It’s been quoted in some Jewish sources that the earth is the center of the universe. Rabbi, do you really believe that?
Absolutely. And I’ll tell you why. The word ‘center’ in our context means what’s the most important place; what’s the most important, that’s the center.
Look, there’s no place in the universe besides earth that has life on it. Of course, NASA is wasting millions of our tax dollars trying to find life on other planets. But it’s a waste; they won’t find life anywhere else. Life is only on this earth.
Sir John Eccles said that there are so many details necessary for the preservation of life, that it’s impossible that it should occur anywhere else. There are so many complicated factors and intricate details and you require every single one of them. If even one of them was missing then you couldn’t have life on this earth. And so it’s only on this earth that you’ll find life. And therefore this earth is where Hashem’s attention is mostly concentrated. That’s why this earth is the center of the universe. Who cares geographically where it is?! That’s not important at all.
I could tell you anyways that there’s no such thing as the geographical center. According to Einstein, the universe is in constant flux. There is no such thing as the center – it’s all moving. The sun is supposedly moving at 45,000 miles an hour. There’s no such thing as the center of the universe. And therefore the only criterion for centrality of the universe is what Hakodosh Boruch Hu considers most important. And Hakodosh Boruch Hu said, בראשית ברא אלוקים את השמים. Shamayim means space. He made all of space. ואת הארץ, and He made this earth. This little tiny earth. He made the whole gigantic universe – and this little globe. It seems ridiculous. It’s like saying, “I came to visit New York City, to see the City – and so I went into a candy store to see the candy.” New York and a candy store?! The universe and the earth?! How can we compare the two in one possuk?
The answer is that He created the universe, but the entire universe is nothing because He created the universe just for this little earth. That’s what ואת הארץ means. And in the next possuk, והארץ היתה תוהו, Hashem ignores the rest of the universe entirely. Forget about the universe; now He’s talking only about this earth. From now on it’s only this earth that matters. And after a few parshiyos Hakodosh Boruch Hu starts ignoring the earth and He’s talking only about Avraham Avinu. That’s all that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is interested in.
And therefore, the question is: Is Avraham Avinu the center of the world?! There were many great empires in his time and the Torah doesn’t talk about them unless it’s in relation to the family of Avraham. Is Avraham the only one that matters? And the answer is, Yes! Wherever he is, he’s the most important one.
So the Jewish Nation – yes, we’re the center of the globe. Wherever the globe is in the universe and wherever we are on the globe – it makes no difference. Because wherever the Jews are, they’re at the center. So the Jews in Flatbush – they’re the center of the universe. The Jews in Boro Park – they’re the center of the universe. The Jews in Meah She’arim – they’re the center of the universe. Wherever the Jews are, they’re at the center. Because Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s Shechina rests only upon them.
ושכנתי בתוך בני ישראל – I will dwell among the Bnei Yisroel. And where Hashem dwells, that’s the center! That’s what matters in the universe. Now, of course, Hashem is supervising everything. Everything! It’s all going according to His masterplan. But where is the place where Hakodosh Boruch Hu puts his finger and says, “That’s My place”? Only among the Bnei Yisroel. ושכנתי בתוך בני ישראל.
TAPE # E-187 (May 1999)