web analytics
December 28, 2014 / 6 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Back To The Garden

book-Awesome-Creation

Awesome Creation: A Study of the First Three Verses of the Torah
Rabbi Yosef Bitton
Gefen

The Cosmos is all that is, or was, or ever will be. Thus spake the late astronomer and author Carl Sagan, expressing his belief that reality consists of nothing but matter and energy. Sagan’s atheist slogan may have been borrowed from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus (circa 500 BCE): “This cosmos, the same for all, was neither made by God nor man, but was, is, and always will be.” Heraclitus was conveying a notion that held sway for millennia and was endorsed by modern science until very recently – that the universe has always existed. He is quoted in Awesome Creation, a Study of the First Three Verses of the Torah by Rabbi Yosef Bitton.

Rabbi Bitton eloquently presents the Jewish response to claims of the universe’s eternity: Bereishis bara! The universe was created by God out of nothing; it has not always existed. And Big Bang cosmology, now accepted by the overwhelming majority of the scientific community, involves a rather reluctant acknowledgement by many scientists that a cherished philosophical notion had to be forsaken.

In recent decades, a veritable cottage industry has arisen within the Torah community, with authors claiming to harmonize the respective viewpoints of the Torah and Science on the question of ultimate origins (of the universe and humanity). These authors make it their business – a lucrative business at that – to pander to readers whose point of departure is, “How do you reconcile Judaism and Science?” without realizing that they are not asking a question but rather expressing a prejudice. It never occurs to them to ask, “Are Judaism and Science necessarily reconcilable?” Having decided at the outset that the two viewpoints must always coincide, these authors proceed to make sure – if necessary by torturing classical sources until they confess – that Torah sources submit to political correctness.

Awesome Creation, for the most part, avoids this pitfall. It does an excellent job of elucidating the key terms in the first three verses of the Torah. What does tohu really mean? And bohu? How about rakia’? Does darkness mean the mere absence of light or is it a tangible entity? Rabbi Bitton analyses these words on the Torah’s own terms, using the Hebrew text, Chazal and classical authorities. And in pursuing the legitimate meanings of obscure terms, the author is sufficiently confident to criticize well-known writers – Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, for example – for mistranslating certain phrases. Mostly, the author succeeds in sticking to his objective that “Science is used in this work only to the extent it contributes to the understanding of the Biblical text, which is the main goal of this book.”

But not always. Rabbi Bitton, too, sometimes succumbs to the urge to show that, as he puts it, the “Biblical Creation story…is completely compatible with science’s modern discoveries.” Nu nu. At any rate, writing that Ramban anticipated a post-Newtonian conception of physics or that Rambam identified primeval darkness as…[an] invisible form of energy was unnecessary. Overall, however, Rabbi Bitton’s scholarship is dispassionate and focused.

Awesome Creation makes the occasional innocent mistake. The famous astrophysicist Arthur Eddington was not an uncompromising atheist (he was a committed Quaker, and, because of his pacifism, faced imprisonment in 1918, when he was 35 years old and still subject to conscription in WWI) and citizens of the “eternal and stationary universe of Aristotle” did not ponder elliptical orbits (nobody did that until Kepler). But I quibble. On scientific matters, Awesome Creation is almost always accurate and informative.

One of the novel features of Awesome Creation is its willingness to cite lesser-known sources (a point the author acknowledges in a recent interview with this newspaper). This is innocuous and even illuminating, except for the odd occasion when this practice goes overboard. Do we really need Jorge Luis Borges to tell us that nature and the Bible are two books written by the same Author? Galileo said so 400 years ago (and Rabbi S.R. Hirsch used the same idea in his 18th Letter). But again, this is nitpicking. Mostly, Awesome Creation sticks to standard sources. And even when novel rabbinic sources are cited, they are not there to convince the reader that radical and fringe views are legitimate Torah viewpoints, because in hashkafa anything goes. (See, however, note 4 on page 63.)

About the Author: Yoram Bogacz is the author of Genesis and Genes (Feldheim, 2013) and Facets of Eternity (Feldheim, 2014). He can be reached at www.TorahExplorer.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Back To The Garden”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
A clip from"How to Stab a Jew," the latest hit on Arab social media.
‘How to Stab a Jew’ Going Viral on Palestinian Authority Social Media [video]
Latest Sections Stories
Collecting-History-logo

An incredible child protégé and a world chess champion, Boris Spassky (1937- ), best known for his “Match of the Century” loss in Reykjavík to Fischer, will always be inexorably tied to the latter.

book-super-secret-diary

Who hasn’t experienced how hard it can be to fit in?

In our times, most of us when we pray, our minds are on something else-it is hard to focus all the time.

The participants discussed the rich Jewish-Hungarian heritage, including that two-thirds of the fourteen Hungarian Nobel Prize winners have Jewish origin.

Today’s smiles are in the merit of my friend and I made a conscious effort to smile throughout the day.

When someone with a fixed mindset has a negative interaction with a friend or loved one, he or she immediately projects that rejection onto him or herself saying: “I’m unlovable.”

How many potential shidduchim are not coming about because we, the mothers, are not allowing them to go through?

Is the Torah offering nechama by subtly hinting that death brings reunion with loved ones who preceded you?

She approached Holofernes and, with a sword concealed under her robe, severed his head.

Here are examples of games that need to be played by more than one person and an added bonus: they’re all Shabbos-friendly.

The incident was completely unforeseeable. The only term to describe the set of circumstances surrounding it is “freak occurrence.”

The first Chabad Center in Broward County, Chabad of South Broward, now runs nearly fifty programs and agencies. T

More Articles from Yoram Bogacz
book-Awesome-Creation

The universe was created by God out of nothing; it has not always existed.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/back-to-the-garden/2014/07/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: