That now leaves us with the sixth inquiry to explain.
(As we’d stated there), our sages said that all the upper worlds as well as this corporeal one were created for man’s sake alone. But isn’t that strange? After all, why would God bother to create all that for man, who’s so insignificant and hasn’t a hair’s-breadth of worth in comparison to all that we see before us in this world — to say nothing of the upper worlds. And besides, why would man need (for there to be) such august and hallowed worlds?
(But in order to explain just how vitally significant mankind is we’ll start off with this.) It’s important to know that the satisfaction that God derives from granting His creatures pleasure depends on the extent to which they sense that it’s He who’s bestowing it. For when they do, God regales with them much the way a father regales with his beloved child when he senses that the child understands the father’s greatness and magnitude. It’s then that the father reveals all the treasures he’d prepared for the child.
God can be said to be thrilled when we, His children, take note of His presence and catch sight of His bounteous goodness and grandeur; and He wants to grant us even more goodness than before and of an even higher rank as a result — His full presence. For only mankind can recognize God’s presence in the face of things that seem to deny it, since lesser beings can’t recognize it at all, and higher ones aren’t denied access to it from the first.
As the verse depicts it (God says): “Is Ephraim (not) My precious son? Is he (not) a darling child? For whenever I speak about him I earnestly remember him and my innards are moved by him” (Jeremiah 31:19). Scrutinize these words and you’ll come to understand just how God will (eventually) regale with His perfected ones who merit sensing His greatness the ways He devised for them to. He’ll act (toward them then) as a father does with his “precious (and) darling child”.
But we needn’t go into this at length. Suffice it to say that it would be worth God’s while to have created all the worlds, higher and lower alike, for the sake of the satisfaction and delight He’ll derive from such perfected individuals.
It’s clear from this last statement and much of what we’d said up to now that we’re only “perfected” when we fully recognize God’s role in our lives, His grandeur, and His great benevolence; and when we replicate that benevolence by means of the mitzvah-system. It’s also clear that the reward for that will be the sort of full-face encounter with God’s Being in the World to Come that’s due such a soul.
(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).