February 21, 2022

Chagigah 12

Reflecting on how God uses the name “I am El Shaddai” (Bereishit 35:11), today’s daf (Chagigah 12a) records the opinion of Reish Lakish who explains that this name refers to God as being, “the One Who told the world Enough!”. The question, of course, is what does this actually mean?

Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein addresses this text and offers a majestic answer to this question (in his ‘Torah Temimah’ commentary to Bereishit 17:1) where he writes: ‘the intention of God in creating the world was to encourage and empower humanity to strive to engage with, and bring order to, the creation…And had God not said to the word ‘Enough!’, the creation would have been completed and it would have achieved its perfected state… But since God said, ‘Enough!’, God left some work to be done by humanity to perfect the work of creation.’

What this suggests is that humanity was tasked at the beginning of creation to make the world a better place and this is a calling that continues to speak to each and every one of us; and looking at the news, and the state of our planet, it is clear that there is still much more work to be done. Given this, whenever we leave our home and pass by our mezuzah which carries this Name of God, we should remember that we have been charged with a mission to do what we can ‘to perfect the work of creation’.

At the same time, it is also important to remember this same thought when we enter our home and we pass by our mezuzah carrying  this Name of God, because, to quote Rabbi Sacks, ‘Families are the crucible of our humanity. They are the miniature world in which we learn how to face the wider world’, or phrased differently, ‘it is in our home where we learn how to care about and improve the lives of others and the environment where we live, which is a skill that we should then apply when facing greater challenges in the wider world.’

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