What Is Man's Place In The Universe? Part 1
Finding Our Place in the Universe: Why Are We Here?
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
What is our place in the universe? This webinar deals with some of the most fundamental questions we have as people – who are we? Why are we here? And how should that affect the choices we make in our lives?
What I'd like to explore in depth with you this time is really one of the largest questions of all, sort of our place, finding our place in the world, finding our place in the universe, kind of using the Torah as a guide, one of the largest really of all topics. Let me give you a little bit of a background to that.
What Is Our Place in the Universe?
This is a version, in a way. Actually it's an updated version of something which we did in Aleph Beta maybe a year or two ago. A year or two ago I put out a podcast, an audio series, which you can still listen to, of what I call the meaning of life. Since then I've kind of gone back to some of those issues, refined and changed and updated and kind of drastically overhauled my view in a number of things. Just some of this will sound familiar to you because that goes back to some of the things we talked about earlier in that podcast.
A while ago, when we first put out this podcast trying to deal with some of the really basic questions, kind of meaning of life, purpose of life questions, I think we even in the end called it The Meaning of Life podcast. I'll tell you; internally in Aleph Beta I hated that name. I couldn't stand the notion that we were calling this meaning of life or purpose of life.
The reason why, and I kind of talked about this in the very first podcast, which is that if you tell somebody that you're going to talk about the meaning of life, or if you give a class and you say, I'm going to give you the Jewish view, the Torah viewpoint of the meaning of life, you know, any sophisticated person is going to look at that and chuckle.
The reason why you're going to look at that and chuckle is because, you know, where are you going to go to a class where someone's going to say, well, with a straight face, we're now going to talk about the purpose of life in this world, and at the end of the half an hour or 45 minutes or whatever time you have you're going to be deeply convinced that this is it, this is true, you've answered the secret question to the meaning of life.
I'm going to repeat the struggle with the question of meaning of life forever. It's something which plagues people, and the notion that you can even possibly think of giving a definitive answer to that question seems just wild, seems impossible.
The first question I guess I want to begin with is don't you think it's a bummer that that's so? Isn't it a problem that that is so? Which is to say, you know, if you were G-d, don't you think it's a problem to create a world with all these people and then they really don't know what the purpose of life is and not only do they not know but they become convinced over time that they're never going to know, that they're never really going to have a definitive answer to the question of purpose of life? It's like, you know, wouldn't you think that as creator that would be a reasonable thing to do, to try to be a little bit more unambiguous about it?
Let people know what the meaning of life is, what the purpose of life is. Why is it that if you walk into the academy, if you walk into university, and you go to philosophy 101 and you raise your hand and you say, hi professor, I'm here because I'd like to understand the purpose of life, the meaning of life, that everyone in the class will snicker? Why is it that way? Why can't there be a definitive answer to that.
That really is the number one question which I want to raise. What's the deal with us not being able to really sort of definitively figure out this question, the purpose of life?
The theory that I'd like to suggest to you tonight -- well, I don't know if we'll get to it tonight, it might be next week -- but the theory that I ultimately want to suggest to you is that the problem with the question of meaning of life or what the purpose of life is that there's a problem in the question. The question, in a very, very subtle way, presumes a certain kind of answer which is fraud and I think that the poison is actually inside the question itself. Why that's so is something which I hope to be able to show you. Let me do this with you.
Why Are We Here According to the Bible?
The angle of tack I want to take you to, this basic question of why the meaning of life is so inscrutable and does the Torah try to give us broad guidance on this question of purpose and meaning of life, the basic tack I want to take with you is to go back to the creation stories themselves.
We'll find that there are actually two creation stories, one that appears in Genesis Chapter 1, and another that appears in Genesis Chapter 2. I want to look at those two stories. I have a sneaking suspicion that those are the two stories where G-d, so to speak, through the Bible is trying to comment to us on a deep way or attack the question, the meaning for us in a very deep way.
One of the questions is why there are two stories there at all. Why are there two stories? If you look at Genesis -- again you can go to your Sefaria source sheet, you can just click this and look on the side as you listen to me, you'll see Genesis Chapter 1, and Genesis Chapter 2, in Hebrew and English -- if you actually read through those stories you're going to notice that there are two different creation stories. There's the creation story we all know and love which is the six days of creation and then right after the six days of creation there's another creation story almost as if we didn't have the first one.
