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What Is the Meaning of Life?
Video 5 of 7
The answer of world number [one 0:35], it is through creativity G-d, the ultimate Creator in the universe, man, little creator, created in the image of G-d, his destiny to create like G-d creates. G-d creates man biologically, mankind has the ability to re-create itself biologically. He has the ability to create technologically much as G-d did when G-d created the world itself. Man has the ability to go back into that sandbox, the world, and to create and to mould it as he sees fit. That's one great answer to the meaning of life. We find it by exercising our creativity, there is something sacred about creating, about imitating our creator, about effecting the world in this kind of way.
But, what we've been calling world number 2 seems to provide an entirely different kind of answer, world number 2 seems to be a world where different values reign. The prime value; love, connection, clinging to your beloved, clinging to them physically and becoming one flesh, reuniting between man and woman. Man and G-d; man comes from G-d, reuniting in a way, connecting with G-d, so as to form that whole. Connecting with land, we come from land too. Connection. Love. These are the great values of world number 2.
The question I left you with is, so at the end of the day is this just a picture of a kind of deep, schizophrenia in the heart of mankind; two entirely different things that we strive for, creativity on the one hand, relationships on the other, and never the twain shall meet? Or not? Is there some way in our heads that we can integrate this? Looking at the Torah, does the Torah help us see how any of this might get integrated? Or are we stuck? Do we pursue two different things almost like we have our foot on the back of two steeds, these horses galloping, and what if they gallop in opposite directions? Because these really are two different aims in life, so what am I supposed to do? How do I try simultaneously to achieve these two different things? Or is that even what I'm supposed to do?
So as a way - at least for myself - of trying to come to grips with some of these questions, I tried a little thought experiment. I actually tried this with a few people over here in the Aleph Beta office and now I want to invite you, podcast listeners, to experience this thought experiment along with me. So I'm going to give you two different paths, two different visions of your life. If you sort of fast-forward 80 years from now and I want to ask you which of these you would find most fulfilling? There's going to be a world 1 path and a world 2 path. The rules of the games are, you've got to pick one or the other, there's no compromise. So which of these two would you pick? Let me describe each for you, try to paint a little picture in your mind here.
Path number 1, the creator path. So 80 years from now, you look back in your life and here's what it looks like. You're blessed with exceptional creative skill. You were playing around in chemistry class in Tenth Grade and discovered a new metal alloy. Along with your chemistry teacher you published a paper on that, got written up in an academic journal, and people are clamoring for you to get into the Ivy League. There you majored in software engineering and you started an internet startup company, [the ULU 4:23] or dominance of the home video market. YouTube is nothing compared to what you put together. It seems like whatever it is that you touch, somehow your creativity sparks new revolutions here and new revolutions there. You're written up on five different Wikipedia pages. It's not just you, it's your kids too. Biological creativity, you have these children who are just as creative as you are, they're showing great, great promise in their young lives. You're famous. You're rich from all of the public acclaim, from all of your inventions. You go places and you're mobbed by fans.
Yet, you have nothing in terms of relationships. The sad truth of it all is that none of your relationships have really worked out. It's been so in marriage, you had some kids, but you don't get along with your kids and don't get along with your parents. There's really nobody that you call a deep and close friend, that you look back, that you have a really warm and close and abiding relationship with. So yes, you have your adoring fans who, like paparazzi, huddle around you and ask for your autographs and take selfie pictures with you. But they're not really interested in you, they're interested in being seen with you. You're a lonely celebrity, but you've made your mark on the world. The world is a different place, maybe even a better place, because you've been here. That is option number 1, path number 1, path of world number 1.
But here's the path of world number 2 and it looks very different. Eighty years into your life you look back in your life. You've had warm and abundant relationships with people. Deep, satisfying relationships. Your life is full of love, of giving and receiving these gifts. You feel that your loved ones have gotten to know you and you've gotten to know them. Every day, every conversation, it feels like you're discovering the person next to you anew. So your relationships are abundantly fulfilling.
