Hashkafah teaches us that Hashem created a system that involves us, His creations, working for our reward. The reason given is to combat Na’amna d’chsufah (sp?) lit., Bread of Shame; meaning, if we received our reward without challenges, suffering, etc., then we would not appreciate the reward. This is certainly true, given human nature (the manner in which we were created).
My question is, Hashem is perfect, and can do anything. Why didn’t He create us as kelim (receptacles) that could receive rewards without feeling shame for receiving something without toil. Further, Olam chesed y’boneh. Hashem is wholly chesed. Wouldn’t such a creation in which one never suffers be the highest form of chesed?
I hope I expressed myself clearly enough. Someone asked me this question, and my only response was, based on my understanding of the Ramchal in Da’as Tevunos, that Hashem is indeed Perfect, and in His absolute Wisdom, He knows what is best for us….period. I’m sure there is a better answer?
Thank you for your question.
You are bringing up an important point on a very delicate topic to understand, although we cannot understand H-shem’s ways, as the Prophet (Isaiah 55) says “כי גבהו שמים מארץ כן גבהו דרכי מדרכיכם ומחשבותי ממחשבותיכם “ “The same way the heaven is above the earth, so too are my ways above yours”, nevertheless we will try to understand it little bit.
We have to remember that difficulty and convenience (or pleasure) are opposites, but chesed and difficulty are not. Our worldview is that chesed and pleasure are synonymous, but that is not the way H-shem looks at it. H-shem views chesed by its ultimate results, not by its temporary convenience or pleasure. Very often something is pleasurable at the onset, but it isn’t good later on, (such as unhealthy foods, drugs, and other lusts). The biggest chesed a parent can give his child is to make him self-sufficient and capable of building himself up, so HE can be successful. For the parent to give the child everything he needs for life, is convenient for the child, but it is taking the main pleasure of self-accomplishment away from him. Life will be boring for him, because his physical needs may be taken care of, but his emotional- neshoma needs are not. Accomplishment is a pleasure that cannot be given as a gift, it needs work, and the more work the greater the accomplishment and the greater the pleasure and satisfaction will be.
H-shem made trillions of creations, animal, birds, fish, angels, trees, and they all are given pleasure. The cow enjoys his grass, the fish it’s food etc., but there is one pleasure that is above all of this, and that is the pleasure and satisfaction of accomplishment and achievement. That is something only a human being has because of his free will. Let me explain.
Let’s examine another question. Even after we have worked in this world, the reward is still bread of shame, because we got everything that we have from H-shem, our intellect, our body, our money, our drive, is all from H-shem, it is all coming from H-shem’s gifts, so in what way is the reward ours? The answer is that H-shem made us in a way that there is one thing that is in “our” jurisdiction, and what we “rule” over, and that is our own free will. The choices that we make are ours, even though all the supplies are H-shem’s. This is the uniqueness of a human being- that we have the choice to either do H-shem’s will or to disobey. In this sense the outcome of our free choice, is what WE actually did, and only then is it considered earned. When we employ our free will and do something, we have then created something, (the good deed, and the angle that was created as a result), and this makes us G-dly. When any one of the other trillions of creations does something, they are not really credited for it, because it really isn’t them, it is the instinct and nature that was put into them that did want it did. For example, when a cat feeds her kittens, it isn’t doing so out of the goodness of its heart, because she decided that it is the correct thing for her to give of herself to her kittens, but because an inborn instinct that it was programed to do. The same thing with a computer, that calculates a difficult equation, or sends out 1,000 e-mails to different people for me. Do I give the computer credit? No, it didn’t decide to do anything, it is programmed to do so, and the programmer is the one who gets the credit. So too with people, if we would not have been created with free choice, the reward is will be sorely lacking and superfluous. Yes, if we would have been created and given a lot of good things, it would be very convenient for us, but the reward wouldn’t be us. By H-shem making us with free will, he is then giving us the opportunity to that we earn what we have, He then made us a creator, and then we can receive in a much higher level. When we get to Olam Haba, we will enjoy the feeling, “look at what I did”. Additionally, when H-shem gave us a neshoma, it is a part of Him, and it has G-dly features, in the sense that it can understand, and has feelings and sensitivities that are G-dly. One of those sensitivities are that it wants to be a creator, to accomplish, to really do, and without that it will feel a lot of pain. To ask that maybe H-shem should have created us different then Himself, in the sense that we should not have a G-dly feeling within us. H-shem made us to be the best possible, and to make it differently is to compromise His creation.
As a side point, the Midrash says that originally H-shem wanted to create the world with “din” judgement – that everything has to be earned and what isn’t earned is not rightfully ours, but He saw that it would be too hard for us, so he diluted it with “kindness”. How does this fit in with the idea that olam chesed yiboneh” the word was made for kindness? It also says that the avos wanted specifically to reach the level of getting their reward thru din. Why? I once heard from Horav Zeidel Epstein zt”l that essentially din is the biggest chesed, because then the reward is 100% earned, and not just 50% earned and 50% unearned. The idea being that now the person is the true creator of his reward, and he is more similar to H-shem, and it is totally justified. According to what we now understand, this also makes sense. The higher level of din, the higher will be the quality of the reward and feeling of accomplishment.
A second but deep answer to this question is that if a person would just receive without making any effort, the reward would not be appreciated, because a person appreciates what they worked for and what they invested in. For example, a parent loves their child more than the child loves the parent. The reason for this is because the parent invested a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort in the child. Therefore, the parent sees the child as an extension of themselves. When the child grows up and is successful, the parent feels great about it. The child however only received from the parent, and didn’t invest anything into them, therefore the child does not have this feeling that the parent is an extension of themselves. Another example, a person that wins the lottery will blow the money much faster, than someone who worked hard for it for 20 years. Why? Because what was worked for is appreciated. Another point. The more the receiver of a present appreciates the present, the more satisfaction the giver will have out of giving the present, and the more the giver will be able to give more. For example, if you give someone a present, and instead of letting you give it to him, he grabs it out of your hand and walks off without saying thank you. The only thing he says is, “it’s about time”. Will the person be motivated to give this person another present? No. Why? Because the person is not letting the giver, be able to really “give”. In order to give there is a need for a receiver, if the other side takes the item away, the giver is no longer a giver, rather the item was simply taken from them. A part of H-shem’s giving, is that the person receiving the goodness, appreciates what he got. Therefore H-shem created us with a system that we will be able to appreciate what we have gotten, so that his giving us can be a full giving.
Some of these ideas are deep, but I hope that they are understood.