With ten Sayings God created the world, although a single Saying would have sufficed. God desired to make known how severe is the punishment to be meted out to the wicked, who destroy a world created with as many as ten Sayings, and how goodly the reward destined for the righteous, who preserve a world created with as many as ten Sayings.
The world was made for man, though he was the last-comer among its creatures. This was design. He was to find all things ready for him. God was the host who prepared dainty dishes, set the table, and then led His guest to his seat. At the same time man's late appearance on earth is to convey an admonition to humility. Let him beware of being proud, lest he invite the retort that the gnat is older than he.
The superiority of man to the other creatures is apparent in the very manner of his creation, altogether different from theirs. He is the only one who was created by the hand of God. The rest sprang from the word of God. The body of man is a microcosm, the whole world in miniature, and the world in turn is a reflex of man. The hair upon his head corresponds to the woods of the earth, his tears to a river, his mouth to the ocean. Also, the world resembles the ball of his eye: the ocean that encircles the earth is like unto the white of the eye, the dry land is the iris, Jerusalem the pupil, and the Temple the image mirrored in the pupil of the eye. But man is more than a mere image of this world. He unites both heavenly and earthly qualities within himself. In four he resembles the angels, in four the beasts. His power of speech, his discriminating intellect, his upright walk, the glance of his eye--they all make an angel of him. But, on the other hand, he eats and drinks, secretes the waste matter in his body, propagates his kind, and dies, like the beast of the field. Therefore God said before the creation of man: "The celestials are not propagated, but they are immortal; the beings on earth are propagated, but they die. I will create man to be the union of the two, so that when he sins, when he behaves like a beast, death shall overtake him; but if he refrains from sin, he shall live forever." God now bade all beings in heaven and on earth contribute to the creation of man, and He Himself took part in it. Thus they all will love man, and if he should sin, they will be interested in his preservation.
The whole world naturally was created for the pious, the God-fearing man, whom Israel produces with the helpful guidance of the law of God revealed to him. It was, therefore, Israel who was taken into special consideration at the time man was made. All other creatures were instructed to change their nature, if Israel should ever need their help in the course of his history. The sea was ordered to divide before Moses, and the heavens to give ear to the words of the leader; the sun and the moon were bidden to stand still before Joshua, the ravens to feed Elijah, the fire to spare the three youths in the furnace, the lion to do no harm to Daniel, the fish to spew forth Jonah, and the heavens to open before Ezekiel.
In His modesty, God took counsel with the angels, before the creation of the world, regarding His intention of making man. He said: "For the sake of Israel, I will create the world. As I shall make a division between light and darkness, so I will in time to come do for Israel in Egypt--thick darkness shall be over the land, and the children of Israel shall have light in their dwellings; as I shall make a separation between the waters under the firmament and the waters above the firmament, so I will do for Israel--I will divide the waters for him when he crosses the Red Sea; as on the third day I shall create plants, so I will do for Israel--I will bring forth manna for him in the wilderness; as I shall create luminaries to divide day from night, so I will do for Israel--I will go before him by day in a pillar of cloud and by night in a pillar of fire; as I shall create the fowl of the air and the fishes of the sea, so I will do for Israel--I will bring quails for him from the sea; and as I shall breathe the breath of life into the nostrils of man, so I will do for Israel--I will give the Torah unto him, the tree of life." The angels marvelled that so much love should be lavished upon this people of Israel, and God told them: "On the first day of creation, I shall make the heavens and stretch them out; so will Israel raise up the Tabernacle as the dwelling-place of My glory. On the second day, I shall put a division between the terrestrial waters and the heavenly waters; so will he hang up a veil in the Tabernacle to divide the Holy Place and the Most Holy. On the third day, I shall make the earth put forth grass and herb; so will he, in obedience to My commands, eat herbs on the first night of the Passover, and prepare showbread for Me. On the fourth day, I shall make the luminaries; so will he make a golden candlestick for Me. On the fifth day, I shall create the birds; so will he fashion the cherubim with outstretched wings. On the sixth day, I shall create man; so will Israel set aside a man of the sons of Aaron as high priest for My service."
Accordingly, the whole of creation was conditional. God said to the things He made on the first six days: "If Israel accepts the Torah, you will continue and endure; otherwise, I shall turn everything back into chaos again." The whole world was thus kept in suspense and dread until the day of the revelation on Sinai, when Israel received and accepted the Torah, and so fulfilled the condition made by God at the time when He created the universe.