First an introduction..
I'm chillul Who?. I'm just a guy with a fondness for Torah and for stories with lessons. I'm looking forward to wandering through the orchards of Sefer ha-Aggadah with all of you, tossing around whatever thoughts, questions, and insights we are inspired to.
I expect my style in these Wednesday posts of mine to fall within the genre of the moralistic intellectual stoner. I want to know what the speakers and authors of the aggadot under discussion mean to say about right and wrong and about personal responsibility. I want to know how their conceptions of the world and of Divinity are different and the same as my own. I'll be sort of random. I doubt I'll dismiss much off-hand, no matter how dated a passage from rabbinic literature may appear. I'll likely spend more time turning it upside down and poking around inside, holding it up to the light calling out "dude, the colors in here...you gotta check this one out..."
Now for the creation of the world:
It's somewhat strange to think that beginnings by themselves could be so controversial, and yet selection #4 concludes with Rav Huna presenting a teaching of Bar Kapara:
Were it not written in plain text in the Torah, it would be impossible for us to claim that "In the beginning, God created" all -- for the story starts with the Earth already present, "chaotic and empty" as it may have been.
Big Bang say what? And yet, in today's society the concept of a created universe is so ingrained that an otherwise-imaginative associate of mine found it impossible to conceive of an un-created, eternal universe -- despite knowing the scientific reality that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Everything has to come from somewhere, and everything has to have a beginning. Do you think this awareness came from our Torah? In the Greek cultural surroundings within which Chazal/our sages lives and taught, the predominant view was the opposite one: the world had always existed. There were no beginnings. Bereshit bara was a revolutionary, counter-intuitive proposition.
And talking of the Big Bang, what of the first three and a half selections for today? When members of Chazal discourage seeking knowledge of "what came before" creation and of "what is above or below" the universe or "to its left or right", what do they mean to say? Is the study of cosmology wrong? futile? Do the sages even mean scientific research as we know it? Is "creator" one of the characteristics of God we are not meant to emulate, like "the jealous one" or "the lone judge"? I'd always gotten the message that it was Jewish to go looking for answers and to learn as much as possible, and I've gotta say, I'm pretty fond of that message.