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The Sweat of One's Brow

It is a paradox. G-d is running the world, G-d is responsible. Sometimes, in the bible, G-d accepts the responsibility for evil in the world, at other times He blames us. No wonder it is confusing to us. When we consider the suffering in the world, we naturally ask ourselves whether everything indeed comes from G-d. What is the role of free will in personal reality? How can we understand suffering? Should we blame G-d or ourselves for our suffering?

One of the most important teachings of Judaism is that G-d created this world to bestow goodness. If G-d wanted to bestow goodness, couldn't He have done a better job? Rabbi Moses Luzzato, a fifteenth-century kabbalist, responds to this question most succinctly in his book The Knowing Heart. To summarize, he states that though G-d might have been expected to create man and the entire creation to be perfect in the likeness of His goodness, His wisdom dictated that He restrain Himself and create an imperfect world. Had the Creator created a perfect world, what whould man do? Man's existence would be meaningless. He would have nothing to contribute. G-d honored man by giving him an opportunity to participate in perfecting himself and G-d's world.

Kabbalah talks about the "bread of shame," namely the shame and embarrassment that man would experience if he were only a recipient of Divine goodness. If we only received and never gave, we would not feel good about ourselves. We feel better about ourselves when we make a positive contribution, when we feel that we make a difference and what we do has meaning and purpose. When we must overcome our natural tendencies to do something good, we feel even better about ouselves. We value something more when we have worked for it. To give us this sense of independence and self-worth, G-d conceals Himself from us. With this sense of self, wheich is also a gift fo G-d, we gain the capacity to make choices.

With the proper thoughts, speech and action we become vessels to receive and reveal greater G-dliness in this physical world. In this life we are given the oppportunity to become partners and instruments for the Divine. We are not merely recipients. G-d shares His power with us. When we affirm G-d's oneness, G-d works through us. It is said that G-d feeds the poor and heals the brokenhearted. How does G-d do this? He does so through us. To be a channel for G-d in this way is a source of great joy.

- taken from Everyday Kabbala, Beginning Jewish Meditation:Meditation and the Teachings of the Shema pg. 90-91 by Melinda Ribner 1998 Citadel Books


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