The Actualizers

A movie has very recently been produced titled ‘Inside Israel’ that looks at why Israelites have been so amazingly successful in so many areas of human endeavour and why the Nation of Israel continues it’s miraculous development as one of the greatest and most successful countries on the planet.

In this movie Dr Tal Ben-Shahar outlines the 6 main principles that he sees as foundational to this success. He calls them ‘actualizers’ and states that each one is not unique to Israel but that the combination of all six may well be.

These 6 actualizers are all derived from the Sh’ma (Shema – Deut 6:4-9; 11:12-22 & Num 15:37-42), perhaps the most important foundational portion of the Tanakh for the Jewish people.

The Actualizers:

  1. Family
  2. Adversity to Advantage
  3. Chutzpah
  4. Education
  5. Taking Action
  6. Tikkun OLam

This brilliant movie can be ordered from

To quote a little from the web site:

Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference is a new feature-length documentary that explores the positive characteristics of Israeli society from a humanistic, psychological, and emotional perspective. This insightful and uplifting documentary sidesteps the usual conversation of politics, conflict and violence, and tells the story of the Israeli people – whose resilience has propelled Israel to the forefront of world innovation and progress.

Despite daily challenges ranging from limited resources to security needs, Israeli creativity and inventiveness help make the world a better place. Israel has made significant advancements in the fields of science, environment, medicine and technology, and has shared these developments with the rest of the world.

How did this happen? What underlying growth factors have given rise to this small nation’s triumph over adversity?

The 55-minute film is hosted by Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, who gave up the unique distinction of being Harvard University’s most popular lecturer to return to his native country, Israel. In the film, Ben Shahar explores the core character strengths – called “actualizers” – that enable Israelis to succeed against incredible odds. Through Tal’s eyes we explore the deep-seated values such as education, family, and responsibility for the world (a Jewish concept known as “tikkun olam”), which directly contribute to Israel’s accomplishments in the economic, technological and humanitarian spheres. And while none of these actualizers are in and of themselves unique to Israel, in combination they are bringing about unparalleled progress and achievement.

This movie is well worth the cost of purchase!

We hope to touch on the special nature of  these actualizers and how Israelites embrace them in our next Podcast.

Abraham, the Father of the faithful:

This weeks Torah Portion (named Lech Lecha) is from Genesis 12-17. There is so much here; so much to read; grasp and grapple with. From the founding of a new people in a new Land, to the incredible covenant and promises made to Abraham.

The covenant and promise in Genesis 17:4-5 is in my opinion, one of the most significant of all, as it speaks to a time when the Word of God is embraced by Gentiles. “…You will be the father of a multitude of nations.Neither will your name any more be called Abram, but your name will be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”

Note that the Almighty declares a future promise as if it is already past, as if it has already been fulfilled. The Word of God cannot be stopped; it’s intent will always come to pass.

There is a lot, and I mean, an awful ‘lot of water to pass under the bridge’, looking forward from that day, before this promise fully comes to pass.

Before Abraham can be the Father of all who put their trust in the One True God, he must first become the Father of the Chosen People, and these people must separate themselves to God; become ‘holy’ (meaning separated), before they can become a ‘light to the Gentiles’ and ultimately lead many Gentiles, many peoples of many nations, into the family of Abraham, so that the promise to Abraham can be fulfilled.

When this promise is finally and totally fulfilled, ALL the children of Abraham will stand as equals before the Almighty, as demanded by their status as children of the father of the faithful, the man so specially chosen to announce, and proclaim the One True God to the world.

I love the way that Rabbi Ari Khan brings out the apparent contradictions that need to occur as a lead in to the ultimate fulfillment of his great promise. To quote just a little of his brilliant article (see link below for full article at
“ … The joyous, really incredible news that a nation will emerge from the loins of Avraham, is tempered by the knowledge that a certain tension will always surround this nation. As this nation emerges, we learn that others will never be indifferent….They will always elicit some sort of reaction from others, (they will) always serve as a source of blessing or a curse for others.

Furthermore, this blessing may be limiting: it is particular in nature, it is directed exclusively to the people who will become known as the Jewish People. In Avraham’s eyes, universal dreams may be challenged by particular nationalistic aspirations. Whereas Avraham has seen himself as a citizen of the world on a mission to help elevate all of mankind, his mission now becomes linked exclusively with this new entity, “the Children of Avraham.”

