Sunday, October 15, 2017

Parshas Bereishis 5778

It is often thought that Parshas Bereishis which describes the account of creation of the world is in conflict with modern science. However, if we explore the entire spectrum of commentators, midrashim, meforshim, etc. there is plenty of room to reconcile the modern scientific view of how the Universe begin with one described in the Torah.

Who Created the World?
The Torah teaches us that the Universe was created by G-d, and that it has both a beginning and an end. However, according to science prior to the development of modern physics it was thought that the Universe existed forever and thus did not have a Creator. This view originated with the ancient Greek philosophers. However, in the last 100 years, a new scientific consensus developed which described the Universe as having a beginning (Big Bang theory) and possibly an end as well (Big Freeze or Big Crunch). This aligns closer to what the Torah is described than the older, "eternal universe" model. Modern physics does not however claim to have found what the original cause of the Universe coming into being was (although research into quantum fluctuations and such continues). Therefore, it seems that both science and the Torah agree that the Universe had a beginning and while the Torah claims that the beginning was caused by the Creator, science currently doesn't have an answer to that.

How was the Universe Created?
It is common to assume that every day of the first six days of Creation, G-d created something new. However, according to Rashi and other commentators all matter was created on the first day and then shaped/formed on the other days. The Ramban goes even further and explains that all of the matter in the Universe was initially created from nothing as a compressed dot and from that single dot / point, all of the Universe was shaped. This approach dovetails nicely with the prevalent scientific theory of the Big Bang where everything in the Universe came into being in some sort of a singularity from which everything else came from. However, it is important to note that the fact of who created the Universe is more important than the how.

When was the Universe Created?
According to the Torah, it seems that the Universe was created in six days, and less than 6,000 years ago. According to science, the Universe begun almost 14 billion years ago and the process did not take six days. First of all, it is interesting to note that the three measures of time that humans use are all derived from the movement of planetary bodies and those are: a day (from sun rise to sun rise), a month (from new moon to new moon) and a year (from sun position in the sky). If according to the Torah, the various celestial bodies were put in to place on the fourth day of Creation, how can the first three days be measured? Many of the commentators end up resolving this issue by relying on the primordial Light and Darkness to measure days and nights, instead of the sun, moon and the earth. So seemingly, the clock and measurements during the first six days of Creation, were not the necessarily the same as what we use today. Second, our calendar does not count from the first day of Creation but rather the sixth - the Creation of Man. One can argue, that perhaps the calendar may have even started towards the end of the sixth day when man was created, and all of the time prior to that may be using a different clock - which can be longer. As noted earlier, it is still more important to know who rather than when the Universe was created.

No comments:

Post a Comment