Parashath Lakh Lakhaw -
Belief in a creator is logical
ז יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם, אֲשֶׁר לְקָחַנִי מִבֵּית אָבִי וּמֵאֶרֶץ מוֹלַדְתִּי, וַאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לִי וַאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לִי לֵאמֹר, לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת--הוּא, יִשְׁלַח מַלְאָכוֹ לְפָנֶיךָ, וְלָקַחְתָּ אִשָּׁה לִבְנִי, מִשָּׁם.
Bereshith 24:7: “The G-D of Heaven”
The RMb"M zs"l states the following 1 about this verse* :
“Convincing proof of design in the universe is to be found in the motion of the spheres and in the fixed positions of the stars in the spheres. It will therefore be found that all the prophets point to the stars and spheres to prove the existence of a Divine Being. Isaiah says ‘Lift up your eyes on high and behold who has created these things’. For this reason you find all the Prophets point to the spheres and stars when they want to prove that there must exist a Divine Being. Thus Abraham reflected on the stars, as is well known; Isaiah Xl. 26 exhorts us to learn from them the existence of G-D, and says, “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things” . Jeremiah calls G-D ‘The maker of heavens”, Abraham calls Him “The G-D of the heavens” --Gen xxiv”
But can gazing up at the stars in the sky lead to (or enhance) a convincing belief in the creator (presumably G-D) of the Universe? Can we really see His fingerprints by looking at the heavens? The following approaches speak to the question of whether we can observe or verify G-D's existence.
Approach number one: the observable approach
"The heavenly spheres must either be transient (temporary), and in this case motion would likewise be temporary, or as our opponent assumes, it must be eternal. If the spheres are transient, then G-D is their Creator; for if anything comes into existence after a period of non-existence, it is self evident that an agent exists which has effected this result. It would be absurd to contend that the thing itself effected it. If on the other hand, the heavenly spheres be eternal, with a regular perpetual motion, the cause of this perpetual motion, according to the propositions enumerated in the introduction, must be something that is neither a body, nor a force residing in a body, and that is G-D...thus the existence of an absolute Being, whose existence cannot be attributed to any cause, or admit in itself any potentiality." 2
"The enunciation that the heavenly sphere is endowed with a soul will appear reasonable to all who sufficiently reflect on it; but at first thought they may find it unintelligible or even objectionable; because they wrongly assume that when we ascribe a soul to the heavenly spheres we mean something like the soul of man, or that of an ass or ox. We merely intend to say that the locomotion of the sphere undoubtedly leads us to assume some inherent principle by which it moves; and this principle is certainly a soul. For it would be absurd to assume that the principle of the circular motion of the spheres was like that of the rectilinear motion of a stone downward or of a fire upwards, for the cause of the latter motion is a natural property and not a soul; a thing set in motion by a natural property moves only as long as it is away from the proper place of its element, but when it has again arrived there, it comes to rest; whilst the sphere continues its circular motion in its own place. It is however, not because the sphere has a soul, that it moves in this manner; for animate beings move either by instinct or by reason. By "instinct" I mean the intention of an animal to approach something agreeable or to retreat from something disagreeable; e.g. to approach the water it seeks because of thirst or to retreat from the sun because of its heat. It makes no difference whether that thing really exists or is merely imaginary since the imagination of something agreeable or of something disagreeable likewise causes the animal to move. The heavenly sphere does not move for the purpose of withdrawing from what is bad or approaching what is good. For in the first instance it moves toward the same point from which it has moved away, and vice versa it moves away from the same point towards which it has moved. Secondly, if this the object of the motion, we should expect that the sphere would move towards a certain point, and would then rest; for if it moved for the purpose of avoiding something, and never obtained that object, the motion would be in vain. The circular motion of the sphere is consequently due to the action of some idea which produces this particular kind of motion; but as ideas are only possible in intellectual beings, the heavenly sphere is an intellectual being. But even a being that is endowed with the faculty of forming an idea and possesses a soul with the faculty of moving does not change its place on each occasion that it forms an idea; for an idea alone does not produce motion, as has been explained in Aristotle's Metaphysics. We can easily understand this when we consider how often we form ideas of certain things, yet do not move towards them, though we are able to do so; it is only when a desire arises for the thing imagined, that we move in order to obtain it. We have thus shown that both the soul, the principle of motion, and the intellect, the source of the ideas, would not produce motion without the existence of a desire for the object of which an idea has been formed. It follows that the heavenly sphere must have a desire for the ideal which it has comprehended, and that ideal, for which is has a desire, is G-D, exalted be His name! When we say that G-D moves the spheres, we mean in the following sense: the spheres have a desire to become similar to the ideal comprehended by them. This ideal, however, is simple in the strictest sense of the word, and not subject to any change or alteration, but constant in producing everything good, whilst the spheres are corporeal; the latter can therefore not be like this ideal in any other way, except in the production of circular motion; for this is the only action of corporeal beings that can be perpetual; it is the most simple motion of a body; there is no change in the essence of the sphere, nor in the beneficial results of its motion." 3
Approach number two: the apparent approach
This approach (known as the apparent approach) deals with understanding (scientifically) the enormity and design of our universe--relative to man. By definition, this approach may not be conclusive. But it is apparent.