… in Shechem nationhood emerges. This is where Dina is abused, and where the local residents offer the family of Israel to join destinies, to join them and form one nation. This offer is rejected, and a process is set in motion:

A nation with its own unique history begins to chart its path, undertaking the long march to fulfill its particular, unique destiny. A nation, indeed; but at this point a small, vulnerable nation that rejects the benefits of assimilation into a strong, well-established local clan. This is a defining moment, a decision that crystallizes and forms the Nation of Israel.

… With the command to perform the Brit Milah (circumcision) Avraham’s life will change. There will now be a boundary between him and everyone else. He will now be viewed even more suspiciously by his neighbors. In fact, the rabbis express their sensitivity to Avraham’s conflict between universalism and nationhood as a “hesitation” on Avraham’s part when he was commanded to perform circumcision.

… Clearly, then, the Brit Milah (circumcision) is a test. The challenge may be heightened by the paradoxical nature of the command which he receives:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Avram ; your name will be Avraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

Then God said to Avraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner-those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Bereishit 17:1-14)

Avram is told that from now on his name will be Avraham, signifying that he will be a father of many nations – Av Hamon Goyim. This would seem to be the ultimate universal message: Not only will Avraham be a part of the larger universal existence, he will bring nations toward God.

And in the next breath he is told to perform circumcision which creates boundaries and will forever separate Avraham and his descendents from all others. In one fell swoop, the universal vision and the narrow, parochial, particular approach.

Apparently, Avraham is confused. How can he impact the entire world when he must first perform an act of self-mutilation that people will view as grotesque?

Apparently, what Avraham still lacks is “holiness” – kedusha – which is literally rendered as “set apart”. This separateness is a new phase for Avraham, and not one to which he would have come without God’s command. This separateness may be seen as that which contradicts Avraham’s innate attribute of chesed (loving kindness), the attribute through which he has served God up to this point in his life.

How is he to reconcile chesed with kedusha? How is he to be a part of the world – involved, engaged, interested, even responsible for the world – and live a life of kedusha, set apart, indelibly marked by “differentness”? How will he and his descendents reconcile living in a mundane world with their unique destiny and closeness to God?

The answer presents itself later on in the text, as Avraham finds himself enmeshed in his next paradoxical challenge: the Binding of Isaac. Here, too, logic is defeated. If Yitzchak is to be offered, how can he effectively be the living progeny destined to carry on the family line? Avraham and Yitzchak nonetheless set out to fulfill God’s command, and they bring two other people along. Our Sages identify them as Yishmael and Eliezer – Avraham’s first son, and the man who was like a son.

… Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place far away. And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come back to you.’(Genesis/Bereishit 22:4-5)

Those last words, “and come back to you,” cannot be ignored. Avraham encapsulates a unique religious experience in this short statement, and we should take note of every element: This awesome religious experience would not be complete until Avraham came down the mountain and shared with others his epiphany, his feelings and his enlightenment. Avraham would have the greatest impact on the two men he left behind only after parting ways, dedicating himself to the more particular religious experience at the summit, and then returning to their company.

Similarly, for the Jewish People to have an impact on the world, we must first disengage, separate ourselves, and fully explore our unique relationship with God.

There will be times when we must wrest ourselves away from our deep involvement, even our responsibility for the world. We must climb lofty mountains, even engage in divinely-mandated, though seemingly paradoxical, behavior. But we must always remember that eventually we must come down from the mountain, re-engage, return to the people that we left at the foot of the mountain. We must find the language and establish the relationship that will allow us to share with them what we learned at the summit.

Avraham learns to resolve the tension. Both the universal and the particular are important, but they are intertwined.

The way we can accomplish our universal responsibility is by first becoming separate, different – as holy as we can possibly become. Only this will enable us to fulfill our mission of tikkun olam, to enlighten, to educate, to heal and repair the world.

… Our world, then, is not so different from that of Avraham and Sarah after all. The world still lacks holiness. By observing the commandments, both those we understand and those that seem to us paradoxical, we add holiness to our lives. We set ourselves on a higher rung, as it were. And as holiness accrues, we will find our spiritual, ethical and social abilities exponentially increased, and thus our ability to effect change and fix a broken world.” – see

The Jewish people have spent their time in the desert and their time learning holiness. They ‘came back to us’ (Gen 22:5), to the Gentiles in a sense, when Yeshua lived the perfect example of true holiness and oneness with the Almighty.

