Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Sunday, March 27, 2016

In the Beginning, G-d

In the beginning, it was G-d Who created.  The Hebrew word translated ‘in the beginning’ is ‘bereshit’ and proclaims that nothing existed prior to G-d’s act of creation, and that the heavens and the earth were created only through G-d’s Word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d.  He was with G-d in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (cf. John 1).

The Scripture teaches us that the world was brought into existence from non-existence i.e. ex nihilo. The belief that the world is eternal, is not only a metaphysical falsehood and a misrepresentation of the origin of the universe, it is a belief which serves to undermine all of morality, while denying freedom in both G-d and man.

If matter existed before creation, then the Creator of the universe would have been able to fashion from the material given Him not a world that was absolutely good, but only the best possible world within the limitations of that material.  G-d would then not be master over the material of the world, and man would not be master over his body. Freedom would disappear, and the entire world would be subject to a blind immutable fate.

Everything was created by the free, Almighty Creator, a Creator Who still rules freely over matter and form of everything; over the forces that act upon matter; over the laws by which these forces operate; and over the resulting forms. The free and Almighty will of G-d created matter and caused these forces to act upon it, and His will set the laws by which forms are fashioned.

And so the world that has been created is not the best possible one that can be fashioned with the given material; rather it is the only good world and is a world which reflects the wise plan of the Creator.

The possibility of sinning is part of his moral perfection and a basic condition for his moral freedom. We see then that ‘bereshit’ is the foundation of our awareness of G-d, world, and man.  When man lost this awareness, it had to be reestablished.  This, then, was the purpose of the revealed miracles: to demonstrate G-d’s free and unbounded mastery over the world with all its elements forces and laws. According to our Sages, these miracles were intended to restore man’s faith in a free and unlimited G-d.

Paganism fragments the whole world into many groups and spheres (e.g. gods of Greece and Rome, the Hindus, et al).   At the head of each sphere stands a ruler who has been bestowed with certain powers. This misguided and erroneous notion lowers the concept of god and transforms the god into a natural power who is unfree in the act of creating.  Such a god is unable to create true contrasts and differing phenomena, therefore, the world would have to have been established by many gods – as many as there are groups of opposing phenomena.

The Scriptures (and Judaism) denies the existence of these numerous gods and ascribes the powers that are attributed to them to the one and only G-d.  He alone is called Elohim. All the attributes of power that were separated by paganism are united in Him.  The unification of these attributes raises the one G-d above any notion of a mere natural power. For only the free and omnipotent Will of a single Being can create a world of contrasts; only He can unite these contrasts into one great purpose.

Elohim is also a Name that signifies G-d’s relationship between G-d and the world.  G-d Who reveals Himself today as the Master of the universe is the One Who created the world through His Will and Almighty power.  The Scripture gives expression to the complete objectivity of the creation vis-a-vis its Creator, of the world vis-a-vis G-d.   Scripture thus discredits those who err and try to argue that G-d is immersed in the world – as though He were the world’s mind and soul, thus lowering G-d to the level of a force of nature, which has no existence beyond the world.

This is untrue, since after G-d created the world and all its parts, He looked at them again.  It follows, then, that the work is external to its Creator, and that G-d is outside the world. G-d ‘barah,’ created, His world giving it external existence and His thoughts physical objectivity.  The world is related to G-d, not as the body is related to the soul, not as the organism is related to the life-force, but as a work is related to its maker.

In other words, G-d transcends His world absolutely and His work remains forever dependent upon Him, whereas He is independent of His work. The Scripture testifies that G-d looks upon His work and finds it good, and only because He looks upon it and only for as long as He looks upon it does it continue to exist.

The Son is the image of the invisible G-d, the firstborn over all creation.   For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.   He is before all things, and in him all things hold together . . . (cf. Colossians 1).

Adapted from commentary on Parashas Bereshis, Rabbi S.R Hirsch.  

2 comments:

  1. It's amazing how much information and corresponding explanation is available in the first book of the Bible. It's almost like its foundational for human science and philosophy. Imagine that.

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  2. I believe that God did create a universe long ago, millions of years perhaps. Then the fall of Satan happened, along with the great war fought between God and Satan. That destroyed or damaged many planets in our system.

    Then when God decided the time was right to create the current planet Earth, He went ahead and did it. I have no problem believing that before the Creation, the universe was indeed a dark and blackened void.
    It would also explain the differences regarding the subject of carbon dating findings. A young earth, 6K years old, but many things found on this young earth are millions of years old.

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