But everything that you've sought to create, to build in your life, has somehow just turned to dust, nothing has really worked out. You had your dreams, you had your professional dreams, you tried to build a company, it fell apart. You tried to build a house, you couldn't do it. You tried to become a software engineer, you tried to compose violin concertos, you took piano lessons ad nauseum, nothing stuck. You never really did anything. Never accomplished anything, never built anything. But your relationships - your relationships are warm and vibrant and loving and satisfying.
Which of these paths would you choose? If you had to choose only one and you couldn't mix and match, which would you choose?
So I want to share with you the results of my thoroughly, un-scientific survey that I took here in the offices at Aleph Beta, I asked this question around, and while I will delete the names to protect the innocent, here were some of the reactions, or the consensus reactions. So one consensus reaction is that hands down - everyone I talked to at least - chose the second option, chose relationship fulfillment. And I think that's very palpable. If we really think about it, I suspect that that's how many of us would choose.
I remember vividly a song from growing up, Harry Chapin's The Cat's in the Cradle. It was really all about that, the great balance between career at one level - world number 1, and family, your child, relationship - world number 2. Here's this father and he has this child and he loves his child, and the kid just wants to spend time with dad, but dad's busy, dad's gone to work. Dad's not watching a football game at work, he's in work so he can provide for kid, but somehow it crowds out that time for kid. The story is the saddest story in the world. That song is tragic. I remember a Rebbe of mine in high school, told me, he says, when I turned on the radio and I heard that song for the first time, I had to pull over to the side of the road, I was sobbing so hard.
It's the tragedy of trading world 2 for world 1. World 1 seems so all-consuming, but you can't put a world 1 price tag on things from world 2. A friend of mine tells a story of how in high school in Cleveland, so they had a career day where parents were invited to come in and talk about their careers. So all of his friends were having their dad come in and this one was going to talk about his beer factory that he had, and this one was going to talk about what it was like to be a commercial airline's flight instructor, and everyone was going to come in and talk about their careers.
This friend of mine, he was so proud of his father, his father was a career guy but also managed to integrate his Talmud study and he taught a Talmud class every day. He said, Dad, I want you to come in and talk about your career and how you teach these classes and how you put it all together, tell my class the story. The father said, well look if I did that, I'd have to take off the day from work and here's what I make per hour in my day at work and I do this so that I can put food on the table, so that I can be able to support you and Mom and the other kids. And if you think it's worth it for me to take off that time, that's going to be worth $2,000, then I'll do that. But you tell me if you think that's worth it. The kid was like, well no, I guess I can't tell you that it's worth $2,000.
But you listen to that story, it's like the saddest story in the world. Because it's putting a world 1 price tag on something that's not from world 1, it's from world 2.
So let me just come back here to this reaction of my office mates to this stark choice of world 1 and world 2 that I put before them. What do we make of that? How might that help us in a way go back to the text in Genesis and understand it? How does it help us understand our lives? So here's what I at least make of it. It seems to me that the mere fact that everybody in my thoroughly, un-scientific survey chose world number 2, says something. It suggests, going back to the Biblical text, that maybe there's a progression here.
In other words, I presented to you in the last three or so podcasts, this vision of world number 1 and then this second perspective of world number 2. But let's go back to the Biblical text and remember that world number 1 actually comes before world number 2. Bereishis barah Elokim et hashomayim v'et ha'aretz is the world in which G-d is the Creator, in which man is created B'tzelem Elokim. Following that; Eileh toldos ha'shamayim veha'aretz behibaram - these are the generations of heaven and earth, and in that world relationships are key, the whole world revolves around them. So, very generally speaking, it may well be that world 1 leads into world number 2. In other words, there's a reason why world number 1 precedes world number 2. Maybe at some level world number 1 is a steppingstone into world number 2. In other words, to make that a little bit more concrete, maybe as fulfilling as it is to be a creator B'tzelem Elokim, it doesn't hold a candle to the fulfillment that comes by building relationships that are deep and that are meaningful. By connecting with those who we were once one with.
