The Department of Justice (DOJ) is starting a criminal investigation into the beginnings of the DOJ’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, without even stating what the Federal crime being investigated is (there must be an explicit one to have a criminal investigation). That sounds like a political Mӧbius strip, or maybe that famous M. C. Escher drawing Ascending and Descending, 1960, featuring what Escher called a “very profound and absurd” eternal staircase.
Order and disorder. Or disorder masquerading as order?
This week, I was going to compare the Genesis Creation story with the Babylonian Enuma Elish, which I’d learned about last fall in a course taught by Rabbi Michael Kramer, but I found that I did that last year. Then I was thinking about all the other themes in this week Torah portion, such as the meaning of “bereishit,” usually somewhat inaccurately, if majestically, translated as “in the beginning”; the two Creation stories in Genesis, cosmogenic in Chapter 1 and anthropogenic in Chapters 2 and 3; what being made “in the image of God”(b’tzelem elokim) means; the nature of Paradise (and Star Trek – see my 2016 TPH for Bereishit); sex (do Gen. 1:27 and 5:1-2 mean Adam = male + female?); why Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden (disobedience, not “original sin”); the multicentenarians, like 969-year-old Methuselah; Cain and Abel; and the role of humans vis à vis God and the animals.
But I was having serious trouble focusing, even with only small doses of disorienting TV news in the background. Then I heard that the DOJ is starting a criminal investigation into the beginnings of the DOJ’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. That brought me back to order and disorder.
The major element of the creative processes described in this week’s Torah portion is bringing order from disorder, the opposite of what we have experienced since that 2016 presidential election. This is introduced with the very first word, bereishit. As I wrote last year, “the Hebrew form of bereishit indicates it’s really “in the beginning of (something),” here, “in the beginning of God’s creating.” More fluently, “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth…” is really more like “When God began to create heaven and earth —the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water —God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Why does this matter? The two translations represent two quite different approaches to Creation. In one, God exists and then creates heaven and a chaotic earth out of nothing.” [Creation “out of nothing,” or ex nihilo, is a concept attributed to the 2nd century C.E. Christian theologian Irenaeus]. “In the other, we come in after the start of the story. Chaos and water and darkness already exist. We catch God at the start of the creation of order from the pre-existing formless…stuff.”
Disorder is characterized by darkness, water, and a lack of form; order, by light, a wind from God, and increasingly complex forms separated out from the formless “stuff.” Heaven is separated from earth and sea from land. Separate lights are created to rule the day and the night. Animals are created to live in the specific environments of air, land, or sea, and man is created to rule over them.
The Garden of Eden is the ultimate orderly environment. Animals and humans are vegetarians, so food is plentiful and readily at hand. Although the humans are created “in the image of God,” they really don’t have to do a lot to live up to that. There are no needy to care for, nor a need to clothe the naked, or release the bound, or do any of the other deeds later associated with Imitatio Dei.
Yet a perfect world has not been created, only one that is “very good” (1:31) and needs work to improve it or at least keep it from disorder, thus decay.
Disorder is introduced into this world by disobedience. Adam and Eve disobey and so must leave the Garden and work for a living; but this allows them to impose some order themselves on the world outside. But disorder continually lurks nearby (4:7, “Sin couches at the door”), and the humans still lack enough knowledge and discipline to prevent it. Cain, disappointed in God’s rejection of his offering and acceptance of the nicer one from his brother Abel, gives in to his anger and jealousy and kills him. Much later (6:1-5), we read about (forced?) cohabitation between the “daughters of men” and “sons of God” (Maybe this just indicates that those in authority, like princes, took any women as they pleased, sort of like a droit du seigneur.) which produces beings called Nephilim (giants, fallen ones). It appears that the nascent societal order has broken down after only about 1500 years.
At this point, God declares that humans are irredeemably evil and decides to wipe them out, along with most of the animals. Why the animals were included is unclear. Nor is it clear why God, disgusted with humanity, decides to try again with an existing human: Noah. We’ll consider that next week.
Oldie but goodie, last sent out in 2011. I still get a kick out of it.
Whenever your kids are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God’s omnipotence did not extend to God’s kids.
Consider for example, that after creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve.
The first thing He said was: “Don’t.”
“Don’t what?” Adam replied.
“Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.” God said.
“Forbidden fruit? We got forbidden fruit? Hey, Eve…we got forbidden fruit!”
“Don’t eat that fruit!” said God.
“Because I am your Father and I said so!” said God, wondering why He hadn’t stopped after making the elephants.
A few minutes later God saw His kids having an apple break and was angry.
“Didn’t I tell you not to eat the fruit?” the First Parent asked.
“Uh huh”, Adam replied.
“Then why did you?”
“I dunno” Eve answered.
“She started it!” Adam said.
Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus, the pattern was set and it has never changed. But there is reassurance in this story. If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give your children wisdom and they haven’t taken it, don’t be hard on yourself. If God had trouble handling children, what makes you think it would be a piece of cake for you?
News Journal, Wilmington, DE, 10/23/2019, p. B4
Who Am I?
One day a gorilla escaped from the zoo, prompting a huge search of the district and appeals on radio, television and in the newspapers.
He was finally discovered a few days later in the city library where zoo officials found him sitting at a desk in the reading room with two books spread out in front of him.
The gorilla was deep in concentration. One book was the Bible; the other was written by Charles Darwin.
The zoo keepers asked the gorilla what he was doing. The gorilla replied: “I’m trying to figure out whether I am my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.”
Quotes about Creation
I’m intrigued by the dark. Out of darkness comes creation. Famke Janssen
The Creator, in taking infinite pains to shroud with mystery His presence in every atom of creation, could have had but one motive – a sensitive desire that men seek Him only through free will. Paramahansa Yogananda
To sit for one’s portrait is like being present at one’s own creation. Alexander Smith
We think we have solved the mystery of creation. Maybe we should patent the universe and charge everyone royalties for their existence. Stephen Hawking
If God had made a perfect world, it would be a magic trick, not creation, with no meaning or place for us to learn and create. Mankind is not yet ready for a perfect world. We do not know how to appreciate perfection. Bernie Siegel