"Eileh toldot hashamayim v'ha'aretz b'hibaram," these are the generations of the heaven and earth as they were created, and then the Torah just lays it out again. The creation of man is told over again, the creation of animals is told again, the creation of trees, almost as if it just didn't happen the first time. And worse yet there are discrepancies, many discrepancies, between the stories, leading to this kind of crisis, like why do we have these two stories?
Now, we're not the first people to be bothered by this question. In this century, one of the greats of Orthodox Jewish scholarship, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, wrote an essay about this, wrote a small book about this, called The Lonely Man of Faith. The Lonely Man of Faith is an attempt to deal with it.
In The Lonely Man of Faith Rabbi Soloveitchik suggests kind of an ingenious solution that I'd like to sort of work off of but maybe refine differently in some ways and expand. But the basic thrust of his solution is that -- and you can read the book -- is that the Bible is talking here --
Actually, before we even get to Rabbi Soloveitchik, I just should point out that secular scholars, before Rabbi Soloveitchik, have pointed this out and this is one of the foundations for really the Biblical criticism theory, the theory of higher Biblical criticism, started by Julius Wellhausen in Germany, over 150 years ago. Basically, Wellhausen was so bothered by this that he basically said that this is the greatest example of what he says multiple authorship in the Bible. So if there are two different accounts, then the only way to understand it is to argue that there are two different authors.
He goes so far as to suggest that the two different authors, to give them names, based upon the name of G-d that they're using for the stories. If you look in the first story the name Elokim is used for G-d, if you look at the second story, Hashem Elokim, Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei and Elokim is used.
That's only one of a number of discrepancies. That is one possible approach; different authors. Rabbi Soloveitchik said it's not different authors. It's one Author giving you two irreconcilable views of man. Basically, what Rabbi Soloveitchik suggests is the two creation stories is kind of like a literary device, it's a device used by the Unitary Author, G-d, to describe there are two different creation stories of man because there are two different kinds of man or every man and woman has a kind of existential conflict between them, two ways of seeing himself, what he calls majestic man or religious man.
We're not going to get too involved in Rabbi Soloveitchik's understanding of that. It's a very philosophical book. He writes in philosophical language as a man who studied at the University of Berlin and you can look and you can see his very beautiful poetic and sometimes technical exposition of this.
One of the difficulties with Rabbi Soloveitchik's theory, it always seemed to me, is that if it's true that the Bible's trying to give us two different views of man, how can there be two whole different creation stories? Why wouldn't you have two different creation of man stories? Also, where do these two different views of man come from? Why is there? We even asked this question, I suppose, but where does this existential conflict of man come from? Why are there these two different ways of describing man? Or why is there this conflict within? Why did G-d create such a conflicted being?
These are questions which are kind of left as a little bit of a mystery. I'd like to offer my own kind of take on -- which is maybe a version Rabbi Soloveitchik's theory. Kind of erase your view of two versions of man for a moment. What I'd like to challenge you to do, actually, right now, is to work with me and try to sort of develop our own theory of these two different creation stories and what they might do. The theory is going to just begin with us being clear on what the discrepancies between them are.
My first question which I want to give out to you, you guys are -- we've got about 55 people here, so we're going to make this a group learning project. Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to give you guys, like, four minutes, five minutes, to speed read through Genesis 1 and 2. You can just use the Sefaria link that I posted you on the Chat; just scroll down in the Chat, click the Chat button, you'll see the Sefaria link, and there are Genesis 1 and 2. You can do that. You can look in a Tanach, you can do whatever you like, but speed read through that.
Then what I want you to do is use this other link I gave you, this questions.alephbeta.org, which you see in your Chat box. Click on that and use your questions and use them as comments. What I want you to do is use the comments to kind of come up with as many discrepancies as you can, or the major -- what do you think are the major discrepancies between Genesis 1, the six days of creation which is the very first story of Genesis, and Genesis 2, starting from Genesis 2, Verse 4, through the end of the chapter. That's going to be the second story of creation where we hear the story again. How are these stories different?