Now, what this might further suggest, if it's really true that world number 1 is a steppingstone to world number 2, and this is, I think, something which we really have to think about, why is that true? In other words, what is it about world number 1 that helps you get to world number 2? That would suggest that it's not really possible to get to world number 2 without achieving something in world number 1, without achieving your potential in world number 1 at some level of being a Tzelem Elokim - of being a creator, at some level, at least little creator. Why would that be so?
This leads to one of the interesting caveats - if I can go back to our little office discussion - one of the people that I interviewed about this, said that to some extent they thought it was a little bit of a false choice. Because my extreme view of option number 2 is that the only kind of fulfillment you had were these really deep and meaningful relationships, but that you had no creative fulfillment whatsoever, whatever you tried to do failed. You couldn't build anything in your life, you had no hobbies, you had no success in developing yourself, whether learning music, or whether writing, whatever you tried to build just utterly failed. This person suggested that maybe that's not so realistic. In other words, maybe it's not really possible to have really rich and meaningful relationships unless you can build something in your own independent life before you even get into a relationship.
I think that's a very interesting insight and maybe is a clue perhaps as to how world 1 is a steppingstone into world 2. In other words, before I enter into a relationship, I actually have to be an independent person. World number 1 is really about mankind being given the tools to be independent people. The Ultimate Creator in the sky says, here I'm going to give you the power that I have, the power of creativity. You're going to exercise it and you're going to feel powerful. It's your source of self-esteem. Look at what you can do, you can create like the Master of the Universe can create, look at how sanctified you are.
That really is the basis for all kinds of respect in the world. Not just that you should respect other people because they're creators just like you - which is certainly true. Not just that you should respect G-d - which is certainly true - because now that you have an insight of what it means to be a creator you can have all the more appreciation for the Master Creator in the universe. All of that is true, but you can respect yourself, you understand that you too are a sanctified being, you're a little creator on earth. It is that power to create, that ability to create, that sort of establishes you as an independent person, capable of entering into a relationship.
Because what happens if you try entering into a relationship and you're not an independent person? You have no self-esteem, you have no sense of self, you haven't actually done anything with your life. Well, if you try doing that, your relationships are not likely to be all that fulfilling. Because a relationship by definition is a relationship between two independent beings. Two independent beings realizing that each other is independent magically form this we, this union together, and that union is wonderful, and it's an escape from loneliness, it's something larger than both of us.
But the paradoxical part of that union is that as much as it's a we, an us, it's also two I's, there's me that's separate, and there's you that's separate, and somehow we come together. But if I'm not independent I'm just going to get sucked in, there's not going to be any me left, and how will that make you feel that there's no me left? You don't want just a yes man in your relationship, you don't want somebody who is just a little puppet of you, you want somebody who has a sense of independence and from that place of independence is willing to relate to you and to give to you. If I have no sense of independence then what I give to you isn't even meaningful.
Let's say I take you on a date and I say, so where would you like to go? Where would you like to go out to eat? And your answer is like, oh wherever you like is fine. No, but like what kind of food do you like? Do you like Indian food? Do you like - there's this really cool new Japanese place down at the harbor, do you like that? Well, you know, I just really want whatever it is that you would like. I mean at some point that gets annoying. I want to know like who are you? What are your interests? Tell me what you like and I'd like to actually explore those interests with you, because I want to know who you are. But if there's no you there, there's no there there, like who am I relating to already? I didn't get into a relationship with a sock puppet!
So coming back to this idea that world 1 is connected to world 2, it's a bridge into world 2, you start with world 1 and you get to world 2, we may start to have an inkling now as to how that might be so. In other words, here's one sense in which world number 1 is a prerequisite to world number 2. If in world number 1 man gains power through the ability to create; I can establish myself as an independent being, that's a necessary bridge on my way to a relationship. I have to be independent, as it were, before I can be interdependent. You might think of a relationship as interdependence, as that two people who could be independent choose to give to one another, and through the act of giving to one another and servicing the needs of one another connect and achieve a kind of wholeness that is larger than each of their selves.
