It has always fascinated me how the Torah looks at the creation of the world. Of course it is a primitive story; the bible has no concept of evolution or prehistoric time. One of the great problems of the text is the entire issue of time; not just the length of a day, but how the entire concept of time is derived. Jewish time begins with creation. The current Jewish year is calculated by scholars who try to derive the date of creation by working back through the centuries and through the Torah to discover how long ago the world was created. We know of course that the almost 5800 years of the Jewish calendar does not include prehistoric time that includes the rise of life in the oceans, the rise of plant life and then animal life on the land, the age of reptiles/dinosaurs and the early ages of mammals. The calendar really only figures the historical time of civilization in the Middle East. As with the historical accounts of all peoples and civilizations, the “authors” of the Torah see themselves as the center of the universe. To look for something here beyond what was known in the “civilized” world of ancient Mesopotamia, is to go beyond the boundaries of what the Torah is about.
Another issue is the idea that God created the world (something) from nothing. The opening lines of the Torah tell us that there was “tehome” called “the deep” and apparently water. There also seems to be some kind of atmosphere where God’s spirit can “hover” in the wind. It seems to be a dark chaotic ball of water that is first illuminated and then split in half. Where the upper and lower parts meet, God introduces a bubble of air and in that bubble will the world be created. The first three days mirror the second three days. The first three days set the scene for what will be created on the final three days. The creation of human beings is thus the pinnacle of creation, the last and greatest of God’s creative acts.
It is also a point of some discussion about how human beings were created. The text of chapter one indicates that there was just one person created and that one individual was both male and female. I am not sure if this was one body with two sets of genitalia or if one side was male and the other side female. I know that there is a different story about this creation in the next chapter but I will wait until we get there to address that concern.
More importantly for Judaism, the human, whatever the gender, is created in the “image” of God. This is a real issue because Judaism believes that God has no image. This means that if we want to “see” God, we need to really “see” our fellow human beings. No matter how many different faces, colors, styles and genders, every single human being has this “image” of God and therefore all human life is holy.
Notice also that humanity is instructed to eat only a vegetarian diet. Permission to eat animals will come much later in our text. Humanity is also given a job to do. Human beings are to populate the world and serve as stewards for all the other animals, helping them live their lives and keeping them in their divine place in the world that God has created.
Finally, we note that the seventh day is not part of the creation story, but the opening lines of chapter two. I want to teach from the very start that the Torah, as passed down through the generations from one Jewish community to another, never had any chapters at all. The only divisions were the parshiot,the list of weekly readings for synagogue use every week. The chapters were introduced by Christian scholars in the middle ages and the Jewish community eventually adopted this chapter/verse configuration in order to be able to talk to Christians about the text. If you look at where the Shabbat aliyot break up the text, you see the first reading does include the verses on Shabbat as part of the creation story.