(BE HONEST — YOU MUST HAVE known I’d get around to this one eventually, right?)
I make no rigid claims of authenticity, accuracy, or authorship for this work. As far as I’m concerned, this is “simply” a collection of ancient Jewish campfire didactics which were knit together in somewhat final form some 2,500 years ago. And everything about it is open to (ideally informed) debate. That’s kind of the point, actually: to give us, and have given us, something to discuss as a community as we grope our way through the often-cruel centuries. Torah (literally, “teaching” or “instruction”) is what has kept us going for as long as we’ve been here — it ain’t the lox and bagels, folks.
As detailed elsewhere, however, I think Torah is as ripping a good read as any other culture’s origin myth(s). It begins, appropriately, by declaring Creation a function of speech — that words matter; that they create reality for those who speak and hear them. And the text leaves open the question of what existed before Creation. There are many different translations of this seminal text, but one of my favorites for its poetic power and simplicity is Richard Elliot Friedman’s rendition. Give a listen:
In the beginning of God’s creating the skies and the earth — when the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and God’s spirit was hovering on the face of the water — God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness. And God called the light “day” and called the darkness “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning: one day.