Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – B’reishit
And God said, “Let there be light. There was light.”
The first set of “Ten Commandments” actually happen in Chapter 1 of Genesis. According to the text, God spoke, and the world came into being. God spoke ten creations, and that is how our story opens. That said, God first creates light, but we don’t get sun, moon, or stars until the fourth day. Still, however, there is evening and morning – another day.
The question that screams off the page is simple, “What is this light?” The answer, however, is (or can be) quite messy.
In our common understanding, day and night focus on the rotation of the celestial bodies. If these bodies don’t yet exist, then we can’t base our appreciation of “light” on any literal application of the word to our common parlance. So, from where does this light emanate, and to what purpose?
The rabbis talk this conundrum away by arguing that this light is Torah. God created it first. Granted, there is absolutely an etymological link between the Hebrew words “Torah” and “Or (light).” They will argue that God created the Torah first and then everything else followed. As usual, I find this simple explanation less than satisfying. In truth, Torah, in and of itself, has no value. We can read it to say several divergent or inherent contradictory ideas depending on the context with which one reads it. Without vowels or punctuation, it can only have value after we read it. As English examples, there is a big difference between “Let’s eat grandma,” and “Let’s eat – grandma.”
Some may argue that I am making a semantic mountain over a wordplay anthill, but I think it is too easy to give that light a label and move on. I always translate this piece as “God said there was enlightenment, and there was enlightenment.” Before anything else, God created value; the ability to reason through situations; adapt and evolve understanding. In Proverbs (8:22) we read, “God created me from the beginning, the first of God’s work from old.” Faith is first, the tools to apply faith to life follow.
The point is that religion for the sake of religion has no value. Reading the book, marching through rituals, attending a house of worship service do nothing to change the world -unless we do something to grow because of the experience. In a nation whose founding documents protect the separation of sectarian religious dogma from imposing undue influence on the state governance. Yet, I read governments wanting to impose the Christian Bible as the “State Book.” We are using sectarian religion to govern women’s bodies. People choose candidates based on the house of worship they attend (or don’t) rather than on their qualifications for office. Minority religions are being demeaned and the rights of their practitioners are ignored. When did God become sectarian, and are we not making God finite by limiting everything Divine to the boundaries of our sectarian horizons?
If we are to honor scripture, then perhaps we need to return to the text that reminds us – God’s first creation was the ability to discern and evolve. It seems to me that what passes for religion in too many places is, at best superstition, if not blasphemy. And then, we wonder why so many other people are running from religion. It’s time for a reformation of faith – in all of our traditions.