Two Paths to HaShem
The Midrash teaches that HaShem used the Torah as the blueprint for creating the
world; meaning that whatever exists in the world exists in the way it does only
because it first of all exists in the Torah. By the same token, whatever is found
in the Torah has its concrete expression in the physical world.
The story is told about two gedolim learning the halachos
of trumos and ma’aseros: One turned to the other and said: “People
think that because there’s grain growing outside, we’re learning the halachos of
trumos and ma’aseros. Really, it’s just the opposite. It’s because
there are halachos of trumos and ma’aseros, that’s why there’s grain
And since according to the Rambam, Torah, by definition, brings
a person to Ahavas HaShem and Yiras HaShem, we can posit the following:
If everything in the Torah is in creation, and everything in creation is in the
Torah, and everything that is Torah is designed to teach Ahavas and Yiras
HaShem, then everything in creation must also be there to teach Ahavas
and Yiras HaShem. And this is exactly what the Rambam says. In the Sefer
HaMitzvos he says that the way to Ahavas HaShem is by learning Torah. In
Mishneh Torah he says that one can reach Ahavas HaShem by contemplating the
wonders of nature. From the smallest creation to the most immense things, he is
immediately taken aback, feels how insignificant he is in comparison to the grandeur
of it all, and at the same time he comes to a tremendous desire and love for the
One who created all this.
But there is a tremendous difference between coming to Ahavas
and Yiras HaShem through nature or through Torah. Nature may be a complement
to Torah, but not a substitute. The Midrash says that when HaShem came to create
the world, He did so with the letter beis. So the aleph complained
to HaShem that He should rather create the world with the aleph, which is
the first letter in the alphabet. The aleph suggested that the Torah begin
with “Elokim bara bereishis,” which would start the Torah with aleph,
and also the name of HaShem. HaShem refused, explaining that aleph is a lashon
of arur, of cursing, whereas beis is a lashon of baruch, blessing.
“But don’t worry,” HaShem said, “when I come to give the Torah, the 10 Commandments
will start with an aleph: “Anochi HaShem Elokecha.”
The obvious question is: If aleph is a lashon of
cursing, how can you start the Aseres HaDibros with cursing? Perhaps the
idea is the following: that there is a fundamental difference between the study
of nature and the study of Torah. The study of nature brings a person to Ahava,
true. But there’s a posuk which seems to contradict this:
“You’ll see the sun, the moon and the stars, and you’ll turn
away and bow down to them.” Nature can lead a person away from serving HaShem to
serving idols. Whether nature is used to serve HaShem or idolatry depends on what
the person himself is looking for.
The first Soviet cosmonaut was Yuri Gargarin. He was the first
human to orbit the earth, one and a half times. When he came back, he declared:
“There is no God. Now I know it for sure. I was up there and I didn’t see Him.”
Even according to his infantile understanding—that he would go up into space and
see an old man floating on a throne—his assertion was illogical and ludicrous. Gagarin
was merely in earth orbit, he hadn’t reached the end of the universe. Maybe G-xd
was too far away for him to see. But he said such things because that’s what the
atheistic Soviet authorities expected of the good comrade.
In the summer of 1969, the Americans sent a man to the moon.
During the spectacular color telecast showing the earth from space, one of the astronauts
read Tehilim 19: “The heavens tell the glory of G-d, and the firmament tells of
the work of His hands.”
Both the Russian and the American saw the same thing; but one
saw kefirah and the other saw emunah. Our perception of creation needs
to be guided; you have to have the beis, to see the blessing in it. Otherwise,
you might see aleph, arur. Whereas the Torah, hameor sh’bah machzir
l’mutav, the light in it brings a person back and lets him see things properly.
It’s a self-guiding system. That’s why there’s no danger of starting the Aseres
HaDibros with an aleph, because you won’t see the aleph as
arur, but as anochi. The Torah itself will guide you in the right direction.