Kenneth Brander
Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

To Err is Divine: Rebuilding and Growth (Parshat Bereshiet)

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וַיַּ֤רְא אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת כׇּל אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֔ה וְהִנֵּה ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד וַֽיְהִי עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם הַשִּׁשִּֽׁי׃

And God saw all that he had created and it was not just good; it was very good. And it was the end of the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

“Everything was very good” – and the commentaries explain that this world was very good, but many worlds that God created earlier were not good, and so he destroyed them, made some mistakes and then recreated them.

This idea is found in the Kabbalah and it is found in the ancient Midrashim. (Genesis Rabba, 9:2 and elsewhere)

And the question is: what does that mean that ‘God created many worlds’? God, who is infinite, who has all knowledge, He created worlds that weren’t good, and only after destroying many worlds and making some mistakes, he finally created our world, and it was “tov me’od”, it was very good.

What message is there in this for each and every one of us?

When I read these comments that are found in our ancient texts of the rabbinical world, I am inspired, because I think it reminds us that each and every one of us have a piece of God inside ourselves, and to be reminded that sometimes we begin an initiative and it doesn’t work out exactly the way we want, and sometimes we can get depressed.

We can sometimes get paralyzed or upset, but the answer is we can start over again.

We can do it again. We can try again. And there’s nothing wrong with trying again. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, as long as you have the courage to try again.

And how do we know that?

Because God himself says to us that He made mistakes and only this world was “tov me’od”, only this world was excellent, only this world was great.

And since there is a piece of God in each and every one of us, it’s a reminder to us: sometimes we mess up. It’s not the end of the world, because even the Creator of the Universe, the Master of the Universe, God, the Infinite Being, He also destroyed worlds and recreated them.

It’s a reminder to each and every one of us of the opportunities that we have, that even when we fail, even when we make mistakes, it only empowers us to do it the next time better.

In fact, when God makes the statement that he created the world, “Vehineh tov me’od,” he has one more commandment, to the being that he created on the sixth day – to humankind.

And the commandment is that God says, you know, I created this world, I created this world of “tov me’od”, of very good. But you, humankind, have to complete it because you, humankind, are my partners. (Genesis 1:28)

What an unbelievable opportunity for each and every one of us.

As the holidays have left us and as we have been inspired by these days, and as we get into the normal routine, let us remember that even God made mistakes and God recreated worlds. And we have that opportunity.

And even the world that God created, God reminds each and every one of us that it’s up to us to finish the process because we are truly then partners with God.

Let us begin this year with the inspiration that even when we make mistakes, it just inspires us to be able to build better the next time around.

Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 30 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.
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