His example, to the point of giving up his life for his friends, for his people, calls out across the divide to the Gentile people, to God-fearers throughout the world, that we too can separate ourselves to God and in having the some trust in the Almighty, the same faith(fullness) in God that Yeshua had and that Abraham had (Rom 3:22 & 4:16), we too can indeed become fully ‘children of Abraham’ and full members of the Commonwealth of Israel. The Resurrection was the Almighty’s stamp of approval on the witness of Yeshua; the ‘circumcision’ of Yeshua (his ‘separation’ to God), can then become the ‘circumcision’ of the Gentile God-fearers.

This is the mystery revealed in Yeshua’s day; the mystery of how Abraham was to become the father of many nations; the mystery revealed to Sha’ul, and to Peter through Cornelius.

In part 2 of our podcast on the Hebraic Mindset, we will speak more about ‘tikkun olam’ (repairing the world).

The Hebraic Mindset: Part 1

In our latest Podcast, we look at a few of the more significant issues related to reading the Bible through Hebraic eyes.

The Hebraic perspective is all about doing; the Greek or Hellenistic perspective is all about knowing.

In this podcast we address such questions as:

“What does this mean?

What is the significance of this difference, especially with respect to how we approach the Scriptures?”

 “The aim of Hebrew religion is the Knowledge of God); the aim of Greek thought is Know thyself.  
Between these two there is a great gulf fixed.  We do not see that either admits of any compromise.  They are fundamentally different in a priori assumption, in method of approach, and in final conclusion…
The Hebrew system starts with God.  The only true wisdom is Knowledge of God.  ‘The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.’  The corollary is that man can never know himself, what he is and what is his relation the world, unless first he learn of God and be submissive to God’s sovereign will. 

The Greek system, on the contrary, starts from the knowledge of man, and seeks to rise to an understanding of the ways and Nature of God through the knowledge of what is called ‘man’s higher nature’.  According to the Bible, man had no higher nature except he be born of the Spirit.
We find this approach of the Greeks no where in the Bible. The whole Bible, the New Testament as well as the Old Testament, is based on the Hebrew attitude and approach… “  Prof. Norman H. Snaith  “Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament”

Listen to Part 1 here –

Here is a link to a Powerpoint from a Sukkot Presentation on this topic as well: Hebraic Mindset

Noah and Violence

This weeks Torah Portion contains the following verses on the Days of Noah:

“These are the generations of Noah. Noah was in his generations a man righteous and whole-hearted; Noah walked with God. And Noah begot three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God  saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah: ‘The end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Gen 6:9-13 (Tanakh JPS)

The world is evil; the world is ‘as in the days of Noah’ – a time of great violence (some versions translate the Hebrew as ‘robbery’ rather than violence).

What is the greatest violence than man can perpetrate?

Surely, it is the violence against his fellow man, and here the greatest violence is surely that against the most innocent and most vulnerable of human beings! Who are they? The unborn!

What is the great robbery or theft that man can commit?

Surely, to steal from God; to rob from God’s design; His plan and the gift of each life that He gives to the world to enjoy and embrace.

There is a great Jewish saying (that is derived from the fact that the word for ‘blood’ in the story of Cain and Abel is plural): “Save a man, save a world; kill a man kill a world”.

When an innocent unborn baby is murdered, the life taken could have been the father or mother of a whole ‘world’ of people.

There is a great poem that starts: ‘The greatest gift of God, it would seem, it the gift of life. The greatest sin of mankind, it would seem, it to return that gift, ungrateful and unopened’.

As we read of the great flood of Noah in this week’s Torah Portion, may we reflect on this massive holocaust that silently confronts us today. Each year some 50-60 MILLION unborn human beings are murdered through forced abortion.

These numbers beggar belief; this is around 190,000 per day and 8,000 per hour! Some 40 per day here in Queensland, Australia alone.

There are now a great many studies that show that these abortions, while doing the greatest harm to the unborn child who is murdered, also do great harm to the mothers who turn their wombs into graveyards; and even to the husbands and boyfriends and families. We are all affected by this much more than we probably realize. The damage can last a life time.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not He who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
 and will he not repay man according to his work?
Proverbs 24:11-12

Follow-up reading:Where is the outcry – why is the church silent’ site/Where is the outcry – CETF Version Apr 07.pdf


Genesis Repunctuated – Part 2:

In the last two posts I tried first to show that God’s Words have the power to create.