And what you can do is when you see by the way a comment, if you think it's right or you think it's a good discrepancy, upvote it. So let's see in the next four to five minutes, right, right now it's 9:03, and give you guys until 9:07 and a half to come up with this list of discrepancies if you can. Just look at these two things side by side, what are the differences between these stories, and then let's come back and process those. So I'm going to just kind of look through your comments and kind of keep quiet here for a few minutes as you guys look through that.
(Pause 00:19:23 - 00:21:50)
Rabbi David Fohrman: Okay guys, you've got another minute here. Discrepancies between Genesis 1, the first account of creation, and Genesis 2, Verse 4, through the end of the chapter, what are the differences between these accounts. How are these accounts different?
Again, use your questions at Aleph Beta little thing. Just click on that. You can see it on the Chat box, click the Chat box at the bottom of the screen and click on questions.
(Pause 00:22:22 - 00:23:15)
Rabbi David Fohrman: Okay guys. 9:08 so I gave you an extra 30 seconds here. Let's come back and review some of this together. You can certainly upvote things or post more things as I'm talking but let me give a little roundup of what it is that you found as far.
Okay. So we got three upvotes for the following idea. One of the main differences between these stories is that in the first account, how were man and woman created? They were created concurrently, "zachar u'nekeivah bara otam," male and female He created them. In the second account, in Genesis 2, you have male and female created separately. First man is created, then woman is taken out of the rib, taken from Adam and built into woman. So that's one of the main differences. Are man and woman created concurrently or is first man created and then woman created from man?
Secondly, by the way, while we are on the subject of man and woman, what else is different about man and woman in story 1 from story 2? Look at the names in Hebrew. The names, man and woman, are actually called man and woman. Man and woman are actually called male and female, "zachar u'nekeivah bara otam." It's actually only in the story of number 2 that they're called man and woman, that woman gets this name, woman "ki mei'ish lukachah zot." Woman, of course, in Hebrew ishah means from man, she was taken from man. So her name is entirely different in story number 2 as it is in story 1.
In story number 2 also notice the personhood, the idea of man and woman kind of as human beings. "Zachar u'nekeivah" much more generic, much more sterile, nothing romantic about male and female, so to speak. Male and female are just sort of antiseptic, scientific categories, rather than relating to the personhood of people and what the names man and woman.
Okay. That's one difference. We talked about before, speaking of names, the names of G-d. Three votes Hashem's name. In story number 1 G-d is always Elokim. In story number 2 G-d is Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei, the Yud and the Hei and Vav and Hei name of G-d as well as Elokim together, always Hashem Elokim, Hashem Elokim.
Okay. What else do we have here? The order of creation. When was man created? Man was created at the very end of story 1 on the sixth day, at the very beginning of story 2, right at the very beginning. One of the very first things G-d takes fertile ground from the earth, builds it into man, breathes in him the breath of life and man is created.
By the way, one of the things which you guys didn't get, strangely enough -- let me see if any of you guys mentioned this, I do not see it, tsk tsk, folks, you should have had this -- is the description of man changes. Man in story number 1 described as "b'tzelem Elokim," created in the image of G-d. That is completely absent from story 2. You do not have man described as being created in the image of G-d in story 2.
In story 2, by contrast, you have the creation of man, the process described as G-d blew into his nostrils the breath of life. None of that in story 1. There isn't in fact the whole notion of man being taken from the earth and blowing into his nostrils the breath of life. All of that is only in story 2, not in story 1. Story 1, the only thing we hear about is that man is "tzelem Elokim," in the image of G-d, whatever that means.
Okay. What else do we have here? What else did you guys come up with? Okay. You've got G-d's only command to humans in Genesis 1 had to do with being fertile, not refraining from the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge. Good. The whole Tree of Knowledge command, stay away from the Tree of Knowledge, the whole idea that you should eat from all the trees, that's only story 2. Story 1, there's no command having to do with what fruits you can eat, what fruits you can't eat. Instead the command is have children, "pru u'revu u'milu et ha'aretz v'kivshuha," and conquer the land. All that is part of story 1 but not part of story 2.
