From Reb Noson of Breslov, Likkutei Halakhos, Tefillas Arvis 4:7, as abridged in the Keren Yisrael Dov Odesser “Chumash Im Likkutei Halakhos,” Bereishis, p. 5. Posted in honor of Shabbos Bereishis.
Creation and Bitul (Nullification of Ego)
Translated by Dovid Sears
“In the beginning G-d (Elokim) created…” (Genesis 1:1). On this, our Sages homiletically explain: “At first it arouse in the Divine Thought to create the universe with the Attribute of Justice [corresponding to the Divine Name ‘Elokim’]. Seeing that the world would not be able to endure, however, He desisted and combined the Attribute of Mercy with that of Justice. [Thus, the verse which describes the creation of Adam uses both the Name Y-H-V-H, corresponding to G-d’s mercy, and the Name ‘Elokim.’] (Rashi, ad locum)
This may strike one as surprising. Doesn’t it clearly state throughout our holy books that G-d created the world out of His mercy and goodness, in order to demonstrate those attributes? On the face of it, this seems to contradict the teaching above that it first arose in the Divine Thought to create the universe with the Attribute of Justice.
However, in truth, there is no conflict. For the Blessed One desired to create the universe with the Attribute of Justice only out of His mercy and surpassing goodness. In this manner, due to the intensity of justice, the world would have nullified itself to the Blessed One with absolute self-abnegation (bitul). As Rebbe Nachman states in Likkutei Moharan I, 65, when the forces of harsh judgment and suffering prevail, one should nullify himself – and in so doing, one will gaze upon and merge into the Ultimate Reality, where all suffering and harsh judgments vanish.
Then we would have reached the ultimate goal of perceiving Divinity with the most profound and awesome vision, due to our having achieved true bitul – by virtue of the Attribute of Justice specifically. This is why it first arose in the Divine Thought to create the universe with the Attribute of Justice. To do so would have been an even greater demonstration of mercy, enabling us to achieve this degree of bitul. However, G-d foresaw that the world could not endure, since most people could not withstand this demand to nullify themselves completely from worldly vanities.
Even [under the present circumstances], when harsh judgments befall them, G-d forbid, most people are incapable of completely attaining true bitul. As it is written, “Those with insincere hearts bring about wrath; they do not cry out when He afflicts them” (Job 36:13); and as it is written, “[G-d’s wrath] scorched him from all around, but he refused to know; it burned within him, but he did not take it to heart” (Isaiah 42:25).
However, the tzaddikim and the upright can achieve this; fortunate are they!