Yump a Dum

Parshat Berayshit
א( בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.
When God began to create the Heaven and the Earth

A. For the passage does not come to teach us the order of the acts of creation, to say that heaven and earth came first… You must admit (based on his extensive language comparison of similar texts) that Scripture does not teach us anything about the order of the earlier or later acts of creation. [Rashi on Gen. 1:1 ]

B. Why are et and v’et needed? Nachum Ish Gamzu expounded: “If shemayim v’aretz alone were stated I might have said that shamayim and v’aretz were the names of the Holy One blessed be He, but et hashamayim v’et haaretz indicates that each is a created entity in itself. [Torah Temimah on Gen. 1:1]

C. The opening chapters of Genesis are not a scientific account of the origins of the universe. The Torah is a book of morality not cosmology. Its overriding concern, from the first verse to the last is our relationship to God, truth about life rather than scientific truths. It describes the world God fashioned as “good,” a statement no scientific account can make. [Harold Kushner, commentary on Genesis in Etz Hayim p.3]

D. As Rambam notes, even after reading how the world and its central character, Man, came into being, we still do not understand the secret or even the process of Creation. Rather, the work of Creation is a deep mystery that can be comprehended only through the tradition transmitted by God to Moses, and those who are privileged to be entrusted with this hidden knowledge are not permitted to reveal it. [The Humash, The Stone Edition, commentary on Genesis Chapter 1 p.2]

E. Smoothly, powerfully, and seamlessly, the text … produces several theological meanings: that Elohim alone, “at the beginning” created a good ordered world; that He “separated” and hierarchically ordered the primordial mass into a “good” pattern; that the created world of nature is, as a result, a harmony; and that Elohim is omnipotent and without rival. The clarity of this account … seems to leave no room for the existential sense of “mystery in general” … and yet, Rashi, … begins … with the words, “This text is nothing if not mysterious” … what emerges from Rashi’s provocative statement is a sense of the gaps, the unexplained, the need to examine and reexamine the apparently lucid text, with its account of a harmonious, coherent cosmology. There is a tension between the benevolent clarity and power of the narrative and the acknowledgment of mystery that inheres in the very first word and that develops as the implications of the beginning are realized. [Aviva Zornberg, Genesis, the Beginning of Desire p.3]

1. Is the Torah’s account of Creation true?

2. Why does the Torah begin with the account of creation? Where else could it have started? What is the creation text trying to teach us?

3. Some say that we should translate all that God creates as proper nouns, names, not of things in nature, but the names of Pagan gods. How would this change the way we understand this text? What would be the reason for the creation story?

4. What does the text teach us about evolution and the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe? Is there a literal translation of this text that really does contradict science, or are the “creationists” misreading the text? Is this a deliberate misreading or is there some other reason for their interpretation?

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