I referred to some verses from both the Tanakh and the NT such as:

“By the word of YHWH were the heavens made, and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts… For He spoke and it was done, He commanded and it stood firm” Ps 33:6,9

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.” Ps 148:5

“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which were visible.” Heb 11:3

“…by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water” 2 Peter 3.5

God speaks and it must happen.

I then suggested an alternative approach to understanding the Genesis account of Creation. Before time and space existed, in the ‘eternity’ before our Universe existed, the Creator declared (proclaimed or gave a series of  ‘fiats’) to the Host of Heaven what would happen.

Thus His fiats were separate to the outworking of them. They stand alone as a summary of His intent, His plan, His purpose (echoed in the Gospel of John’s prologue). This has many significant implications. For example, it means the process of creating, especially in terms of its timing, it largely independent of the order of His fiats.

To reiterate, given that God speaks before His Creation unfolds, the order and timing of events need not be identical to the order in which they were first pronounced. Thus for example the fossil record, while similar to the order in Genesis 1, is not, and need not be the same.  Assuming that all of the creative processes were started in the same order as the proclamations, but acknowledging that different processes may take differing lengths of time we would then expect some overlap in the various periods of active creation.

Many critics accuse Genesis 2:4-25 as being a second and contradictory creation account. They argue for example, that in Genesis 1 God created the vegetation on the 3rd day and Adam on the 6th, yet in Genesis 2 Adam is created before the Garden of Eden and then placed in it. We also read in Genesis 1 that God created animals on the 5th day and Adam and Eve on the 6th, yet in Genesis 2 we read that after God had created Adam he created the animals to see if one would be a suitable partner for Adam and only then did he create Eve.

When we view Genesis 1 as divine proclamations we no longer see any conflict here as having declared what was to take place the timing and order is left unstated. It seems obvious (especially with the great cosmological understanding of the Universe’s evolution that we now have), that the stars and planets need to be formed; and the vegetation on the earth established before the many animals were created and all this long before the earth was ready for the arrival of man.

Is there any other approach within Judaism that seems consistent with the ‘fiat theory’? The Talmud (Chagiga, Ch. 2) argues that Genesis 1 to the beginning of Genesis 2 is given in parable form, but particularly as a poem with a text and a subtext. This understanding is certainly supportive of the re-punctuation approach I mentioned in the last post.

It appears that some early Jewish sources (eg. Nachmanides – 13th century Spain) believed that the Bible’s calendar is in two-parts. They argued that in the closing speech that Moses makes to the people, where he states “consider the days of old, the years of the many generations” (Deut. 32:7), Moses was indicating that the ‘days of old’ are the Six Days of Genesis and that ‘the years of the many generations’ is all the time from Adam forward. Again, this understanding finds some harmony with the Fiat Theory in that a distinction is made where the Six Days are measured differently.

So what are the broader implications of the Fiat Theory if it is correct? Firstly, its internal consistency is very strong as it fits so well with the principle that the ‘word of God’, or the breath or plan of God, once expressed will be fulfilled.

Further though, it means that science (specifically astronomy and cosmology) and biblical creation are not in serious conflict. We can therefore accept that the scientific understanding that the universe is some 13 (currently thought to be 13.7 Billion +/- 200 Million) Billion years old may prove to be correct and that man may well have lived on the earth thousands of years earlier than 4000 BCE. It also means we don’t need to reject the great many legitimate scientific tools and methods for measuring time and ages.

It certainly seems to me that the Fiat Theory carries the lightest burden of proof and offers the greatest degree of freedom as well as very good agreement with much of established science.

It also fits beautifully with the rising paradigm that is Intelligent Design, the new appreciation of the glory of God.

I also think though, that it is important to recognize that the Tanakh and in particular Genesis is not a ‘Book of Science’. The brilliant Chief Rabbi of London, Jonathon Sacks puts it very well:

Torah is not a book of history, even though it includes history. It is not a book of science, even though the first chapter of Genesis – as the 19th-century sociologist Max Weber pointed out – is the necessary prelude to science, because it represents the first time people saw the universe as the product of a single creative will, and therefore as intelligible rather than capricious and mysterious. It is, first and last, a book about how to live. Everything it contains – not only commandments but also narratives, including the narrative of creation itself – is there solely for the sake of ethical and spiritual instruction.

