My Life as a Pendulum

Usually, when we think of the pendulum as a metaphor, it’s of a process that goes too far in one direction, then too far in the other, until eventually it reaches equilibrium at the mean. I’m thinking of a different perspective.Think of the soul, not as some point within you, but as a line. The lowest region, the nefesh, is within the body, animating it, responding to its desires, living in a world dominated by objects and laws of physics. Immediately above it, the soul lives in a world where the laws of those of justice and mercy, oppression, freedom, etc… And so on up the level of existence until one reaches the yechidah, the soul’s connection to G-d Himself.Thus, at its highest point, the soul is connected to the Absolute, the Unmovable.

Many science museums have a large Foucault Pendulum. This pendulum is typically strung from a point on the ceiling, and the weight barely touches the surface of a sand stable on the floor. Over time, a trail in the sand develops, showing you where the pendulum has been.

Obviously, the pattern is primarily repetitive, back and forth.

However, the line that swinging draws rotates over time. In reality, the pendulum doesn’t rotate. It is fixed, absolute, staying on the same plane. It is the world that is changing, rotating beneath it. A pendulum suspended at the South Pole in the winter of 2001 described a path whose endpoints made a full circle each (sidereal) day. In other lattitudes, the rate of rotation is slower (by the sine of the latitude). But it’s always such that the plane in which the pendulum swings is constant.

His students asked Rabbi Zakai, “For what [were you granted] long life?” He said to them, “In all my days, I never urinated within a distance of four amos from where I prayed, I never gave another person a nickname, and I never failed to recite kiddush; I had an elderly mother, and once she sold her hat in order to obtain the means to bring me wine for kiddush.” …
His students asked Rabbi Elazar bar Shamua’, “For what [were you granted] long life?” He said to them, “In all my days, I never made a shortcut out of the beis medrash; I never tread on the heads of the sacred people; and I never lifted my hands [to bless the people as a kohein] without making the blessing first.”
His students asked Rabbi Pereidah, “For what [were you granted] long life?” He said to them, “In all my days, no one ever preceded me into the beis medrash; I never blessed ahead of a kohein; and I never ate from an animal after the gifts [to the kohanim] were given.” …
His students asked Rabbi Nechunia ben haQanah, “For what [were you granted] long life?” He said to them, “In all my days, I never obtained honor for myself through my colleague’s disgrace; a colleague’s curse never went into my bed with me [I forgave the one who cursed me first]; I was open with my money.” …
Rabbi Aqiva asked Rabbi Nechunia haGadol, “For what [were you granted] long life?” … He said to him, “In all my days, I never accepted gifts; I never stood for my rights; I was open with my money.”
Rebbe asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Qorchah [Qorchah, the bald, refers to Rabbi Aqiva from the previous paragraph], “For what [were you granted] long life?” … He said to him, “In all my days, I never looked at the image of an evil person.”

Notice that all these rabbis gave multiple answers, and one one of them coincided. One theme does shine through, “miyamai — in all my days”. Consistency. What’s the key to long life? Finding one’s approach to serving Hashem, and sticking to it, day in day out.

The pendulum.

This is not simple repetitiveness; the consistency must adapt itself as the world we find ourselves in changes. It is sacred commitment to our mission, and thereby maintaining the connection to the Absolute Immobile Source.

Rav Breuer: ‘Glatt Kosher — Glatt Yoshor’

The essay below, written by Rav Dr. Yosef Breuer, Zt”l, originally appeared in volume XI 1949/50 of the Mitteilungen. It was reproduced on pages 238 to 239 in Rav Breuer: His Life and Legacy. (With thanks to R’ Yitzchok Levine for putting the text on line.)

Glatt Kosher — Glatt Yoshor

The conscientious and minute observance of the laws of Kashruth belong to the sacred obligations to which we are to live up if our Jewish houses are to rise in purity before God and His Torah. Supplying our families with totally reliable foods is one of the major tasks a Kehilla has to fulfill.We may note with satisfaction that the supervision of our meat products from the time of Shechita until they reach the customer meets all the requirements of total Kashruth. This enables our Rabbinate to assume full personal responsibility for the reliability of our Kashruth.The concept “Glatt Kosher” refers to certain situations when an animal is rejected because of an existing “Sha’aloh” generally involving the lung — even if the halachic decision would be favorable. Just as all ethical strivings should extend beyond the prescribed boundaries — “lif’nim mi’shuras haDin” — so the practice should be adopted to declare only such meat as kosher that has not been involved in any kind of “Sha’aloh” (comp. Chulin 37b). Such practice would indeed deserve the title of “Glatt Kosher.”

