A little over a week ago, terrorists attacked Israel, killing thousands of men, women and children. For many of us, those actions not only broke our hearts, but also rocked our foundations a little.
The barbaric actions were overwhelming even to the strongest people of faith. Standing alone, the atrocities we saw and read about in Israel were staggering. But, the events in Israel are only one part of the violence and chaos we see around the globe. Because these attacks affect us so emotionally, it can be easy for us to become focused on the chaos and lose our focus altogether.
As I dealt with my personal grief and pain, I found comfort and a means for spiritual refocusing in this week’s portion of the Torah. Around the world this week, Jewish communities began to read the Torah cycle over again, as we rerolled our scrolls and read the first words of Genesis. It was from these very first words of the Bible that G-D helped me to refocus my heart and mind once again.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the surface of the water” (Gen. 1:1, TLV).
As we read these words that start the creation narrative in the Bible, we are introduced to the words that are translated as “chaos” and “waste.” These words are translated in some other Bibles as “formless” and “void.”
These first few verses hold much more meaning within them than most of us absorb. As we read the words “chaos” and waste,” or “formless and void,” they can challenge our understanding of G-D’s creation process. Some have even understood these words to mean that G-D created the world and then destroyed it so He could re-create a new world.
I read these words entirely differently. First of all, I don’t believe G-D ever created chaos. Our G-D is a G-D of order, and everything in His creation follows a distinct pattern and has a structure. From the very simplest of cell structures to the most complicated, we find purposeful order and pattern. Just look at the complexity of human DNA we are all made from.
So if God didn’t make the world in a disorganized state of chaos, what do these words mean, and what can we learn from them? I think one of the simplest ways for us to understand the concept of the word “chaos” is if we think of a 10,000-piece picture puzzle.
If you have ever put together a large, intricate puzzle, you know that when you open the box, all of the pieces are mixed up. As you begin, you first separate each piece by patterns, and you set the pieces that are corners or straight-edged aside to build the outer frame. As you put the puzzle together piece by piece, the puzzle begins to take form. A picture begins to appear from what we saw as chaos and confusion, right before our eyes. We begin to see order instead of chaos.
However, when G-D looks at those pieces mixed up in the box or poured out upon the table, He sees each and every piece already in its place of design; He always sees everything in order.
So when we read the words “formless and void” or “chaos” in the text of Genesis, those words are used to describe the event for the people who would be reading/hearing those words. Yet, the Creation narrative written for you and me didn’t end with the words “formless and void.” The story continues in the next verse when something happens to change everything.
The Ruach, or Spirit of G-D, entered His creation. When G-D entered His creation, instead of creation appearing chaotic, creation began to come into order. The reader begins to see creation through the eyes of G-D’s Spirit, and the puzzle of creation becomes the Garden of Eden.
It is only after G-D’s Spirit enters His creation that G-D turns on the light.
As we look at our world and the events taking place, we will either look at it through our eyes and see chaos and confusion, or we will see it through the eyes of G-D’s Spirit and see order and prophecy being fulfilled. Yes, these events are horrendous and heartbreaking. Yes, acts of violence and terror seem to be increasing all around us. However, none of this is a surprise to G-D, and none should be a surprise to any of us.
Each of these events were prophesied hundreds and thousands of years ago so that we would be prepared for them when they take place. We are experiencing the puzzle pieces being put in their places. None of this is easy to watch, but each prophetic piece will be put into place until all is fulfilled.
Just remember: The next thing we read after G-D’s Spirit enters His creation are the words, “Let there be light.” If we open our eyes to see what is taking place through the eyes of G-D’s Spirit, instead of seeing chaos and darkness, we will see hope and light.
Eric Tokajer is the author of Overcoming Fearlessness, What If Everything You Were Taught About the Ten Commandments Was Wrong?, With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, #ManWisdom: With Eric Tokajer, Jesus Is to Christianity as Pasta Is to Italians and Galatians in Context. Visit his website at rabbierict.com.