Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bereshit and Creating Good

We begin the Torah anew. We start with the first chapter of Genesis. We read about the creation of the world.

God fashioned the world in six days. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…” We read about God creating the land and the oceans, the birds and the fish, animals and plants. We see God fashioning human beings. We ask: six days? Really?

In school we learned about evolution and the big bang. We discovered how human beings evolved from animals. We found out that the world is in fact billions of years old not as Jewish tradition suggests 5776 years. I find the science very compelling. I trust you do as well. So why do we keep reading the Torah and its account of the creation of the world in six days?

It is because the Torah provides meaning. It grants purpose to creation. It adds direction to our lives.

Take the fourth day as an example. “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times—the days and the years; and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth.’” This details the creation of the sun, moon and stars. This raises a question in our minds. Why would God need to create these lights if on the first day the Torah states: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light…”

It is because the purpose of the sun and moon is not to provide what we think. They are to provide guidance. We mark our seasons by the sun. We count our holidays according to the moon. We navigate by the stars. (Well, at least we used to.) According to Genesis the sun does not provide warmth. It is not connected to plant life or the photosynthesis I still remember from my science classes. The sun marks the day. The moon and stars distinguish the night.

A divine light illuminates the earth. And this was fashioned and proclaimed on the first day.

Believing this does not change my conviction in science. Today’s arguments are wrong. The debate should not be whether creationism or evolution is right. I believe in science. I believe in the Torah. The question is instead how does seeing the world as a reflection of the divine influence my perspective. How does this view add meaning to my life?

To that question the answer is simple yet profound.

If the natural world serves as a reminder of God, then perhaps I can see more good than bad. Perhaps I can see blessings in the everyday. Perhaps these navigation tools can lead me to fill my heart with thanks and my soul with gratitude. I can look up at the moon and see God’s brightness. I can feel the sun’s warmth and sense God’s nearness.

That is the Torah’s purpose. It is not to set out the contours of how the world was created but instead why. It is to instill faith. It is to create the belief that no matter how bad the world might appear, there is light, there is good.

The Torah’s objective is to fashion hearts that proclaim: “…And behold, it was very good.”

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