This morning, Jewish congregations everywhere begin anew their annual reading of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) with the very first chapters of the book of Genesis that recount the creation of our world and the accounts of primordial humankind.
In these initial chapters, God is depicted as the sole creative force that unites the universe into one great harmony and endows all creation with divine intent, meaning and purpose.
There are, however, some among us who seek to cast doubt upon — and even dispense with — this notion of a divine creator of all things, and historically, this is absolutely nothing new.
An ancient rabbinic parable (midrash) recounts that some 2,000 years ago, a disbeliever came to the very learned Rabbi Akiva asking simply, “Rabbi, who created the world?”
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Immediately, Rabbi Akiva replied, “God created the heavens and the earth and all that is therein.”
“I don’t believe you,” the disbeliever retorted. “Show me absolute and irrefutable proof.”
Rabbi Akiva then responded, “Tell me, my friend, what is it that you are wearing?”
The disbeliever looked down and replied, “Why I’m wearing a nice woven linen garment.”
“Tell me who made it,” Rabbi Akiva then asked.
“That’s a pretty idiotic question,” was the reply. “Obviously a weaver made it.”
“I don’t believe you,” Rabbi Akiva echoed. “Show me absolute and irrefutable proof!”
A bit irritated, the disbeliever replied, “Can’t you tell just by looking at it that a weaver made it?”
To which Rabbi Akiva then replied, “And can’t you just tell by looking at the grandeur of the world around you that God created it and brought us forth to dwell in it? For just as every house proclaims its builder, and every garment its weaver, and every door its carpenter, so does the beauty and intricacies of the world itself proclaim God as the creator of it all.”
The same holds true for you and me living now some 2,000 years later.
When we consider the heavens, the work of God’s hands as the psalmist did long ago, and when we gaze at the sun and the moon, the measureless sea of space and the endless host of stars and galaxies that sail in it, and when we then set out to understand this marvel and its tremendous maker, God’s creative genius and power become so very evident to us, too.
So let us then take a few moments to look around in wonder at this great and priceless treasure that have been brought into being by the vision, wisdom and will of our God. For the heavens above us do declare the glory of God, the earth below us does reveal God’s eternal presence in our midst. Life as we know it does come forth only through God’s creative will, and if you listen closely, a divine voice permeates throughout all creation.
Larry Schlesinger, is Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Beth Israel.