Monday, October 04, 2010

Torah as a blueprint

A human king, according to the normal manner of the world, does not build a palace based on his own ideas. Instead, he consults an architect. The architect does not build based on his own ideas, but instead draws blueprints and drafts to calculate where to place rooms and doors. So too, when G-d made the world he looked into the Torah [the blueprint] and only then created the world. (Midrash Rabbah 1:1)

The expression, “The Torah is the blueprint for the world,” based on this Midrash, has become somewhat of a trite aphorism whose meaning is taken to be so obvious as to require little explanation. Yet, if we pause to reflect on the analogy drawn by the Midrash, it seems to make little sense. A human king does not have the specialized skills or knowledge necessary to design a palace, and therefore is forced to call upon an engineer or architect. The professional in turn does not simply provide advice off the cuff, but must take time to plan, to draft, to analyze. G-d is not bound by any of these restrictions – he is all knowing, he does not need time to plan, he does not need drafts, he does not need blueprints. He can simply create! Why then does the Midrash speak of a blueprint?

Sefas Emes explains that the Midrash is not trying to teach us about the Creator or about the creation process -- it is trying to teach us something about the world. The world is not an environment of chaos, a moral wilderness which we must forcibly tame and bend to the yoke of Torah. Quite the contrary. The world was created with an intrinsic sense of order; it is completely in harmony with Torah. There is a plan which governs reality. Our inability to see that plan is due to our own corruption of the environment and our own nature, but rest assured, the plan remains in place.

There are those who ascribe truth only to empirical findings, but dismiss Torah law as a “legal fiction” that has no correlation with reality. And there are those who think truth can be found only in theoretical constructs of lomdus, completely divorced from the messy data of the senses. Neither of these approaches is satisfactory. Blueprint and reality correspond. The world has as much to teach us about G-d as the Torah blueprint used in its design. Empirical reality can only be interpreted and understood in light of the equally valid truth of its Torah plan.

The world may be likened to a pool which was filled with water underneath which was submerged beautiful images. So long as the pool was filled with water, the images could not be seen. One the water was stopped and drained, the artistry of the images was apparent. So too, so long as the world was filled with chaos and void, tohu va’vohu, sky and earth were not apparent. Once the chaos and void were removed, they were seen. (Midrash Rabbah 9:2)

Our task as partners in creation is to remove the void and chaos from the world to reveal its inherent order and beauty.


  1. we sort of discussed this already before here.

  2. From experience, I can tell you that this Medrash (the Zohar's even better) is great for Aufruf speeches- getting an aliyah/istakel be'oraysa.