A further comment: “Kosher” is intimately related to “Yoshor.” God’s Torah not only demands the observance of Kashruth and the sanctification of our physical enjoyment; it also insists on the sanctification of our social relationships. This requires the strict application of the tenets of justice and righteousness which avoid even the slightest trace of dishonesty in our business dealings and personal life.

God’s Torah not only demands of us to love our neighbor in that we concern ourselves with his welfare and property, but it insists further on a conduct of uncompromising straightness (“Yoshor”) which is inspired not only by the letter of the law but is guided by the ethical principle of honesty which, then, would deserve the honorable title of “Yeshurun.”

“He fears God who walks in uprightness” (Mishle 14:2).

We would welcome a campaign to link a drive for “Glatt Kosher” with an equally intensive one for “Glatt Yoshor.” This objective is given hopeful expression by the Prophet Zephaniah (3:13):

“The remnants of Israel will not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth.”

Yahrzeit and Simchah

This Shabbos is the first yahrzeit of the children
Aryeh Lev ben Avraham, a”h
Noach Simcha ben Avraham, a”h
Adira Emunah bat Avraham, a”h
Natan Yekutiel ben Avraham, a”h
You may recall the story; four children, were killed when a fire struck their home in Teaneck. Firemen were at the home a mere four hours before, but declared the house safe without ever taking a thermal camera out of the truck.
Ari Seidenfeld, the oldest niftar at age 15, went to high school with my son, and in fact had invited him for Shabbos a short while earlier. The other niftarim were Noah 6, Adira 5, and Natan, a pre-kindergardener with Downs. Another sister called my home the next day from her hospital bed. How do you help your child know what to say to someone who just lost four siblings and at the time didn’t know if her mother would live? I am the “grown-up”, and I had absolutely no idea…

Their mother has asked that people dedicate some of their learning this Shabbos in their memory.

I would add that we should add some more learning as thanks to HQBH for sparing us from such things. Every day that all those many many little things that combine to keep us safe that any one could go wrong ch”v but don’t is an amazing berakhah.

On a related subject, recently Jay Lapidus, a lurker on Avodah and an e-friend to many Jewish list participants, lost his 15 yr old son. (A google search not only found Jay’s blog, Zichron Avi, and Avi’s HS, but numerous software shops, his “davening buddy” and other teens who miss him.) Avi died of acute onset diabetes. Note the word “onset”. This was not a child with a history of diabetes, or any reason to believe his fate would be any different than that of most teenagers. One moment everything is okay, and then keheref ayin — as with the blink of an eye…

And a few days later, I got a scary letter from the local tax department. BH we quickly identified and addresses the error… But at the moment that my wife and I thought we owed the state a 5 digit sum of money we didn’t own, I said to her, “Well, it’s only money. It’s not like we lost our 15 year…” Sentence never finished. I had just realized that our daughter Kayli would have been 15 now. We did in fact lose someone who would have been our 15 year old. Funny how easy it is to simply slip into life as usual.

In fact, that “everything can change in a moment” stuck my father sheyichyeh too. That night he went to bed. Life went on as usual. A couple of hours after going to sleep, the phone rings, my father heard the first words out of my mouth… before I even got to the point, just hearing my tone of voice… and he knew that his entire world had turned over. Keheref ayin.

This is Adar, a time of simchah. This entry is inappropriate (aside from being a break from my usual tone), and yet I feel compelled to share what’s on my mind. So let me conclude more on note for the season.

Hashem’s willingness to show His Mercy exceeds His other traits (as we see them). If this is how tragedy can strike, four children alive, vibrant, playing, one day, gone the next, picture what we mean by “Yeshu’as Hashem keheref ayin — the salvation of G-d will be like the blink of an eye!”

And simchah… What is simchah? “Eizhu ashir? Hasamei’ach bechelqo — Who is wealthy? One who is happy with his lot.” But too often we take life as usual for granted. Everything goes on. So much of that cheileq “just works”, despite the fact that our lives are far more complex than those programs I write that always have some known bugs. Bechemlah — with Divine compassion as we say in Modeh Ani. Truly, rabba emunasekha! Hashem is both ne’eman, reliable, and has emunah, faith in us.