I take you out and you actually tell me you'd like to go to a Thai restaurant, so I take you to this gorgeous Thai restaurant and I'm so happy because I understand what it is that you like and I can respond to what it is that you like. Then you can reciprocate. You know that I love classical music, now you're into jazz, but you surprise me and you take me out to a classical music concert and you enjoy it with me. You ask me to explain the background of the music and who Leonard Bernstein is, and who Dvořák is, and why the music is meaningful to me and you explore that part of my life. That's wonderful, we can connect because we are two separate people, who are really sharing each other's lives - interdependence.
So that's one thought that crossed my mind about how it is that world number 1 might sort of integrate with world number 2. But let me go back to my little, intra-office discussion for a moment, because in my brief interviews with people, folks in the office brought up a couple of other caveats, reservations that they had about my stark choice between world number 1 and world number 2. Another thing that one of the people that I interviewed here in the office mentioned is what - something that she saw as a kind of ironic point, which is that even though she felt very strongly that world number 2 if you had to pick your achievement, if you're going to achieve only in world number 1 or only in world number 2, it would hands down be world number 2, you'd want fulfilling relationships. She says, that in real life people don't always do that.
In other words, she was willing to bet that if you interviewed 100 people, 90 of them would say it's all about world number 2 and it's all about having fulfilling relationships, and yet if you look at what they're actually doing in their lives most of the day, they're actually world number 1 people. What are people actually focused on for most of their day, nine to five, or nine to six, or nine to seven, or eight to eight? It's your career, your job, advancement, the next bonus, the next milestone, you founded a company, the next great product you can bring to market, you're a farmer, you're focused on getting the next crops out. I mean, that's what you're focused on. How many people sit around all day and just try to improve their relationships? You can say I'm a world 2 person, but aren't you paying lip service to this?
In other words, to be kind of cynical about it, maybe we're all hypocrites, maybe we're all - if we are interviewed we'd say, yes, yes, it's very important, our relationships are very, very important, our relationships. But in real life we're focusing on building ourselves up as a creator, the impact that we make in the world.
So again, I wonder though if the paradigm that we're starting to build here might just kind of answer that. In other words, it's not really that we're hypocrites, there's actually a nicer way of seeing that. World 1 naturally leads to world 2, that you really do have to start in world number 1, you have to build yourself up as an independent being, that's what getting an education is. If I don't have an education how can I hope to give to you? What can I really give you anyway? I have to learn how to build. That's what an education teaches me. A prerequisite for relationship is the development of self that comes from making myself into a Tzelem Elokim, a little creator in this world.
And, by the way, picking up on that theme, that until I have actualized myself as a creator at some level in this world, that I don't really have anything to give you in a relationship. Think about that in terms of world 1 and world 2, not just in terms of the human perspective but in terms of G-d's own perspective. You know if these really are two separate worlds, world number 1 and world number 2, two separate sets of values, maybe that's true not just for humanity and humanity's relationship to the cosmos, but maybe that's true for G-d Himself in world number 1 and world number 2. G-d Himself in world number 1, the great value for G-d is creativity, the six days of creation, world number 1, Genesis Chapter 1, how would you define G-d? G-d is creator, that's all G-d is really doing, it's about G-d being creator. He's making stuff, making the universe. And if you think about the values of that world, the values of that world is creativity, it's a prime value, it is like an end in and of itself.
