Shabbat Shalom Weekly: Bereishit 5763
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Bereishit(Genesis 1:1-6:8)

Bereishit 5763

GOOD MORNING!  The story is told of a gorilla which escaped from the zoo. They searched everywhere for it. Finally, they found the gorilla sitting in the city library pouring over a copy of the Torah and a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species. When asked what he was doing, the gorilla replied, "I am trying to figure out whether I am my brother's keeper or whether I am my keeper's brother."

This week we begin reading the story of Creation in Genesis. It is fascinating how many intellectual people are quick to write off the story of Creation as a fairy tale or allegory and to dismiss anyone who believes in Creation versus Random Evolution as "ignorant, misguided, non-intellectual, not operating in the 'real world'." It is even more fascinating that so many people believe in the Theory of Random Evolution with so little information and so little understanding of the mechanism that they espouse. We are products of our society and our society has faith in evolution.

The Theory of Evolution is an attempt to understand the infinite variety of life, yet tremendously ordered and purposeful universe, through a process of random chance - that given enough time, random forces can accidentally produce order and life. This happens through spontaneous generation - life arising from a primordial chemical soup and the eventual development of species via mutations.

Is Evolution a possible explanation for the complexity of life on our planet? Evolution is possible if it is a Guided Evolution as opposed to Random Evolution. Many Torah-believing Jews believe that evolution is the means that God used to "bring forth life from the earth" (Genesis 1:24). However, once one brings God into the equation to account for impossibilities in random evolution (for instance, the thickness of an egg shell - if the shell is too thick the chicken can't get out; if it is too thin, the egg collapses while being laid - either way, end of species day one!), Random Evolution loses its "advantage" of eliminating God from being an integral and important part of our life.

The story is told of a group of eminent scientists talking with God and claiming that they figured out how to make life. God says, "OK, show me." The scientist say, "First you take a handful of dirt." God interrupts and says, "Wait a minute. Get your own dirt!"

One huge difference in perspective between Random Evolution and Creation/Guided Evolution is the view of man. If we accept Random Evolution as the explanation for man's existence, then man is a refined ape ... but still an animal. From the Creation point of view, man was created in the image of God and was created on purpose and with a purpose. Those are two completely opposing points of view.

An elderly rabbi was once on an airplane to Israel sitting next to a self-professed atheist. They were amicably chatting the whole trip. Periodically, the rabbi's children and grandchildren would come to ask if they could get anything to make him more comfortable. After this happened several times, the atheist sighed, "I wish my children and grandchildren would treat me with such respect." The rabbi replied, "Think about it. To my children and grandchildren, I am one step closer to the revelation of the Torah when God spoke to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai. According to the philosophy to which you adhere, you are one step closer to being an ape. Do you think that your philosophy engenders respect from one's children and grandchildren?"

Our heritage is based on belief, not faith. The difference? Belief is based on evidence and is on a sliding scale somewhere between ignorance and knowledge. The more information, the stronger the belief. Faith is an emotional jump to a conclusion. Our detractors - the infamous anti-Semites - have said many negative things about the Jews; the one thing they never said is that we are stupid. Jews navigate the questions of the world, life and eternity with our minds, not our emotions.

If you are interested in the topic, I recommend Darwin on Trial by Phillipe E. Johnson, a law professor at UC Berkeley or The Neck of The Giraffe: Where Darwin Went Wrong.


Torah Portion of the Week
Bereishit

The Five Books of Moses begins with the Six Days of Creation, the Shabbat, the story of the Garden of Eden - the first transgression, consequences and expulsion; Cain & Abel, the ten generations to Noah, the Almighty sees the wickedness of man in that generation and decrees to "blot out man" (i.e.. the flood).

One of the most profound verses in the whole Torah is "And God created man in His own Image." Since God does not have a physical being, this means that we are endowed with free-will, morality, reason and the ability to emulate God Who bestows kindness. Also, if we really appreciate that we are created in the image of God, we realize that we have intrinsic worth. Therefore, there is no need to be depressed wondering if you have intrinsic worth!

 

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him" (Genesis 1:27)

Rabbi Akiva said, "The verse, 'Love your fellow man as yourself' (Leviticus 19:18) is a great principle of the Torah." Ben Azzai responded, "The verse, 'When God created man He created him in His image' (Genesis 5:1) is an even greater principle."

Love of one's fellow man which is not motivated and nourished by the realization that man was created in God's image, is doomed to failure. Without this realization, why should a person feel obligated to love his fellow man? Man in the universe is so minuscule, he can be considered of minor importance. What, after all, is man, but one of several billion inhabitants on a planet which is only a speck of matter in a vastness of space that extends for billions of light-years. The individual is lost in an immensity beyond imagination. And man himself is merely a mass of bones, nerves, muscles, and blood that happens to function in an orderly fashion. Is he worthy of more consideration than an animal or insect?

When we realize that man alone is fashioned in the image of the Creator of heaven and earth, he is suddenly transformed from an inconsequential and insignificant being into one that is without parallel. Although seemingly infinitesimal, he is the pinnacle of creation.


PIRKEI AVOT 2:2

Do not separate yourself from the community,
Do not believe in yourself until the day you die,
Don't judge your friend until you have been in his place,
Don't say something that cannot be easily understood on the grounds that it will eventually be understood,
Do not say, 'When I am free I will study'; perhaps you will never become free.
      -- Hillel



CANDLE LIGHTING - October 4:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)

Jerusalem  5:41
Guatemala 5:31  Hong Kong 5:50  Honolulu 6:58
J'Burg 5:50  London 6:14  Los Angeles 6:15
Melbourne 6:08  Miami 6;46  Moscow 5:40
New York 6:15  Singapore  6:38



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

The price of greatness
is responsibility.
-- Winston Churchill



Published: September 29, 2002

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