So yes, certainly, learn in memory those who died too young. And then, learn some more in gratitude for all those many more who didn’t. That tragedies like theirs are the very rare exception, and how blessed is “life as usual”.

Chidush and Shinui

Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka and Rabbi Elazar ben Chisma went to Pekiā€™in to visit their rebbe, Rabbi Yehoshua. Rabbi Yehoshua asked them to repeat something they had learned in the beis medrash since their last encounter. They answered, “We are your students, and we drink of your waters.” Rabbi Yehoshua replied, “Ee efshar leveis hamedrash belo chidush — It is impossible to have a beis medrash where nothing new is taught.” (Chagigah 3a)

Innovation is a critical element of Torah study. In Ish haHalakhah (pg. 73), Rav JB Soloveitchik explains that the recipient of the mesorah is not passive; rather, he receives while acting in the image (as it were) of the Creator of Worlds.

Obviously, though, this isn’t a carte blanche. Not all creative intepretations the Torah could possibly be equally valid. Rav Soloveitchik distinguishes between chidush, the positive process of innovation, with shinui, inappropriate changes to halakhah. But he writes in the halachic domain, where this conclusion is obvious; what is a legal system without a well-defined legislative process?

A month ago (“Ikkarei Emunah”, end) , we looked at the list of beliefs listed in Avos 3:11 (or 15 in some editions that Rav Elazar haModi’in says could keep one from having a share in the World to Come. Among them is “megaleh panim baTorah shelo kehalakhah — revealing perspectives in the Torah which are not according to halachah”. One might think this refers to halachic statements, however, it could also mean aggadic statements that somehow violate the halakhah. In fact, the Tosafos Yom Tov (ad loc) gives “veTimna haysah pilegesh — and Timna was a concubine” as an example, the textbook case of a verse that not only has no halachic impact, but also its philosophical or ethical content is unknown.

The Tosafos Yom Tov is clearly applying the concept R’ Soloveitchik calls “shinui” well beyond law, in the realm of parshanut, explaining the text.

So, given that this distinction between chidush and shinui goes beyond violating the legal process, how do we determine what it is?

Let’s first make a Kantian distinction between analytic judgements and synthetic ones. Analytic judgements are tautologically true, true by definition, or inherently false because they’re paradoxical. Synthetic judgements are ones that, as a matter of fact, happen to correspond to reality.Examples:

  • Analytic: All black houses are black.
  • Synthetic: My house is not black.

Analytic judgments must be true. They are neither mesorah, nor philosophy, nor science. The gemara sometimes questions a source text by asking “Lamah li qera, sevarah hi — Why do I need a verse, it is logical!” If a statement logically derives only from definitions provided by the Torah, it too is Torah. Such judgments must be chidush.

Therefore we can define mesorah as follows: The body of knowledge revealed at Sinai, and all further analytic judgments, including sevarah (logic, inductive and deductive reasoning) and derashah (exegesis), that are based entirely upon that knowledge.

Halakhah is a different thing, as it includes rules for legislation and therefore laws and decisions that are enacted rabbinically. Chiddush, the growth of the body of mesorah through identification of its implications, is only part of the evolution of halakhah. However, halakhah therefore also excludes parts of mesorah. In particular rulings that are well grounded in the Torah but run against rabbinic decision. For example, the overwhelming majority of Beis Shammai’s rulings. Shinui in halakhah is therefore straightforward: it’s a violation of any of the halakhos about how to determine halakhah. For example (caveats and subtleties glossed over): rescinding established precedent, following a rejected minority opinion, etc…

Synthetic judgments depend on research, on accumulating new facts. One can only know if “My house is not black” by finding out about my house. Here, the information is capable of being Torah, or non-Torah, depending on the kind of information it adds — is one accumulating a fact about the Torah that was until now unnoticed or forgotten, or is one making a scientific or sociological observation?

Only in the case of non-Torah synthetic judgements one can ask whether or not it qualifies as shinui, manipulation of Torah into something it isn’t. The question becomes what is the mesorah’s position on the matter? Is there one, or a spectrum of them? Are you taking one side of a debate? Can your statement be shown to be implied or supported by a mesoretic concept? Are you voicing an opinion in the face of mesoretic silence? Or, are you proposing a new solution to a question the Torah addresses in order to accomodate something you believe to be true for other reasons?