But then what happens? The seventh day comes and G-d stops. G-d rests from creativity and suddenly there's this bridge between world number 1 and world number 2, and the bridge is what we call the Sabbath. Yes, the Sabbath. Do you ever ask yourself why it's there? Why is it between world number 1 and world number 2? It's like the last thing that happens in world number 1 is the seventh day, but you could also say the first thing that happens in world number 2, just before Eileh toldos ha'shamayim veha'aretz behibaram - these are the generations of heaven and earth as they were created, the first thing that happens just before that is the Sabbath. What is the end of world 1 is the beginning of world 2. The Sabbath can be seen as a kind of transition between the two worlds. A leaving of one world and its values of creativity and an entering a new world with its values of love. Once the Master Creator is done creating he can turn his attention, as it were, to other things, other more important things, relating.
It's interesting, in the Friday night prayers we speak of Shabbat as the; Tachlit ma'aseh shamayim va'aretz - as the purpose of the creation of heaven and earth, which is a strange sort of thing to say, in what sense is the Sabbath the purpose of creation itself?
The answer is while you're creating you think it's all about creating, I'm making and I'm making and that's my ultimate value. Just like as I'm going to school I think it's all about a career and it's all about what I'm going to do, and it's all about becoming the best creator I can be. But then there's something strange, which is that like while I'm doing that, the whole process of my life, why I'm going through an education, and I'm building myself up, I think I'm doing something really meaningful, I'm doing something really meaningful. And then I hit this midlife crisis where I finally made it, and I'm finally a successful creator. Then I think, okay, but what now? What is this all about? What does this really mean? Somehow the strange, ironic thing is that at the end of it, it feels empty and you think, until now the last 20 years it didn't feel empty. While I was pursuing this goal it didn't feel empty and suddenly when I arrive at the top of the heap and I've actually made it and I'm sitting in my corner office and I'm looking out at the traffic below and I'm thinking, but is there something more?
That's the natural transition, it's the Sabbath transition into a new world. How is the Sabbath the purpose of creation itself?
Well, we talked before about one aspect of Sabbath, the idea of showing respect to your creation, not adding one more curlicue to the painting, somehow letting go and having the creation be something independent from you. Yes, that is one aspect of Sabbath, but there is another aspect of Sabbath too. After I have let go, after my creation is independent, then what? Then I want to spend time with it, I want to relate to it. After you put down the hammer, after you're no longer fiddling with creation, then a new possibility exists, and that possibility is relationship. Relationship. If I am a creator it's going to be a relationship with that which I've created, that which came from me. It's a relationship that I can only have once I'm done creating. As long as I'm fiddling with you I don't really have a relationship with you, I have to stop fiddling with you, stop making you into something, declare you an independent being. Once you're independent from me then I can enjoy you, I can actually give to you as an independent being and you can give back to me as another independent being and we can have a relationship with each other.
But in order to do that I have to stop. I have to stop creating so that you're an independent being, and I also have to stop creating so that I'm not preoccupied with creating anymore. So that I can have other things on my mind. I have to rest so that I can focus on you and on connecting with you, on giving to you, which is what world 2 is all about. World 2 is that G-d creates this place, this wonderful place where we can be, and that's where you sort of see the purpose of creation itself. Because creativity wasn't just creativity for creativity's sake, what was G-d really building? A universe. And what was that universe? It was a home, a home for us. That's what G-d was building.
It's like while you were building it, you couldn't even focus on it being a home, you just had to focus on the process of construction, you were just a builder. But after, in Shabbos, you begin to look at this and say, oh my gosh, what have I been making this whole time? I have been making this world for the one that I love. This place that's perfectly designed for humanity to exist, a world where I can give to humanity. And that leads you to world number 2 in which all of creation itself is cast, and says, what was this all about? It was all about a world where I could give.
That's why we talked about last week how the whole world of world 2 is a world in which G-d is pleasure-giving to people. Look, these delicious trees that are so beautiful to see and good to look at, this is what I'm making for you. You could use a mate, maybe try some animals? No? That doesn't work? Ah, here, a woman, a bone from your bones, flesh from your flesh. In this world you're connecting with Me because you came from Me, I'll give you a sense of that, I'll give you someone who came from you to connect with, and you'll taste that deliciousness in your physical world and you'll understand how delicious it is to connect with Me. It's a world of connection that becomes possible through a world of creation.
