parshat bereshit – genesis 1 – 6
Join Geoffrey Stern and Dr. J. Richard Middleton recorded on October 20th 2022 on clubhouse. As we read the Torah anew we are joined by a leading Christian Hebrew Bible scholar to get fresh insight into the message of creation, the original sin and man’s creation in God’s Image. Most of all we ask a scholar who is revolutionizing Christian thought, what he sees in our Torah….. and what he can help us see as well.
Welcome to Madlik. My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition. We also host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday at 8:00pm Eastern and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. Today as we begin reading the Torah all over again I am thrilled to be joined by a leading Christian Hebrew Bible scholar Dr. Richard Middleton. I studied Torah with Richard at the Hadar Institute a number of years ago and I am sure that we will get a fresh insight into the message of Bereshit. Richard is revolutionizing the way Christians read our Torah and I’m sure he will do the same for us. So crack open your Humash and join us for Shared Beginnings.
Well, welcome Richard to Madlik. And because you joined just today in order to honor us with your presence, welcome to clubhouse it’s a thrill to have you. And I am going to introduce you and give you a chance to tell us about your journey with a question. I mean, you have a PhD in theology from the Institute for Christian studies in Amsterdam. You have an MA in philosophy from the University of Guelph Graduate Studies religion at Syracuse University and a BA in theology from the Jamaica Theology seminary. But to me, your biggest yichus your biggest claim to fame, and what I was so impressed with is, as I said in the intro, four, maybe five years ago, I signed up for the executive seminar at Hadar yeshiva, the Hudson Institute in New York, where there is a extremely rigorous Torah study. And that’s where I met you. We studied B’Charuta, preparing going over a class or two. We had lunch together, we even joked around wearing different kippot. And I still think back to to those moments, but you ultimately are a student of Torah. As the Jewish people begin reading the cycle, from Bereshit, from Genesis all over again, what I like to do on Madlik, is to look at the Torah through a new lens. And it seemed to me how new of a lens how much more of a different lens could we get, then a Christian Bible scholar? So I’m going to start with the first Rashi commentary on the whole Bible. And Rashi is an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzchaki, he is the soundtrack behind Torah study for Jews. He writes a comment on every verse or two, as we’ll see in the Bible in the Talmud, the oral law, and he lived in the 12th century. So he starts as we all know, the Toa begins בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹקִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ when God began to create heaven and earth, and he asks, In the name of a Rabbi Isaac, he says, why did the Torah, which is actually a book of law, begin here? Why didn’t it begin with the first commandment? And clearly what he’s saying is from a Torah, abiding Jew who follows the 613 commandments…. What’s the need for all of this narrative? Why not just begin from Exodus where it commands us to keep the Chodesh, the month of Nisan as your first month? And in many cases, I think Rashi’s questions are even better than his answers. In past years, we’ve gotten into the answer to this question, but I think it’s a fascinating question to ask as we start reading the book of Genesis, why in God’s name, are we reading this? And so I want to turn to you, Richard, and this is your opportunity to tell us about your journey. What is a nice Christian, scholar like yourself, spending so much time in Genesis? You recently published a book about Abraham’s silence, which we’ll be studying in a few weeks, and the book that I re-read in preparation for today’s talk is a New Heaven and a New Earth reclaiming Biblical Eschatology, and it’s literally all about the section that we’re dealing with; creation theology. So, Richard, what’s a nice Christian boy like you doing in a place like this?
Richard Middelton 05:00
That’s a great question. So by the way, let me let me start by saying, I’m a friend. Well, I’m a colleague of Adele Reinhartz. So, you may know her. And she’s a Jewish scholar on the Gospel of John. And she was once asked at her synagogue, what’s a nice Jewish girl like you doing studying the Gospel of John? I heard a whole lecture where she answered that question. Basically, I have found that the Torah that our Tanakh actually, is very grounding for my own faith, I’m a Christian. So, I believe in the New Testament. But for me, you cannot understand the New Testament except as a Jewish Book, it comes from the Old Testament, through the traditions of Second Temple Judaism. And so, for me, to even understand my own faith better, I had to dig deeper into this text. And I came to so love it. And I love Hebrew, much more than I love Greek. And so I decided that this is what I really wanted to study this and philosophy, those are my two primary areas of study.
