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From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 20:36:06 -0400 Subject: Creatio Ex Nihilo and Charity I am adding a comment on the recent discussion on creation ex nihilo (e.g. MJ 25n6). I was priveleged to hear the Rav (Rabbi Soloveitchick) speak about AGADAH and learn EYN YAAKOV for a year (we did Berachoth). During that time I learned many principles which I would enjoy sharing with others. The Rav made the following general claim about statements about GOD: *** All statements about God should be interpreted in light of the *** Mitzvah that man must resemble God (..lehidamoth bidracauv..just as *** he is merciful so you must be merciful...). Thus any statement of *** the form "God did X" should really be translated as "Man should do *** X because God did X; X is a moral norm." For example, the *** statement, "God buried people (e.g. Moses)" would be translated as *** "Man should bury people; burial is a Mitzvah or moral norm." Before proceding let us recall the Rambams famous ladder of Charity according to which e.g. giving someone a job is the highest form of charity and is superior to e.g. openly giving a person money. (Charity Laws) There are 6 other "rungs" on this latter but we suffice with the general idea. Openly giving money emphasizes my self negation of my own ownership for a fellow human being. "Giving a job" on the other hand emphasizes helping a person creating wealth and resources without my loosing anything. It seems in Jewish charity the important point is not whether I lose anything but whether I enable a person to create for himself (money given is once only ; a job on the other hand enables a person to continuously create for himself) One other concept from economic theory will prove useful. If I give alms to a person then I have *transferred* wealth...the gross national product remains the same, but transferred. On the other hand if I give a person a job then I have actually created wealth (out of almost nothing) since the person is producing things that were not there before...in such a case the gross national product increases. We can now tie this with the Ravs ideas: To assert that "God created the world ex nihilo" is translated that "It is a mitzvah to help create (wealth) out of nothing since God himself did so; such enabling of existence is imitatio Dei and a moral norm." I believe that this gives moral insights into what might otherwise be an obscure metaphysical point. Incidentally, the idea of creation as CHESED towards the world is explicitly mentioned in Ps 89. Russell Jay Hendel, PH.D, ASA, rhendel @ mcs drexel edu