Parshat Bereishit

Parshat Bereshit

Today, there seems to be a constant battle between religion and science. To the average person, contemporary science appears to contradict the Torah and many fundamental ideas of our religion. One of the most talked-about contradictions appears in the very first chapter of the Torah, Bereshit, chapter 1. The whole process of creation took six days, and according to the Torah the universe is 5773 years old. According to today’s science and our understanding of cosmology, the universe is roughly 13.7 billion years old. We Jews know that the Torah is true and that it was given by Hashem. But at the same time, science bases itself on fact and evidence, rendering it true as well. Is there a way to resolve this apparent contradiction?

The answer is yes. If two concepts are true, they have to work together. Let’s turn to the Torah and our commentators to get a better understanding of what the Torah really said in Bereshit.

The second verse states, “And the land was deep and empty and the spirit of God hovered over the water” (Bereshit, 1:2). It then goes on to say, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (ibid, 1:3). So far, both science and the Torah are in agreement. In his commentary on the Torah, Ramban notes that the light the Torah refers to actually had the exact properties of what we today call the Big Bang. What is more fascinating is the fact that Ramban knew about the Big Bang before it became a scientific theory.

Yet the last verse of what the Torah calls the first day that is troubling: “and it was evening and it was morning, one day” (Bereshit, 1:5). Here we come across a problem. If the Big Bang theory is correct, it took more than a day for the universe to be created.

Physicist and Torah scholar Gerald Schroeder brilliantly explains the contradictions that are prevalent between the Torah and science today. Einstein’s theory of relativity states that time is relative, i.e., time actually slows down in high velocity and gravity (relative to an outside observer). However, wherever you are, time is normal for you because your biology is part of your local system. Schroeder shows that not only is time affected by velocity and gravity, but as the universe expands, so does everything else inside of it, namely time. The expansion of the universe happened at extremely high speeds and thus, the flow of time slowed down.

Schroeder’s explanation reveals how for one individual, an event takes one amount of time, whereas to another individual, the same event could take a different amount of time. This is just what Einstein meant when he said that everything is relative. In God’s frame of reference, the whole creation process took six days. However, everything to us seems much older because of our relative timeframe here on Earth. What is one day for God is actually more than one day for the observer back on Earth. This means that theories such as the theory of evolution work with the Torah’s explanation of the creation of the universe. [I think he needs to explain this point a little more if possible]

Both the Torah and science are true. With a better understanding of what the Torah is saying and how science works, one can see that not only does the Torah work with science, but they are interdependent and that one cannot exist without the other. We as Jews should not shun scientific discoveries but embrace them and show how they indeed work with our Torah. Showing how science and Torah work together will also give us a better appreciation of the infinite powers of Hashem.

Student Studying in Mevaseret