Again, just a whole mass of differences between the stories. Speaking of the tree let me ask you this question guys. What do you think of this? How are the trees described? If you think about the trees, and the animals for that matter, they're described differently in story 1 than in story 2. How are they different? You talked about it a little bit over here, with G-d's commands to humans. What is the difference between the descriptions of the trees?
Give me the description of the trees in the beginning of Chapter 2 when the trees are first created. How are those trees described? "Nechmad l'mareh v'tov l'ma'achal," beautiful to look at, delicious to eat. Look at how the trees are described the first time around. Trees, trees that reproduce. No beautiful descriptions, no wonderful descriptions of how good they are, just that they are trees and they can reproduce.
Similarly, by the way, with the animals. It's as if story number 2 describes creation sort of from man's perspective, the way man would look at them. Man looks at trees and thinks they're very beautiful. Man looks at trees and says ah, delicious fruit. Much more subjective description in story 2. In story 1, very objective description.
And strangely, an emphasis of reproduction in story 1. Everything reproduces. The trees, they reproduce in story 1, the animals, they reproduce in story 1, the people are told reproduce in story 1. Reproduction is not an issue in story 2. Never are people told reproduce, even when woman is created. There is no issue that man and woman can reproduce and have kids. That's not the issue in story 2. Very, very different stories.
What else do we see? I'm looking through the rest of your comments. Yes. Interesting. Second version speaks of mothers and fathers although there are no parents yet, because Adam doesn't have parents created yet. Kind of interesting. What else?
Yeah. Creation of G-d versus creation of earth. Again, earth has a much more prominent role so to speak in the creative process of story number 2. To the extent that the very first verse is "eileh toldot shamayim v'ha'aretz b'hibaram," these are the generations of heaven and earth, as if heaven and earth themselves are parents in story number 2. Who is the parent in story number 1? "B'reishit bara Elokim et hashamayim v'et ha'aretz," at the beginning G-d created the heaven and earth, so G-d is the parent in story number 1 and heaven and earth are the parent in story number 2.
What else? Yes. Somebody says here phases of natural creation versus psychological (inaudible 00:30:31) creation. That's true. Story number 1, very focused on time order in a very clinical kind of way. It's all (inaudible 00:30:38) phase 1, phase 2, phase 3, phase 4, six phases of creation leading to Sabbath. Much more of a psychological drama of creation story number 2. It's almost as if man is created and then there's all these gifts given to man, these trees which were very delicious, we could add, and then the animals, even the animals are created as gifts for man, as possible maids for man. That's absent in story number 1.
What else here. Okay. Purpose of man, let's talk about that, how's the purpose of man described in story number 1. So in story number 1, you correctly point out over here in your comment that man is told to procreate and also to rule the earth. All of that is absent in story 2. Instead, man is told to serve the earth. He's placed in the garden "l'avdah u'l'shamrah," to serve the earth and to watch over it.
Think about how different those are, almost how opposite they are. Story 1, man is dominating the earth, "v'kivshuha," you're ruling the earth. Story number 2, it's the opposite. Man is subservient to the earth. He's serving the earth, "l'avdah u'l'shamrah," he's there to protect it. It's almost as if the earth is more important than he is. We talked about in story 2 how story 2 is much more focused on the earth than story 1.
What else here? Let me see. Okay. I think that's a pretty good list. Tomorrow I'll send out maybe a little PowerPoint to you which summarizes some of these -- if you don't mind to take notes, we want to have a record of it, I'll kind of summarize some of the distinctions between them.
What I want to do with you now in our remaining minutes of this webinar is begin, just begin, to sketch out a theory which I hope to develop in the coming weeks with you as to what these two creation stories are doing. It is a version -- I don't even know if it's fair to call it a version of Rabbi Soloveitchik's theory, so maybe I just won't call it that. I'll call it my theory.
My theory is the following. You know what? We're going to do this in a kind of funny way. I want to show you something right now. We're going to try a little screen share here, when I come back into my little piece here. I'm going to try sharing a screen with you and what I'm sharing with you is actually a little clip, a two minute little movie clip from the first episode of a television series called Lost. Some of you guys might have seen it. It ran a while back.
