The Most Important Torah Reading of All

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The reading this Shabbat is probably the most important Torah reading of all! We will be restarting the Torah portions from Genesis. Genesis is the most important part of the Bible.

You might say, “Joe, why are you saying that the first chapters of Genesis are the most important chapters of the whole, Bible? The reason is simple: Everything that we know and everything that we have in this ball floating in the vast expanse of endless space called the Universe – is based on Genesis.

Now, in the last few years one of the most disturbing things about Christian Universities in the USA and in Europe is that Bible departments and Bible professors are casting a shadow on the veracity of the account of Genesis as truth.

It makes me very sad! The reason that it makes me very sad is that I know what these wonderful and good men have studied in the best universities in the West! I studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the early 1960’s and in the 1970’s and in the 1980’s.

In those years some of the top Jewish Bible scholars at least in the Jewish world, were my teachers and I don’t remember any of my teachers as doubting the stories of the creation and the story of the flood having true historical or para-historical roots.

The reason why some of the scholars in the “wild West” doubt the story of Genesis is because there are several Mesopotamian “myths” of creation that pre-date Abraham and Moses. The claim is that the writer (writers) of Genesis was deeply influenced by those older Mesopotamian myths of creation.

It is interesting that my teachers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem used this same argument to prove the exact opposite. Because of the existence of:

  • Enûma Eliš the Babylonian creation myth, discovered by the archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in 1849 in the ruins of the Ashurbanipal library at Nineveh (Mosul, Kurdistan).
  • The Sumerian creation myth, called The Eridu Genesis by historian Thorkild Jacobsen, is found on a single fragmentary tablet excavated in Nippur by the Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania in 1893. The date of this Sumerian myth is estimated to date to around the 17th century BC. The first part of the story is lost, but the flood story is there with many connections with the Genesis flood story.
  • The Ancient Korean shamanic creation narrative. With the following order of creation:
    • Splitting of heaven and earth
    • Giant creator
    • Nature of the early universe
    • Flower contest and the root of evil
    • Doubled sun and moon
  • Kumulipo. The Hawaiian creation myth in the form of chants, and poetry. First discovered by western scholars in the 18th Century. Please note the connecting points with both the Babylonian and the Sumerian and the Genesis account:
    • At the time that turned the heat of the earth,
    • At the time when the heavens turned and changed,
    • At the time when the light of the sun was subdued
    • To cause light to break forth,
    • At the time of the night of Makaliʻi (winter)
    • Then began the slime which established the earth,
    • The source of deepest darkness, of the depth of darkness,
    • The source of night, of the depth of night
    • Of the depth of darkness,
    • Of the darkness of the sun in the depth of night,
    • Night is come,
    • Born is Night

Kalevala is a 19th-century Finnish epic poem compiled from Finnish oral folklore and mythology, telling the story about the creation of the Earth, describing the wars and the voyages of the heroes from Kalevala and Pohjola.

First Väinämöinen Cycle

Verse 1–2, The poem begins with an introduction by the singers. The Earth is created from the shards of the egg of a goldeneye and the first man Väinämöinen is born to the goddess Ilmatar. Väinämöinen brings trees and life to the barren world.

Verse 3–5, Väinämöinen encounters the jealous Joukahainen and they engage in a battle of song. Joukahainen loses and pledges his sister’s hand in return for his life; the sister Aino soon drowns herself in the sea.

Verse 6–10: Väinämöinen heads to Pohjola to propose to a maiden of the north, a daughter of the mistress of the north, Louhi. Joukahainen attacks Väinämöinen again, and Väinämöinen floats for days on the sea until he is carried by an eagle to Pohjola. He makes a deal with Louhi to get Ilmarinen the smith to create the Sampo. Ilmarinen refuses to go to Pohjola so Väinämöinen forces him against his will. The Sampo is forged. Ilmarinen returns without a bride.

I could bring at least another dozen creation myths from the North American Indians, and the South American Indians and from India and Africa and ancient Egypt…

The interesting thing about all these myths is that they all have some common elements.

  1. The Earth was created.
  2. Nature was created.
  3. Man was created.
  4. Man looks for a woman companion.
  5. There is war between the land and the ocean, between earth and water.

The connections and elements vary, who created this earth differs, from many gods to two gods that war with each other, but one wins in the end.

What does this variety of creation stories prove! Does it prove that the Earth doesn’t exist? Does it prove that the Earth is a myth? Does it prove that the Earth is a cosmic accident that just happened to happen? Does it prove that there is no God who created and planned and engineered every aspect of this Earth and the Universe?

No! The multiplicity of creation stories that span the whole earth, from the islands in the Pacific Ocean to the frozen North Pole above Finland, and the Maori culture of New Zealand, only proves the following points:

  1. Humans need to know and be reassured that they are not a cosmic accident. That human existence is a planned and organized event that has reason and purpose far above our basic animal nature that we hold in common with all mammals. This is a very important point. All mammals have most of their nature in common.
    • We human beings, along with lions, tigers, dogs, rats, elephants, and even the dolphins in the ocean, who are mammals, share the fingerprints of the same artist that designed us all.
    • We human beings, although different in the color of our skin and the kind of hair we have, all have the same capacity and imaginative faculty, the ability to imagine and invent and produce and fabricate new elements, art, music, and now even AI.
    • We as humans have from the dawn of history the faith and knowledge that our lives don’t end with our death. This is a very important point. The earliest archaeological finds from the dawn of history indicate that those who buried their dead, believed in an afterlife. They buried their dead in ossuaries shaped like their homes. They placed articles of food with their burials, they laid down the weapons of the dead next to their dead bodies etc.
    • Worship of what was considered divine powers or what was considered “super-natural” was as early as the invention of fire.

I could go on and on, on this issue, but it is time to draw conclusions:

  1. The Bible is true and it will stand any scrutiny of logic and reason and evidence to prove that it reflects the assertion that this world is an intelligent creation of an intelligent creator.
  2. The idea that this world is millions of years old does not negate the biblical story. The biblical narrative does not give or attempt to inform us of the age of this world. What some Christians and some Jews believe about the age of this world is pure human assumption, and vain calculation. If the word of God clearly stated the date for the beginning of this world, I would embrace it fully without question, but since it does not state a date only a process that the Creator and His Son followed in the creation of Heaven and Earth, I have no argument regarding the age of this star that we live on called by we humans “Earth.”
  3. The one father and creator of this Earth so loved His creation that He sent His Son, the only begotten by the Father of all mankind, as redeemer and savior of the world, and by His death He bequeathed us life eternal.

I will have to continue this discussion at a later occasion, but for now let us all celebrate the beginning of our planet and our God who loves us and all His creation, and prepare for the end. Because it is an axiomatic truth that everything that has a beginning also has an end. Since we believe that there was a time when this Earth didn’t exist and that it has a beginning, we also must believe that with every day that passes we are approaching the end of our universe.

This is the story of the whole Bible – it has a beginning and it has an end. Everything is pre-planned and complete – We all hope for the best and prepare for the worst! Spread the seed of life today so that you might inherit the fruit of an eternal life tomorrow.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.