We can in principle encounter four situations:

1- The mesorah, either in explicitly relayed statement, or in another statement that one can find implied our conclusion. In other words, the statement is a chidush, an expansion of a Torah idea — either because it is an implication, or resolves what would otherwise be a problem.

2- The mesorah is total silent on the point. We have not been able to resolve any position. Then such new ideas can not be “shinui”, since there is no old position to have been changed.

3- Multiple positions coexist in an “eilu va’eilu”, a plurality of Torah approaches. In which case, the position is supportable from the Torah, as the opinion preexisted the novellum. It’s not shinui, so it would be valid to use this new idea to choose one side of the debate over the other.

4- The mesorah relays a single range of opinions, and this new idea is neither within it, nor implied by some other point similarly relayed. This case, and this case alone would be problematic in my model.

Since shinui depends on trying to accomodate information other than Torah, one of the key areas in which it comes up in an aggadic context would be in questions of science and Torah. Here we often face a dilemma. We have two sources of truth. They therefore must agree — or one of them be assumed to be incorrect.The Rambam’s position in this regard, the centrality he gives Aristotilian physics, has gotten much criticism. Not only from the anti-Maimonidians of the period of the rishonim, but even such authorities who embraced science as the Vilna Gaon and Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch take issue. So, perhaps we can look to his shitah with an awareness that the Rambam defines the more liberal edge on this in our mesorah.The more famous quote in the Rambam is where he explains why he rejects Aristotle’s argument that the universe could not have had a beginning in time and but yet asserts the incorporeality of G-d despite the literal text (e.g. “the Mighty Hand”, “for the Hand is on the throne of G-d”, etc…) seemingly asserting He does have a body:

For two reasons, however, we have not done so, and have not accepted the Eternity of the Universe. First, the … the Eternity of the Universe has not been proved, and there is no need to force interpretations on scripture to make it fit one position, as long as the other position is defendable.

Secondly, our belief in the Incorporeality of God is not contrary to any of the fundamental principles of our religion, and it is not contrary to the words of any prophet. … On the contrary, Scripture itself teaches the Incorporeality of God. …

But if we assume that the Universe has the present form as the result of necessity, there would be occasion for the above questions. And these could only be answered in an objectionable way, implying denial and nullification of all the simple statements of the Torah, which no enlightened person doubts are meant as they simply are. … If … Aristotle had a proof for his theory, the whole teaching of Scripture would be rejected, and we should be forced to other opinions. I have thus shown that all depends on this question. Note it. (Guide, II:25)

The Rambam has two requirements:
1- that the philosophy (which included “natural philosophy”, science, in his day) be compelling, and
2- that it not run counter to the words of the prophets, the fundamentals of our religion, and what no Torah enlightened person doubts; in other words, does not run counter to mesorah. Unfortunately, the Rambam discusses the point in the context of claims that would defy basic beliefs. So his description of the second criterion is not as forceful as it could be. However, the reference to the Torah-enlightened does disambiguate.

Secondly, the Rambam’s insistence that he was not innovating in contradiction to earlier sages (shinui) forms a core part of the introduction to the Moreh.

… I adjure any reader of my book, in the name of the Most High, not to add any explanation even to a single word: nor to explain to another any portion of it except such passages as have been fully treated of by previous theological authorities: he must not teach others anything that he has learnt from my work alone, and that has not been hitherto discussed by any of our authorities. The reader must, moreover, beware of raising objections to any of my statements, because it is very probable that he may understand my words to mean the exact opposite to what I intended to say. He will injure me, while I endeavoured to benefit him.” He will requite me evil for good.” Let the reader make a careful study of this work; and if his doubt be removed on even one point, let him praise his Maker and rest contented with the knowledge he has acquired. But if he derive from it no benefit whatever, he may consider the book as if it had never been written. Should he notice any opinions with which he does not agree, let him endeavour to find a suitable explanation, even if it seem far-fetched, in order that he may judge me charitably. Such a duty we owe to every one. We owe it especially to our scholars and theologians, who endeavour to teach us what is the truth according to the best of their ability. I feel assured that those of my readers who have not studied philosophy, will still derive profit from many a chapter. But the thinker whose studies have brought him into collision with religion, will, as I have already mentioned, derive much benefit from every chapter. How greatly will he rejoice! How agreeably will my words strike his ears! Those, however, whose minds are confused with false notions and perverse methods, who regard their misleading studies as sciences, and imagine themselves philosophers, though they have no knowledge that could truly be termed science, will object to many chapters, and will find in them many insuperable difficulties, because they do not understand their meaning, and because I expose therein the absurdity of their perverse notions, which constitute their riches and peculiar treasure, “stored up for their ruin”….

