Another Look at Creation;


As a creationist,  I look at the marvelous design in living beings and see an enormous intelligence at work. I refuse to believe that all this is just a "random accident" and to think that way strikes me as at worst insane or at best shallow two-dimensionalism.  I feel quite certain without exaggeration, that many of the atheist scientists cling to evolution for personal advantage. As a group they will fight the idea of recognizing a divine force in the world at any cost and this makes them desperate and helps explains their extreme positions. It is naive to think that virtually any human lives in some kind of emotional vacuum where his own feelings and psychological needs are not reflected in the "logic" he claims to espouse. Quite the opposite is true. This however does not give me or anyone the right to lie or intentionally distort the "facts" or critical observations, by short-cutting the process and removing what we find objectionable. I understand that currently I cannot visually prove that nature was designed by this intelligence other than by inference, and that is not necessarily my goal. But I am not a Biblical fundamentalist in the way that atheist scientists label them. As I have stated before, I believe that the Torah is based on profound truth, but a true understanding of what is written in it requires drawing the proper conclusions in accordance with the rules traditionally applied in the Oral Law. I would like to go to a deeper level in the subject of creation than what we call fundamentalism. I have already mentioned the I cannot let the superficial reading of a mere translation of Torah Hebrew determine what the meaning of a word or verse in the Torah actually is. Context and backround count for much, plus the historical fact that in Torah literature a translation is not based on words but rather on concepts and a word for word literal translation is considered invalid. One only has to study the translation of Onkelus [done two thousand years ago by a scholarly Roman Jewish convert] and the translation of Yonathan [similarly ancient] to clearly see this difference. I disagree with Christian fundamentalists because this word translation only mentality is what they seem to use as a determining factor, although this does not make a particular claim automatically invalid. The verses dealing with creation have a significant number of textual anomalies and mysterious phrasing that definitely deserve our attention and the rabbis of the talmud and midrashim have made quite a number of thought provoking observations based upon this. The cumulative effect of these observations leads to a very different world view than what Christians or other fundamentalists believe in.  However, trying to fathom most of them without their Hebrew context is just like trying to conduct a boxing match with one's hands tied behind one's back. Here are some samples and a brief explanation; but first ...


Please check your preconceived notions at the door;


For anyone who has not read my "Torah through Modern Eyes" essay, I would suggest that you do that before reading what I am about to present. I am requesting from the reader to understand that he will be asked to at least temporarily remove his culturally induced colored glasses. I am not an apologist and I am not trying to engage in some sort of sleight of mental hand by asking people to accept a fantasy argument or take an irrational leap of faith. The perspective I am presenting here was reached by myself during years of study and reflection during which my view changed from non or only partial belief in the doctrines of the Torah to an acceptance of  its world view. This accepting view however, does not necessarily mean that all beliefs regarding every aspect of Torah are uniform. The issue of creation is shrouded in mystery to begin with and we are limited in what we can know without adding the significant differences between peoples mental postures. On top of this, the mindset and methodology used to understand this perspective is non-visual, and not based on any known  empirical system that most people would be familiar with. This in no way makes it inferior to what passes for standard logic in today's world, quite the contrary. It is more than just a matter of learning to trust the profundity and reliability of an ancient source which has a very good track record. The creation story as presented in Genesis may appear to the modern mind as fantastic, mythological and naive, but to a large extent this is because it is expected to conform to the rules of empirical, visual based science. Aside from this it has long been mistranslated in a shallow two dimensional manner and shorn of its natural habitat in the Oral traditions. Non Jews more often then not are either totally unaware of true Torah concepts or have a contemptuous attitude towards them born of religious prejudice or culturally induced blindness. Sometimes as a result of willful bias and sometimes as a by product of their education.


 As far as willfully induced bias, many of these same people could probably be relied upon to treat other foreign religions and their concepts with a respect born of unfamiliarity. But Torah Judaism does not get this benefit of the doubt because European Christian culture as well as Islamic culture, felt that their own culture superseded Judaism, which despite being the basis of their own religious beliefs, was now more of an unneeded relic to be shunted aside to make way for their own doctrines. Jews have always been assumed to not really understand their own culture and documents and are therefore blamed for not becoming Christians or Moslems. To the best of my knowledge, no other people gets treated like that in such a blatant manner.