This is Episode 1, Season 1, Scene 1, of Lost. Now, you guys probably are not going to be able to hear the sound because of the way screen sharing works but I'll kind of narrate what's happening here. I want you to put yourself in the shoes of the title character, the guy who's called Jack in this scene. Ask yourself, if you're Jack, what question do you have in this scene? What question is coming to mind?
I think in a brilliant kind of way, what is going on in Lost, in this very first scene, is a great metaphor for the dilemma that faces Adam in creation, the great dilemma that faces Adam in creation. And it's a dilemma which to some extent we all have, every one of us has, when we think about meaning of life, and all of us are faced with this dilemma, but Adam is faced with the dilemma in (inaudible 00:34:21). Watch the dilemma kind of unfold. Ask yourself, how would you phrase the question have here? Let me kind of narrate the scene for you.
This is Jack. He opens his eyes, looks up, sees there are trees swaying in the wind. Camera pulls back. A ruffled tie, a jacket, he's on the ground. Here's something coming towards him. Doesn't know what it is. It's his dog. Dog's going to call on him. Dog runs away. Looks around. He's got these cuts on him. Seems to be injured in some way. Slowly pulls himself up. His back hurts him, he seems to be cut on the side. He feels something in his pocket. It's this bottle, it's this vodka bottle in his pocket.
He just starts to run. As he runs there's, like, this stuff, there's this tennis shoe on a tree. He finds a clearing, beach, ocean, waves, but in the distance there are these screams and there's this (inaudible 00:36:45) sound that gets louder and louder and he runs towards the screams. Then he hears more people. There's fire, there's confusion, smoke, wreckage. Looks like it's a plane. There must have been this plane crash. There are people, he's confused, there's wind. There's this pregnant lady who needs help. There's an engine still turning.
All right. That's pretty much it. I'm going to stop sharing the screen if I can and come back to me. Here I am. So here we are, we're back. The question I have for you is -- put yourself back in that scene. You are Jack. You open up your eyes, you see this scene, you see the trees swaying in the wind, there's that dog, there's the sky, there's the ocean, there's the vodka bottle, there's the tennis shoe, right, what question do you have? And you can use by the way your comments over here if you like at the bottom or on our questions thing. How would you phrase the question you have? What do you want to know if you're Jack as you open your eye? What's the first question that strikes you? What do you say?
We've got a bunch of you saying where am I? Now, some of you say what happened. Where am I, how did I get here, why am I here, what happened. Think about -- actually, another way, what is this place. Another way to think about the question, what's going on? What about, what should I do now? At some point there's that question also, what should I do now.
Now, let me ask you another question. Pause for a moment. Let's take these questions -- let's say -- some of you put like what am I to do, that's a good way of putting it. So let's think of all these questions. What am I to do, what am I doing here, how did I get here, why am I here.
Take those four questions. Which one do you think is most fundamental? By most fundamental I mean which is the very first question you could ask or you should ask. How would you even organize those questions? Think about these three questions. What should I do now? What am I doing here? How did I get here? If you think about those three questions they organize themselves in a very fascinating way. How do they organize themselves and which one is most fundamental? One more time. What should I do now? What am I doing here? How did I get here?
Those questions organize themselves with reference to time. Those are past, present and future questions: the future question, what should I do now, what should I do in the future; the past question, how did I get here; and the present question, which is what am I doing here. These are all three different ways of really asking one question which is why am I here. Why is a very general way of talking, why am I here. Why am I here can actually mean three particular things. Why am I here as a future meaning, what should I do, for what purpose of am I here. It has a past meaning, how did I get here, why am I here. It has a present meaning which is what am I doing here now.
Now, of those three questions, the past, present and future, when you force open your eyes which is the first of them to hit you. What is logically the first question? You open your eyes, it's all unfamiliar, the very first question is what?
I want to argue it is the present tense question, what am I doing here. That's your question. The present hits you in the face. The present makes no sense. When you think about that question, if we just stay in the present, before we even get to the past or the future, we just think about the present for a moment, the present tense question, what am I doing here -- let's talk about what that question really means. What does that question mean when I say what am I doing here?
