October 16th-17th, 1998
27 Tishrei, 5759
"Thus the heaven and the earth were finished (va'yichulu hashamayim v'ha'aretz), and
all their array." (2, 1)
There used to be a time when people looked at the intricacy and magnificence of the
natural world, and saw (unmistakably) the hand of a Creator. "The heavens
declare the glory of G-d, and the expanse of the sky tells of His handiwork," King
David wrote, immortally expressing the thoughts of men and women for millennia.
Things have been different in the last century and a half, of course--at least, ever since
Darwin (to quote the title of a book by America's most prominent Darwinist and popularizer
of evolutionary theory, Professor Steven Jay Gould), and others, offered explanations of
our world that seemed to obviate (if not outright deny) the existence of an intelligent
Transcendental Being behind it all. The beauty and diversity of life around us?
The result of impersonal forces, of natural selection operating over eons--the
blind watchmaker (to quote the title of a book by Gould's British counterpart, Richard
Whether or not evolution is compatible with the Torah, or is even true for that matter, is
not our subject now. (Come to the "Judaism and Modern Science" lectures
I'll be offering if you're interested.) Suffice it to say that although most people
would never suspect it, there are intelligent opponents of evolutionary theory out there
in the academic community, despite Steven Jay Gould's assertion that evolution is a
"fact;" there is, after all, something to talk about; the final word is not
necessarily in on the subject.
In any case, perhaps the best evidence of the existence of G-d is not in the details of
the construction of the world at all, as outlined in the account of the Six Days of
Creation in the first chapter of Bereishis. It may be that the seventh day, the
Sabbath, furnishes the most convincing evidence for a Creator.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, zt'l, the great German religious leader and thinker (who,
interestingly, was an exact contemporary of Darwin, born just one year before him), points
out that if purely physical causes were responsible for the origin of the world, then they
should still be visibly operating. Why have the tremendous creative and
life-generating forces stopped, he asks? The cessation of Creation (hey, I'm a poet)
declares that there is a boundary-setting Being Who, after creating, checked His
activity...took a rest, so to speak.
"Just the fact that as far back as human memory goes, or records exist, no new
creations have appeared, just the fact that Sabbathreigns in Creation, proves that this
Sabbath was preceded by a thinking, limit-setting, all-powerful Creator, that this world
is not the result of the forces of nature working with blind automatic necessity, but the
work of a free-willed, free-working with full consciousness and intent, Almighty Thinking
(Hirsch, Commentary on the Torah: I, p. 42)
Indeed, one of the names of G-d Himself, as found in the Torah, actually connotes His
power of limiting the forces of Creation. Rabbi Hirsch quotes an interesting Midrash
from Bereishis Rabbah, 46 to this effect:
"R. Nathan said in R. Aha's name, and R. Berekiah said in R. Isaacs name: I AM EL
SHADDAI (GOD ALMIGHTY): It is I who said to My world, dai (enough)! And had I
dai! to My world, the heaven would still have been spreading and the earth
would have gone on expanding to this very day." (translation from Soncino
Midrash Rabbah; emphasis mine.)
G-d's existence is deduced, then, from the fact that the forces of Creation were halted on
the seventh day; everything has limits and boundaries because everything is the product of
a limitless Creator. Hirsch concludes:
"A free-willed Mind and a free almighty Will rules
over us, ties us down to a fixed purpose and measure, and just in this limitation and by
this limitation lets us come into existence and to be what we are...Thus [the word]
va'yichulu [and they were finished--i.e., the heavens and the earth] is the great Jewish
protest against the materialistic point of view that denies--and has denied in all ages--a
free-willed Creator for the world." (Hirsch, ibid.)
Thoughtfully observing the Sabbath (and internalizing its teachings) strengthens--and
declares openly--our faith in a Creator. And since the whole purpose of existence,
as our great ommentaries explain, was for man to gain awareness of, and closeness
to, the Creator, the Sabbath represents the culmination--the true completion--of G-d's
We must work for six days, and there is meaning and
greatness in work. What stamps us as free-willed creatures of a free-willed G-d (and this
is one central meaning of the famous statement in this parsha that man was created
b'tzelem elokim--in the image of G-d), however, is that we cease from creative activity on
the seventh day. Limiting our creative activity--as defined by the Oral Law--is our
ultimate act of imitatio Deo. We ourselves actualize the
greatness and the godliness within us on, and through, the Shabbos.
So...have a good one!! (And we'll speak more about this broad and deep subject in
the future, im yirtzeh Hashem.)
Insights Into Genesis
Insights Into Exodus
Edelstein is Director of the Savannah Kollel/ Savannah Torah Education Project. Phone:
fax: 354-9923; e-mail address: Yosef18@aol.com
Please be in
touch with us.
Our new website thanks to the good graces of the O.U. is: WWW.OU.ORG/TORAH/SAVANNAH.
distributed by the Ben Portman Computer facilites
of the Savannah Kollel.
Is the universe 5700 years old...or 57 billion?
Is evolution contrary to Jewish teachings?
What does the Torah say about life on other planets?
Should cloning humans be permissible?
Can Science and Torah co-exist AT ALL?!
Come explore these topics in a special four-part lecture series:
"Judaism and Modern Science"
Taught by Rabbi Yosef Edelstein,
Director of Savannah Torah Education Project (STEP)
Tuesday, October 27th. "Torah and Science: Do They Conflict?"
Tuesday, November 10th. "The Origin and Age of the Universe"
Tuesday, November 24th. "Evolution and Extraterrestrial Life"
Tuesday, December 8th. "Cloning and Other Debates in Medical Ethics"
All classes will be held at the J.E.A., beginning at 7:45PM. To register, call the J.E.A.,
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