Regardless of all the above, the creation language is heavily nuanced and uses words in their most multidimensional manner where every aspect of the alphabetical symbol has an importance totally unlike anything most people associate with English or most other languages (i.e. the shape of the letter, its sound, its numeric value etc).  But to be fair, it is hard to expect genuine empathy towards true Torah concepts given the academic environment that exists today and the way Jewish knowledge is disseminated. The very concept of time measurement itself is a good example. It took many years for western civilization to reach the breakthrough of Einstein's General Relativity (or was it Poincare ?) where time was finally seen as a flexible non-absolute byproduct of matter. However, let us take a look at what Torah scholars said about time some four hundred years before the advent of General Relativity.  While discussing the fact that the three main festivals in the Jewish calendar  (Passover, Shavuos, and Succot) coincide with the three main seasonal/agricultural events of the year, the great Rabbi Lowe of Prague a.k.a. "The Maharal of Prague" (1512-1609) says in The Book of Divine Power, chapter 46, the following ;


 "We have to ask why the three festivals are related by the Torah to the cycle of agricultural production, as this is not a coincidence. You should know that the passage of time is related to the materiality of the world, and this thing has been known to those who have understanding of the world (i.e. the sages of the Talmud and their progenitors) because the property of extension and division that we find in the passage of time, is similar to the extension and division that there is in matter. Furthermore, time itself depends on (i.e. is relative to)  matter because the flow of time is actually determined by motion and motion is a byproduct of matter. Therefore motion and material are organically related to time everywhere."  


Without any reference to mathematics, Rabbi Lowe showed that Torah clearly was beyond the classical Newtonian view of time and matter which stultified the west for so long. Yet  the rest of the world was mostly unaware of this, and mistakenly assumed that Torah scholars would never have any deeper knowledge unknown to science. Here you have a clear example of how a profound truth which only came about later through trial and error was really embedded in the Torah all along due to the property of divine revelation without reliance on "scientific method". In a similar vein elsewhere in his writings, the rabbi talks about the idea of hidden dimensions in physical reality and their relationship to the miracles related to in Torah narratives. This concept of  hidden dimensions is only a recent development, and remains unknown to many. Similarly, we find that the rabbis of the Mishnah while seeming to have limited mathematical acumen or interest in mathematics for its own sake, were expert at calculating the exact moment of the new moon each month and eventually fixing the calendar Jews use to this day with precise and uncanny accuracy. A thing which could have only come from the Oral traditions.


While I will try to stick to the straight implications of the cosmology given in Genesis, it is necessary to realize this cosmology is not only unique in how it is expressed, but it is inseparable from teleological implications (i.e. purpose) and relies on the oral traditions to bridge the gap between what might otherwise appear as contradictions between specific verses and the logical flow of the narrative. Since the Torah speaks simultaneously on multiple perspectives, this is necessary for reducing ambiguity and making clear a particular point. Cynics may say I am gerrymandering the text to make it appear to support my thesis. I say that I am more concerned with trying to deduce and distill from the text the clearest things I can understand it to say, while taking into consideration its multifaceted character and the relationship of the verses to each other. Many of verses in Genesis (and the entire Torah for that matter) can be read in multiple perspectives. This is one of the reasons that the Greek translation of the Torah written for king Ptolemy, (in ancient times) had to make textual adjustments for what might be seen as ambiguity.  It is of course still possible that my understanding of a verse in Torah is unclear because I lack sufficient information, just as it is possible that a scientific theory is mistaken no matter how popular. The gap between Torah and science has always been a shifting boundary depending on the current state of scientific knowledge on one hand and on the other, the true depth of Torah knowledge available in a given generation. Similarly, as pointed out in other essays, there are clearly examples of false confidence in a scientific theory that are only proven generations later, balanced by a lack of understanding of the difference between the Christian and Jewish views of scripture, which are mistakenly considered to be synonymous in most cases. Regardless, these discussions are difficult enough since we are referring to a time in the deep past of the planet when there was either no-one to observe anything or the records are virtually indecipherable. There are simply too many unknowns plus the logical difficultly of  extrapolating from a known point back to an unknown point. Theories like the big bang may have what seems to be a somewhat compelling logic as an explanation of the universe's origins, but it has many unclear and debateable aspects not the least of which is how this event actually came to be, or why the universe appears to be so uniform no matter which direction we view it from, or is there sufficient matter in the universe to reverse the current expansion etc, etc. Suffice it to say that it should be treated as a hypothesis instead of a dogma. Basically what we have in the creation story is how things look from the perspective of the creator as it impacts man the created. It is believable because it is backed up by the edifice of divine revelation at Sinai, which constantly amazes with its other worldly scenarios and uberlogic. But since we are obsessed with matching up detail for detail with how our current scientific analysis perceives events, we have no tolerance for any alternative perspective other than nature based physical phenomena. Secular scholars are obsessed with proving that the theology and framework of the creation story were built from multiple narratives over time, but there is much better proof of it as a unified work. We find that the nouns which express the basic concepts of the section, that is G-d, Heavens and Earth are repeated in multiples of seven throughout the creation story. The name of G-d occurs thirty-five times. The total variations in the divine name occurs seventy times. Both Earth and Heaven are found twenty-one times. The number seven is repeated in the entire story in many guises. Thus the narrative is well planned and not haphazard as the critics would like us to believe.


