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September 06, 2002 - Image 164

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-09-06

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The Big Story


the sea, this is believed to be the day on
which God created angels.

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DAY SIX: God's last act of creation,
before resting, was to make man. "Let
us make a man in Our image, after
Our likeness," He said. God gives man
sovereignty over "fish of the sea, the
birds of the sky and all the living things
that creep on earth."
God also tells His creatures: "Be fertile
and increase, fill the earth and master it."
Though we tend to take this gift of
procreation for granted, the rabbis have
reminded us throughout history that
allowing man to share in the act of cre-
ation is one of God's greatest miracles.
Philosopher and Rabbi A.J. Heschel
wrote: "Creation happens to us, burns
itself into us, recasts us in burning --
we tremble and are faint, we submit.
We take part in creation, meet the
Creator, reach out to Him, helpers and


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DAY SEVEN: This is when God rests.
Today, when Jews imitate God and
"rest" on Shabbat it is often misunder-
stood as simply not going in to the
office, or staying at home and sleeping
instead of heading off for the mall.
In fact, on Shabbat, Jews are meant
to "rest" in the same way that God did.
While this entails a long list of what
one may and may not do, the general
idea is that people should abstain from
creative work.
History is filled with tales as to how
the world began. Some of these share
similarities with the Jewish version. The
Torah is, however, decidedly uniqUe in
one aspect: it speaks of a single creator
who has always existed and who will
always exist. And it is He who created
the universe.
Many ancient legends speak of a
darkness that was suddenly filled with
the world. Included in this newly
appeared world was God (thuS, He was
part of the creation itself). In Judaism,
we believe that God created the uni-
verse. He was not the lucky result of
some mysterious explosion or mythical
battle between unknown entities, but
rather the One who made everything.
Some stories have suggested that the
world was, in fact, formed by angels —
perhaps those of the cherubic faces with
wings variety — with God as a kind of
master planner, the behind-the-scenes
man. Absolutely not, the rabbis said,
pointing out that God, Himself, creat-
ed the angels.
A few early philosophers wondered
whether this world might be the best of
the lot, having come only after God
tried His hand at a few previous ones

that, well, just didn't work out. The
rabbis reject this theory.
The first Jewish scholar to present a
lengthy work about creation was
Saadiah Gaon (882-942). In his Book of
Beliefi and Opinions, likely written in
response to critical philosophical ideas
about creation of the time, he stated
unequivocally that God created the
universe. In his book, Saadiah present-
ed 13 popular ideas about creation, and
said that all were irrational except one
— the idea that God formed the world
from nothing.
Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben-
Maimon, 1135-1204)- had no patience
for "proving" how God created the
world. Creation is not a matter of sci-
entific proofs; it's a matter of belief.
God made the world, and that's all
there is to it, Maimonides said.
Philosopher Franz Rosenzweig
(1886-1929) asserted that God's rela-
tionship with the world finds expres-
sion in creation. Rosenzweig saw the
story of creation as a daily miracle.
Every day God is creating, making the
world run, so to speak.
For Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan (1881-
1983), founder of the Reconstructionist
movement, "the moral implication of
the traditional teaching that God creat-
ed the world is that creativity, or the
continuous emergence of aspects of life
not prepared for or determined by the
past, constitutes the most Divine phase
of reality." Creation, he said, teaches us
the value of creativity and of a world in
which anything is possible.
Not surprisingly, the mystics had a
great.deal to say about the beginning of
the world. They saw the world as being
created in 10 stages, which started with
the most spiritual and ended with the
most materialistic.
Some Kabbalists were said to be so
brilliant and close to God that they
were able to utter magic phrases that
could bring creatures to life. The most
famous of these is the legend of the
Golem, a clay man. This Golem resided
somewhere in the Altneushul (literally,
Old-New Synagogue) of Prague, where
a secret combination of words whis-
pered into his ear would bring the crea-
ture to life. He was fierce, unconquer-
able and his job was simply to help the
Jewish people.
It may just have been a legend, but
the Nazis weren't taking any chances.
When they marched into Poland, they
destroyed virtually every synagogue.
Some speculated, however, that they,
too had heard of the Golem, which is
why they chose not to touch the

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