Who Is Wise? One Who Learns From All.

Aug 10, 2017 by

Who Is Wise? One Who Learns From All.

In anticipation of the release of CCAR Press’s newest book, Seven Days, Many Voices: Insights into the Biblical Story of Creation, we’ve invited several of the book’s contributors to share excerpts from the book. The book is now officially available to order!

The opening words of the Torah are iconic, and they mark the start of an iconic narrative, namely the Torah’s account of how God created our world. Centuries later, these words continue to carry power and resonate broadly. However, those first six days, presented twice in Genesis, tell of much more than the beginning of day and night, skies and seas, animals of earth and air; they provide us with a touchstone to return to once and again over the course of our lives. When we dare to investigate the intricacies of the Creation text we come to see not only ourselves, but the imperatives with which we live as Jews: to care for the natural universe, to take responsibility for ourselves and those around us, to lift up the Sabbath as a holy day, and to always remember our ever-profound origins.

We might also argue that never before have there been greater misgivings regarding Creation. At a time when considerable skepticism is aimed at religious institutions and tradition at large, the early chapters of Genesis are easily cast aside as antiquated, even irrelevant. And yet, even when placed beside the realities of scientific discovery and evolution, those chapters remind us in the most succinct fashion of precisely what is so ennobling regarding religion and religious life: ritual, poetry, coexistence, tradition, and the underlying belief so many of us carry in a benevolent Creator manifest in our daily lives. It is true that if the Creation story is going to withstand the test of time, it is not only because of its literary prowess and magnitude, but because it consistently renews our commitment to faith itself.

In an age of dire pace and frenzied obsession with technology, holding fast to our beginnings matters greatly, for us and our children. Rather than fixate forever on what’s next, and whose social media status garners greatest attention, Creation has us consider who we are at our most fundamental. They are verses to which we are meant to pay attention.

Seven Days, Many Voices: Insights into the Biblical Story of Creation, a new publication from CCAR Press, started as a mere idea three years ago.  It has now become a very exciting reality.  When I proposed a book that would explore the great range of thought around the Torah’s Creation stories, I never imagined the far-reaching scope achieved by the nearly fifty essays.  Indeed, included in this collection are the diverse perspectives of awe-inspiring colleagues and teachers, each of whom have wrestled with Creation in their own right.  The end result is an anthology that captures the layers and complexities of Creation in new and fascinating ways.  At the start of this project I believed, and still believe, that we honor Creation most when we allow ourselves to see it in the most complicated light, rather than rushing to simplified, easy readings.

The book’s contributors challenge many of the common conceptions around Creation. They urge readers to see Creation not only as a story about how God formed our world in six days, but what it means to have faith, what it means to be a Jewish parent, what it means to care for the environment, what it means to protect the most vulnerable among us, what it means to think deeply about gender and sexuality, and what it means to observe Shabbat.

I am proud to align myself with a community that allows for and encourages diversity of thought.  To include authors that span the ideological spectrum within one anthology, sometimes in near total opposition to one another, speaks to the adage from the Mishnah: “Who is wise?  One who learns from all.” Perhaps one of the great victories of this book, therefore, is that it reminds us to learn from those not altogether like ourselves.

Rabbi Benjamin David serves Adath Emanu-El in Mt Laurel, New Jersey.  Rabbi David is also the Editor of CCAR Press’s newest book, Seven Days, Many Voices: Insights into the Biblical Story of Creation, now available to order.

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