He insists that his words will only be understood if explained in accordance with mesorah. It would seem the Rambam did not set out to give alternate explanations to those offered by Chazal. Aside from that, he feels the need to do so would only be by someone who thinks they know science and philosophy but are “confused with false notions and perverse methods”.

Rav Kook letter 134, addressed to Moshe Zeidel (written 1908), addresses the question of evolution. Rav Kook comes out positively, showing parallels between the progressive unfolding of life that evolution entails with the Jewish worldview. In that letter he writes (tr. Meir Shinnar):

My opinion is, that all whose opinions are straight should know, that even though there is no truth demonstrated in all these new investigations, still we are under no obligation to contradict them outright and to stand against them, because it is not at all the main point of Torah (ikar shel Torah) to tell us simple facts and events that happened.

Later he writes:

And in general, this is a great principle in the battle of opinions, that any opinion that comes to contradict something from the Torah, we have to in the beginning not to contradict it, but to build the palace of Torah above it, and that way we are elevated by it, and through this elevation the opinions are exposed, and later, when we are not pressed by anything, we can with a full and confident heart to fight against it as well. There are several examples that prove the point, but it it is difficult for me to elaborate, and for a wise heart like you the short form is suuficient, inorder to know how to worhip Hashem (lidgol bshem Hashem) above all the winds that blow, and to use everything for our true good, that is also the good of all.

Rav Kook would seem to advocate accepting scientific data even when it requires building our edifice of Torah around it.

However, where does he say that we are to rebuild, rather than to build? In other words, shinui rather than chidush?

Why would Rav Kook be asking us to rebuild Torah around something in which “no truth [is] demonstrated”? Clearly the letter is not about truth, but education and communication. Rav Kook is telling us not to bother with confrontation. The essence is the essence, the lesson of the history. This letter is strategic advice, not epistomological statement. It does not pay to distract people from that to debate their deeply held positions about history.

The basic problem with shinui, adapting the Torah to another discipline is one of epistomology. Isn’t emunah sheleimah taking the Torah as fact, part of the reality that needs explaining, rather than one of the explanations?The alternative is essentially taking a pagan, “god of the gaps” approach to religion; that religion exists to explain the incomprehensible, and therefore only exists in the gaps in our understanding. As those gaps close, the room for paganism deminishes.Thor was a “god of the gaps”. Lightining wasn’t understood, and it was powerful and scarey. So, they proposed a god to explain it, and thus safety comes from keeping him happy and understanding it boils down to reading his myth and moods. Once they felt they understood lightening scientifically, they could do away with Thor.

It the same attitude as “There is nothing left to do but pray”. Aren’t we supposed to pray WHILE there are still other things left to do? Doesn’t our belief in a scientific resolution coexist with our belief in a theistic one?

The idea that the mesorah includes beliefs, even as non-essentials (such as history, or aggadic beliefs which have no halachic impact), which are simply stopgaps until science gives us a “real answer” is a “god of the gaps” approach to religion.

This epistomology becomes really unsupportable when extended to its logical conclusion. The theory that Canaan had so few residents that there was no way 3 million Jews would have had to fight to conquer the country — they would have overwhelmed it by sheer numbers. The typical biblical archeologist similarly questions the numbers cited in the Exodus altogether. Once one permits reinterpretations to accomodate scientific consensus, one removed the basis for belief even in the revelation in Sinai. After all, as most Conservative Rabbis would argue, couldn’t one preserve the “inner truth” of the Exodus and the Siniaitic Revelation without embracing the historicity of the events themselves? How can one explain accepting the methodology when it would mean innovating new understandings of the flood, and yet reject the same method’s conclusions when it comes to an essential belief?

