As scientists around the world rejoice over recent findings of smoking gun evidence of the Big Bang theory, so too can religious Jews who believe in Creationism.
In the debate over whether science and religion conflict or complement one another, Jewish scientists and rabbis alike put forward convincing arguments to support the latter. Bar Ilan University's Professor Nathan Aviezer, author of the book In the Beginning which deals with the subject, strongly advocates the argument that scientific and religious beliefs can live together in harmony.
Explaining the weight of the findings released on Monday, he says that scientists have for decades been looking for waves produced by gravity, but it was a difficult feat since gravity is a billion billion billion times weaker than electrical forces, which also produce waves. However, he continues, "if there was enormous gravitational change, then maybe with some very sensitive apparatus you could detect them." The Big Bang was that change, "so there was hope that maybe you could see ripples from the Big Bang - and that's what these guys did."
"What's all this got to do with Genesis?" he asks rhetorically. The first verse of Genesis says that God created the Heaven and Earth; that the universe came from an act of creation. All scientists also use the term creation for the beginning of the universe, only that they don't necessarily attribute it to God - they say it happened spontaneously.
Scientists maintain that the universe began with the appearance of an enormous ball of light - the explosion of which is known as the Big Bang - which slots together perfectly with the Genesis version of events in which God said "let there be light." "The creation of the light was the creation of the universe," Aviezer says. "Every word written in the Torah fits recent scientific discoveries. They are in exact harmony with the words of the Torah."
Rabbi Benny Lau, activist and nephew of former Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, is less excited by the Big Bang news, shrugging it off as of no particular interest to him. He agrees, however, that the theory is compatible with the Jewish story. "It is written in Beresheet (Genesis) that God created the Heavens and the Earth, and that was the moment that the world started," he tells The Jerusalem Post. He notes that the concepts of time in the Bible are not the same as those we use now, and that one day could be the same as a million years. But for Lau, the world only starts to be interesting when there are people on it. He asserts that as a Jew he is obligated to be concerned for people, humanity and morality. Questioned over whether he thinks the latest scientific findings may cause believers to question the Jewish story of creation, Lau brushes off the possibility stating that "we have passed the scientific revolution."
Writer, educator and JPost contributor Izzy Greenberg puts it succinctly when he says: "When we ask about how the world was created, we could have both a Big Bang and a Big Banger (God), since science can’t say what caused existence to begin or why it happened when it happened." He points to a letter written by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson -- who had a degree in science and extensive correspondence with leading scientists of his time -- to Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Eizik HaLevi Herzog (chief rabbi of Israel) in 1957, in which he wrote:
...From a scientific perspective, believing that God created billions of atoms, for which He established certain natural laws, and that these atoms later developed and evolved from stage to stage in accordance with these laws, is no different than believing — in accordance with the straightforward meaning of Genesis — that God created the heavens and the Earth on the first day, separated the waters on the second, etc…. From a modern scientific viewpoint, it is by far more implausible to create something from complete nothingness — even a simple single-celled organism — than to form an entity on a high evolutionary scale from basic matter, even in a very short time.
As Greenberg describes it: "Torah doesn’t say that God waved a magic wand and everything appeared; according to Kabbalah, He created a complex evolutionary system through which infinite Divine energy evolves into finite forms."
The Weizmann Institute's Professor Aviezri S. Fraenkel expresses a similar sentiment, referencing the belief of leading Greek philosopher Aristotle that the universe existed forever. "The modern Big Bang theory is much closer to the biblical description of creation, where there is a definite beginning," Fraenkel tells the Post. "In fact, the modern theories, which don’t yet explain all the observed cosmological facts, bestow new meaning to the biblical verse in Psalms 92, 6: 'How great are Your deeds, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep'".
From these standpoints then, the modern theory of cosmology and the Jewish religion actually help explain, rather than negate, one another.