• Rabbi Anthony Knopf

From the Desk - The Theory of Evolution

Shalom Friends!

The pace is picking up at Beth Ora as we move toward the High Holidays!

This week, we started our Rise Together men’s learning group who learnt about the Jewish approach to humility. This is part of our mission at Beth Ora to create a centre of Jewish learning. Our Rise Together women’s learning group, led by Mrs. Esther Hochstadter, will begin this coming Wednesday 4th September at 7:30 PM. Please speak to me for more information on these programs. This Shabbat, we are delighted to launch our Shabbat Kiddush Program! This is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Shabbat as a community, while learning something new and being uplifted by the spirit of Shabbat. Heshy will teach us a Shabbat song, Elana Cohen will share with us an idea on the Jewish month of Ellul and I will give a short talk on the controversial topic: Why Do Some Religious Jews Hate the State of Israel? I hope you’ll join us for Kiddush after the service. We are very privileged that, this year, Beth Ora will be hosting a group of Israeli veterans, arranged by Beit Halochem. Liana and Howie Brown have gone above and beyond in organizing this and we are excited to meet and host these special heroes of our people. I hope you’ll join us and the veterans at our BBQ on September 4th. Also coming round fast is our third annual Giant Fruit Salad making. Please make a note in your calendar for the morning of Sunday, September 15th. And then just a few days later, on Saturday, September 21st, we will be hosting two special events. The first is our Civic Shabbat when we will welcome our MP, Member of the National Assembly, local city councilors and clergy to our synagogue for a meaningful ceremony at the end of the Shabbat service. The second is our First Night Selichot Program. Following the success of last year’s program, we will be showing a fascinating documentary exploring the theme of forgiveness before our beautiful and inspiring service led by Heshy Benshimon. We are very excited to be presenting all these programs and look forward to your participation. Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami

What’s the Deal with… The Theory of Evolution? On Monday, after Lunch N’ Learn, Brenda Markowitz asked me some questions about the Jewish approach to scientific evidence for the age of the universe, evolution and a global flood. We hope to tackle some of these issues at future sessions of the Shabbat Kiddush Program. In the meantime, here are some reflections on the theory of evolution. When it comes to evolution, there are a range of views within Orthodox Judaism. Those who have argued that evolution is incompatible with Judaism have understood that evolution contradicts the account of creation given in Genesis. However, other authorities have understood that evolution is basically consistent with the Biblical account or that the creation story contains spiritual truths and isn’t supposed to be a historical account of what happened. Here are some examples of rabbinic positions on evolution:

  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), the Rebbe of Chabad, opposed the theory of evolution: “If you are still troubled by the theory of evolution, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that it has not a shred of evidence to support it.”

  • Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) wrote that, while he did not endorse the idea of common descent, if science ever did prove that evolution was a fact, it wouldn’t pose a threat to Orthodox Judaism’s beliefs. He claims that this would increase our reverence for God who brought everything into existence from a single , amorphous nucleus. This view was essentially accepted by the Rabbinical Council of America in 2005 who said that “evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Crerator, nor with the first 2 chapters of Genesis.”

  • An even more positive view to evolution is adopted by Rabbi Abraham Isaak Hakohen Kook (1865-1935). Rav Kook believed that the theory of evolution is consistent with the kabalistic belief that the world is constantly progressing toward the higher and more superior.

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