At the beginning of the year, there are always a few diehard skeptics who ask, “What about Darwin? What about evolution? What about dinosaurs and the age of the earth?” Often these questions are asked by baale t’shuva who are seeking serious answers to seeming contradictions between the account of Creation in the Torah and the things they previously learned in school.
Today, most serious biologists will admit that man did not evolve from apes, excepting perhaps certain Israeli politicians who do things that not even a monkey would do. The fact is that decades after Darwin formulated his theory of evolution, his famous “missing links” have never been discovered. Some high school texts and natural history museums may still have illustrations of monkeys evolving into prehistoric man, but the theory has been shot through with holes. As the story of Creation attests, man was a unique and separate creation, distinguished from all other animals. Even if there are species that underwent a process of evolution from fish to frogs, this doesn’t bother the religious Jew. The Torah does not stand in conflict with scientific knowledge. The Torah adds a higher understanding to scientific thought. The story of Creation in the Torah is not meant to be a historical, scientific recording of what took place. Rather, the Biblical account of the seven days of Creation, and the story of Adam and Eve, come to teach us moral lessons about the world in which we live, and about our relation to the Creator. Even the vaunted “Big Bang” theory has lost credence, and many leading scientists have turned to theological explanations of the primal cause.
Rabbi Kook writes: “There is no contradiction whatsoever between the Torah and any of the world’s scientific knowledge. We do not have to accept theories as certainties, no matter how widely accepted, for they are like blossoms that fade. Very soon, scientific technology will be further developed and all of today’s new theories will be derided and scorned, but the word of G-d will endure forever” (Letter 91). The main teaching that we derive from the story of Creation, Rabbi Kook says, is that everything is the work of G-d, from the smallest to the largest, from the few to the many. G-d rules over all.
The Zohar emphasizes that to properly understand the Torah, it is necessary to explore the secrets of the Torah which are hidden under the stories on the Torah and the simple reading of the text. Rabbi Kook writes: “The Torah certainly obscures the meaning of the act of Creation and speaks in allegories and parables, for indeed, everyone knows that the stories of the Book of Bereshit are part of the hidden Torah, and if all these narratives were taken literally, what secrets would there be?” (Ibid)
Thus, if scientists maintain that the world is billions of years old, and that dinosaurs once roamed the earth, good for them. The Zohar also has an answer for that. It says that worlds were created and destroyed, created and destroyed, before G-d was satisfied with His Creation. What is important to us is the relationship of the Creator to man, and that great epic started 5768 years ago when the Holy One Blessed Be He whooooshed a Divine soul into Adam.
And this brings us to the apple. If the story of Creation is an allegory, then what is the real secret behind the apocalyptic sin of eating the forbidden fruit? The Tikunei Zohar and the writings of the Arizal explain that Adam’s sin was in not waiting until Shabbat to have relations with Eve. Instead, he rushed to mate with her on the same day they were created, which was Friday. Because it was a weekday, the day lacked the exalted holiness of Shabbat. Thus their marital relations were consummated at a time when harsh judgments and spiritual impurity abounds. Their hastiness and lust brought about a devastating blemish in all of the spiritual worlds, and its rippling effect, like an atomic fusion, triggered a physical cataclysm as well, shattering the ideal paradise of existence and expelling man from Eden. If they had only waited until Shabbat, the world would have been elevated to an everlasting Redemption. This is the power of Shabbat and the world-enhancing beauty of holy marital relations on this incredibly holy day.
"Didn't I tell you we should wait?"
That first illicit bite was the real beginning of history. Ever since then, we have been trying to find our way back to the Garden.