I am currently in Jerusalem studying at a place called Pardes (Pardes link). I thought I would write an update as to why I’m here and what I’m studying. Here is one teaching I learned this week that I thought quite profound.
The Torah and Judaism is filled with contradictions and one of the best ways to study Torah is to study those contradictions and try to wrestle with the questions of life (remember that Israel in Hebrew means “wrestles with God”).
Consider this: God creates light on the first day, saying “let there be light.” But he doesn’t create the sun, moon and the stars until the fourth day. So what light did he create on the first day?
Hold that thought.
In the Jewish morning prayers (Shacharit), there is a prayer that thanks God for renewing the world and creating anew every day. Yet in Ecclesiastes, it says there is “nothing new under the sun.” So if there is nothing new under the sun, then how can God create new things every day?
And this is where my study begins by taking disparate, contradictory statements and exploring what each one means and what Rabbis for the past two thousand years have thought and said.
Rav Kook, the first Rabbi of British Palestine, wrote that the two statements are not contradictory because Ecclesiastes only refers to what happens under the sun. What does that mean?
And now we need to go back to my first statement about the light God created on the first day. There are many Rabbinic commentaries that teach that the first light was divine wisdom. My interpretation of Rav Kook’s comments are that when you use that divine wisdom for good and compassion you go back to Day One of creation. You become partners with God to create the world and renew things again, because you aren’t under the sun, the sun hasn’t been created yet. You are before the sun, greater than the sun and the light you bring forth in the world helps renew and create the world in which we live.
Now that is a powerful philosophy by which to live your life and this is why I’m studying in Jerusalem at Pardes.