Creation: Evolution or revolution?

The moment you begin to move great ideas in our world, it’s a prolonged process.

Baruch Gordon

Judaism Peace Now
Peace Now

In the Talmud, there is a difference of opinion over when the world was created. Rabbi Eliezer says in the Hebrew month of Tishrei (that’s our Rosh Hashanah) and Rabbi Yehoshua says 6 months later in the Hebrew month of Nisan.

The Ben Ish Chai (perhaps the greatest sage the Hebrew nation ever had in Baghdad) says that this argument is hugely problematic because whether something happened or didn’t happen or when it happened is the realm of historical fact which can’t be challenged or changed. Talmudic arguments are about approach and analysis, never about historical fact. 

Thus, our sage from Baghdad explains (Benaya, Rosh HaShana 11) that indeed the Talmud is arguing about approach. The Talmud is teaching that creation was a developmental process which advanced through two stages over six months. The world was conceived in Tishrei – that is, the blueprints were designed, and it took its material form in Nisan. 

So, if, for example, you ask a friend, “When were you created?” He might answer, “On my birthday,” or he could equally argue, “Nine months before my birthday, I was conceived and that’s when I was created.” 

The same goes with the world. Our birthday is actually the first of Nisan, but we were conceived on the first of Tishrei.

So we got this interesting twist from the Ben Ish Chai. 

But the Ben Ish Chai’s explanation is also hugely problematic. I can understand that it takes a Mom nine months for her womb to formulate the fetus. But, is G-d like my Mom? He can create anything he wants in a second! Why the delay?

Folks, here’s the clincher: G-d, so to speak, took His time in order to teach us that the moment you begin to move great ideas in our world, it’s a prolonged process. When a great man or group of people conceives a revolutionary idea of social justice and Tikun olam, it can take decades to bring the idea to fruition. 

Take for example, the evolution of Peace Now.

After the miraculous Six Day War of 1967 in which the biblical heartland of Israel, the expanses of Judea and Samaria, were delivered to the Hebrew nation on a silver platter with relatively few casualties, a few voices in Israel such as Professor Yishayahu Leibowitz immediately spoke out against the "occupation." They were considered lone voices from the fringe of Israeli society. 

However, ten years later in 1978, Peace Now was formulated to promote the same ideas, and in 1988, the movement succeeded in organizing a mass demonstration in Tel Aviv officially adopting a platform of direct negotiations with the PLO and calling for the creation of a Palestinian State. Within 5 years, in 1993, direct negotiations with the PLO became government policy under the Rabin administration. The government began surrendering territories under Israel’s rule over to the PLO and in 2005 destroyed 22 Jewish towns in Gush Katif to retreat from the land.

It took a few decades, but Peace Now’s “fringe” ideas became the “mainstream” of the Israeli media and eventually government policy.

We, too, are in the midst of a struggle to promote an idea: “the undivided Land of Israel belongs to the indigenous Hebrew nation. The division of our land constitutes an egregious historical injustice.” We are today considered fringe by many. The media is against us, as are liberal Jews, as well as the entire international community.

From the slow developmental process of both Creation and Peace Now, we can derive encouragement and strength to brace ourselves for a decades-long struggle. We will resist Western imperialist designs to sever our land by holding symposiums, demonstrations, and seminars, and via education, social media, interviews, tours, lobbying and through fighting in the IDF. 

No, we will not compromise one inch, just as our ancestors did not in their struggles against world empires. The creation story teaches us to take a deep breath, wipe from our faces the spit of our own brothers, and continue determined and on target in our resistance through the slow evolution of our revolution.