Torah Tidbits

2 September 2014 / 7 Elul 5774
Issue 0879
Issue 879 - Parashat B'reishit 5770
October 18, 2009

Guest Article

Can Evolution and the Torah's Account of Creation Coexist?

There are remarkable similarities between the account of the creation as given in B’reishit and the Theory of Evolution. First, light was created, then the firmament, followed by sea, land and vegetation. The creation of the heavenly bodies was followed by fish and birds, and then by land animals. Only finally, as the culmination of G-d’s work, was Man created. Indeed, the Torah’s description of the creation in a natural progression points to its divine origin because no mortal at the time of Moshe Rabeinu could have known that modern geologists also agree that plants and water-based animals were the first to exist. The Ramban on B’reishit 2:7, writes about the guided evolution of life, from inert matter to Adam. The Ramban also says the six “days” of Creation in the Biblical account were six periods or stages of creation. In any case, the length of the first three days before the creation of the sun must have been different in length from our measurement of time by the sun. [Ed. Not necessarily.] A thousand or even a million years are in G-d’s eyes as only one day (T’hilim 90:4). What is suggested by the six “days” is that the time of creation, however long in itself, was insignificant to the Eternal.
Once the principle of Divine Creation is accepted, Judaism allows much latitude in belief as to how the creation was effected. According to Rav Kook, there is no Torah objection to the acceptance of the theory of` evolution provided it is agreed that each stage in the evolutionary process was brought about by G-d. Rav Kook explains in his book Orot HaKodesh that just as the nation of Israel evolved spiritually from 49 levels of impurity to 49 levels of purity, so too did G-d use evolution in the physical process of creation. Because our physical world is only a reflection and manifestation of the spiritual world. The gematria, numerical value of the word for nature, HATEVA (86) in Hebrew, equals G-d (ELOKIM). R’ Ovadia Sforno states that the creation of Adam was the end of a long process that began with an animal that gradually evolved until this creature was given the G-dly soul and received the image of G-d.
Rav Yehuda HaLevi, in his philosophical work, the Kuzari, explains that G-d designed evolution to bring forth the highest essence of the human being. In his opinion, the evolution of man can be observed in the Yom Kippur prayer UVCHEIN TEIN PACHD’CHA (and You, G-d, place your Awe) which mentions first AL KOL MA’ASECHA (on all of Your handiwork), then L’AMCHA (to Your nation), and finally TZADIKIM (the righteous), who represent the purest and most exalted essence of humanity.
The traditional Jewish method of reckoning years from the creation of the world appears at first sight to be a difficulty. No scientist would accept that the world was created only 5770 years ago. However, if the Hebrew date is reckoned from the end of creation of the sixth day when fully developed man was created, the difficulty disappears. Science would agree that fully intelligent man as we know him is not older than some six thousand years.
There is no conflict between science and Torah. Science reveals a world charged with G-d’s splendor and greatness. The more our scientific knowledge increases the more we will be able to appreciate the marvels and wonders of G-d’s creation.

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