Friday, October 12, 2012

Humanity's Mission in the World

“When God began to create heaven and earth…” (Genesis 1:1). Thus, the Torah cycle starts a new with the thunderous rumbles of creation. With Simchat Torah this past Sunday, one year of studying Torah ended only to yield another of hopeful greater and more passionate learning and growth. In order to engage on this process myself, I decided to take my fourth annual attack at Genesis with a new perspective. At the end of my ninth grade year, my English teacher, Mr. Frey, lent me an extremely intriguing read. I chose to set it aside over the summer due to its subject matter. Bill Moyers’ Genesis: A Living Conversation shows the published discussions Moyers moderated a Columbia’s Jewish Theological Seminary. The participants include students, well-versed scholars, and ordinary people, all bringing forward diverse opinions. In saving this book for the fall, I strived not to replace my own interpretation with theirs but to supplement my knowledge of the Torah with the discussions in Moyer’s compilation. The chapters in the book focus on particular themes in the stories, expounding upon a single point in great depth. This fall, I join the conversation presented by Moyer and his peers. After reading their points, I strive to add my own. In addition, I strongly urge that all of my readers participate more now than ever. While exploring this book and my comments on it, share your own thoughts on the “theme of the week”. From Moyers conversation, I want to uncover a discussion of our own. Bereshit recalls the creation of the world, interactions between Adam, Eve, and God, and the Garden of Eden. Appropriately, the first chapter of this book digs into the core of what it means to create one in the image of God. To my pleasant surprise, Moyer’s group spent little to no time discussing the legitimacy over creation. They classify this story as an explanation to why humans exist rather than how they came into the world. According to this interpretation, the seven-day tale of the 5,000-year-old world is merely a formality, allowing even religious figures to adhere to the clearly evident and substantiate ideas of evolution. Instead of seeing the Bible as a scientific textbook, the text analyses Bereshit for its moral value. The clearest value the first two chapters of Genesis demonstrate is the importance of free will. God grants Adam and Eve unlimited free will over their entire domain in the Garden of Eden, but God also suggests an effort to which they put their energies. In engaging in free will, God intends they watch over the newly created world and all its organisms. To this point, the Bible serves as a mission statement and reveals the meaning of life. God says, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth"(Genesis 28). Contrary to the currently commercial view of the world, humans neither own the earth nor bear no responsibility to it. Throughout the ages, humans consumed resources, decimated environments, and bore no ownership of their fellow inhabitants of the earth. God intends for human goodness to reign forever. Generations use their power to upkeep the world, and then they owe it to themselves to procreate in order to continue the process. God acts as a force for good, free will rather than this authoritarian commander seen later in the Bible and scaring certain individuals from religion altogether. In the Garden of Eden, Eve yields to temptation, destroying the perfection of the world. After her blunder, humans need to change their goal from retaining a perfect world to fixing a broken one. In very few chapters, the Torah draws a definitive mission for all human life. I found the conversation of Moyers’ first chapter extremely interested and refreshing. Unlike today’s usual discourse, the book opened opportunities to talk about missions in life versus spontaneity rather than the simple debate between evolution and creationism. Correspondent Roberta Hestenes raises a question about viewing life in terms of economic gain or social progress. Society dictates that we earn money to provide ourselves with a healthy, satisfying life, but the Torah suggests we collaborate toward a greater form of humanity every generation until we repair the world to its Edenesque state. I see the process in three steps to achieve personal happiness and fulfill this everlasting mission. First, the human needs to look at himself or herself as an individual. How can I improve as a person? Where do I want to be in one, ten, twenty, or fifty years? The personal angle remains the most selfish of the three, yet it is not necessarily a self-centered action. I merely intend to say that one should place themself in the perspective of the world and seek ways to arrive at happiness. Without this personal satisfaction, the other two, far more important steps fail to proceed. Second, the human must attribute some time to the familial or small group angles of life. We all came from some sort of family, and many of us enjoy the bountiful splendors of friendship. These joys require efforts, for they are essential to the mission of the world. Before looking at the globe at its greatest scale, one assesses their personal sphere. How can I, as an employee, enrich my coworkers’ lives? Where can I change the town around me? We look onto the people around us to assist them in achieving their individual goals, spreading bliss across the world. We also grow with our peers in this process, bringing us one step closer to a repaired society. Third, we all share a responsibility to fix the world. Over the years, some of us humans further increased the entropy of society, but all humans hold the potential to restore order. A Living Conversation contrasts the gift of life with the gift of death. Our amounts of time on the planet vary, but this “present” provides the perfect constraint to follow a concise mission. Every day, we make closer strides toward Eden, and one day, men and women will hopefully look upon their beautiful bodies and feel no shame without clothes anymore. In a world where people truly came together to respect each other, other creatures, and their earth, we will finally achieve our godly mission. Only in repairing the world toward God’s Eden are we made in the image of God.