Yeshaya Perek 26
The passuk following the completion of the creation of the world (2:4) reads ‘These are the products of the heavens and the earth in their having been created (be’hibar’am), on the day that Hashem the L-rd made earth and heavens.’ Rashi comments that the small Heh allows one to read the word “be’hibar’am” as “be’heh bra’am”, meaning that Hashem created the world with a Heh. As Rashi goes on to tell us, the passuk in Yeshaya (26:4) says that ‘With Yud Heh Hashem fashioned the worlds,’ alluding to the fact that Hashem created this world with the letter Heh, while the World to Come was created with the letter Yud.
What does this mean? The answer to this can be gleaned from the explanation of the Maharal to a Mishnah in Avos.
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (5:1) tells us that ‘With ten utterances the world was created.’ Surely Hashem could have created the world with one utterance? ‘This was to punish the wicked who destroy the world that was created in ten sayings and to give reward to the righteous who uphold the world created with ten sayings.’
The conventional explanation to this Mishnah is that since Hashem used ten sayings instead of one to create the world, the world is more valuable, and so destroying (or upholding) the world is more punishable (or worthy of reward).
The Maharal questions this approach by pointing out that Hashem ‘spending’ more on creating the world should not make the world more valuable. For example, the market price of a house is $200,000, but I pay $750,000 for it that does not make the house’s value $750,000. The house remains valued at $200,000, and all that my extra $550,000 means is that I am not a good businessman. Purchasing something for an inflated price does not increase the value of the purchase. Similarly, why should ten sayings make the world worth more if Hashem could have created the world in one saying?
The Maharal answers by explaining that different numbers and letters embody different concepts. For example, the number four represents the dimensions of the physical world; there are four directions on a compass, and four seasons. Similarly, because our physical world is defined by area/space, the fourth letter is a Dalet, which is made up of two perpendicular lines, representing the length and width of an object’s area. The number ten embodies holiness (kedusha). Yom Kippur is on the tenth of the month, there are ten Commandments, and ten people are needed for a minyan. As a spiritual entity, kedusha itself is separate from the area-defined physical world, thus, the tenth letter is a Yud - the smallest letter, the least governed by space. The letter Heh is made up of both a Dalet and a Yud, reflecting the central spiritual dimension (the Yud) of a physical structure (the Dalet). Likewise, there are five parts to the neshama (soul), the spiritual core of the physical body.
The Maharal explains that the Yud represents the key to understanding the Mishnah. Hashem created this world with ten sayings - the number ten embodying spirituality. This means that He made this world to contain spirituality and to be used as a vehicle for spiritual growth. Therefore, wicked people that destroy the purpose of the world can be punished, and the righteous who fulfill the world’s purpose can be rewarded.
We can now understand the meaning of ‘The world was created with a Heh and the next world with a Yud’. We are told that Olam Haba is made up of pure non-physical spirituality, as represented by the Yud. As the Gemara and Rambam put it, ‘In the world to come there are no physical bodies, no eating, no drinking’. While this world does have physical dimensions, there is also a spiritual dimension and purpose here that is symbolized by the Dalet and the Yud coming together to form the Heh.