Rabbi Shimon Kessin
HASHEM CREATED THE HUMAN SOUL SO THAT IT CAN SHARE ETERNITY WITH HIM
The Torah reveals to us the extraordinary reason for creation. Hashem desired, because of His absolute goodness, to create another being besides Himself that would resemble Him to the extent that it could, so that it would co exist with Him for eternity17. By experiencing this eternal coexistence, this created being would share with Hashem, to the extent that was possible for it, the reality of the divine. This reality is an ecstatic, joyful existence that knows no diminishment or end. To fulfill this desire, Hashem created the human soul, an extraordinary spiritual essence having an image like resemblance to Him and fully capable of this experience. At the beginning of its creation, the soul can be said to have entered into a hypothetical dialogue with Hashem, its creator. The dialogue went as follows:
The hypothetical dialogue between Hashem and the soul
Hashem: “I have created you with the ability to co-exist with me forever and through this I will share the divine experience with you to the extent that it is possible for you. In this circumstance, you will be in constant ecstasy, bathed by the beauty and awe of my divine truth. This will be your world and it is my great gift to you.”
Soul: “I am truly staggered by this magnificent gift and the love that is behind it. However, much as it would please me, it also presents certain problems for me. You are the source of existence and consequently, You are the ultimate creator. Since I bear a certain image like resemblance to you, I have similar creative tendencies. This creator aspect in me would make me feel very uncomfortable with the idea that my eternal existence is being presented to me as a gift, that is, without my having done anything to create and produce it myself. This discomfort would certainly mar the ecstasy that is your intention for me.”
Man has the ability to “create” his own destiny
Hashem: “I have already foreseen this. The gift that I will give you therefore, will not be the actual eternal existence itself but rather only the possibility for you to create it yourself. You will create it by choosing with your own free will to coexist with Me. Your choice will become your destiny and your final reality and it will be considered as your act of creation.”
Soul: “How and under what circumstances am I to actually make this choice?”
The soul must earn its own eternal existence by attaching itself to Hashem through its own free will
Hashem: “Your ability to become eternal rests completely with your becoming attached to Me since I and I alone, am the source of all existence. Attachment to Me then, will become the focus of your choice and this choice will affect your ability to exist. However, to enable you to choose freely between attachment and separation from Me, first I must conceal My absolute power and presence from you. This will allow you to have the illusion that you can separate from Me and be completely independent with an existence and power all of your own. With this illusion, you will be able to separate from Me if you so wish.
The physical body and its physical environment
In order to conceal Myself, I will place you, the soul, temporarily, in a condition where we will no longer be in direct contact. This condition will be a physical world. In this world you will be encased in a body. You will become a human and your body will only allow you to know a reality presented to you from your five senses and nothing more. However, even though I will appear to be hidden from you because of your physicality, it will not be totally so since your intellect and your spiritual sensitivity will allow you to find Me and know of My existence if you seek Me in true humility. Your body, however, will resist this effort by continuously presenting you with impulses and drives in another direction, that of self empowerment through the pleasure and comforts it offers. Should you choose this direction, we will be separated and you will lose the ability to co exist with Me.
This attachment can be achieved only through the observance of the mitzvos
To further compel you to choose between attachment or separation from Me once you become human, I will reveal to you certain commandments. Even so, I will still be hidden from you since your body will still separate us. These commandments will apply to your physical being and either direct you to do something (positive commandment) or not to do something (negative commandment). If you listen to your intellect and the intuitive spiritual sense of truth that I have implanted in you, you will realize that I am your creator, your father, and your ultimate destiny. You will be encouraged to observe these commandments and through them you will develop an intimate relationship with Me. This will become your attachment to Me.
If, on the other hand you listen to your body and its impulses, you will falsely believe that you can be independent of Me and be a source of your own power. You will then be encouraged to transgress these commandments and because of this become separated from Me. The choice will only be yours and I will not interfere with it. Through that choice, you will either create an eternal co existence with Me or not. Your ability to create your own destiny by an act of your own free will introduce into the world the principle of Justice. This will become the dominant principle governing your creation and final destiny.”
The principle of Justice
Based on the previous dialogue, it is clear that the possibility of eternal co existence with the Divine is dependent on our actions and that this fact is the expression of the principle of Justice which states that if we attach to Him, we will exist and if we separate from Him, we will not. The question now is- how does Hashem assess our performance in this matter? How does He judge us to determine our fitness for eternal existence?
Hashem evaluates our performance through the Heavenly Court of Justice.
The Sages tell us that Hashem judges us through a system similar to that on Earth, except that it occurs in a spiritual form. The system’s central feature is the heavenly court of Justice. In this court Hashem is the judge. The prosecutor or district attorney is an angelic being called the Satan (the word Satan in Hebrew actually means accuser or prosecutor). It is his role to bring before this court all accusations and indictments against all earthly people as to whether they have earned their eternal existence24. In opposition to this accusing angel is a defending angel who seeks to defend each person whose case is brought up before this court. Hashem, the judge, decides the outcome, guilty or innocent, and determines the ensuing judgments.
This court judges the way we have observed the mitzvos
This court is the single most powerful entity in all existence. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can affect a person if that court has not ordained it, regardless of the circumstances. In contrast, once something has been ordained, no power in all creation can prevent it since this court represents the power and will of Hashem. Consequently, everything that happens to a person, whether good or bad, is an outgrowth of a decree from this court. Any and every trouble, tragedy, aggravation or frustration comes only from the decisions of this heavenly court of Justice.
What does this court judge? It judges those actions that we choose to do with our free will. It judges those actions that either attach us or separate us from Hashem, the source of all existence. These actions are the commandments that were revealed to Moshe, by Hashem, at Sinai and written down in the Torah. This court therefore judges whether we have observed or transgressed these commandments. In the final analysis, however, this court judges whether we have earned our eternal existence or not.
The principle of Mercy creates a second court to evaluate our deeds
Given the fact that the observance of these commandments is the key instrument to achieve eternal existence, Hashem gives us two alternatives. First, He tells us to observe the commandments to the best of our ability. Second, if we fail in this, He tells us that we should repent with as much sincerity as possible since repentance removes the negative effects of sins and rehabilitates a person to his former unsullied status. What happens, however, if a person sins and does not repent so that he doesn’t accept either alternative? Can he still be saved from the severe hand of the principle of Justice?
The answer is yes! Hashem has foreseen this possibility and because He loves us so, because He is on our side and wants us to succeed, He has created another court that co exists simultaneously with that of the court of Justice. This second court judges us as the first one except that it rules according to the principle of Mercy and not that of strict justice. In this second heavenly court of Mercy, even if a person is found guilty, the decrees are much lighter.
This court can issue a decree that will postpone any punishment for many years in order to give a person many chances to repent. Even if a punishment is decreed, it can also be staggered over many years, a little bit at a time, making its application much more bearable. Hashem allows the possibility that under certain conditions, this second court of Mercy will adjudicate our sins in place of the court of Justice. In this way, He applies the principle of Mercy.