Order from Above and Below

by Rabbi Jason

G-d must be an engineer.  Well, at least I try to tell myself this.  We all look at Hashem through the lenses of our own experience.  I like to build things, and have done so to varying degrees since I was a child.  I know that one of the “hats” Hashem wears is that of Creator, Builder, and Thinker Upper of Stuff.  The Torah is filled with stories and accountings of great detail.  G-d is a G-d of order, we are all told.  But you need only open up the first story to understand the order of creation and start to apply it to your own life.

Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of G-d was hovering over the face of the water. And G-d said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And G-d saw the light that it was good, and G-d separated between the light and between the darkness. --Genesis 1:1-4

What is most fascinating to me is that G-d can certainly snap His proverbial fingers and come up with all this cosmic stuff in one synchronous moment.  Yet He didn’t.  The Torah says “in the beginning of G-d’s creating” to tell us that there was a start to this cosmic process.  Hashem began with His own form of cosmic clay.  It says, “the earth was tohu vavohu ”  This tohu vavohu represents for us the cosmic clay from which everything was formed. Within it held all potential for the universe, yet it was useless in its primordial state.  Hashem creates the order of the universe by following a very deliberate and patient process.

If G-d went to all this trouble to separate light from darkness, water from heaven, seas from land, then why does it seem like the tohu vavohu monster is always on our backs?  Why does chaos seem to stalk us and throw parts of our lives back into disorder?  If I consider the state of my workshop, desk, the trunk of my car, or my email inbox, I am plagued with the never ending task of battling disorder.  We all have that closet in our house where everything gets thrown when we want to forget about it, and the “junk” drawer that contains all the little things we might need someday.  This is the tohu vavohu in our lives. We must pull out the light and partner with G-d to create seder/order within His creation below.

Order from Below

Every system in the universe has many forces acting on it that have the potential to disrupt and disorganize the original intended order.  In the beginning, God pulled His “light” into the universe as the energy of creation and good.  Our job is to tap into that light and help be little mini-agents of creation. When we bring order back into our lives, we are actually acting in emulation of the First Agent Who facilitated this creation process. The sages teach us that the “Spirit of God / Ruach Elohim”, which hovered over the deepness of chaos, was the Spirit of Messiah. 

"The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters."This was the spirit of Messiah as it is written,"The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him." (Genesis Rabbah 1:2 quoting Isaiah 11:1-2)

The author of the book of John couldn’t agree more:

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Everything was made to exist through him, and nothing that was made to exist was made to exist except by him. There was life in him, and the life was light for the sons of men. The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.  (John 1:1-5, DHE)

These passages from Genesis and John represent very lofty esoteric subject matter, so let’s get back down to earth.  As God created all that we know through a patient process, and that was done through the agency of His Word and Son, then the key to taming the chaos of our lives is by emulating Hashem’s process as best we can in our human form.

break it down

Many people do not connect the physical chaos in their lives with spiritual chaos.  One of the Mussar masters, however, subtly hints at the possibilites if physical chaos is tamed:

“All your actions and possessions should be orderly – each and every one in a set place and set time. Let your thoughts always be free to deal with that which lies ahead of you.” – Rabbi M.M. Lefin of Satanov, Cheshbon Hanefesh

Chaos at home will clog your spiritual and forward thinking for the matters of Heaven.  So where do we start? Attacking big mounds of chaos is best done by breaking down the process into smaller pieces.   Sometimes, the disorderly places in our lives are often so overwhelming that we avoid doing anything - they seem insurmountable.  But the first step is to break them down.  If you have to, make it a 6-day process like Hashem did.  You don’t have to tame all the chaos to claim progress has been made and some semblance of order restored.

Here are some suggestions when tackling the messes in your life.

  • Sometimes the biggest problem is getting started.  Figure out the easiest things to do and do them first.  This creates a sense of accomplishment and “I can do it” attitude.  
  • Divide and conquer.  If you have a huge pile of stuff to work through,  divide up the big pile into smaller more manageable piles.  Put things in categories and place similar things in the same pile.  Put all the receipts in one pile, junk mail in another, mail to read in another, projects, etc. 
  • Now that you have smaller piles, all of the things in each pile is related and easier to work with.  Taking one small pile at a time, work your way through until there are no more piles.

creation on a small scale

Do you have a big project to do and it seems overwhelming? Create a simple plan to get you started.  The key to planning is projecting a movie in your head of the major things that need to be done over time.  What do you need to get started?  Write it down.  What do you need from other people?  What can you start while you’re waiting for the other components to come together?  Figure out the general steps to do X, Y, and Z.  Believe it or not, writing or drawing out some of what flashes through your head will help you organize your thoughts and make the project more understandable.  When you keep it all in your head without planning, it gets pretty overwhelming and you literally experience chaos of the mind.

As you imagine how to take chaotic homes, lives, desks, etc... and restablish orderliness, take a lesson from God’s plan book.  Break down your life tasks into smaller, more attainable bits and you might just make a great new world for yourself.  Over time, a physical world in order  will help to make a spiritual world of order more possible - for one empowers the other. May you strive each day to tame the entropy in your life, emulating the example from above more and more each day, and reaching greater heights in Mashiach through order.

Gospel references taken from Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels (DHE)®, © Copyright Vine of David 2010. Used by permission.


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