The bird and the bees…

My husband took this picture on Saturday right outside of our garage. It connects so perfectly to this week when we begin again…starting the Torah over.

Its opening line: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”(Gen. 1:1). From the very first sentence, the book of Genesis proclaims that, before there was anything, there was God, the creator. 

The story continues:

“God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness God called ‘night’.” Seemingly, God makes something, steps back to look at it, and then gives it a name.

But the midrash offers a slightly different translation saying: “God called to the light ‘Day!’ And to the darkness, God called ‘Night!’” According to this interpretation, God creates something, and then speaks directly to it. As if God said: “Hey light, I’d like you to work during the day. And dark, I’d like you to work at night.” And the creatures consent. With their consent, “it was evening, it was morning – the first day.”

And with each new being, God continues the dialog, talking to them, day after day.

On the sixth day, says Genesis, God is ready to create human beings. According to the Torah, God says, “Let us make a human in our image, in our likeness.” You might wonder. Who is God talking to? Who is us? Whose image is our image?

Again, the Midrash teaches: God is talking to everyone created so far. Light, land, plants, stars, birds, fish, insects, and mammals. “Help me,” God says to them. “Help me design someone who is a little bit like each of you. And then, let us all work together to sustain this new creation.” 

Indeed we depend on everything that was created before us. Worms till our soil. Bees pollinate our food. Moths spin our fabrics. Mosquitos feed the fish we eat. Flies process our garbage. The distinguished insect biologist Edmund O. Wilson calls this work “free ecosystem services.” 

Without insects, Wilson says, flowering plants and herbs would become sterile. They would disappear. So would birds and vegetarian animals. We depend on other creatures. Creatures as beautiful as butterflies and as strange as grasshoppers. Genesis teaches that we are partners with all the world’s creatures to sustain and enhance the world around us. 

This post was inspired by Rabbi Laura Duhan-Kaplan

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