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Chickens and Eggs
by Dr. Arnie Gotfryd

Sooner or later, the question always comes up.

Once the human mind develops the capacity to associate cause and effect, everything becomes subject to scrutiny.

A young child's endless string of "why"s testifies to that, as does the physicist's experiments and the businessman's analysis of market conditions. Whether it's how did we get here, what killed the dinosaurs, or why does $4.05 sound like so much more than $3.95, we are fascinated with the story of how one thing leads to another, how the past leads us to the present, and how the now takes us forward.

So too it is with that most primordial of cause-and-effect questions: What created G-d?

For believers, the question is a non-question. There is a First Cause and if you're First, there is nothing before you. The end.

But no two minds are alike so what's simple for one is complicated for another. In fact, I've heard this How-did-the-Big-Guy-get-here question raised countless times at Chabad Houses, Shabbos tables and Jewish schools.

Here is the cognitive context of the conundrum: In our minds, time is a given, so if we say that the Creator exists, He must exist within time. But if He exists within time, then before and after apply to Him and we can ask what came before Him.

If you want to play along philosophically, you could answer as follows: Now if, ch"v, we allow that something came before G-d, then that thing would be the First Cause, at least compared to G-d, but then that thing would be G-d, in which case G-d exists. Welcome back to traditional faith.

However, if one wants to extend the argument (i.e., keep avoiding G-d) and say that time extends backward into the past indefinitely, and therefore there is no First Cause, then it would follow that cause-and-effect are eternal. That would mean that everything has a prior cause, so cause-and-effect should have one too, in which case it is not eternal. Hmm. We may as well stick to G-d!

Our Sages tell us that when G-d started dictating the Torah to Moses, he went on strike over the first three words, Beraishis bara E-lokim - which means "In the beginning G-d created" but literally reads like "In the beginning created G-d. Moses declined to write it that way saying that people would think that there is this entity called "In the beginning" and that this entity created G-d! G-d answered that whoever wants to make a mistake will make one in any case, so he may as well write it this way (which he did).

Perhaps the simplest way to explain the matter is to draw a straight line with a beginning and an end and label it "time." Just like we are viewing this line from outside of it, Hashem too is outside of time, since He is the One that made it.

Now, if you want to get really fancy and say the time line has no beginning, then you could represent it with a circle which also has no beginning and end. Similar to how we can draw a circle and enter it and exit it at will, Hashem too can create infinite time without beginning or end and be both within and above, all at the same... um... er... time!
 
The Torah actually embraces both of these concepts of time - the eternal cycle, and the linear flow.
 
The eternal cycle is the seder zmanim - the pattern of time. It's the regularity of the seasons, of day and night, of lunar cycles. Like a picture of an orbit, you see the whole path at once. The infinity of the cycle reflects the infinity of the cyclist, Hashem, whose very name represents past, present and future as one continuous now.
 
The flow of time is the halichas hazman, the experience of the path. It's our perspective from within the system. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is yet to come, and we follow the dot of now as it floats off into the horizon. This is the limited aspect of time as a finite creation.
 
The two are interwoven, like the tapestry of events comprising the Miracle of Purim, where every happening in and of itself is a natural, finite, limited detail of no apparent significance. Yet taken as a whole, the picture is perfect, poetic, meaningful, and transcendent.
 
What happens when you weave a circle of infinite heavenly time with a chronological arrow from history to destiny? You get a spiral - the unfolding of a divinely ordained, meandering human drama with a divine light at the end of the tunnel, spanning from the Garden of Eden to the Coming of Moshiach.
 
It is not by accident that the Biblical journey of the Jewish people starts with Avraham - the inquisitive child-philosopher who pondered the motions of the sun and moon and inferred the First Cause from there. The dance of the details belies the choreography of the plan, and from there it's but a step to the mind of the Director.
 
Nor is it by accident that the ultimate expression of Biblical wisdom in the Era of the Redemption will be found within none other than the Book of Esther - a revelation of the Divine entirely integrated within the context of the natural.
 
When Moshiach comes, the question of who created G-d will fade before the much greater question, what came first - the chicken or the egg. For a chicken without eggs is fruitless, and eggs without chicken, no more than breakfast. Only together do you get life begetting life, a viable species, a taste of the infinite within the transient world of natural events.
 
This leads us ineggsorably to a conclusion at which you should not bok - Haman's plot never hatched because the Creator really does eggsist. Haman was just too chicken to admit it, and by the end, even though he scrambled to make it over easy, things ended sunny side up for the Jews instead and and that's no yoke.

Dr. Aryeh (Arnie) Gotfryd, PhD is a chassid, environmental scientist, author and educator living near Toronto, Canada. To read more or to book him for a talk, visit his website at www.arniegotfryd.com.
 

 


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