This returns to a theme I raised a while back. Neither side of the dispute as it is playing out now is embracing all their sources of truth equally. If questions of science and religion are to be resolved, it’s only by taking the known facts of each as known facts, and only accepting theories that really accomodate both. If that can’t be done, we are forced to set the question aside until we can — not accept a poor answer. See Trends in Resolving Torah and Science.

The Rambam on Time During Creation

I thought readers might enjoy the following sources on the Rambam on Creation. The Rambam writes:

The following point now claims our attention. The account of the six days of creation contains, in reference to the creation of man, the statement: “Male and female created he them” (i. 27), and concludes with the words: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” (ii. 1), and yet the portion which follows describes the creation of Eve from Adam, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge, the history of the serpent and the events connected therewith, and all this as having taken place after Adam had been placed in the Garden of Eden. All our Sages agree that this took place on the sixth day, and that nothing new was created after the close of the six days. None of the things mentioned above is therefore impossible, because the laws of Nature were then not yet permanently fixed. (Guide II:30)

R’ Daniel Eidensohn (author of “Yad Moshe”, an index to the Igros Moshe, and “Daas Torah”, a resource book of rishonim on various topic in Jewish thought) collected the following commentaries on this chapter.

It is quite clear that the Rambam is understood to say that sequence during creation refers to relationships, not time. Time itself is a creation, and its meaning was not fully established.


The 9th question concerns that which is mentioned in the Moreh Nevuchim. Rambam notes that time can not exist without the movement of the celestial spheres and the the sun and moon. However this raises the question as how there could be time before the fourth day when the celestial spheres and sun were created? The Rambam answered this question by asserting that in fact the spheres and the sun were created on the first day. Thus time existed for the first 3 days in the same manner as it existed on the subsequent days. He explained that in fact everything — both the Heavens and the Earth — were created on the first day. The Rambam cited Chazal that the word “es” indicated that the creation on the first day included everything associated with the Heavens as well as everything associated with the Earth. He also cited the gemora (Chulin 60a) that everything that was created was created in its final form. He also cited another statement of Chazal that the Heavens and Earth were created simultaneously. Thus the Rambam believed that the work of Creation happened all on one day and was not divided amongst six days. He claimed that in a single moment of creation everything came into existence. He explained that the reason for the Torah stating that there were six days of Creation was to indicate the different levels of created beings according to their natural hierarchy. Thus the Rambam does not understand the word day to be a temporal day and he doesn’t read Bereishis to be describing the chronological sequence of creation…. This is the view of the Rambam which he considered as one of the major secrets of the Creation. In fact he tried hard to conceal this view as can be seen in his words in Moreh Nevuchim (2:30). In spite of his efforts the Ralbag, Navorni and the other commentators to Moreh Nevuchim uncovered his secret and made it known to the whole world…. However, despite the Rambam’s greatness in Torah and the apparent support from Chazal, this view of the Rambam is demonstratably false….

The Abarbanel is clear in question 5 that the Rambam certainly held of creation yeish mei’ayin (ex nihilo), that he was not totally declaring creation an allegory — only the notion of a progression of events over the 6 days of time:

Behold you see that the opinion of the Rav [ie the Rambam -mi] was not that all of the story of creation was an allegory, but only a small part of it. All that is mentioned regarding the activity of the six days, from the creation of the heavens and the earth, and all of the phenomena, and the creation of Adam and his wife, up until “vayechulu” [the first Shabbos -mi], have no allegory whatsoever for everything was literal to him [the Rambam]. Therefore you will see that in this very chapter, no. 30 in the second section, in all which the Rav has explicated regarding the activity of the six days, he did not make an allegory or a hint at all. Rather, he did the exact opposite, for he made a concerted effort to support the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and accepted all of the verses literally…

Shem Tov (Moreh ad loc):

Just as G-d is an absolute unity, His actions are also unified and from His organization came out the sequence of Creation. At the start — time was created simultaneously with the rest of Creation. It is incorrect to say that Creation began at the start of time. Consequently creation consisted of entities that were separate and distinct and prioritized — which is not a reflection of G-d Who is an absolute unity. Their prioritization is the result of their nature as to what their purpose and causal relationship is in combining and interacting with other things. Therefore it only in describing their level in reality that we say Day One, Day Two — but not that they were created in this sequence. Thus the Rambam’s explanation rejects the literal meaning of the Torah verses. He asserts that everything was created simultaneously. It is only as a reflection as to their purpose and importance does the Torah say first second and third and the rest of the days.

