The sole of man
The scene is set. The universe is 5.5 days old. The galaxies are churning. The heavenly bodies are twinkling. The earth is bedecked with verdant, luxuriant foliage. The sea waves at the sky and the sun smiles back. Insects, fish, birds and animals teem in their habitats, by the billions and billions.
At the center of it all there sits a garden, breathtaking in its beauty, overpowering in its fragrances — the Garden of Eden. Lush and expansive, it is a wonderland of countless trees and bushes of every kind.
And into this universe of infinite galaxies, trillions of stars, billions of living creatures and flora and fauna of immeasurable variety, the Creator introduces one person.
One, single, lone person, in the kingdom of the countless.
Why is Adam created alone?
Why not create a couple? Better yet, in the same way all living things were created in the millions and billions, why not go ahead and create the human race?
Why is it that from all life, the human being starts from one?
The answer is responsibility.
The human, unlike any other creation anywhere in the universe, spiritual or physical, is not just a part of the world; he is responsible for the world.
More than any mineral, vegetable, animal or angel, it is Man who was given the responsibility to make sure the universe fulfills the purpose for which it was created in the first place.
Every single creation outside of Man is given the luxury of simply following its program and instinctive nature and enjoying its existence. Man has no such luxury.
But global responsibility is a tricky thing. When it comes to responsibility in general, people love to shift it around. There is a tendency to feel like if I don’t take the responsibility seriously, surely someone will. All the more so with a global, universal responsibility, shared by 7 billion people. It is difficult to imagine that any one of the 7 billion would take his or her responsibility seriously because, come on, someone will take care of it.
Thus, G-d creates one person. In the loudest way possibly, G-d singles out Man, creates only one, and informs him: You are the only one! This world is your responsibility, and yours alone. There is no one else to take care of things.
By doing that, G-d decrees that “being the only one” is the destiny of Adam and every “Adam,” every human that will ever follow, forever. Even when there eventually 7 billion humans, each and every one is the only one — there is no one else to shift the responsibility to. It is up to you and you alone to guide your corner of the universe toward its fulfillment and beautification. The building blocks of a beautiful world are in your hands. Charity. Education. Kindness. Morality. Justice. Selflessness. These are yours to implement.
Imagine a world where people thought and felt this way. Imagine a world where personal responsibility was the highest held value because it was the highest value. Imagine a world where people rose to occasion, every time, because they felt that particular sense of urgency that arises only from the awareness that the future rests solely in your hands.
What a world.
When Adam was alone, that’s exactly the reality that existed. And if we read the story of creation with sensitivity, we find that even as humanity multiplied, that reality was never meant to change.
At Aleph Institute, this is more than a vision and a dream — it is a mission statement. Every day, we help guide and inspire men and women struggling with life’s many challenges to discover within themselves the master key to all life’s blessings: an authentic, urgent sense of personal responsibility.
Ours is a call for a return to Eden and a return to a time when the human felt that there was no one to shift blame and responsibility to; the future of my world and the big, giant universe lies solely in my hands and in the wisdom and humility of my next decision.
Shabbat Shalom! PJC
Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel is the executive director of the Aleph Institute-North East Region. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.