Why Was I Created?
“Now, O Yisrael, listen to the decrees and to the ordinances that I teach you to perform…” (4:1)
One of the privileges of having been associated with Ohr Somayach for the last thirty is that I’ve met, and in some cases been close to, several human beings who were clearly living on a different level than the rest of mankind. One of them (who will, of course, remain nameless) is a genius in the art of human relationships. He once distilled the essence of one’s relationship with one’s fellow into three principles. I’ll try to present the first of these principles this week, and, G-d willing, the other two in the weeks to come.
His first principle is, “I was created to serve others, and no one was created to serve me.” This may sound a little extreme. What, my entire existence is for other people? Ostensibly, this sounds to be beyond the “letter of the law.”
But Hashem wants us to go beyond the letter of the law. When we keep to the letter of the law, we treat the mitzvahs like a business transaction — you do this for me and I’ll to that for you. Unlike a business transaction, Hashem doesn’t want or need our mitzvahs. What use does He have for them? If we are very righteous, what does that give Him? What Hashem wants is our heart. When you get a present from someone you love, you’re getting the person you love wrapped up inside the present. When you get a present from someone you don’t care about, you’re getting something you like — delivered by a delivery boy.
So, really, to go beyond the letter or the law is the essence of our relationship with Hashem. However, upon deeper examination it could be that, “I was created to serve others and no one was created to serve me” is indeed the letter of the law, and not an exceptional level of righteousness.
The Talmud in Shabbat (31a) says, “Rava said: After departing from this world, when a person is brought to judgment for the life he lived in this world, they say to him … Did you conduct business faithfully? Did you designate times for Torah study? Did you engage in procreation? Did you await salvation? Did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom and understand one matter from another?
The Reishit Chochma, quoting from Mesechet Chibut Hakever, says that in addition to these questions, a person is asked, “Did you crown Hashem as King over you, morning and evening?” Meaning, did you say the Shema morning and evening. And, “Did you crown your fellow over you by giving him/her pleasure (nachat ruach)?
“Now, O Yisrael, listen to the decrees and to the ordinances that I teach you to perform…”
And so is it when the Torah speaks of decrees and ordinances. Just as the questions in masechet Shabbat are of the essence, so too, “I was created to serve others and no one was created to serve me” is an essential duty — and not a level of saintliness.