There is a certain symmetry between Genesis and Exodus. The first chapters of Genesis tell the story of God’s handiwork in creating the cosmos, the earth, and everything in it. Creating what would be a home for us, for humankind.
The matching process of creation comes at the end of Exodus, when the Children of Israel build a home for God. God assigned a communal task; to come together, women and men, to construct a mishkan, a sacred place in which God can reside (“and let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell amongst them,” Exodus 25:8).
In the beginning God created everything we would need and then God created us, entwining two disparate elements: dirt and God’s breath. This unlikely combination sets the tone for humankind’s ongoing relationship with the Divine, with each other, and with the planet. We are made from that which is most basic, from simple dirt scooped up from the ground, and then are enlivened by that which is most high, God’s own breath, something we cannot begin to comprehend.
Through Genesis to Exodus, the Torah tells the story of humankind’s development from individuals, to families, to community, and offers guidance on navigating the complexities of being human. We have continued from creation to today, each person struggling to find a balance between our lowest instincts and our highest selves.
If we understand that the Torah begins with God creating us and our home so we can in turn create a home for God, then our relationship with God is symbiotic; we need God and God needs us.
Why does God need us? Because our task is to be God’s hands in the world, to fully engage with that element within ourselves that is imbued with the breath, with the essence of the Divine. Building and maintaining communities, doing God’s holy work, is not easy. After all, the other essential element of being human is our physical nature. We come from dust, and we will return to dust. But in the short time we have in between, we can be so much more.