G-d created the environment, the universe itself, with all of these gifts, everything in the universe is a gift, down to the trees, down to the fruit. What's the word for fruit? Pri. What's the word for creativity? The blessing that G-d gives to people; Pru u'revu - be fruitful and multiply. These are the gifts of creativity that I'm giving you, it's My fruits, I have something to share with you now. So world number 1 really is a bridge to world number 2. The Creator in building this home has given the greatest gift possible to His beloved, everything in the home is there for the beloved. The creativity itself is now a gift, and maybe - maybe it's the same for us? We are Tzelem Elokim, and we're meant to follow the path of our Creator. Our Creator shows us the example.
What would it mean for us, little creator, to follow that path? Well it's the same kind of thing. First we've got to create and build ourselves up and create things that we could actually have, that we could actually give in life to the one that we love. Then once we do that we're in a position to love, we have some gifts that we can give, we have a home that we can make for the one that we love, an environment for them. Now you're ready for love. While you're involved in world number 1, world number 1 is its own world, creation is all-consuming. When I'm in school I'm just thinking of being in school, it's only when I'm done that there's that sense of emptiness. It's almost like I see a little door and that door is leading me into world number 2. The door says okay, now put down your hammer a little bit, realize that all of this is just giving you the ability to relate. Who are you going to relate to? What gifts are you going to give them?
Now, by way of qualification, let me just add this. I have presented a paradigm which is kind of stark, a world 1 paradigm and a world 2 paradigm, and the transition between them. But the truth is, is that it's more like alternating current in electricity. I go from world 1, a transition from Shabbos into world 2, but then perhaps back into world 1, the transition to Shabbos, world 2, back into world 1, transition to Shabbos, world 2. Life really is going back and forth between the creative realm and the relationship realm.
Remember Shabbos for us isn't a one-time event, it happens every seven days - and there's not just a Shabbos in the daily cycle. For those of you who have seen our talks on Aleph Beta on the Mo'adim, I refer you back to Parshat Emor this year and last year, in our Parsha videos, we talked about different levels of Shabbos. Almost like different orbits, like planets orbiting at different speeds and different cycles. So you've got Shabbos for days, and then you have Shabbos for months, which are the Mo'adim. The Mo'adim - all of the Holidays have Sabbath-like qualities to them, but what the Sabbath is on the daily cycle, the Mo'adim - these Holidays, are in the yearly cycle. Then there's a Sabbath for years itself, the Sabbath for land. The seven-year cycles and the 49 cycles. All of these are Sabbath-like events.
In our life too, yes we've got these great moments, these milestones of creativity that we reach when we've finally built that internet startup company, we've finally brought that product to launch, and we have these milestones in our world of our relationship, our marriage, our tenth anniversary, the birth of a kid, the Bar Mitzvah of a kid. But in life we're constantly going back and forth, we're building and then we're creating a place for our beloved, we're making gifts that we can give to our beloved, we're going back and forth between those worlds. And in that back and forth lies our meaning.
There's a fascinating Rambam I want to share with you on this, I found yesterday, in Hilchot De'ot. The Rambam - Maimonides, at the very beginning of his magnum opus, the Mishna Torah, he talks about these themes in a very interesting way. I'm quoting now if you want to follow along if you have a Rambam, Hilchot De'ot, Chapter 5, paragraph 11. The Rambam says; Derech ba'alei dei'ah - people who are intelligent, they go about achieving certain goals, there's three basic goals that they achieve, but they achieve them in a certain order. The first thing they do is; Sheyikaveh lo odom melacha hameparnesset oto techila - they find something that they can do, that they can create, that they can build, so that they should have something to give, something that they themselves can be independent. A way of earning a living as it were. V'achar kach yikneh beit dirah - and after this they build themselves a home. V'achar kach - and after that; Yisah isha - they find someone to marry and they marry a woman.
