Better to Have Not Been Created

There’s a wonderful piece of Gemara in Maseches Eruvin that states that Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel argued for two and a half years over which was better: to have been created or not to have been created. Beis Shammai argues it would be best to have never been created in the first place, whereas Beis Hillel argues that it is a good thing to have been created. In the end they come to a compromise that it is better to have not been created, but now that one exists we have to engage in contemplation of our actions and living a considered life.

This is essentially the foundation for true Mussar, that is seforim like Chovos HaLevovos and Mesilas Yeshorim, especially the latter, considering the Ramchal’s fairly severe dualistic bent. The Baal Shem Tov instructs us in the short Tzav’a at the beginning of Keser Shem Tov to learn Mussar regularly and to not depart from this learning. The key thing to know though is that we have to learn true Mussar, meaning seforim geared towards self-development and Emunah, rather than false Mussar like certain seforim from the early 18th century that speak almost entirely about Gehennom and punishment rather than the greatness of God and our obligation to cleave to Him and know Him.

Rather than viewing it as purely negative to have been created, we should understand this to be brought for us to understand our obligation in this world, that we aren’t created just for no reason, rather that Hashem has created each and every one of us for a specific purpose. To realize that purpose requires spending time in contemplation, learning, davening, and being certain to do what we need to do. This is for each person to realize for yourself, of course following the structure of halacha and the way that Torah establishes for us to follow.

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