It moves from the minutest details to the most majestic visions of the universe and our place within it. But it never deviates from its intense focus on the questions:

  • What shall I do?
  • How shall I live?
  • What kind of person should I strive to become?

It begins, in Genesis 1, with the most fundamental question of all. As the Psalm (8:4) puts it: “What is man that You are mindful of him?” …

As the rabbis put it (Bereishith Rabbah 8:1; Sanhedrin 38a): “Why was man created last? In order to say, if he is worthy, all creation was made for you; but if he is unworthy, he is told, even a gnat preceded you.”

The Torah remains God’s supreme call to humankind to freedom and creativity on the one hand, and on the other, to responsibility and restraint – becoming God’s partner in the work of creation.”

– see – I strongly recommend reading the whole article – Sacks is most insightful!

For more on the Creation of the Universe, as well as the creation of the Next Universe, see my podcast from a speech I gave to Christian Restoration Fellowship (Australia) some years ago –

The background paper is here: It’s Life Jim, but not as we know it

Next: Other approaches worthy of consideration …
Coming Soon: Aubrey and I present a podcast on the Hebraic Mindset 

The Fiats of God – Genesis Re-punctuated

In the last post on this weeks Torah Portion I shared how the world was created by the very words of the Almighty. His words made things!

In fact the Hebrew word ‘Davar’ that has been translated as “word” here also means “thing”!  What an awesome synergy!  By words things were created. ‘Davar’ = word = thing

Words are the creative energy of the world. God spoke, and through words brought the universe into being!

I want to develop this concept a little more deeply now though. To do so it is important to appreciate that the writers of the Tanakh and even the NT, were much given to the use of parentheses. That is, they would often insert a secondary thought into the middle of their primary message. Here is an example from the Messianic Writings (New Testament):

“In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, ‘Brethren …’” (Acts 1.15)

Observe how the main sentence makes perfect sense if we read it on its own, ignoring the bit in brackets. Afterwards we can usefully go back and read the words in the brackets, as a separate but related thought.

As Bullinger said of the first edition of the KJV: “The Edition of 1611 abounded in parentheses. In the subsequent editions there has been an increasing tendency to discard them; and to supply their place by commas; or to ignore them altogether.”

In the original texts of the Bible there were apparently a great many parentheses. Some are marked as such in many modern translations, but many others are not. These parentheses go right back to the creation narrative.

The earliest one marked in the RSV is in Genesis , where a pair of dashes encloses a lengthy parenthesis:
“In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground -then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2.4-7)

The NIV also has a parenthesis in Genesis 2:
“A river watering the garden flowed from Eden, and from there it divided; it had four headstreams. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.” (Genesis 2.10-13.)

Genesis 1 Repunctuated:

Using this approach it is possible to re-punctuate Genesis 1 and perhaps gain a new perspective:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1.1.)

The next verse tells us to imagine the curtain rising on an already created planet, but a shapeless and empty one. God’s spirit is about to start fashioning it and then populating it:

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1.2)

So here is a repunctuated version of the whole passage up to Genesis 2.3, with the parentheses printed in brackets:

And God said, ‘Let there be light.’

(And there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.)

And there was evening and there was morning, one day. 

And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’

(And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven.)

And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’

(And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. )

And God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.’

(And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.)

And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’

(And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.)

And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.’

(So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”)

So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”;

(and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.)

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth,’

(So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them, And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘ Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ And God said, ‘ Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit,’ you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food,’ And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.) 

An there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation. – Genesis 1.3 -2.3

Now just go back and try re-reading the above verses and ignoring the sections in brackets. Does it read well; does it flow logically and effectively?

Another way of presenting this re-punctuation is as below:

God said: “Let there be light”:
Narrator said: ” and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
Narrator said: “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
God said, “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.”
God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth:”
Narrator said “and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”
God said, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”
Narrator said, “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.”
[Note that the narrator talks of God in the 3rd person]
God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Narrator said, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day

Hopefully, a careful read and reflection on these verses with this approach should see that there is a proclamation or fiat announced by God, followed by a commentary on its impact and fulfilment.

With this approach the fulfilment need not be instant and certainly need not be on the same ‘day’ as the announcement.

If this approach and understanding is valid then who were the Fiats uttered to? Perhaps the Host of Heaven, that is the angels. Many passages such as Genesis 1:26 where the Creator speaks to those assembled before Him, ‘let us make man in our image’[2].

