Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Bereshit
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

The Midrash teaches us that when God, so to speak, consulted in heaven as to whether or not to create humans four representatives presented their views to the Almighty. By the way, this Midrash is a very instructive way to begin to understand the role of Midrash generally in rabbinic writing. The rabbis always wish to express deep and philosophic ideas, conundrums and contradictions that we constantly face in daily life, in a manner that on the surface appears as a story or a fable, oversimplified and almost naïve in presentation. However, it is up to the student studying that snippet of Midrash to ferret out its intended deeper message and its relevance to one’s life, society and situation. Thus Midrash is always a living document, to be used to find current guidance and thought and not a book of stories about the past whether the stories be deemed by the student to be fanciful or literal. But let us return to the debate in heaven as to whether humans should have ever been created in the first place. Truth and Peace objected to the creation of human beings. Truth stated that the tendency of humans will always be to lie and be false. They will never be able to be trusted. So there is no purpose in creating such a being. Peace also objected to the creation of humans. No period of time will pass in human history without war, violence, dispute and contentiousness being present. So again there is no constructive purpose in creating such a being and having them populate the world. They will only destroy one another.

Kindness stated that humans should be created. There is a streak of goodness and compassion within human beings. They will build schools, hospitals, orphanages and day care centers. They will search for medical cures to disease and raise vast amounts of wealth to help those who are less fortunate and truly needy. They will care for the helpless, domesticate animals and be kind to them and have concern for the world that they live in. Overall therefore they are certainly worthy of being created. Justice also stated that humans should be created. There is an intrinsic sense of fair play amongst humans. They will establish courts of law and attempt to adjudicate disputes between themselves. They will search for methods of enforcing a just society; the creation of police forces to make for a secure society; and a method by which all basic human rights - those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - can somehow be guaranteed to all. Again, overall humans can be a positive force in the world so therefore it is advantageous to create them and let them fill and develop the planet. The Midrash continues by saying that God, so to speak, considered all of the four protagonists and their arguments and found them to be an even draw - two against two In order to reach a decision he therefore "threw" Truth down to earth so that now the "vote" was two to one in favor of creating humans which He then proceeded to do.

The great Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern (Halperin) of Kotzk asked: "If God was only looking to break the tie vote, so to speak, why did he throw down Truth? He could just have easily thrown down Peace and Truth remaining alone would then have been outvoted two to one." He pondered and then answered: "Truth can never be outvoted. No matter what the vote is, no matter how many speak against it, Truth remains as is its essence - eternally true. Peace may be compromised and adjusted. Not so Truth. It is a trait that is all or nothing. Something which is ninety-nine percent true is still not Truth. It does not adjust to ever changing mores, fads or current correctness. So therefore Truth had to be disposed of before a vote could be taken." The Jewish people have always been outnumbered. God promised us that we would be a small people numerically and that promise has certainly been fulfilled. The rest of the human race consists of billions of people who disagree and outvote us regularly, sometimes peacefully, most of the time violently. Other faiths have for centuries attempted to convince us that the majority rules and prevails and thus we should give up and join them. But we have not wavered as a nation in our belief in Truth as revealed to us by God at Sinai. We cannot be outvoted as long as we represent Truth in its essence and sincerity. And that is the secret of the creation of humans and the existence of Judaism throughout the ages.
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