Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Reflection of Torah

"And God said 'Let there be light' and there was light." (Bereshis 1:3)

Rav Levi Yitzchak Berditchiver asks why this verse's format is different from all other "Let there be..." verses in the story of Creation. Everywhere else it says "Let there be X and it was so." Here it says "Let there be light and there was light." Why the change?
He answers that, in fact, light was already in existence but when God uttered this command He gave the light a substance and reality it had previously been lacking. This is easy to understand from a physical context. Light in and of itself is invisible. What we perceive as light is actually its reflection off of and absorbtion into the physical world around us. Light could therefore have predated the initial creation but without anything to reflect off of, it couldn't really be called Light.
In Yisrael u'Tichiyaso, section 24, Rav Avraham Kook, zt"l, describes the Oral Law in very similar terms. He describes the Torah Sheba'al Peh as a force that floats through reality but only finds concrete existence when reflected by the Jewish nation. This means that while the Torah exists as an actual force in reality, it can only gain expression and proper existence through our observance of its commandments.
This is something I find quite fascinating. Most major Jewish philosophers understand God's desire to create the universe (keeping in mind that we have no clue what something like desire means to God or if He actually desires anything, just that we have to express it somehow) as a means of showing His goodness. Without any creation, who could He be kind to? As a result, here we are.
This combination of insights therefore may point to a new understanding of the third verse of the Torah. For many, the concept of disembodied Light is difficult. After all, the light we know and understand has to have a source. It is composed of photons. It is measurable. Yet from the Midrash, Chazal have hinted that this primeval Light was nothing like this. For one thing, it illumated all of creation at the same time. For another, we are told that God hid it away for the righteous. What kind of Light is that?
Therefore this new understanding, along the lines of "For the commandment (mitzvah) is a candle, and Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23)" can give us a new appreciation of the early stages of Creation. Chazal tell us that the Torah was created before our universe was. Like physical light which lacks anything to shine on, it existed but without any actual purpose. It was only when our universe was created that it finally had found something to interact with. Thus God called for the Light and behold, it was actually just that: pure Light.

4 comments:

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Good job. For what it's worth, I like it.

Garnel Ironheart said...

For what's it worth, that's quite a complement. Thank you.

Shalmo said...

“And God said, Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) and “. . .And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1 :5), versus “And God said, ‘Let there be light in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night....’ “And God made two lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also… And the evening and morning were the fourth day” (Genesis 1 :14-19). These violates two major facts. Light cannot exist without a sun, and secondly, how can morning be distinguished from evening unless there is a sun and moon?

Common Garnel. Must we repeat our usual cycle of me explaining how the Genesis 1 creation account conflicts with the order of events that are known to science. Genesis 1:1 The earth is created before light and stars, birds and whales before reptiles and insects, and flowering plants before any animals. From science, we know that the true order of events was just the opposite.

And of course the usual plants are made on the third day (Genesis 1:11) before there was a sun to drive their photosynthetic processes (Genesis 1:14-19).

blah blah blah you know the drill.

Whether you take those as 6 literal days or figurative days, you still can't resolve the scientific blunders.

And you cannot resolve the problem that Genesis 1:1 comes from babylonian myths on Apsu, the sweet water ocean and Tiamat, the salt water ocean. In fact, archaeologists have generally acknowledged that the Hebrew word for the chaos of the waters or “the deep” or the darkness of Genesis 1:1, tehom, is actually derived from the Akkadian Tiamat.

In Genesis 1:6-8 God is said to have created the firmament on the second day of creation. In the Babylonian myth, Marduk, son of the Ea the god of wisdom, killed Tiamat and split her into two. The upper half of Tiamat was fixed onto the sky to keep the waters above in place.

In the Babylonian myth, after Tiamat was killed, the firmament was created by Marduk to separate the waters above from below. Then he created the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars. Finally man was created. This order is very closely paralleled in Genesis I where the firmament was created on the second day, the sun, moon and stars on the third day and man on the sixth day.

Considering most of Torah comes from 6th century BC when the babylonian invasions were happening, these plagarized mythologies are all the more obvious.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Good news Shalmo. There's a sale on at Wal-Mart. Go buy yourself a life, okay?