The Enigma of time:


Anyone who reads the story of Genesis and its seven days of creation, reads that the sun was created on the fourth day. This most likely strikes the modern mind as strange since we are used to associating the sun with the length of a day, thereby suggesting that the first three days may not have been twenty four hours in duration. On the other hand in trying to make sense of this, we have to take into consideration that there is a general rule in the oral law that the simple meaning of a word should be respected unless there is a compelling reason to overlook its commonly understood definition or a bonafide oral tradition to the contrary. This is not unusual, as there are many instances in the Torah where a word is clearly not to be understood in its usual sense. However while there are midrashim (oral torah traditions) as well as various classic Jewish commentators who discuss the flexibility of time as being other than 24 hour days, this does not change the fact that  it is natural that people will resist the idea that a day could be anything other than twenty four hours, since it goes beyond the unfamiliar to the disorientating ! Nevertheless it seems justified to say that now we have an example of the former reason for departing from the simple meaning of day, i.e. the possiblity that this changed view of the duration of a day will reveal an even deeper truth. Consider the following;


- One of the redefinitions of a day occurs in the Book of Psalms. King David (whose writings contain many profound and bonafide Torah perspectives) says "A thousand years is like yesterday in your eyes". This brings up the point, that before the creation of man, time was expressed from the perspective of G-d only. If the normal guidepost for measuring time i.e. the spinning of the earth on its axis relative to the sun, was missing, who is judging  the duration of what a day actually is. Despite this, it is necessary to express the passage of time in a convention which will be meaningful to all men. This is not only just common sense, but is critical to the very goal of creation. The Torah is primarily concerned with our relationship to the creator and our obligations born of this fact, and not merely the mechanical details of how we tick, as one might expect in a science textbook.  So if you find it puzzling that the creation time frame is given in days and yet those days really represent an unknown amount of time then I would suggest that the answer is that the days are necessary because of the importance of the seventh day as the Sabbath, which is central to the purpose of creation. Hence the creation story is directed towards this important pillar, and true to its normal organizing principle, defines the passage of time in terms of  teleological purpose.


Furthermore there is another anomaly to our science orientated standard of judging this subject. When the sun is reported as created, no mention is made of its function as the critical source of life's energy. Rather, its purpose, as well as that of the moon, seems to be as a calendar so that humans will know when to celebrate the holy days. Hence it seems inescapable that the creation story is more concerned with the nuances of human life and divine worship than as a scientific textbook. Since light was mentioned as the first thing created, we are assured that it was required to propagate life on the critical third day when plants were introduced, but this is not immediately tied to the sun in terms of physical purpose. Could this be a hint that plants developed without necessarily being dependant on the sun (i.e. photosynthesis) ?


Having set the stage as it were to enshrine the Sabbath as the pinnacle of creation, it follows that  clarification of the background to this concept is also of great importance. Our measurement of time is modeled after the divine example. We need to know when the Sabbath is to begin and end. The divine days clearly have a boundary that distinguishes them from each other and their limitations are not arbitrary. Evening and morning are pieces of the same puzzle denoting that the object of the description has a clear beginning and end.  This is especially important for the definition of the Sabbath. At the same time those who lived before we had the benefit of all this science are fine understanding the day as a 24 hour phenomenon. The core narrative gives us the principles and concepts we need to discern the truth, but don't confuse this structure with human perceptual accommodations.


- The Torah does not associate a  day with a fixed passage of time so much as it associates day with light and night with darkness. As stated "and the light he called day and the darkness night. Based on that perspective, it seems that a day was however long that light was shining, if there was no sun in the sky or the sun was off in some other position, where does that leave us ?


Again the first thing created in the physical world was light. Yes I know that the very first verse of the Torah is supposed to be "In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth". But guess what ? That translation is probably the king of mistranslations from hebrew to english. It is literally a one dimensional accomodation which pretty well distorts the depth of that first verse. I will leave the details of this aside for the moment, because it is not the point I wish to make. The point is the importance of light being created first. Light has the unique virtue of being the most etherial and abstract link between the material and spiritual world which is the source of the creation. Kabbalistic writings emphasis that the material world is literally condensed concentrated light. If this sounds familiar it should ! Do we not define matter as organically related to energy in that they are interchangeable ? So again it turns out that the Torah made a profound and critical point long, long before conventional "scientific" wisdom stumbled upon it.


