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The Talmud in Eruvin 13b concludes that it were better for a man not to have been created than to have been created.

How can we understand this given that God is absolutely benevolent. Wouldn't it make more sense for a benevolent God to create a world where it is better for man to be created?

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Source that God is absolutely benevolent? –  Double AA Mar 14 '13 at 22:44
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Why is "a world where it is better for man to be created" a more benevolent thing? –  Double AA Mar 14 '13 at 22:45
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1. tomer devorah. also evident. many verses. 2. implies that in current situation most people better off not created. (maybe since most wind up in gehinom? (shabbat 104a rashi "yam kol") –  ray Mar 14 '13 at 23:18
    
How is it evident? Tomer Devorah uses the word 'absolutely benevolent'? –  Double AA Mar 15 '13 at 5:21
    
@DoubleAA found a source for you. The Shaar Bitachon ch.2 factor #7 - (7) That the person he trusts is absolutely generous and kind to those deserving and to those who are not deserving, and that his generosity and kindness is continuous, never ending and without interruption. (Tov Halevanon commentary: the most possible extreme of generosity and kindness... see there) –  ray May 12 '13 at 18:44

2 Answers 2

Rabbi Shnuer Zalman of Liadi has a lengthy discourse (Likutey Torah Parshas Re'eh 26c), where he discusses this question. He asks how this statement in the Talmud implying that the creation of man was a negative thing correlates with the explicit verse in Parshas Be'reshis that "Hashem saw all that he created, and it was very good."

He sums it up the answer in the end as follows (my own free translation):

This is the meaning of "They counted and concluded that it would have been more "pleasant" ("נוח") had man not been created". It does not, heaven forbid, say it would have been "good" ("טוב") had man not been created, for that is impossible to say - the descent and creation of the soul from the lofty levels of purity to this lowly world are all for the sake of the tremendous ascent that will follow; incomparable higher than the levels the soul had obtained prior. However, this was not the ultimate purpose in the creation. Rather, we were created to serve Hashem and not to work for ourselves or for the sake of receiving reward. Therefore they said that it would have been easier and more pleasant had man not been created, although he would have not have obtained such heights, rather than entering this incredible fight with the evil inclination, and if only one could come out as unblemished as when he entered.

That is, certainly it is good that man was created. The Talmud did not say otherwise; only that it would have been easier had man not been created.

This post quotes a similar idea from Rabbi Mordechai Yosef of Izbica in Mei HaSheloach.

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I've heard HaRav Yosef Mizrahi Shalit"a say this as well. +1 –  Hacham Gabriel Mar 15 '13 at 3:55
    
Also see the Maharsha on Makos 23b. He gives a lengthy explanation of this gemara (braysah) in Eiruvin while explaining the gemarah in Makos. I have not written it as an answer because I do not feel like I fully grasp what he is saying but maybe you will be zoche. –  Gavriel Mar 16 '13 at 20:31

The Ben Jehoaida on Eruvin 13b says that were were created from the כסא הכבוד‏, (Throne of Glory), and cites the Arizal who discusses 'the secret of ברוך הוא אלקינו שבראנו לכבודו‏'.

MHRS"A on Makkos 23a:

... They agreed and concluded to say that man was not created for himself, and it would be better for him not to be created, for he is close to loss... And now that he is created, he was only created for the glory of Gd, as it says "for My glory I created it"...

It seems like this hard truth was intentionally woven into creation so that we could know that everything's purpose is for Gd, a Higher Being that transcends space and time. If it were advantageous to us for us to be created, we could fall into the trap of absolute self worship and materialism, which makes for an sad and empty life.

Gd's greatest gift to us was showing us that everything that we are and everything that we do is for a higher purpose. Instead of having even the most thrilling and intense pleasures marred by our ephemeral, desolate existence and urges, we enjoy the heartening rapture of our higher purpose even in the most mundane activities of the world.

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