For Every Thing, A Purpose

We should view the diversity of creation as existing to reflect the grandeur of God, not to serve the various needs of humans.

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Too often, we presume to judge the worth of Creation by its appeal to our human perspective. The Midrash insists that our criteria are insufficient. The world does not exist merely to please us.  While human beings do form the pinnacle of God's creation, the world and the cosmos remain God's creation, not our own. Therefore the standards of value come not from us, but from God. 

Stories in the midrash tell of the prescient ability of the sages to recognize scorpions and snakes, frogs and leaves as "intended to perform God's commission." We, too, need to re-focus our vision to be able to do the same. The complex interdependence of living creatures--of the myriad plants and animals that populate our globe--are essential to the continuation of life, just as the remarkable range of cells and structures in the human body all contribute to its vitality. We diminish that variety at our own peril. 

But the danger is more than simply one of physical survival. A second danger, more subtle, but no less real, emerges when we coddle our egocentric insistence that the world should answer to human standards and human utility. In the words of the psalmist, "How vast Your works, O Lord. Your designs are beyond our grasp." The glory of the world--of which we are a part--is directed beyond us, reflecting the grandeur and transcendence of its sacred Source.

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.