describes the advent of the female human. Not as the way world 1 describes it; Zachar u'nekeiva barah otom - that G-d just created these two little creators, male creator and female creator, and divided the responsibility between them and said, you come together to create. No, it's a whole different picture in world number 2. First there's man and then woman is taken from him. Why? What's the meaning of it happening it that way?
What's interesting is, is that Deveikut - coming back and reuniting with your source, is actually the whole dynamic that's at the heart of the process of man finding a mate. Look at the text, it begins with; Loh tov heyot ha'Adam levado - it's not good for man to be alone. Man needs to connect. But G-d says, maybe he could find a mate from something else, from the animal, so He creates animals from the ground. And in a certain way there is a kind of logic to it, man comes from the ground, animals from the ground, maybe man would like to be with animals, they both come from the ground after all. But man finds that there's not enough of a unity there because the animals in some way are still foreign from man.
Then G-d says, I see what you want, you want something that really comes from you. So He puts man to sleep, takes part of him, the feminine part of him, separates it, creates an entire being around that feminine part of him and then brings that feminine being to man. Then man says, yes, this time; Etzem mei'atzamai, u'basar mi'besari - a bone from my bones, flesh from my flesh. Lezot yikareh isha - and therefore I will call her woman. In Hebrew, literally 'from man', that's her name, from man. Ki mei'ish lukchah zot - because she was taken from man and therefore, I can finally find happiness, I can finally come together with her.
Then the narrator turns and addresses the reader and says; Al kein - that's why; Ya'azav ish et aviv v'et imo v'davak b'ishto vehayu l'basar echad - man will leave behind his mother and his father and will cling to this woman, and they will become one flesh. What do you mean that's why? That's why because in a way it's hard to leave home, that's another unity, your parents, it's not just land that you come from, not just G-d that you come from, you come from your parents and you never want to break that unity, you always want to stay home. What allows man to be independent and to say goodbye in a way and to begin to etch out a life for himself? It's the fact that he can leave behind his parents - one unity, and establish a unity with someone that came from him too, his lost feminine side, and they can come together.
Listen to that word; V'davak b'ishto vehayu l'basar echad - and man will cling to his wife and become one flesh. That's what it's about, it's about Deveikut, about re-establishing wholeness when you're two fragments, you want to come together with your source. That's what animates the drive for man and woman to come together. Very different, by the way, from world number 1. In world number 1 why does man come together with woman? Because it's the only way I can create, that's the world of creation. I can't create without woman. In world number 2 it's not about creation, it's about becoming whole, I can't be whole without woman. In this world Deveikut - becoming whole, is really what makes the entire world go around.
Okay so let's just sort of summarize. If we were to say world number 1 it's a world in which man looks at himself and sees a creator. World number 2, man looks at himself and sees a connector, sees someone who yearns to become whole with parts of himself that he was once whole with, but he sees himself as just a fragment. So man and woman come together to bring together two fragments. Man comes together with land, man comes together with G-d, achieves wholeness in all of these realms.
So what if I then drill down a little bit and say yes, connector, okay so you're into connection, to wholeness, to love, but those are lofty concepts, how do you actually do that? What's the path to love - love is such an abstract concept? How would you answer that on behalf of man number 2 in world number 2? What would he tell you? Maybe he'd tell you something like this. There is a consistent path to connection, connection might seem ethereal but there's a very concrete way that you realize it. You realize it by giving gifts, by opening yourself up to pleasure that comes to you from others and by giving pleasure back as best as you possibly can. In as much as this is the raw material of love, it too is what makes this world - world number 2 - go around. If you look at how this world is constructed, how it's described, it's all described around gift giving.
Look at the following things for example. Let's start with the creation of man itself. In world number 1 man was the very last thing being created. World number 2 describes man as the first, not necessarily because chronologically he was the first, but everything that follows revolves around man, is actually described in terms of how it relates to man, about what kind of gift it can be for man. G-d causes all of these wonderful fruit trees to be created and as they're created they're described as; Nechmad lemareh v'tov lema'achal - beautiful to the eye and delicious to the palate. So in other words, when they're actually created they're described in terms of what a wonderful gift they will be for man. People will look at this and say, wow, so beautiful, wow, so delicious. In world number 1 the trees didn't get described that way.
Let's talk about the creation of animals, how are the creation of animals characterized? Back in world number 1 G-d decided to make some animals, back in world number 2 the animals are also potential gifts to man, maybe you can find a mate among these? So G-d creates all these animals, parades them in front of man, it's all in relation to man, it's all how man might delight in them. So man rejects the animals, so G-d says, ah, fine, so I'll create woman, another gift for you, the gift of finally finding a mate. As we even say in Sheva Berachos; Samayach tesamach rei'im ahuvim - how G-d delighted and reveled in the delight of man as he delighted in his wife. G-d is all about making man happy, about giving man some kind of pleasure, some kind of gift, any kind of gift, all kinds of gifts, it's a world of gift giving. That too is what makes this world go around.
There's two things that make this world go around. Connection with source; but connection with source is a very abstract thing, connecting to land, connecting to G-d, connecting with woman, how do you do it? You do it because there's a drive, a drive deep within man, a certain kind of raw material and that raw material is pleasure, it can be given, it can be received. If you do that right you can create love out of that. If you do it wrong it just ends up being narcissistic and hedonism. But if you can give and receive gifts, those are the building blocks of love. G-d not only makes all of these trees, but He gives man the appetite and the desire to delight in them, to seek pleasure in those trees, to accept the great gift that G-d gives to him. When man takes that drive for pleasure and sanctifies it by bringing it into a relationship, then that drive for pleasure becomes the stepping-stone to connection to G-d himself. I got these wonderful gifts and I understand that it came from You. When I marry, that understanding that it came from You, together with the delight of the pleasure, I have connection, I have love with You, and now I want to give back.
