Malchiyot on Rosh Hashanah

As Reb Zalman taught on Rabbi Ayla Grafstein’s youtube site (cf., “Reb Zalman on High Holidays“, Parts 3 and 4): 

“What is to happen on Rosh Hashanah?  Here’s a teaching I got from my Rebbe, Reb Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch.  It goes something like this:

Adon olam asher molach b’terem kol yetzir nivra / The Lord of the world, He reigned as King before there ever world was yet created, before anything was shaped / created. 

“It begs the question, since our sages tell us, and it is very clear to us too, that eyn melech b’lo am / you can’t have a king without the people [who serve], so whom did He, before anything was yet created, reign over?

“Good question.

“And this goes even deeper because the rabbis said, you must never do anything to anyone else that’s a liability to him [in his absence]. 

“If it’s unalloyed good, you can do that.  For instance, if I say this belongs to Reb Dovid and it’s unalloyed good, for instance, tax free money, then that would become yours from that moment on because zachin l’adam shelo b’fanav / we may benefit a person in his absence, the person doesn’t have to be present to take ownership. 

“But, eyn chovin l’adam shelo b’fanav / we may not disadvantage a person in his or her absence.  If it’s a liability, you can’t lay it on a person unless you have obtained consent. 

“Now follow; this goes another step. 

“And Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel debated for two and a half years:  ‘Noach lo l’adam shelo nivra yoter mishenivra‘ / ‘It would have been more convenient for a person not to have been created than having been created.’  And the other side said, ‘Noach lo l’adam shenivra!’ / ‘It is more convenient for a person having been created!’

“In the end, they voted on the matter and concluded, ‘Oy!  We have come to the conclusion that it would have been more convenient for a person not to be created.  Achshav shenivra yifashpesh b’maasav, since he’s already been created, so let him do the right thing, etc.’  He’ll get out of it okay.  (cf., Talmud Bavli, Eruvin 13b).

“But the law is that [if it’s a liability] you cannot oblige anyone, you cannot put an obligation on someone without his / her consent! 

“So how, then, could God have created without asking us first [especially since it was a liability, which they agreed it was]? 

“So now you see that we are looking at this question almost as if it were cosmic theater. 

“Instead of having a deus ex machina, we have a ‘people ex machina.’  The ‘people ex machina‘ have to make their appearance and say, ‘Yes.  We want you to create the worlds.’ 

[NOTE:  In plays and operas during the eighteenth century, the deus ex machina (literally, the god from a machine) would show up and ensure that the play would end with positive outcomes for the protagonists.  It was a character with enormous powers to make things turn out right:  The star-crossed lovers, the dejected parents, any other popular characters who seemed to be in an inextricable bind would be miraculously rescued by the all-powerful deus / god character. 

Here, Reb Zalman is saying that the person saves the day in the same way with regard to the “cosmic theater” of which we are a part, through applying our free-will and realizing our desire to have God as a King.  To put this into terms less abstract, it means to actualize ourselves, to become the best we-s we possibly can; or to do good deeds, tzedakah, mitzvot, etc.  In these ways, we rescue God (if one can say such a thing!) just as the deus ex machina rescues the protagonists. 

God is in a bind having created us into a situation which was a liability (namely creating us when we weren’t present to give assent).  We make the best of it, and change it from a liability to an asset (through performing good deeds, through actualization, etc.) and thus, we “rescue” God from a bad situation.]

“And of course, this touches the mystery of time, because how could you say there was a before and an after as far as God is concerned?    But that’s another story.

“Now I want to get to that place through which my master was teaching and saying, even in the very infinity of infinities, there was an ‘itch,’ if you will, to be like a king.  There was an ‘itch’ to enter into a finite world and to be loved in that finite world.  There was an ‘itch’ that those who live in a finite world should say, ‘Please become our King.’  And then that would give such satisfaction that from the very infinity of infinities there would be a beam coming down making Himself present in the Shechinah and seeking just to be here in the same way.”

[NOTE:  When we realize that God had a longing for our goodness, it touches us and creates a desire on our side to serve.    (Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor.)]

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