Imitating Our Creator

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It is a well known principle in the Torah that a Jew must imitate his Creator. The Rambam codifies this in Sefer ha-Mitzvot (Mitzvot Aseh 8): היא שצונו להדמות בו יתעלה כפי היכולת (It is that He commanded us to imitate Him, may He be exalted, according to our ability). It is also taught in the Gemara (Sotah 14:1): וְאָמַר רַבִּי חָמָא בְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא מַאי דִּכְתִיב אַחֲרֵי ה׳ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם תֵּלֵכוּ…לְהַלֵּךְ אַחַר מִדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (R’ Chama son of R’ Chanina said, What is the meaning of [Devarim 13:5] ‘You shall walk after Hashem your G‑d’…to walk after the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He). R’ Chama then goes on to list a few examples to illustrate his point. Even as Hashem clothes the naked (see Bereshit 3:21), we too should clothe the naked. Even as Hashem visits the sick (Bereshit 18:1), we too should visit the sick. And even as Hashem consoles the mourners (Bereshit 25:11), we too should console mourners. This principle is also taught in Sifrei (Devarim 49:1): מה המקום נקרא רחום וחנון אף אתה הוי רחום וחנון ועשה מתנת חנם לכל מה הקב”ה נקרא צדיק…אף אתה הוי צדיק הקב”ה נקרא חסיד…אף אתה הוי חסיד (Just as the Omnipresent One is called ‘Merciful and Gracious’ [Shemot 34:6], so you be merciful and gracious, and give freely to all. Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, is called ‘Righteous’ [Tehillim 145:17]…so you be righteous. The Holy One, blessed be He, is called ‘Pious’ [Tehillim 145:17], so you be pious). There are many similar sources for this idea, but these should serve to illustrate the point: we are called upon to imitate our Creator.

You may have heard the expression, ‘Watch what you say because your words create your reality’. Although this aphorism is phrased as a warning to avoid expressing negative things since the expression of that negativity will only reinforce the current situation, its underlying principle is even more powerful if we express it as a positive statement, i.e. ‘Express your ideal reality because your words create your reality.’ Lest we dismiss this idea as psychological mumbo-jumbo, let’s ask ourselves an interesting question. How did Hashem create the world and everything in it? It is written (Tehillim 33:9): כִּי הוּא אָמַר וַיֶּהִי הוּא־צִוָּה וַיַּעֲמֹד (For He said and it came into existence, He commanded and it endured). The verse suggests something even more than what we have already suggested. True, speaking is the path toward a new reality; but speaking itself is not enough. Hashem gave command! He ordered it so, and everything came into existence. Therefore, we suggest that speaking out our desired reality isn’t enough. We must command it to be so. After all, aren’t we supposed to imitate His attributes? Hashem didn’t just think about creating everything, and He didn’t just speak out the desire. He commanded the object of His desire into existence.

What is the fundamental, primordial patterns according to which all future patterns emerge? Before light can emerge, there must be darkness (Bereshit 1:2): וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם (And the earth was formless and empty; and darkness was over the surface of the deep). It is the same with each and every one of us. Darkness always precedes light. Perhaps we find ourselves experiencing an unpleasant situation with our spouse or with our children, G‑d forbid, or perhaps we are experiencing a financial setback, G‑d forbid, or perhaps we are suffering from a terrible illness, G‑d forbid, or perhaps we find ourselves trapped in one of the myriad forms of addiction running rampant through our communities, G‑d forbid, etc., etc., etc. What should we do? First, know that darkness precedes light. Not only that, but consider this thought: you are currently sharing in the experience of darkness that Hashem felt before He created the worlds. And what did He do to dispel that darkness? It is written in the very next verse (Bereshit 1:3): וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר (And G‑d said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light). Hashem, in his infinite wisdom, gave us the secret, if only we would make use of it. What was the way out of the darkness? Hashem spoke. He commanded light into existence, and light came into existence. Therefore, if we want to get out of the darkness, we need to command the emergence of light. Imitate G‑d just as we read in Devarim 13:5.

For example, if you know that you lack emunah and that you wish you had more, speak out the goal of that desire in words your own ears can hear. Don’t say, ‘I wish I had more emunah.’ It is not enough to state a wish. Hashem didn’t say, ‘I wish there was light.’ Rather, every day after Shacharit recite Rambam’s 1st Principle of Faith: אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה שֶׁהַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ הוּא בוֹרֵא וּמַנְהִיג לְכָל הַבְּרוּאִים וְהוּא לְבַדּוֹ עָשָׂה וְעוֹשֶׂה וְיַעֲשֶׂה לְכָל הַמַּעֲשִׂים (I believe with complete emunah that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the Creator and Guide to all created things and that He alone made [did], makes [does] and will make [do] everything). Is anything excluded from ‘all created things’? Is not each one of us included in that ‘all’? Similarly, is anything excluded from the ‘everything’? Hashem did, does, and will do everything! We don’t actually do a thing. Is that so hard to believe? Do we not say three times every day (Tehillim 51:17): אֲדֹנָ‑י שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ (Adon‑ai, open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise). Even the act of opening our mouth, a mere series of muscles contractions, is an act of G‑d. If so, what is our true role? We must have will—the will to open our mouth, the will to speak, the will to state that we have emunah, the will to keep moving forward even though, for the time being, we walk in darkness. As David ha-Melech stated (Tehillim 23:4): גַּם כִּי־אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת לֹא־אִירָא רָע כִּי־אַתָּה עִמָּדִי (Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will not fear evil because You are with me).

Likewise, if you lack bitachon and are experiencing enemies (spiritual or otherwise) attacking you from all sides, recite many times each day a verse that affirms that you do trust Hashem. Don’t say, ‘I wish I had more bitachon.’ Rather, recite a verse such as (Tehillim 55:24): וְאַתָּה אֱלֹקִים תּוֹרִדֵם  לִבְאֵר שַׁחַת אַנְשֵׁי דָמִים וּמִרְמָה לֹא־יֶחֱצוּ יְמֵיהֶם וַאֲנִי אֶבְטַח־בָּךְ (And You G‑d, will bring them down to the Well of Destruction, men of bloodshed and deceit will not live out half their days, but I will trust in You). And if you find it difficult to memorize the whole verse, then just say the last three words: וַאֲנִי אֶבְטַח־בָּךְ (And I will trust in You). It’s not ‘wishful thinking’ to say this. It’s technically the truth. Your deeper you—your soul—trusts Hashem. It’s just that your consciousness has gotten in the way of actualizing that reality.

Life filled with challenges and trials, but Hashem gives us the path through them all (Eichah 3:22-23): חַסְדֵי יְיָ כִּי לֹא־תָמְנוּ כִּי לֹא־כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו׃ חֲדָשִׁים לַבְּקָרִים רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ (For the loving kindnesses of Hashem didn’t end, for His mercies didn’t cease; Renewed for the mornings, abundant is Your emunah). If Yirmeyahu could utter these words after the Holy Temple, the lifeblood of the nation, was burned to the ground and the Babylonian army was slaughtering Jewish men, women and children by the thousands, surely we can find what we lack in our times of need.

Hashem created us to be creators, even as He is the Creator. Let’s tweak David ha-Melech’s words in Tehillim 33:9 just a bit: כִּי אֲנִי אָמַר וַיֶּהִי אֲנִי־צִוָּה וַיַּעֲמֹד (For I said and it came into existence, I commanded and it endured).

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