How can I give back? Let me take care of Your garden, let me give something to the land. The land gave so much pleasure to me, what can I give for land? L'ovdah ul'shomrah - I could take care of land, I can give land the pleasure, as it were, of being perfected, of reaching its destiny. It's the same with woman. Isn't it interesting that connection and unity between man and woman, intimacy between them, comes by definition as a pleasure-giving exercise, that is mutual, and by the acceptance and receipt of that mutual pleasure they connect and become whole.
So to summarize where we're at, we have two worlds. World number 1 and world number 2. In world number 1 man's relationship to the cosmos looks like man is the creator, the great imitator of the Divine. That's how he relates to everything; it's how he relates to land, it's how he relates to G-d, creativity is the lens through which he sees everything. So when man looks at land in world number 1 what does he see? He sees a sandbox in which he can be creative, land is a thing, it's just another thing that's created, it's a tool, a thing that G-d gave me that I can work with and that I can build with, that I can be little creator just like G-d is Great Creator.
But in world number 2 man sees things differently. Man doesn't look at himself as creator but as connector, coming together with that from which I come. In world number 2 man looks at land and heavens - and land and heavens again aren't the sentient beings that created him, that thought about him and figured out how, man doesn't see a model of creativity. But man looks at them and says, I came from you, I came from land, I want to come back to land. Man even looks at G-d behind land and says, ultimately, I came from You and I want to come back to You. Man looks at woman and wants to come back to her as well. It's so different than world number 1. In world number 1 man looked at woman and what did he see? Man number 1, motivated by creativity, sees a co-creator. Man number 2 sees someone who he can become whole with. The reason for union with woman in world number 1 is to achieve something else, to be creative, to have children. In world number 2 it's an end in and of itself, to connect and become whole.
Next week I want to try to see if we can take these two different models and integrate them somehow. Because after all, we really only live one life. We have to somehow understand what it means to live our lives bringing world number 1 and world number 2 together. But even before we do that I think we can stop right now, take a deep breath, look back upon what we've seen and begin to have some sort of framework for attacking that greatest of all questions, how do I find meaning in life? What place do I have in the cosmos that is meaningful? There's an answer or a path to an answer that world number 1 holds out for me, and another path for an answer that world number 2 holds out for me.
World 1's answer is creativity. Being creative is how you actualize your place in the universe and there is ultimate meaning in that creativity. Biological creativity; conceive children, raise them, you will die but they will be there even after you die. You put your blood, sweat and tears into raising kids, it's what you've brought into this world. What greater achievement can you imagine than this little, independent being, who is not so little anymore? G-d created independent human beings, humanity, and now you have too. But it's not just biological creativity, there's all kinds of creativity, there's technological creativity, there's aesthetic creativity, you're an artist, look what you bring into this world, you're a composer, look at what you bring into this world. You're a scientist, you discover ideas, you unravel the creativity of the Creator and understand and provide that knowledge for the rest of humankind. You're an entrepreneur, you create the new internet startup company. In all these ways we transcend ourselves, even if we die, look at what we leave behind.
In creativity we transcend ourselves in some sort of ultimate way too, because we're little creator with a small c, and G-d is Big Creator with a large C, and in our own creative activity we gain an appreciation and a sense of awe for the creativity of the Master Himself.
So yes, creativity has ultimate meaning, it IS meaning of life for world 1.
But world 2 has a different answer for what is the meaning of life. World 2 says, we can find meaning through love, through connection with others. If I have loved well, I sense in some way that my life has been meaningful. Even if I die, even if you die, our lives were meaningful because of that love. It's not just love between man and woman, love between parent and child, between man and his Creator, all the times when the little fragments come together and become whole. Even Chesed - the brotherhood of man, we were all once whole, part of one great family. There is a kind of ultimate meaning in love.
You know, there's a fascinating book, a novel written by John Green; The Fault in Our Stars. The book is the story of a precocious teenager by the name of Hazel who has a terminal illness, cancer, her life will be cut short. She meets a boy by the name of Augustus, who also has cancer and by the end of the book it becomes clear that his life too will be cut short. Their challenge really, is to struggle with death faces us but how do we find meaning despite that? Is there a way? Augustus has a kind of answer; he struggles to find meaning through impact - lasting impact. What heroic thing can I bring to the world, can I leave the world with, that will be here even after I die? That's world number 1 talking. Creative man; what can I bring to the world that wasn't here before I was, that will transcend me and live on even in my death?
But there's another answer, an answer that even Augustus at some point seems to recognize, it's Hazel's answer, it's love. At some point Augustus says it. He turns to Hazel and says - and I'm quoting now from the book. " 'I'm in love with you', he says quietly, 'Augustus', she replies. He says, 'I am', he was staring at me and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. He says, 'I am in love with you and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you and I know that love is just a shout into the void and that oblivion is inevitable and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust. I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have and I am in love with you'." What he's telling her is that love too passes this litmus test. That at the end of the day if you die and all you can say is that you've loved, at some level your life still matters.
The question that faces us next week is that world 1 and world 2 give very different answers to meaning in life. World 1's answer, if I just followed that, so I'm a creator, I find meaning in all the different ways I create. World 2, if I just follow that, I find meaning in all the different ways I connect. So which is it? Could G-d not decide when He created man how to create two different worlds? The schizophrenic being who is pulled to create on the one hand, is pulled to love on the other hand? Or is there some way of integrating these visions? Does the real larger meaning of life find itself when humans can somehow bridge the divide between creativity and love? How would they do that? We'll come back and explore that next week.
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