It would certainly appear from Job 38: 4-7 that it was the angels[3] (called ‘morning stars’ and ‘sons of God’) were present at the creation of the universe.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
[4] (Job 38:4-7)

This ‘fiat’ or ‘proclamation’ approach then is consistent with both the Hebraic principles (Hebraisms) of foreordaining and parenthesis. With this approach the ‘days’ of creation can be viewed as consecutive literal days (where their length is actually unimportant but could conceivably be 24 hour days).

This approach also then pre-shadows and even foreordains the ‘divine’ week of 7 days with every 7th day (Shabbat/Sabbath) being a day of ‘rest’ or ‘ceasing’.

The Hebrew Bible is also very poetic and intended to be sung or at least spoken out loud in a rhythmic manner (i.e. chanted).

Again, this is also consistent with God speaking his proclamations out loud and using some form of melody in the process. The table below may help visualise the poetic structure contained in Genesis 1:

Day 1  Light appears

Day 2                                     Waters are divided

Day 3                                                      Land appears, with vegetation

Day 4                  Lights appear

Day 5                                    Waters bring forth living creatures,

Day 6                                                      Land is populated

This structure also makes use of Hebraic parallelism, that is, repetition at measured intervals. For example, consider Psalm 38:22 Don’t forsake me, Yahweh. My God, don’t be far from me. (WEB). This repetition or parallelism is extremely common and is evident in many ways such as in the Shema (Deut 6:4. 11:13-21) where we are called to love God with all (1) our heart, (2) our soul and (3) our might.

This is Hebrew parallelism as the Hebrew understand man to be a single entity and therefore the words heart, soul and might here are just a way to emphasise, by repeating three times, the call to love call with all of your being.

Like all theories that attempt to reconcile the Biblical creation accounts with our modern understanding it does still leave some questions unanswered but overall seems to satisfactorily answer the greatest number and to fit so well with the Hebraic mindset, approach and understanding of God’s ‘modus operandi’.

Given this repetition then, coupled with the prospect that this ‘days’ were all prior to the actual creation itself, we can view the creation of the sun on Day 4 as a reiteration but with more detail of the creation of light on Day 1. This repetition with further detail is used for all three days.

In the next post I will look at some of the issues with the more traditional interpretations and how this approach and Dr Schroeder’s approach address these issues.

[I am indebted to Physicists Alan Hayward and Hill Roberts for this understanding and re-punctuation]

[1] This arrangement courtesy of G.R. Morton –

[2] The best commentary of the ‘us’ texts such as in Gen 1:26 that I have ever heard is a talk given by Sean Finnegan. The Podcast is available from and a pdf version at
Update: May 2015:  Uriel Ben Mordechai in his book ‘If: The End of a Messianic Lie’ gives, what I now believe to be, the best answer, and that is in summary, that the ‘us’ is the actual Creation which has a physical component (the Earth, etc.) and a spiritual component (the Heavens, etc.). I think, you really need to read his complete commentary on Gen 1:26 to appreciate this perspective though.

“In Breishit [Genesis] 1:26, the US, the OUR, and the OURSELVES refer to none other than the Heavens and Earth, for from both realms (His own and that of the Earth) did HaShem take, in order to create man. Man’s flesh He created from the dust of the earth, the “Adamah” and for man’s soul, HaShem took the elements found only in the realm of the Heavens of G-d, even from the breath of the Almighty. For this reason, HaShem says, “Let US, in the respective image and likeness of all of US present, the celestial and the terrestrial, each of them separately give their portion, so that in combination, the creation of man emerges from the image of both, and from the likeness of both.” For this is what sets man apart from the rest of creation. If he were to have been created with only the celestial elements, he would have lived forever, and would not have died – forever locked into a condition of impurity. If he were to have been created with only terrestrial elements, he would have been unable to inherit eternal live, for eventually this Earth is destined to pass away.”
Also see Deut 4:26, 30:19, 31:28 where God calls upon the Heavens and the Earth as witnesses as well.

[3] FF Bruce, New International Bible Commentary p546.

[4] When God or man lays the cornerstone to a ‘building’ of God there is always great rejoicing. For example see Ezra 3:10-11

Ecclesiastes – Days of Joy

Moshe Kempinski – from Shorashim Shop (in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem

“Introspection on the High Holydays reveals the fissures and the cracks; joy on Sukkot enables the healing and the growth.

