I don’t know about you, but when I have a lot of jobs that need to get done, and I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed, rather than start the work, I like to write a “to do list”. I’ve always feel that much better once I’ve written down my “to do list” and I can then start crossing things off as I work my way through it. I know of one person who adds "write a to do list" as the first item to ensure at least one thing will be crossed off that day.
I don’t know that God had a “to do list” ready when beginning the work of creating the world in this week’s Torah portion, but from the structured and ordered way that God works thru everything, one imagines that there was at least a plan that God was following.
Day one – Let there be Light. And there was light. And then the separation of the light into day and the dark into night.
Day two – the separation of the water.
Day three – the creation of the dry land.
And so on and so forth. Each day following the specific details of what God needed to create. Building one upon the other until eventually on the sixth day, God creates us – humanity.
In reading the account of the creation of the world in this week’s Torah portion, it all seems very structured and then in Pirkei Avot (the ethics of our ancestors), they come along and suggest that 10 things were created at the very end just before that first Shabbat. These include, the mouth of the earth that swallowed Korach, the mouth of the world that followed the Israelites through the wilderness, the rainbow that Noah saw. And, my favorite when it suggests tongs which were used to make the first set of tongs.
What I love about this Mishnah is that it creates for me this image at the very end of creation, of God rushing around to make sure that these last few things were ready. For me, the message is, that there are always some jobs that are left to be done. No matter how ordered and structured the process is, there’s always a little bit more that we can do. And, I like to think that God didn’t quite finish everything that needed to be done. There were a few jobs left to be done on the “to do list”. A few things that didn’t get crossed out. There just wasn’t enough time before that Shabbat to get everything done. And that’s where we come in. We were created to be God’s partners in the work of creation. We were created, so that we might continue the work of God’s creation and perfect this world.
The incompleteness of the world was intentional. It was intentional because it gave us a job which we had to do. As we read about creation in Parashat Bereishit, we might think that everything was done. The world was created and now we just had to inhabit it. But that misses the message that we also have a responsibility to this world. We have a responsibility to continue checking things off God’s “to-do list” to continue the work of creating and perfecting our world.