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Many answers are given to the quetion of "Why did G-d create the world?", some of them being:

  • He wanted a dira betachtonim, a dwelling place below
  • He wanted there to exist beings besides Himself and to have a relationship with them
  • He wanted to give good, and so created beings to give good to
  • G-d is a King, and a king needs subjects to rule over

But this doesn't preclude just simply asking "why" one more time - e.g. why did He want a dwelling place below, or other entities besides Himself to have a relationship with? Why did He want to give good, or why did He want to have Kingship? And if you give an answer to those whys, you can just ask why again on that answer. It's an infinite regress, and ultimately the answer seems to always end up along the lines of "It is beyond our understanding, we can not fathom or ask questions about the Will of G-d and why He desired something". If so, why bother giving any reasons or answers to the original question at all, if ultimately the real reason is that "We can not possibly know or understand or ask questions on G-d's Will"?

[As an aside, for each of the above answers one can always ask why on the particular details - e.g. if He wanted to give good, why create a world with reward and punishment, where people have to earn the good? Sometimes this is answered with 'so that so people don't feel ashamed for getting a free gift', but obviously you can simply ask 'why couldn't G-d make a world without such a shame for free gifts?'. Or e.g. if He wanted a dwelling place below, why not just create it? Why did there need to be a system of Divine laws and human history, and humans tasked with building this dwelling place by following those laws? This is just another case of infinite regress of whys, where the ultimate answer is that we don't know and can't understand]

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  • Why ask "why" in the first place? Is it an abstract philosophical exercise?
    – shmosel
    Oct 3, 2023 at 1:08
  • @shmosel People have an innate need to ask why, understand the root cause and get answers, especially for such an important question as the reason for their very existence
    – user9806
    Oct 3, 2023 at 3:55
  • @שלום Indeed, that chain of whys can be continued roughly as follows - Q: Why do you desire food? A: Innately 'just a desire', but reasoning about it, it's in order to live/survive Q: And why do you need to live/survive? A: Because G-d desired that men live Q: Why did G-d desire men to live? And now you've arrived at the "Why did G-d create the world" question. Which is another reason the answer to that is so important, but yet no answer is satisfactory due to the infinite regress, except the "We can not know" answer
    – user9806
    Oct 3, 2023 at 4:06
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    Perhaps so, but that's not necessarily the question those answers were directed at. The reason Judaism asks "why" is not to satisfy our curiosity, but to better orient ourselves toward the purpose of our existence. There's much to be learned by exploring the question, even if we can't grasp the ultimate answer. As @שלום said, it's useful to know the function of an item regardless of the ultimate existential need for it.
    – shmosel
    Oct 3, 2023 at 4:26
  • The answer is that you are right. We cannot fully grasp the "why" of creation. However, Hashem did reveal to us a little bit of the "why" in terms we could understand.
    – N.T.
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:07

2 Answers 2

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A simplistic answer is the following:

Those answers are true descriptions of the Creator's will, and since we have an interest in understanding what we can of Him, it's worth discussing what we do know of Him, even if we don't know why He is that way.

Make no mistake, infinite regress does not mean that what we know is immaterial. As levels of understanding go, the responses you summarized are actually of moderately high level, in that they are fairly restrictive statements of intent.


I'll try to synthesize the questions in the aside into a single question:

Why was the world made with logical mechanics that require free will to achieve the Divine desire?

I can't source the response I have here, unfortunately, but I can recount what I was told.

Although it is possible for us to have been created in a world where we did not need to be good to deserve goodness, and that would be logical to us, that would be less reflective of Divinity. In other words, we were given a paradigm that is analogous to the Divine sense of justice so that we can relate better to Divinity. While our reality can be manipulated so that anything works to accomplish Divine will, that will itself does not change. So while G-d could make it so that when a person receives lashes, they experience no pain, yet receive atonement, the will is that the pain atones. Those details, when we look into them, spell out a certain logic that would be counterproductive to change, because each step of the process is part and parcel of the Divine plan and will. This is reflected in statements like "Gam Zu L'tovah". So why should there be a world where we did not need to be good to deserve goodness, when being good to deserve goodness is a Divine preference? All of the details are part of that same will, which does not change. The Torah tells us some of the immutable beliefs that G-d holds. Likewise, we did not need to be created at all, and the dwelling place could have been made by Divine power, in full recognition of G-d. But then, that would be less reflective of Divinity, because according to the Torah (i.e. Divine belief) it is fitting that G-d be accepted through free will even without extremely apparent revelation (i.e. dwelling place in the lower world), so why would G-d need to effect that by Divine manipulation of logic, or even want to?

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These are great questions that I hope I don't ruin by answering, but indeed there are answers in the sources. The first stop we take is to prove that indeed there is an end to the whys. Hashem's ratzon is absolute, and therefore what He wants, He wants for it and not for a secondary reason. This is brought in the Guide to the Perplexed 3:13:

יהיו ... הנמצאות כולם מכוונות לעצמם לא מפני דבר אחר

Each and every being exists for its own sake, and not because of some other thing

Rabbi Manis Friedman, after his own teachers, puts it rather bluntly1: if you ask Hashem why He wants a particular mitzvah, He will tell you He doesn't know! It's not a "knowledge" thing, it's on a level altogether above that.

