Chag Simchat Torah!! This is the holiday where we turn back the Torah, from the end of Deuteronomy to the beginning of everything: Genesis. Simchat Torah means “Joy of Torah”, and we certainly do receive joy from reading the Word of God!
This parashah takes us from creation of the universe and everything in it to just before the story of Noah. God created the universe, Earth, sky, ground, set boundaries for the oceans, created life in the seas, on the land and finally created us. That’s when things started going downhill.
All through the early stages of creation we read how “God saw that it was good”, and it was. I mean, REALLY good! And when Adam and Eve got here, things were still OK, Then the enemy got involved. He lured Eve into sin, and she lured Adam into sin, and ….well, you know the rest of the story.
But was it all the fault of the enemy? Did Satan do anything that forced Eve to eat the apple? Did Eve ram it down Adam’s throat? Did she threaten him with, “Eat this apple or you will be sleeping on the couch (that is, if we had a couch)”?
No, Satan didn’t force Eve, Eve didn’t force Adam, and even to this day no one forces us to sin. We’ve always had a choice, and we still do. The problem isn’t that we don’t have a choice, the problem is that it is just so much easier to sin. It is what the world teaches us to do, it is what we instinctively desire, and it generally yields immediate satisfaction. Whereas righteousness is hard to do- we have to overcome our sinful desires (iniquity), we have to deal with other people harassing us (because they don’t want to see righteousness in their presence- it convicts them), and we have to delay the rewards of righteousness until a future time. Righteousness usually doesn’t have immediate gratification, other than we know, in our hearts, that we are doing the right thing.
Let’s tackle what is probably the biggest issue that comes from Genesis- creationism vs. evolution.
Way back when, sometime around July of 1925, a substitute teacher in Tennessee named John Scopes taught human evolution. This was a violation of the Tennessee Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach human evolution in a state-funded school. Scopes was found guilty, fined $100, but that was later overturned on a technicality. The funny thing about this is that today, according to Wikipedia:
In the United States, the Supreme Court has ruled the teaching of creationism as science in public schools to be unconstitutional, irrespective of how it may be purveyed in theological or religious instruction. In the United States, intelligent design (ID) has been represented as an alternative explanation to evolution in recent decades, but its “demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions” have been ruled unconstitutional by a lower court.
So what was illegal to teach in 1925 is now the only legal thing to teach! Oy!
Even within Judaism, some of the greatest Jewish scholars and Torah teachers knew that the Genesis story was not to be taken literally. Rashi, known to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) Jewish commentator of all times, taught that the purpose of Scripture was not to give a strict chronology of Creation. Also, Maimonides (the RamBam) declared, ” The account given in Scripture of the Creation is not, as is generally believed, intended to be in all its parts literal.” The remarkable truth is that Judaism does not contest the evolution of species. Where the disagreement lies is with what drives evolution. The atheistic scientific community states that evolution is caused by random mutations, where those mutations which proved more adaptable to the environment succeeded and the less adaptable mutations died out. Charles Darwin put forth this idea as the survival of the fittest. Judaism (along with most Judeo-Christian and Muslim religions) does not accept that the advancement of species from lower order to higher order came from chance, but from Divine control. We call this Intelligent Design. The truth is, the answer to whether we were created or we evolved is, as it always has been: Does God exist?
If God exists, then we have intelligent design, and if there is no God, then it all happened by chance.
I can understand the depression and uselessness that people who reject God feel in their daily lives; after all, if everything you wanted to be or wanted to achieve was totally out of your control (because without God there is no control), then what hope do you have? Only the hope that some random collision of quarks in a sub-atomic environment will result, somehow, in circumstances and events which will benefit you. Not very promising, is it? Especially when compared to having a supreme being, who is loving, compassionate, all-powerful, knowing everything that there is and everything that will ever be, on your side helping you to attain those things you want.
I mean, really- there’s no comparison. But yet, millions (if not billions) of people who have heard about God will still reject Him and choose to live their lives with no hope, no control, and no future (because without God, there is no future beyond this life. Again, a very depressing and hopeless existence.)
I wrote about how there is no control without God in this blog: Without God There Cannot be Free Will.
Genesis tells us how everything in the universe started, and whether you accept God created it or believe it randomly occurred, life has always been what we make of it. We always have a choice to do, say, and act the way we want to. And what we choose to believe will define who and what we are.
For me, I choose to believe in God; I choose to believe that He created the entire universe for me and provided everything I need to survive; I choose to believe that God also provided a spiritual means for me to live eternally despite my own fatal flaw of iniquity ( yes, I am talking about Yeshua/Jesus); and I choose to believe that because God exists and because I accepted Yeshua as my Messiah, I have a future beyond this mortal existence.
Those without God have no future: they only have this life, and will have to spend it in this world without control, without hope, and without the complete joy that comes from God’s Holy Spirit indwelling in us.
And that is just so sad.