What it means, I think, is this story doesn't make sense. The problem, and I'm going to use this phrase later on next week when I come back to this, the problem here is the problem of fragmentation. It's all fragments. It doesn't make sense. What is this vodka bottle doing in my pocket? What are the trees doing here? What is the ocean doing here? What is the dog doing there? What's that tennis shoe doing there? There's a story here and I don't get it. What's the story? It doesn't make sense. It's all fragmented. What place do I have in this reality? What is the meaning of this reality and what place do I have in it?
This is Jack's question when he first opens his eyes and this is Adam's question when he first opens his eyes and this is all of our questions when we first open our eyes. There comes a time in every person's life where you sort of begin to ask these questions. You grow up as a little kid and you accept everything your parents do, you go to school, but as you learn and as you grow and as you cognitively grow, there's this point in your life that you just stop one day and you just open your eyes just like Jack and you have this question what am I doing here, what is my place in all of this. We all have that question and Adam has the question. The problem is fragmentation.
Now, how do we deal with that question, when life seems fragmented? What I want to suggest, the thought I want to leave you with tonight, because our time is just about up, is that this present tense question what am I doing here, immediately divides into two different questions, the past oriented question and the future oriented question.
The past oriented question and the future oriented question are actually two different ways we can begin to find solutions to our problems. Some solutions can be found in the past, a different kind of solution can be found in the future.
When we think about the past and the future in terms of why we're here we can begin to grapple with this fundamental problem of fragmentation. Things can begin to make sense, they can begin to become anchored with reference to the past and the future.
The past and future questions are nothing but the past and future ways of asking why. There's a present tense way of asking why, but there's a future way of asking why which is what should I do now, what purpose should I strive for, why am I here. Another way of asking it, the past question, is what am I doing here, where did I come from, the past question.
It turns out, and I want to leave you with this thought, that there are two Hebrew words for this. It turns out that in Hebrew there are two words for why. You might ask yourself, why are there two words for why? And the answer, I think, is because there are two different kinds of why. There's a past oriented why and there's a future oriented why.
The future oriented why, I believe, is the word lamah. The past oriented why, I think, is the word madu'a. What's the difference between lamah and madu'a? I want to argue that lamah and madu'a are actually inverses of each other. They're both words that are three letters long and they are both words that have a prefix followed by a two-letter root. And they're exactly mirror images of each other.
Let's take lamah, for example. Lamah the prefix is l. What does l mean? L means to. What does mah mean? Mah means what. So what lamah really means is to what or for what, to what end or for what end should I act. This is really Jack's question when he says what should I do now, what should I do first. I want to try to plan and articulate some sort of goal and if I can do that it's going to help with our problem of fragmentation.
Because think about it. Everything seems fragmented but I could begin to impose some order on this picture, to create a story out of a picture, because there are many different goals I could pick. There's an infinite universe of goals. That's why it's the word l mah, to what end, what means it's open ended. There are all sorts of possibilities.
I could decide that we should get off the island. That should be my goal. I could decide that I'm going to stay on the island, build a utopian society there. That could be my goal. I can say we're going to try to find an energy source on the island, we're going to try to have food and water on the island. We're going to build a (inaudible 00:46:49).
There are lots of different things which we can do. I need to define a goal. To what end should I act. Man intuits that he has -- man or a woman intuits that they are planner, they have a brain, they are an executer, they have hands, they can plan and then execute to make that plan happen.
So the first thing I do to try and make sense of this all is say can I define some sort of purpose and if I can that's my way of organizing everything because depending on the purpose that I come up with, depending on my answer of lamah, to what end, depending on that answer, well, I can organize all of the things around me into raw materials.
I might not really understand what that shoe is doing there, I might not really understand why there are trees and some sort of ultimate sense, but I can create some sort of order out of it because all of these things are going to be my raw materials that I'm willing to use and aggregate to achieve my goals.
If I'm going to make a raft to get off the island, then what are the trees? That's the stuff I'm going to make my raft out of. Then what are the vines? Those are the ropes I'm going to use to (inaudible 00:47:51) it together. And what's that curtain over there? That's going to be my sail. So I'm can make sense out of things by virtue of lamah, by virtue of my purpose, is going to allow me to pose a story of what I have here.