Aqeidas Yitzchaq (Bereishis sha’ar 3):

The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim gives the reason for Torah saying that there were days in the Beginning by citing the gemora in Chullin(60a). There it states that the products of Creation were all created complete. In other words all of creations was created at the first instant of creation in their final perfect form. Thus he says that the Creation description is not describing the chronological sequence of events but the days are simply serving to indicate distinctions in their levels and to inform of of the hierarchy of Nature. This was a major esoteric doctrine of the Rambam concerning Creation as those who are understanding can discern from Moreh Nevuchim 2:30) which is devoted to this issue. However the Ralbag publicized it in detail and expounded it thoroughly….

Ralbag (Milchemes Hashem book IV, II8):

You already know from the preceding that the generation of the universe by God occurred in no time, since [its generation] was from nothing to something. Thus, our Rabbis maintain that the heavens and’ the earth were created simultaneously. As it is said in the Chapter [called] “One Does Not Interpret”: “Both were created as one. For it is said, ‘Yea, Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and My right. hand hath spread out the heavens; When I call unto them they stand up together. “‘ It is therefore evident that the description of creation as being completed in six days is not to be construed as [implying] that the first day preceded the second, for example, by one [whole] day [i.e., twenty four hours]. Rather, they said, this is in order to show the priority amongst various created things. For example, the movers of the heavenly bodies are causally and by nature prior to the heavenly bodies, whereas the latter are causally and by nature prior to the elements and to that which is generated from them. Now, the elements are prior to that which is generated from them according material priority, and the compounds of the elements are also [related] to each other by this kind of priority.For example the plant is prior to the animal; and similarly the imperfect animal is prior to the perfect animal. In the same way, an aquatic animal is prior to a flying animal, and the latter is prior to a walking [i.e., terrestrial] animal while the latter is prior to the rational [animal, i.e., man]. For an aquatic animal produces an imperfect egg, whereas the bird produces a perfect egg; the walking animal, however, produces a living animal in its own body. For this reason Aristotle says in The Book, of Animals that the bird is more perfect than the aquatic animal and the walking animal more perfect than the bird. And there is no doubt that man is the most perfect animal amongst the walking animals.

Alschich (Bereishis 1:1):

Bereshit Rabbah 1 comments on the repeated use of the word “es”, i.e. “es hashamayim”. The first “es” is supposed to include the solar system, whereas the second “es” is a reference to all the vegetation on earth. This sounds perplexing, seeing that vegetation is specifically reported as having been created on the third day, and the galaxies are reported as having been created on the fourth day; so how could they have been included by the words “es” at the very beginning? The answer is that the author of the Midrash did not want foolish people to think that what we know as a time-frame was indispensable for the development of the physical universe from its inception to its completion. We must not be allowed to think that G-d required six days to accomplish what He did. This is one reason why G-d did not say in the Ten Commandments that He created the universe in six days The words used are “six days,” as distinct from in six days, etc. 20,11) The idea conveyed in that verse is that G-d created these six day simultaneously with creating heaven and earth. The Midrash goes on to tell us that the word “es” in that verse is to alert us to the fact that heaven already contained all the elements for the galaxies, etc., and that “earth” already contained beneath the surface all the elements of vegetation, etc. These elements became revealed only at a later stage during the creative process.

Rav JB Soloveitchik (unpublished lectures on Bereishis, #7):

Indeed, one of the most annoying scientific facts which the religious man encounters is the problem of evolution and creation. However, this is not the real problem. What actually is irreconcilable is the concept of man as the bearer of a divine image and the idea of man as an intelligent animal in science. Evolution and creation can be reconciled merely by saying that six days is not absolutely so, but is indefinite and may be longer. Maimonides spoke of Creation in terms of phases and the Kabbalah in terms of sefiros, the time of which may be indefinite. However, our conflict is man as a unique being and man as a friend of the animal. Science can never explain how being came into being, for it is out of the realm of science, while the Bible is concerned with the problem of ex nihilo. Aristotle could not accept evolution because he believed in the eternity of forms.

(With thanks to Rabbi Eidensohn for permission to use his research.)