Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Ramban Explains Creation

The Ramban explains the creation of the world in a very unique way. It seems to be very innovative and intriguing. In his sefer Toras Hashem Temima in perek 7 siman 37 He says,

"When the Torah says (Genesis 1:1) 'In the beginning, G-D created the heavens and the earth.' The word 'in the beginning' means 'at first' like onkelos explains 'at the beginning' and not a word that means close to the beginning, but rather actually the first thing done. The verse is telling us that in the beginning, G-D, who is the creator of all forces, created the heavens and earth. This means that He created these things from absolute nothingness. The thing that was created was a small object that was as small as a seed of mustard, this was the heavens and everything in it. There was also another small dot that was created and this contained the earth and all that is contained in it. This is the primordial matter for the heavens and the primordial matter for the earth."

The Ramban's first point here is very deep. He is telling us that there is no physicality before this act of G-D. G-D existed before space, time and any type of matter. However, the first thing that happened was the creation of the heavens and earth. G-D created the Earth as well as the heavens (outer space). This seems to be going according to Aristotelian physics that says the Earth is made up of different matter than space. It also tells us that just like G-D is not bound within our Earthly world, he is not contained within outer space either. This is probably why we are able to comprehend what is in space, because we share basic rules with it, but we are still unable to understand G-D's existence.

The Ramban also tells us that G-D is the creator of all forces. I think that this reveals that, according to the Ramban, G-D created all the forces that govern the universe, spiritual and physical, at this time. The physics of the material world, be it space or Earth, have existed ever since the beginning of any existence outside of G-D.

The fact that the Ramban says that G-D created a primordial matter for the heavens and another primordial matter for the earth is remarkable. Also, the fact that he says that these primordial matters were the size of mustard seeds and that they contained everything that was to be in the heavens and the earth shows how scientific the Ramban was. His position is that G-D used these tiny spheres of material, heavenly material and earthly material, to then create everything that was to exist in the heavenly world (outer space) and the earthly world. What does that remind you of? Sounds like a similar scientific approach similar to the big bang and evolution to me. If not directly, it at least leaves the possibility of an evolution of material that uses science and physics to explain the creation of the two worlds.

However, it is also interesting to note that even though the Ramban used science and held it in a high regard, he also believed in mystical ideas. In this regard he disagreed with the Rambam vehemently. He felt that soothsayers and magicians had real powers. Why was this so? Well, since there was no scientific proof of magic being impossible I think we can explain this in the following manner. The Rambam chose not to believe in magic. He did not see it so he felt it was not probable. However, the Ramban was open to the possibility of magic, why wouldn't he, the Torah seems to say that magic did exist. If G-D has special powers that He shares with prophets then it is possible that He allowed wicked people to tap into those same powers. I think this is most likely why the Ramban believed in magic.

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