I believe the creation story. This is not to say that I believe it teaches us how our world came to be. Indeed, I subscribe to the theory of evolution and the many truths offered by archeology, anthropology, and astronomy. Such fields have confirmed how the cosmos, plant life, animal life, and humanity came into existence. Like many of you, I have great faith in – and am so thankful for – the sciences and the developments made possible by science over the centuries. From the arena of medicine to technology to transportation and more. Our lives are simply better because of the many contributions of scientific thinkers.
When I say I believe the creation story, I mean that I believe it exists in order to tell us WHY we are here. It may not be a point-by-point rehashing of how we got here, but it conveys the role we human beings are to play on this fragile planet. The first hint of this comes in the opening line of the Torah, which can be translated: ‘When God began to create the heavens and earth…’ If God is beginning the act of creation in the Book of Genesis, then who is responsible for continuing the act of creation? The answer is us, of course. We can continue the work of creation in using our words wisely, devoting our days to establishing greater peace and justice, caring for those less fortunate than we are, and bringing more understanding to our world. In all of these ways, we are picking up where God left off, and continuing to build toward a world of beauty and tolerance.
The second hint comes in the order of creation. The fact that Adam and Eve are created on day six suggests that we have a special role to play. Perhaps people were created last to remind us that we are responsible not only for the continued work of creation into the future, but to care for those creatures and elements of nature that pre-date us. Later in the portion we are taught that they were placed in the Garden of Eden ‘to till it and tend it.’ They were created ‘in the image of God’ and thus imbued with divine-like ability. We too can – and should – aid in the on-going betterment of our world, using our power not to destroy or belittle, but to improve and heal.
We live in a time when we might doubt our own worth. Among seven billion people, how can I make a difference? With such pain and brokenness in our world, how can my efforts amount to anything? The creation story argues that we can. It reminds us that we have power. There is power in our words. There is power in our coming together. There is power and purpose in our hands and in our hearts. May we use it for good. And may we always remember that we matter.