“In the beginning God created….”
Those words from our Torah repeatedly came to mind as my wife and I visited the Galapagos Islands just days ago. There, I saw majesty like I have never experienced, causing me to question: “Who or what is behind the miracle that is life?”
To stand among hundreds of sea lions, and to swim with them, was an experience that evoked a great sense of awe.“How did they come to be?” To behold countless tortoises, some of them perhaps 150 years old, was to observe a form of life that is unique and mysterious, and leaves one questioning: “How did they come to be and what kind of awareness do they possess?” And the same questions arose as we observed sharks, birds known as Blue Footed Boobies, small lizards and large iguanas, and fish of magnificent colors and shapes.
Yes, the Galapagos islands are a kind-of paradise for an array of animals who know nothing of human imposition upon their lives. And for sure, the whole experience of seeing and learning of these species leaves one with more questions than answers. From what did they evolve? And how to embrace the notion that these animals date back many thousands, if not, millions of years?
Yes, we all wrestle with the question: “What is God, and what role does that God play in the emergence of life in all its forms?” For me, to experience these miracles of life, is to reinforce the belief that I have long held: That God is the “intelligent force” and the “cause” behind all of life, even as I do believe in evolution. But evolved from what, to what?
The great sage, Rabbi Abraham Heschel expressed it this way: “Wonder or radical amazement is a prerequisite for an authentic awareness of that which is….Awe is an act of insight into a meaning greater than ourselves. The beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe. Awe is a way of being in rapport with the mystery of all reality.”
As these animals live peacefully with each other, I wish you a Sabbath of peace and spiritual tranquility. And yes, do try to visit the Galapagos. It’s a place where you can find your own soul.
Rabbi David Greenberg