The World Was Created By Means Of Ten [Divine] Utterances. What Does This Come To Teach Us, For Indeed, It Could Have Been Created By One Utterance? But It Was So To Bring Retribution Upon The Wicked Who Destroy The World Which Was Created By Ten Utterances, And To Bestow Ample Reward Upon The Righteous Who Sustain The World Which Was Created By Ten Utterances.
According to the principles of Torah numerology, five represents a level of G-dliness above all limitation,
while ten reflects the structure of our finite, material world. The intent of this chapter of Pirkei Avos
is to reveal the G-dliness which transcends all limitation within the context of our material existence.
(Sefer HaSichos 5751, Vol. II, p. 772)
Significantly, although the mishnah mentions several sets of ten, it does not mention the Ten Commandments. The explanation for this omission is that all the sets of ten mentioned in this chapter - even "the ten miracles which transpired... in the Beis HaMikdash" - reflect how G-dliness descends and takes on the limitations of our worldly existence.
To clothe Himself with the Torah, by contrast, is not a descent for G-d. On the contrary, "the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one." Therefore, when a person studies Torah for its own sake, he can rise above his worldly limitations.
(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1226).
There is, however, a parallel between the Ten Commandments and the ten utterances of creation, for the Torah is the purpose for which the world was created, and it is through the Torah that the world's existence is maintained. This represents the goal of man's divine service: to endow every element of the world's existence with its essential G-dliness as revealed through the Torah.
(Sefer HaSichos 5751, Vol. II, p. 537ff)
If, however, the world had been created with one utterance, its nature would be fundamentally different than it is today.
One utterance would have brought into being a material world, but there would have been no qualitative distinction between the various created beings. All existence would have reflected His oneness.
By creating the world with ten utterances, G-d endowed each order of being with a nature of its own. For the ten utterances of creation reflect the ten sefiros, which combine and subdivide into an infinite array of Divine powers. Each of these powers is associated with a particular element of existence. Thus, through these ten mediums, a world which appears to have an identity other than G-dliness came into being. By associating every element of existence with the dimension of the Torah that parallels it, man can demonstrate how the world is one with G-d, not only from the perspective of transcendent oneness, but also within the context of its own particular existence.
(Sefer HaSichos 5750, Vol. II, p. 473ff; 5751, Vol. II, p. 538ff)
One might ask: why did G-d, the ultimate of good and kindness, create the world for this seemingly negative purpose?
It is possible to answer as follows. On the verse: "G-d has made everything for His sake, also the wicked for his evil day," the Alter Rebbe explains that G-d created the wicked so that they will transform their "evil" into "day"; i.e., so that they will turn to Him and allow the G-dly life-force hidden within them to shine forth.
To apply this concept in the present context: The word , translated as "bring retribution" literally means "collect His due." G-d does not bring retribution in order to punish, heaven forbid, but as a prod. He desires "to collect His due," to prompt every individual to carry out the divine service for which he was created. When a person transgresses G-d's will, he can "pay his due" by turning to Him in teshuvah, for teshuvah transforms one's sins into merits.
Yes, by creating the world with ten utterances rather than one, G-d allowed for the existence of a greater potential for evil. But this evil will not be permanent. Through teshuvah, it will be transformed into light and holiness.
To highlight this concept, our mishnah mentions the wicked before the righteous. For as our Sages declared: "In the place where baalei teshuvah stand, even those who are completely righteous cannot stand."
(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim, 5741, Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 30, p. 1ff.)
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim 24d; Sefer HaMaamarim 5570, p. 92.
- (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 4 and beginning of ch. 23, in the name of the Zohar; see Zohar II, 60a; Likkutei Torah, Nitzavim 46a.
- (Back to text) Zohar III, p. 11b.
- (Back to text) See Rashi, Bereishis 1:1.
- (Back to text) Sefer HaMaamarim 5659, p. 144.
- (Back to text) Mishlei 16:4.
- (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 27.
- (Back to text) Yoma 86b; see Tanya, ch. 7. See also the essay entitled "Teshuvah - Return, not Repentance," Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. I, p. 33ff (Kehot, N.Y., 5753), where this concept is explained at length.
- (Back to text) Berachos 34b; Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 7:4.