We have entered into and experienced the month of Tishrei as a period of great soul searching and introspection. We have hopefully sensed how the purifying fire of the Day of Atonement has cleansed the very vessels of our souls.

The vessels are pure but nevertheless are broken from the experience. Only spiritual joy can rejuvenate and repair the broken in spirit.

Introspection reveals the fissures and the cracks; joy enables the healing and the growth.

“Seven days shall you keep a feast unto HaShem your God in the place which HaShem shall choose; because HaShem your G-d shall bless you in all your increase, and in all the work of your hands, and you shall be altogether joyful [VeHayitem Ach Sameach].”

How can one be commanded to be joyful? How can one walk out from under the burden of a renewed awareness of our limitations and be joyful? How can one attain joy when, as a people, our history is so replete with events that are the antitheses of joy?

 Clearly being given the opportunity to fulfill the will of our Divine beloved is a source of great joy. We are not being commanded to be joyful as much as we are being told a fact. We will be joyful.

 That is clear as one wanders through the streets and watch the people of this land buying the four species of the holiday. They are joyful because they have been given the opportunity to bring a gift to their beloved Creator.

 Yet it is during this holiday we will read the cynical book of Kohelet or Ecclesiastes. What must we learn from that.

 Each of the Jewish festivals is characterized by the reading of one of the Biblical scrolls. On Pesach(Passover), we read Shir Hashirim/Song Of Songs. During Shavuot, the book of Ruth is read. On Sukkot, we read Kohelet/Ecclesiastes.

 The latter is clearly a book characterized by great sobriety and skepticism. The first words of Kohelet, “havel havelim ha-kol hevel, futility of futilities, everything is futile,” imply that no matter what Man does, his efforts will always prove to be in vain.

 The word hevel/futile appears 37 times throughout the book.

 There are those who teach that since this period of Sukkot falls during the time of the great harvest, a time of great joy, the book of Kohelet is seen as a tool for tempering and moderation.

There are others who see the book of Kohelet as a work infused with optimism and happiness. In the Yalkut Shimoni we read: “R. Yonathan said, first Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) was composed, followed by Mishlei (Proverbs) and then Kohelet. Shir Hashirim represents youthful optimism and rejoicing. Mishlei, written later in King Solomon’s life, represents the acquired experience of middle age. The book of Kohelet expresses the acquired wisdom of old age.”

This helps to understand a verse which seems to epitomize cynical futility:

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of joy.” ( Ecclesiastes 7:4

Both the medieval commentators, Rashi and Ibn-Ezra, explain the verse is teaching us that the truly wise are always aware of the fact that they are mortal and that their time is finite.

Fools dance through life as if they have been gifted with immortality. The wise understand, even in the midst of joy, there is finiteness to life.This makes their joy more profound than fools.

In his book, Mei HaShiloach, the Izhbitzer Rebbe (1800-1854) relates that, in his wiser years, King Solomon, speaks of the futility of some of life’s pursuits and mortality as a tool to help individuals find the true source of joy in this world.

“The end of the matter, when all has been heard, is fear G-d and keep His commandments, for that is the whole duty of man.”

When all is said and done, we are bidden to connect to the infinite purpose of creation and rise above the trivial. Therein lies the true joy of this festival and of life in its entirety.

The sukkah itself is built for a mere seven days, yet no effort is neglected in order to decorate it and beautify it. Life is similar to the sukkah.

Our time is limited, so spare no effort to fill it with beauty and holiness.”

( excerpted from Moshe Kempinski’s new book “ Accessing Inner Joy, the biblical Festivals)

or see at 

Material comfort can be dangerous

When we know where our blessings come from, it can help give us a proper and sober perspective that helps us remained grounded.

Nothing can turn the heart of man from loving his Father and maintaining his awesome and reverent relationship with Him more than luxury and physical indulgence.

Material comfort can be dangerous. It can make us believe that we are legends in our own lunch-boxes, that we all the bee’s–knees, the best thing since sliced bread, and that it is all because of our own brilliance! It then becomes far too easy to forget that everything in life is a present.

Sukkot is a time of joy, of rejoicing where we can acknowledge where our blessings came from, Who is really responsible for giving us our talent and blessing the work of our hands. Sukkot while a great party, can at the same time help keep us grounded and appreciative of the ‘present’ and the Giver of the present!

If you haven’t listened to our Podcast on Sukkot yet, now might be a good time.