Shene'emar - and you see this in the verse, he says. There's a verse that talks about going out to war. Now the verse itself is a fascinating verse, it was a verse that always troubled me but I think this Rambam really puts it into focus. I'm quoting now from Deuteronomy Chapter 20, verse 5. It says that before Israel would go to war so the leaders of the nation would stand up before the troops and they would make the following declaration. They would say if there's any man here that has planted a vineyard but has not yet tasted the first of its fruits, they should leave the front and go home, go back to the vineyard, lest they die in war and someone else will have those first fruits. If someone has built a house and has not yet lived in it, let him too go home, lest he die in war and someone else take over his house. If there is someone who is engaged to marry a woman but has not yet married her, let him go home and marry her and be with her, lest he die in war and someone else take her.
It always troubled me when thinking about these verses that - so who cares? So I died. If I died I'm not going to know about someone else taking over the house. Dying is really, really bad, so it's like, who cares if I died before the house or after the house? Nobody wants to die, so how is it that these guys get to go home? But what the text is telling you is something very deep, that each of these things are ends in and of themselves. Think of them in terms of world number 1, or world number 2, and the bridge between world number 1 and world number 2, Shabbat. World number 1 what did you build in your life? You made a vineyard, you changed the world, this vineyard is your vineyard, it's your expression of yourself, it's how you, B'tzelem Elokim came and with your own bare hands, with Melacha, you built this wonderful vineyard, and you haven't yet tasted the first fruits. I talked to you last week about death; death is a kind of litmus test for meaning, that somehow the most meaningful things in life have to be meaningful even in the face of death.
That's what the verse is talking about here, you might die, of course you might die, death is a fact of life, it can't be escaped. But there's a difference between death when you are on the cusp of realizing your mission to create, leaving that tantalizingly unfinished, and death when you had a chance to bring completion into your drive to create. When you built yourself this vineyard and you actually can taste of its fruit, then - then you can die in peace. So go home, eat of its fruit, don't allow the tragedy of death to keep you away from that one, final step that you need to feel like you've made it in this world, that you've made it as a creator.
The same thing applies for a house. A house too is a different kind of creativity, you've built something in this world, but what is a house for, what is a vineyard for? Ultimately it allows you to be an independent being, so you could have something to give to someone, so that you can marry - the last thing described in these verses - so you can marry and have something to give. Each one of these things is a kind of end in and of itself. It's so much an end in and of itself that if you haven't achieved any one of them, you should go home rather than face the possibility of death. You should finish the vineyard project. You should finish the house project. You should finish the project of marrying.
But there are three different stages. Three different stages that G-d Himself went through in His path of being G-d, and that we, B'tzelem Elokim, we go through these stages too. First G-d made stuff in the world; vineyards were part of that, as it were, and we as a human being we make our vineyard like G-d in His six days of creation, He made the vegetation and all that stuff. But at the end of it all what had G-d really made? He had made a world, a house, a universe, and He invited us in. And then He created a little summer home for Himself, this garden - two houses that we could connect, our universe house and then a house inside that universe house, the garden - and invited us into the garden, into that house. That's where we connected with Him. That was the world of connection.
Then G-d said, you try this too. You too, Tzelem Elokim, you can cultivate beautiful things. I'm the Gardener, I teach you how to garden. I cultivated the Garden of Eden, but now you, you can learn agricultural prowess from Me, you make your garden, you make your vineyard, you make your house. Then, you know what a garden and a house is? It's the greatest gifts you can give to someone that you love. You can marry a woman and you can build a home with her. You can provide for that home, you can give her somewhere to be. Creativity is nothing in the end if it's not in service of someone that you love.
While you're in the creative world it seems like everything and it is everything, it's an ultimate goal, and that's why if all you can do is build your vineyard then you should go home and finish building it before you face death, because it's an ultimate goal. But after that you'll look and you'll say, what next? You'll say, building a home. So you'll build a home and while you're doing that, that feels like an ultimate goal, but when you done you say, what was that for? Then there's a part of you that says it was for love. I want to marry, I want to connect to someone, and then you'll do that and that's the way of the world, the Rambam says.