A while back, the Keck telescope (which observed 50% further than any earthbound telescope at the time), spotted a quasar almost 14 billion light years away. Now, we can see even further. One can use concepts like a watch and objects on the earth (relative to the cosmos) to fully appreciate the size of this universe--in terms of light years and finite man. "What we call the cosmos is simply too overwhelming in size for finite man to conceive... Man is left to ponder how puny he is in the mysterious, swirling, immense system which we call the universe and which G-D probably calls His workshop."4 It is absolutely unfathomable, but is worthy of serious study.
But more importantly, most modern scientists (at this time) confirm the Newtonian idea that our universe did have a starting point. The idea of a starting point for the cosmos has done much to overturn the Aristotelian idea of an eternally existing universe. The majority of leading astrophysicists (today) agree that a starting point for our current universe can no longer be denied. Of course, this begs the question of who started it all. The fact that science is constantly adjusting its theories- as time goes by -- makes me cautious to say that science and Torah are starting to converge (even as this seems to be the current trend). But Judaism's version of creation in Genesis remains what it was. It does not change with time.
"To the believing Jew, the Bible's account of creation is not dependent upon supporting astronomical findings. Still, Science and Torah are steadily being recognized as exhibiting increasing harmony, and in the light of the variability of scientific speculation, it is quite rational for Jews to subscribe wholeheartedly to Genesis. Indeed, recent developments have led both the scientist and the non-scientist to recognize that the bigger meaning and the higher content of all things and all events may be seen, paradoxically, in what we can not see."5
In addition, the range of visible existence (such as light) is but a small fraction of the light that exists in the universe. Again, Science and Judaism eagerly agree that there is so much we don't know. While this approach does not prove the existence of G-D, its benefit can be noted by the following parable that was written over two thousand years ago:
"G-D created" (Gen 1:1). It happened that a heretic came to Rabbi Akiva and asked "This world--who created it?" Rabbi Akiva replied: "The Holy One, blessed be He." The heretic said, "Show me clear proof." Rabbi Akiva replied, "Come back to me tomorrow." The next day, when the heretic came, Rabbi Akiva asked him, "What are you wearing?" The heretic replied, "A garment." Rabbi Akiva asked, "Who made it?" The heretic: "A weaver." "I don't believe you," said Rabbi Akiva; "show me clear proof." The heretic: "What can I show you? Don't you know that a weaver made it?" Rabbi Akiva then asked: "And you, do you not know that the Holy One made His world?" After the heretic departed, R. Akiva's disciples asked him, "But what is the clear proof?" He replied, "My children, even as a house proclaims its builder, a garment its weaver, or a door its carpenter, so does the world proclaim the Holy One, blessed be He, that He created it." 6
Thus, this is the apparent approach.
The approach (nicknamed "logical necessity" by the Saadia Gaon zs'l) can also be derived by marveling at the "combination of parts and the composition of divisions (in living creatures, the atmosphere and the rest of creation** ). That is to say, I noted that bodies consisted of a combination of parts and a composition of connecting links (that only worked together as a whole** ). Therein were clearly revealed to me sign of the handiwork (design) of the Maker, as well as of creation." 7
Approach number three: the logical deduction
"There are three premises from which it can be deduced that the world has a creator, Who brought it into existence from nonexistence:
1- A thing does not make itself
2- Causes are limited in number; since their number is limited, they must have a first cause before which there is no other.
3- Anything that is composite was brought into existence.
After these three premises are established, the inference to be drawn from them-- by one who knows how to apply them and combine them-- will be that the world has a Creator, Who brought it into existence from nonexistence..." 8
Nevuchim 2:19, Maimonides
2 Moreh Nevuchim 2:2 Maimonides
3 Moreh Nevuchim 2:4, Maimonides
4 Fingerprints on the Universe, Shaar Press, Louis Pollack, p.24
5 Fingerprints on the Universe, Shaar Press, Louis Pollack, p.96
6 Talmudic Tractate Temurah 3
7Treatise I, Chapter II, The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, Saadia Gaon zs'l
8 Duties of the Heart, Feldheim, R. Bachya ban Yoseph ibn Paquda zs'l
** Summary of the Saadia Gaon on "The Book of Beliefs and Opinions" (by Site Admin.)