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Thought for the Day: Why HaShem Created Us and What We Should Learn From That

I heard a shiur where R' Yisroel Belsky was asked, "If G-d doesn't need anything, then why did he create the world?"  It's actually another one of those questions we used to discuss in the college dorm when we wanted to ridicule religion.  Basically same category, though more subtle than, "If HaShem can do anything, can he create a rock he can't lift?"  It's more subtle because even people who grew up religious can get caught up thinking that it's an interesting and/or deep question.  In fact, it is neither.  It is based on a mistake made by the immature personality.

I don't know if mothers ever actually say this anymore, but we are all familiar with: How can you waste food like that?  Don't you know there are starving children in ?!  My answer was, "So send it to them; then we'll both be happy."  R' Belsky said that he contemplated that question for years (ie, kindergarten and first grade) and even asked his classmates.  His big question was, "How does that work?  If I finish the food on my plate, how does that solve the hunger problem for the children in "  (What do you know?  Even budding g'dolim just think differently...)

In any case, the reason we had that question is that we were only thinking only of ourselves.  Our mothers were directing us to see an injustice and respond by feeling the responsibility of having what other's need.  The young child feels no pain, so is not moved to action.  The more mature person feels guilty, so he is moved to action in order to assuage his guilt.  The yet more mature individual feels a sense of deep moral satisfaction when helping others.  All of these, however, are fundamentally motivated by their own selfish needs.  Whether I don't care because I am full, or I don't care because I've done enough to assuage my guilt, or even when I have done enough so that I feel as good as I need... in every case, I am doing it for me.

HaShem gives to others because, as the Ramchal puts it, "mei'chok tov l'heitiv"/acting to benefit others is inextricably linked with what it means to be good.  If there is the slightest feeling of doing something because of how I feel, then I am not yet "good"; I am still selfish.  The work of a lifetime (or more) is to eradicate all selfishness from our actions.  It is possible to learn diligence from the ant and fidelity from the dove even if without the Torah; there are, after all, goyim who perform great acts of philanthropy.

Only a connection to Torah, though, can bring a person to act with graciousness because HaShem is gracious, act with mercy because HaShem acts with mercy.  Not simply reflecting His actions, but evolving to a level where one is also acting out of "mei'chok tov l'heitiv"; that is, to truly become the tzelem Elokim for which you were created.

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