Then the Rambam says, don't do it the other way around. There's a natural progression here. Tipshim - the Rambam says, stupid people, you know what they do? They get married first - Mat'chilin lisah isha. After that; Yikneh bayit - they think, oh maybe I can buy a home. After that at the end of their days when they're too weak to do anything they go and they say, oh maybe I should find a way to express my creativity, I should find a way to support myself and to actually do something in this world. They find out that they can't, they end up taking Tzedaka - taking up charity from other people.
The Rambam then says, and that's why later on in the Torah, in a part of the Torah that talks about curses that will come to Israel if they don't properly follow G-d's will, it talks about these three imperatives but in backwards order. It says that you're going to find yourself being engaged to marry, but some other man is going to take her. You're going to build a house, but someone else is going to take the house from you - you're going to die and someone else will take the house. Kerem titah - you'll build yourself a vineyard, but someone else is going to take its fruits.
The Rambam says the curse here is not just that you're going to be unable to find fulfillment, the curse is that the order is going to be wrong, you're doing it all backwards. You're starting with marriage and then you're going to the house, and then you're going to the vineyard. There is a natural order of things, it is world 1 - creativity, world 2 - relationship. It's creativity in service of relationship.
So in conclusion - at least in conclusion for this week - what I want to say is, is that there seems to be a natural bridge between world number 1 and world number 2. World number 1 is supposed to lead into world number 2. World number 1 goals and world number 2 goals, creation and connection, seem to have ultimate value when you're in that world, but still, one is a bridge to the other. When you've achieved a certain level of creativity, there's a challenge there, and the challenge is to be able to stop and to enter another world. That's the Shabbos challenge. To enter a world of relationship, to understand that this creativity was in the service of something.
In a deep way what I might be able to argue is that really it's all about, in a way, being a Tzelem Elokim, following G-d's example, acting as if we're in the image of G-d, taking the lead from G-d, what did G-d do. G-d created a world and built a home for us and then ushered his beloved in and related to them. What are we supposed to do? We're supposed to do the same thing, we're supposed to also create in the image of G-d, devote ourselves to that. But also to build a home, to be able to be in a position to be able to give gifts to the one that we love.
You even see it as part of world 2. In world 2 in which G-d ushers us into that home, into Gan Eden, and seeks to relate to us in that loving kind of way, to give us those gifts and to establish that connection with us, in that world, G-d says, you know what, you try it too. The same way that you came from Me and I want to connect back with you through these gifts, I'm going to give you the experience of something that comes from you, woman, and you connect back to her. V'davak b'ishto - and cling to her, and become one flesh, and taste that joy of unity with something that you've been separated from, from which you came, which came from you. You, Tzelem Elokim, take the path that I've taken, seek connection after creativity just as I have.
This week I've described an ideal for you, next week in what may be the final week of this podcast, I want to describe what happens when that ideal crumbles, what are the dangers that that ideal poses. Because this path from creativity to connection is strewn with the possibility of failure. Being a Tzelem Elokim, a little creator, just like G-d, invests man with great power but power is always dangerous - just ask J. R. R. Tolkien from Lord of the Rings. The great ring of power is also the source of all evil. Remember the first great story of history after world number 1 and world number 2 is established, is the story of the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the root of all evil in the world.
At the end of the day if you really want to understand the meaning of life, it is not enough just to understand the rosy ideal of a perfected vision of what it means to achieve meaning of life through engaging in creativity and then connection. All of that is wonderful, but what does it mean to fail in achieving meaning of life? To have the best intentions but to fail anyway, miserably, to taste that terrible frustration, to be tripped up by your own sense of power. That is the story of the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and you can't really understand the meaning of life without understanding the danger implicit in pursuing that meaning. That is the heart of the story of eating from that tree, and that's what we'll explore next week. I'll see you then.
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