Science claims that the earth went through numerous "epochs", mostly based on major physical upheavals. The Torah says much the same thing, but of course it does not limit itself to one dimensional physical phenomena. It is interesting that to some degree these profound changes in the world have a certain measure of parallelism between the Torah and Scientific methods. Both say that the first epoch was one of  chaos or "Tohu va Bohu" to use the Hebrew expression. After this, the "evolution" of life on earth is outlined and the progression is mostly one that science could agree with in general terms. The ocean comes first with its attendant life forms and afterwards the land, with plants preceding animals up to the last stage which is of course man. Another often overlooked overlap is the mention of the "Great Reptiles" as a separate category in the midst of this chain of development. Yes, it seems undeniable that this is the quite accurate translation of the Hebrew words "Teninim Hagadolim". So what do the rabbis of the Talmud say about this curious and enigmatic phenomena ?  Do dinosaurs get due credit for populating the earth for tens of millions of years and developing a civilization ? Sorry, no Tyrannosauruses running amok, munching on tasty human morsels like some scene out of Jurassic Park. The rabbis have a novel and profound take on this topic which distinct from science, queues in on the more profound meaning of these Great Reptiles. They were none other than the Leviathan, with two created, one male and one female. They are elaborated upon as a means to demonstrate important truths about the creation. Nevertheless since there are multiple levels of meaning in Torah verses (designated as Simple, Hint, Derivation, and Secret), we are on solid ground in appreciating this as another instance of a perspective which has become even more meaningful with the passage of time, and again demonstrates the omniscience and accuracy of Torah wisdom, without the benefit of paleontologists.


If we examine more closely what I am calling these epochs of earthly history, we will find that there is actually much more hidden in between the verses that would be lost if it were not for the oral traditions. Up to this point we  have general synopsis of what transpired from the beginning of creation until  the introduction of the Sabbath. While there is much that the written Torah is not telling us explicitly, we  have barely scratched the surface of what the Torah is actually revealing to us. But in keeping with my general approach to the subject, what can we point to that would open up an entirely new perspective on the creation story and take us to the next level ? Interestingly enough all it takes is just one word to help us get there. This is not unusual in the Torah at all. More often than not, an entirely new perspective on a given subject literally hangs on a single word or letter. In this case the very same verse which discusses the reason for creation also gives us the other side of the coin, its dissolution. The word I am referring to is the very first word of the verse (Genesis: 2, 1) Vyechooloo, usually translated as "and it (the creation of the earth) was completed". However, the choice of this particular verb is literally a gate into another dimension, because there are a number of words in Hebrew which designate completion or the finishing of something, but almost all of them have a specific undertone to them. In this case the verb in question means to finish something by way of destroying it, like saying in English "to finish off" Surprised ? I mean, we just finished making the earth and already we are talking about its destruction ?  However, it turns out that this destruction is actually the compliment and partner of creation, because the purpose is to improve and uplift the original creation. The midrash explains that G-d created and destroyed many worlds before actually leaving the world we have as it were the final product. This is understood to mean that these epochs of creation that we have previously mentioned although they seemed complete unto themselves at the time of their existence, were later destroyed, not as acts of wanton destruction but by the fact that the succeeding epoch added a new level of completion to the world thus rendering the previous period as obsolete or 'destroyed' in terms of their purpose and the need for them going forward.


This brings us to an important point about the so called higher logic of creation that we mentioned previously. Because there is an unspoken assumption that G-d runs the world and can extract from it any result desired which appears to put man and nature into a state of one dimensional subservience to the divine will which is the only thing that matters. While it is certainly true that the divine will cannot be thwarted, that does not mean that it functions in the simplistic fashion as for example, imaged by those who insist that a day cannot be understood in any way other than 24 hour periods, least we introduce distortions into the creation system and preclude a simple and direct control of the world by its king or creator. The key to appreciating how the creation system was designed to work lies in the absolute necessity for free will and mans partnership role as representing and acting as the conduit for the fulfillment of revealing the divine presence in the physical world. This goes hand in hand with the idea that the oral law which is given over to men to interpret and administer is the critical part of the Torah because it is the part which most aligns with the purpose of creation. The written Torah on the other hand is immutable and belongs to G-d. It can be compared to the concrete or iron framework which holds a building up. It is the unchangeable form of the structure, but such a bare structured building would be mostly useless and undesireable to its occupants, without the walls,floors and ceilings and furniture that make it a habitation. Consider this something of an introduction, there is of course much more that needs to be said and G-d willing we will get to it.