The Whole World is Created Only for Me?
Yes, Only You. And for Everyone Else as Well.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring the belief that the Torah has imbued into our consciousness — like a slow-release capsule, over thousands of years — of the sacredness of every single person.
In 2021, the Western world protects individuals’ rights and celebrates diversity (at least by creed). What we don’t appreciate enough is the long road it’s been to get here, and that the origin of this value in our civilization is the notion of every person being made “in the image of God,” which is the cornerstone of Torah wisdom.
The last XL was about not losing sight of the individual when seeking to impact the masses. The previous one was about what it must have felt like to be received as a guest in the home of Abraham and Sarah, whose mission was to awaken this sense of holiness and cosmic significance in every person they met.
Prior to these, we explored how ideologies and the pursuit of the so-called “greater good” tend to negate the value of “mere individuals” who stand in the way of the causes, and how it’s no coincidence that human sacrifice was the epitome of evil that Abraham and Sarah combatted with their teachings and acts of kindness.
Let’s spend this week better understanding this teaching of:
My first reaction to this quote is, “this is so nice!” What a nice thing to think.
But then, on second thought, it starts to sound at least a bit…self-absorbed.
Or perhaps self-centered?
I suppose it can be both, no?
How about egotistical?
How are we supposed to swallow this pill without spitting it out? What starts as a nice slogan, rapidly sounds like something nice people should not think about themselves.
However, some context reveals it to be as humbling as it is emboldening.
What’s the history behind this adage of “the world was created for me”?
Over two millennia ago, the Jewish supreme court system realized it had a problem. Witnesses in capital cases could be jumping to conclusions, misinformed about the parameters for burden of proof, or outright lying — all while lives would hang in the balance. Judges had to put the fear of God in them, and yet, if they’d scare them too much they’d simply recoil and refuse to testify even in cases where they possessed valid testimony.
This is the formula they came up with to brief witnesses on their responsibilities:
Humanity wasn’t mass-produced by God. Adam was created alone. Why? To implant deep in the human psyche for the rest of time that it is worth creating the entire cosmos for a single person to enjoy it by leading a good life in it.
The judges would urge the witnesses to contemplate this heady idea. Doing so would help them think twice and thrice before testifying.
Destroying one person’s life is tantamount to destroying an entire universe.
Any person who lets this thought into their heart would be filled with fear of doing the wrong thing. Of spilling innocent blood. Upon hearing this, most witnesses would gulp hard, start fumbling with their phones in their pockets to call for a lyft, crawl under their covers, and pretend they never saw anything.
Then — the judges would turn this idea on its head — and inform witness that “the universe was created for you too.”
Everything happening around you, including this predicament you’re in, having witnessed this crime you now wish you hadn’t, was no accident. You have an obligation to interpret the drama of the universe as looking to you as its main protagonist. Instead of looking to others, look inside yourself, and accept the immensity of your choices. The world hangs in the balance.
“Every single person is obligated to say, “the world was created for my sake.”
Only with this outlook towards others can we begin to appreciate the cosmic value of every person we meet, and even those we never get around to meeting.
Only with this outlook can we take ourselves and the choices we stand to make seriously.
The world was created for me.