Creating The World.
Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8 )
When we think about the beginning of the world when everything was first created, it was so long ago that it can be hard to relate to. But really by just opening our eyes and noticing the wisdom and design of the natural world around us, we can feel like we are right there. This week's Torah Portion teaches about how God created the world, and everything in it - including us - with a master plan. By looking at all the amazing design in everything around us, we can feel connected to that plan and to Him..
In our story, a trip to the zoo turns into a trip into the beginning of time.
"Okay guys, have a good time. We meet back here at 3:00. Just remember to act in a way that nobody mistakes you for one of the exhibits," laughed the bus driver, as 35 very excited kids began piling off the bus at the zoo.
After getting through the gate, the class was met by a tall fellow dressed like he was ready to go on a safari, who introduced himself as their guide. They all jumped on the 'zoo train' and were on their way.
First stop was the small animal exhibit. Gary was kind of bored, waiting to get to the 'good stuff' like the lions and polar bears, but his buddy Josh seemed fascinated by every little reptile, amphibian, or marsupial.
"Hey Gary, you've got to see this - it's just unbelievable!"
Gary walked over hopeful to finally see something really cool, but was disappointed to see Josh gawking at what seemed to him to be an empty display. "Isn't it amazing?" Josh asked.
"What's amazing? That they forgot to put anything in there?" asked Gary.
"No, look closely," said Josh. "In the corner over there, that thing that looks like one of the rocks is really a curled up snake!"
Gary stared for a minute and saw that his friend was right. But he still didn't understand what the big deal was. "Yeah, neat, I guess," he said, looking at his watch, wondering when they're going to finally get to the elephants.
Josh continued: "The sign over there says that the snake's coloring helps him to sneak up on his food, and allows him to avoid the sight of the predatory birds that would want to eat him. It's like God designed him with his own camouflage uniform!"
Gary just shrugged. As far as he was concerned, you've seen one snake, you've seen 'em all.
As the class made its way from one display to the next, Josh was getting more and more excited, while Gary was getting more and more bored. At each stop Josh would go on and on about the incredible design while Gary kept his eye out for the snack bar.
Eventually they reached the African savannah exhibit, and stood face to face, or actually face to knee, with a couple of huge giraffes calmly munching on some leaves at the top of a tree.
"Can you believe it?" asked Josh, seemingly more amazed than ever.
"You mean how tall they are?" asked Gary, finally beginning to perk up around the 'real' animals.
"Yeah, but more than that. It's the way God designed them. The sign says that their ideal diet is the leaves on these tall trees. So look how God gave the giraffes a built-in ladder between their shoulders and their heads to be able to reach them!"
Gary was getting a little tired of all this 'design' stuff. "Josh, aren't you getting a little carried away? I mean, it is sort of neat how it worked out that way, but if you ask me, it's really more of a coincidence than anything else, and so are all these other things you're getting so excited about."
Josh looked like he was about to answer back, then changed his mind. Instead he just smiled a funny smile, and pulled a real fancy-looking camera out of his day pack to take a picture.
"Now there is something to get excited about!" declared Gary. "I didn't know you got a new digital. What brand is it?"
"Huh?" asked Josh. "What do you mean?"
"What do you mean, 'what do I mean?' I'm asking you what brand of camera is it - you know, who made it?"
Josh shook his head, and with an exaggerated blank look, said, 'Nobody made it. The other day it just sort of formed itself out of a pile of rocks in my backyard, so I just picked it up and started using it. Works pretty well, actually."
"What are you talking about, man! If you don't want to talk about your camera, just say so. But don't try to tell me that a brand new, digital camera just sort of appeared out of nowhere!"
"Why not? Didn't you just tell me that all of those amazing animals, each with their amazing designs, including a set of 'cameras' in their heads - called eyes - that are way more sophisticated than any manmade camera, just sort of happened by coincidence? So why not this?"
"Yeah, but..." Gary stopped short. Like it or not, his friend had a point.
"Of course this camera didn't 'just happen'," Josh said, "and neither did these giraffes. Anything with a design has to have a designer. That's exactly what turns me on so much about the zoo. To me it's one big art gallery of God's masterpieces and each new design I see in one of the animals is like seeing God's signature at the bottom of the painting. It's like God is creating the world again right in front of our eyes!"
Just then, the guide called the class over to jump on the train to the next exhibit. Gary thought about what Josh had said and somehow the rest of the zoo trip was a lot more interesting.
Q. How did Gary feel at first about what Josh was saying about the animals being designed by God?
A. He didn't agree and felt that it was all a big coincidence.
Q. How did he feel after speaking to Josh about his camera?
A. He realized that just like it was silly to think the camera could just appear without anyone making it, it was also silly to think the animals could just appear without God making them.
Q. Why did Josh's argument cause Gary to look at things differently?
A. Up until then, Gary always assumed that things were just the way they were because of coincidence or accident. He didn't have any logical reason to feel that way, he had just never really thought about it. When Josh pretended to claim that the camera, which wasn't nearly as complex or sophisticated as the animals and all their features, also just formed by accident, Gary realized just how illogical it had been to think that things like cameras, or animals, could somehow exist without being designed and created by God.
Q. Is there anything in the world that wasn't purposely designed the way it is by God?
A. As amazing as it may seem, out of the billions of people, animals, birds, fish, insects, plants and even rocks - not to mention all the stars and planets - every single one was designed and created by God. Not only that, He has a special reason for every kind of being to be. Though we may not always know the reason for everything, we can be sure that everything that exists - including us - are all part of God's magnificent, marvelous, master plan.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think that the more one knows about natural sciences and how living things function, the more his belief in God would strengthen?
A. The deeper one examines the workings of the universe, the more he grows astounded by the mind-boggling complexity, structure, and synchronicity of everything in it, from the most minute subatomic particle, to the most vast galaxy and everything in between. An honest reaction to all of this would be one of humility, awe at the Intelligence (God) that created it all, and an ever stronger belief in and connection to God.
Q. Were we created for a purpose? If so, what is that purpose?
A. Nothing came into being by chance. Everything was created for a purpose, and our purpose is the highest and most spiritual of all. We are meant to live a Godly, spiritual life, practicing kindness and justice while living in and partaking of the physical world. When we live up to the purpose we were created for, we enjoy a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction that nothing else can match.