But there's another kind of question, another way of making sense of what's here, which is by going back to the past. I don't ask lamah but I ask madu'a. Instead of asking l, which is to -- what's the opposite of to? The opposite of to is from. In Hebrew from is m, the first letter of madu'a. What's the opposite of what, l mah, to what? Well, what is an open ended universe of possibilities in the future. The opposite of an open ended universe of possibilities in the future is just one fact in the past.
The opposite of what, of an unknowable bunch of possibilities in the future, is knowledge of one particular fact. M da, from knowledge. I'm looking in the past and there is an actual fact and I'm looking to uncover it. I want to know from what did this come. I want from knowledge. M, from, da, knowledge. The quest for from knowledge is the other kind of why. Give me knowledge from whence this all comes. And that will help anchor things.
Oh, that woman over there, she was sitting next to me on the plane; and that shard of metal, that was part of the wing; and this vodka, I got that because the stewardess gave that. And I can anchor things in the past and help me understand, oh, that's what it's all doing here. I guess it first came from this. Now it's disorganized but back in the past it made sense. I look back to the past to anchor my present in some kind of way.
Finding Your Place in the Universe
What I want to argue is that lamah and madu'a are two beginning ways that you begin to anchor yourself in the world, but they are the beginnings of a journey and I'll leave you with the following thought. This journey then continues. Spirituality emerges from the journey. There's a lamah oriented spirituality, there's a madu'a oriented spirituality. There is a lamah oriented man, there is a part of us that asks lamah. There's a part of us that seeks meaning, or that seeks to understand the present in terms of the future, and there's a part of us that seeks to understand in terms of the past.
What I want to leave you with is this thought. Why are there two different creation stories? Perhaps because G-d is addressing the most fundamental problem of all which is why. Why are you here, Jack? As you open your eyes, Adam, into this world, and as every human being opens their eyes into the world and wonders what they're doing here, what place they have in all of this, there's a part of them that's going to look to the future, that's going to try to find goals and seeks to achieve them. That's lamah oriented man. But there's also a part of us all that's madu'a oriented man, that seeks to understand from whence this all came and finds its meaning that way.
G-d gives us two creation stories because G-d is interesting in talking to us about this question that we have. He knows the question, why am I here, what am I doing here. He knows there are two ways we can answer it, through an appeal towards the future, through an appeal towards the past, and therefore He addresses us Himself to two kinds of man, what I'm going to call lamah oriented man and madu'a oriented man.
The argument that I'm going to make to you over the coming weeks is that Genesis 1 is addressed to lamah oriented man, future looking man. Genesis 2 is addressed to madu'a oriented man. All of us have both. All of us have -- it's almost like testosterone and estrogen. There are two parts of out makeup. To completely be whole beings we have to have some sort of balance between lamah and madu'a as we sort our lives out.
But in the extreme, G-d is sort of dividing us up and saying if you want to ask the question of lamah, then I have this trajectory of answers for you, I want to explain to you where you are in terms of lamah. I'm also going to explain to you where you are in terms of madu'a.
I believe that once we see that we will see a number of things. We will be able to answer all of the discrepancies between the stories, why these discrepancies make sense, flow from the differences between focusing on lamah and focusing on madu'a.
It's the same thing -- well, it's not the same thing. G-d is answering two different questions and everything looks different depending on which question you're asking. But spirituality looks different. The Torah looks different depending on which question you ask. So as you go through the Torah itself, you can go through the Torah with a lamah oriented lens or a madu'a oriented lens. Depending on which lens you have things will look different, creation will look different, hence the two creation stories. But other things will look different too.
The Tree of Knowledge of good and evil may look different, depending upon what lens you look it on with. The Sabbath may look different, depending on whether you're a lamah person or a madu'a person. The 10 Commandments might look different, depending on which kind of person you are. The Mishkan, the Tabernacle might look different depending on whether you're looking at it through the lamah lens or the madu'a lens.
Mature spirituality fuses lamah and madu'a, but first you have to understand the basic trajectory of lamah and madu'a and these are given in the first two Genesis stories. When I come back next time I want to delve into the text of Genesis 1 and 2 and show you how these emerge from a lamah view of the world and a madu'a oriented view of the world. I will see you then.