In October of 2018, an Etsy customer commissioned from me a design of the quotation Bishvili nivra ha-olam: “The world was created for me”.
This phrase is a quote from the Talmud (Sanhedrin 37B), but it is most famously incorporated into a Chassidic story about Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa (the Yiddish name for the town of Przysucha, Poland).
Rabbi Simcha Bunim teaches: Every person should have two pockets. In one pocket should be a piece of paper saying: “I am only dust and ashes.” When one is feeling too proud, reach into this pocket and take out this paper and read it. In the other pocket should be a piece of paper saying: “For my sake was the world created.” When one is feeling disheartened and lowly, reach into this pocket and take this paper out and read it. We are each the joining of two worlds. We are fashioned from clay, but our spirit is the breath of Adonai.
—Martin Buber, Tales of The Hasidim Later Masters, pp. 249-50
At the time of the original commission, it struck me that I ought to create a two-sided wallet card with one saying on each side.
The cards arrived last Thursday and I’m quite pleased with them!
At that point, I also realized that by a happy coincidence, that week’s Torah portion was Vayera, the source of the “dust and ashes” quotation. It occurs in Genesis 18:27 when Abraham is bargaining with God over Sodom and Gomorrah:
Granted, there’s nothing like entering a battle of wits with the Eternal Creator to make a person mindful of their own base humanity. But the point is, maybe Abraham would also have benefited from keeping one of these two-sided cards in his pocket. After all, in a very real sense, the world was also created for him.
- Aish HaTorah, “It’s up to us” by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
- Mi Yodeya (judaism.stackexchange.com)
- Confluence: “how to disappear” by Abe Libman