For my sake, the world was created
מתני׳ כיצד מאיימין את העדים על עידי נפשות היו מכניסין אותן ומאיימין עליהן שמא תאמרו מאומד ומשמועה עד מפי עד ומפי אדם נאמן שמא אי אתם יודעין שסופנו לבדוק אתכם בדרישה ובחקירה
MISHNA: How does the court intimidate the witnesses in giving testimony for cases of capital law? They would bring the witnesses in and intimidate them by saying to them: Perhaps what you say in your testimony is based on conjecture, or perhaps it is based on a rumor, perhaps it is testimony based on hearsay, e.g., you heard a witness testify to this in a different court, or perhaps it is based on the statement of a trusted person. Perhaps you do not know that ultimately we examine you with inquiry and interrogation, and if you are lying, your lie will be discovered.
הוו יודעין שלא כדיני ממונות דיני נפשות דיני ממונות אדם נותן ממון ומתכפר לו דיני נפשות דמו ודם זרעותיו תלויין בו עד סוף העולם
The court tells them: You should know that cases of capital law are not like cases of monetary law. In cases of monetary law, a person who testifies falsely, causing money to be given to the wrong party, can give the money to the proper owner and his sin is atoned for. In cases of capital law, if one testifies falsely, the blood of the accused and the blood of his offspring that he did not merit to produce are ascribed to the witness’s testimony until eternity.
שכן מצינו בקין שהרג את אחיו שנאמר (בראשית ד, י) דמי אחיך צועקים אינו אומר דם אחיך אלא דמי אחיך דמו ודם זרעותיו דבר אחר דמי אחיך שהיה דמו מושלך על העצים ועל האבנים
The proof for this is as we found with Cain, who killed his brother, as it is stated concerning him: “The voice of your brother’s blood [demei] cries out to Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). The verse does not state: Your brother’s blood [dam], in the singular, but rather: “Your brother’s blood [demei],” in the plural. This serves to teach that the loss of both his brother’s blood and the blood of his brother’s offspring are ascribed to Cain. The mishna notes: Alternatively, the phrase “your brother’s blood [demei],” written in the plural, teaches that that his blood was not gathered in one place but was splattered on the trees and on the stones.
לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי ללמדך שכל המאבד נפש אחת מישראל מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו איבד עולם מלא וכל המקיים נפש אחת מישראל מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו קיים עולם מלא
The court tells the witnesses: Therefore, Adam the first man was created alone, to teach you that with regard to anyone who destroys one soul from the Jewish people, i.e., kills one Jew, the verse ascribes him blame as if he destroyed an entire world, as Adam was one person, from whom the population of an entire world came forth. And conversely, anyone who sustains one soul from the Jewish people, the verse ascribes him credit as if he sustained an entire world.
ומפני שלום הבריות שלא יאמר אדם לחבירו אבא גדול מאביך ושלא יהו המינים אומרים הרבה רשויות בשמים
The mishna cites another reason Adam the first man was created alone: And this was done due to the importance of maintaining peace among people, so that one person will not say to another: My father, i.e., progenitor, is greater than your father. And it was also so that the heretics who believe in multiple gods will not say: There are many authorities in Heaven, and each created a different person.
ולהגיד גדולתו של הקב"ה שאדם טובע כמה מטבעות בחותם אחד כולן דומין זה לזה ומלך מלכי המלכים הקב"ה טבע כל אדם בחותמו של אדם הראשון ואין אחד מהן דומה לחבירו לפיכך כל אחד ואחד חייב לומר בשבילי נברא העולם
And this serves to tell of the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as when a person stamps several coins with one seal, they are all similar to each other. But the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, stamped all people with the seal of Adam the first man, as all of them are his offspring, and not one of them is similar to another. Therefore, since all humanity descends from one person, each and every person is obligated to say: The world was created for me, as one person can be the source of all humanity, and recognize the significance of his actions.


Rabbi Simcha Bunem of Pershyscha. It was said of Reb Simcha Bunem that he carried two slips of paper, one in each pocket. On one he wrote: Bishvili nivra ha-olam—“for my sake the world was created.” On the other he wrote: V’anokhi afar v’efer”—“I am but dust and ashes.” He would take out each slip of paper as necessary, as a reminder to himself.

Rabbi Toba Spitzer -

Some of us are quite comfortable with the idea that the world was created for our sake.

Maybe it’s hard to admit, but if you carry yourself with a certain sense of entitlement, an expectation that the world’s doors should open easily before you, if you tend to think that most of the time you’re right and the world around you is getting it wrong, then perhaps it’s time to spend a little time in the “dust and ashes” pocket.

“Dust and ashes” helps cut through our arrogance; our conviction that we’re always right or that we need to be right.

It helps put our life and our ego in perspective. It’s a really important reminder to think about how much of life’s bounty we really are entitled to, and do we perhaps enjoy a far greater share than any one person might reasonably expect. Once we have that realization, it’s amazing how generosity and abundance can open up in our hearts and in our lives.

V’anokhi afar v’efer”—“I am but dust and ashes”—is also a call to an awareness of our finite-ness, our mortality, our smallness in the cosmic scheme of things.


Martin Buber

“Every person should know and consider the fact that you, in the particular way that you are made, are unique in the world, and no one like you has ever been. For if someone like you had already been, there would be no reason for you to be in this world. Actually, everyone is something new in this world, and here we must work to perfect our particular being, for because we are still imperfect, the coming of the Messiah is delayed!” (Ten Rings: Hasidic Sayings, Martin Buber)