Next, the list you have given is not a list of equals. The Dira Betachton reason, and the desire to have a relationship are actually one and the same (and intertwined with the notion of wanting to do good to His other, too!), and this is the highest reason, and actually is relevant to Him Himself (see the midrashim this is taught from2). When the sources ask why He wants that, they conclude the same as above, that He wants it not to solve a higher problem; that is what He wants. That's why Chazal call it a ta'avah.

The reason we can't ask why on that is because there is no why. Or rather, the only answer you can give is "because that's Him". If you try to play the why game here, you hit a genuine dead end; why is He the way He is and not another way is a nonsense (and probably forbidden) question.

You should note that it was explained in 1952 in a maamer called "B'sha'a Shehikdimu"3 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe that there is a hidden inner reason we learn from the Kabbalah as to why He wants a relationship, and the answer is, He wants a relationship with Nishmat Yisrael specifically. To speak in the way of man, He never wanted to get married until He met her. So truly, the "reason" for creation is at least as elusive, and infinitely more so still, than trying to ask a man why he married his wife. Going to the world of reason to find the answer is inappropriate, and insensitive.

This is a very beautiful and Divine way to have a relationship; to tell one's spouse that there's no reason for their relationship. He doesn't want us in order to achieve something or because of something about us. He just wants us, for us, because it's us.

This answers one of your smaller questions. Why does doing good require the good to be earned and the Ramchal gives our answer in Derech Hashem 1:2:

הנה איננו שלימות אמיתי אלא יקרא שלימות בערך אל ענין חסר ממנו אך השלימות בהחלט אינו אלא שלימותו ית׳‎ וע״כ בהיות חפצו ית׳‎ להטיב לזולתו לא יספיק לו בהיותו מטיב קצת טוב אלא בהיותו מטיב תכלית הטוב שאפשר לברואים שיקבלו ובהיותו הוא לבדו ית׳‎ הטוב האמיתי לא יסתפק חפצו הטוב אלא בהיותו מהנה לזולתו בטוב ההוא עצמו שהוא בו ית׳‎ מצד עצמו שהוא הטוב השלם והאמיתי

And therefore since His desire, may He be blessed, was to do good to others, it would not be sufficient for Him to do a little good, but rather [only] in giving the full goodness that is possible for the creatures to receive. And in His alone, may He be blessed, being the true good, His good desire would only be satisfied by giving others that very good that is within Him, may He be blessed, from the angle of Himself - which is the truly perfect good...

כי אלו היה מוכרח במעשיו להיות בוחר עכ״פ בשלימות לא היה נקרא באמת בעל שלימותו כי איננו בעליו כיון שהוכרח מאחר לקנות והמקנהו הוא בעל שלימותו ולא היתה הכונה העליונה מתקיימת

...For if he were forced in his actions to choose perfection no matter what, he would not truthfully be called the master of his perfection; as since he is forced to acquire [it] by another, he is not its master. [Rather] it is the one who makes him acquire it that is the master of his perfection. So [God's] intention would not have been fulfilled.

i.e. it's because that's the way He is; master of His own good, therefore to give us that level of good we have to be like Him and master our own good. To put it in terms of relationships, in order to be in a holy relationship, there must be consent as well as an opportunity to truly express ourselves in our love and connection with our God (by making the Dira for Him and inviting Him in ourselves). That's what He wants, and not robots. Why? That's the way He is. It's not so shocking either, we can see the benefit of consent and true freedom in a Divine relationship, even if we don't have enough words to express it.

Finally, the more rational reason given about being a King in need of a people is more a secondary reason, and it is explained in Sha'ar HaEmuna VeYesod HaChassidut:

From the point of view of the creation, it seems that if it was God’s wish to be King, then the only way He could have achieved this goal was to create a world over which He would rule, for there is no king without a people. Yet, this very notion is a created understanding. From the point of view of God’s Sovereignty, there really is a King without a people, who can reign before any of the creation was formed, since God is all-powerful (from the great summary by translator R' Betzalel Edwards)

(something I also heard, give or take, from R YY Jacobson) which is that He doesn't really need a people to be King, and that's only something true from our perspective, but not from His. Our rational brains are limited to a certain paradigm due to His decree, which will be modified in future.


1 - See the shiur "When God Makes No Sense", for example.
2- Bamidbar Rabbah 13:6 , Midrash Tanchuma Bechukotai 3:1, Midrash Tanchuma Nasso 16:1. Seem commentaries on founding pasuk Shemot 25:8
3- בשעה שהקדימו, יום ב׳ דחג השבועות תשי״ב

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  • That Manis Friedman quote is ridiculous and possibly blasphemous.
    – N.T.
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:03
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    @N.T. I thought the same at first, but I think you just have to say it with the right inflection to get it. He is aware of His motivation, but that awareness is qualitatively superior to knowledge. That's always true (Divine awareness of things that we know is qualitatively superior to our knowledge of the same information) but in this case, the motivation is by nature not within the realm of חכמה, so it isn't totally accurate to say that it is known. In other words, he meant to say that G-d doesn't know that motivation, but rather is aware of it on a level altogether above knowledge. Oct 3, 2023 at 21:33
  • I don't think Friedman automatically merits such a charitable reading. Either way he should speak way more carefully.
    – N.T.
    Oct 4, 2023 at 12:56

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