Geoffrey Stern 05:59
So, I think that would be the typical answer of a Christian scholar, where you’re trying to trace the history of ideas, you’re trying to trace the past of the Christian religion, Jesus was Jewish, many of His disciples were Jewish. But as I read through your book, you go even deeper than that, you talk about the fact that the story of creation is so Earthly, is so physical, and that you talk about how Christianity over time has talked about things like a soul, as opposed to an organic body of spirit and flesh, how it’s made those distinctions, you really, at least in the in the book that I’ve just finished reading, talk about not only looking up the antecedents of Christianity, but also discovering ideas that may have been sublimated, ideas that can make you a better Christian. Talk about that for a second,
Richard Middelton 07:12
Right. So, I want to make clear that when I say I’m looking into the Tanach, as a basis for the New Testament is not defined how the New Testament is a fulfillment, or something like that. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for to understand how the scriptures of Judaism are the fundamental vision that we need to look at the world through to be able to even understand what’s going on in the New Testament, when Jesus was a rabbi, you know, so he used the kinds of language and conceptuality of the Hebrew Bible. And so, I’m interested in that because it has changed my own faith, to root me more firmly in creation, not to live in some kind of airy, fairy hyper spiritual reality, which is a problem for some Jews as well as for Christians. But it’s been, you know, I’ve struggled with this Christian tradition that has disembodied our faith, and look to heaven hereafter, whereas the trajectory of the scriptures is that God comes to earth, to live with his people, you know, in the tabernacle, the temple, journeying with Israel through the wilderness, and people see God and they wonder why they don’t die. Can you see God, but God is embodied in some way. So for me the earthiness of the scriptures, and the challenge to have one’s entire life be shaped by a vision of who God is, and what God wants to do, to make this world into a basically, you know, a place of fulfillment and shalom. To me, that’s what I believe Christianity ought to be about as well as Judaism. So the scriptures of the what we call the Old Testament, which is not a denigration for me, because I view the the older as the more venerable. And that’s the ground of my own faith. And it’s fed me spiritually, to immerse myself in these ancient texts without jumping to the New Testament too quickly.
Geoffrey Stern 09:04
Yeah. I love that I said that that many times, there are two comments of Rashi on every verse, the second comment of Rashi, on the first verse of genesis, is he focuses on the word Bereshit. In the beginning, or as he began, which includes רֵאשִׁית, and there is a Midrashic interpretation, that the Torah is called בִּשְׁבִיל הַתּוֹרָה שֶׁנִקְרֵאת רֵאשִׁית. That wisdom is called Reishit רֵ֘אשִׁ֤ית חָכְמָ֨ה ׀ יִרְאַ֬ת ָ֗ה Wisdom we all know, is a different part of the Torah, it’s Wisdom literature. But you started in your first answer by talking about this, Jewish scholar who was a scholar in John, and we all know that in the Gospel of John, it says “In the beginning was the Logos”. And I consider that to say that there was what was called a pre-existing wisdom, a pre-existing Torah a preexisting spirit to the world. It’s really almost a fight against this concept of creation from nothing. Creation ex nihilo, or what we in Hebrew called, Yesh Me’Ayin Because at the end of the day, Richard, we might not know why a god would create a physical world, but it was a break a major disruption in the Constitution of the universe, if everything was God, if there was this pre-existing harmony, and all of a sudden, this earthly world was created. If you can’t swallow that, you start to say, well, maybe the world was created from something that already existed, I almost feel that there are parts of both of our tradition that actually have a problem with the coincidence, with the contingency of our earthly world. Am I totally off base here?
Richard Middelton 11:25
Yes, and no, it depends which theologians you’re reading and what they say, I came to grips with the contingency of the world actually, through studying philosophy. Through reading Heidegger, believe it or not, and the Nature of Being and the question of why is there something rather than nothing that Heidegger used to raise and I came to the point that I have to accept that everything in reality is contingent, nothing is necessary. And some Christian theologians, and perhaps some Jewish theologians, do want to have a kind of a theoretical structure of being that somehow is necessary and immutable. But that’s not the way I experienced the world at all. Every moment is a gift. Contingency has these two sides that on the one hand, you have to receive the world as a gift, because nothing is guaranteed. The other hand, it opens you up to the possibility of disruption, and the possibility of crisis, because nothing is guaranteed. And we live in this kind of a world. This is a kind of world, if you want to be faithful to God, it’s got to be in this kind of world, there is no other kind of world.
Geoffrey Stern 12:30
It gets messy, it gets messy when you have these contingencies. In your book, you do a wonderful job of tracing the philosophy started with Plato going to Aristotle, and ultimately to Plotinus. We all know the story of Plato, where you see kind of shadows passing the cave, and the concept you explain is that there is a physical chair. And then there is an ideal, a form of a chair. And Plato and even Aristotle, I think used it as much as a thought experiment as anything else. But by the time you got to Plotinus, he actually believed in this, I believe, and you can confirm this had a major impact on Christianity, that there actually were two parallel universes, and there was a universe of the Spirit. And then there was a very less perfect universe of this physical earth. And you talk about all the wonderful Christian hymns, where we are going to go to those pearly gates, where the objective is almost to be that pure spirit. And almost, when one passes from this world to the next, it’s almost a release. And I really believe that that is a major struggle that we find in this image of creation that we’re looking at today. Because on the one hand, you can try to impose on it some pre-existing logo, or wisdom, and say that it was really all preordained. Or you can say that it was a major break. And that here for whatever reason, the Godhead created a physical, messy, earthy world. But in the words of the great movie, it’s as good as it gets, and we have to make the best of it. Did I did I do you justice?
Richard Middelton 14:29
Yeah, I mean, Plotinus is more complicated than that. Plotinus is not a duelist. He’s a Monist. He thinks that the only true reality is immaterial. And this world is a kind of an emanation from that reality. A lot of people want to compare Plotinus with Hindu philosophy, the Upanishads because there’s similarities, but I think there’s some differences too. But the core with Plotinus is this that he gets this from Plato, that to be a proper human being needs to transcend materiality, to transcend the physical senses and the desires of the flesh. And for Plotinus also means to transcend reason to go to a mystical experience with the One that’s his term for God, to become one with the one. And so this idea that you must transcend this world for spirituality to be effective, has infected, I think not just Christianity, but some Judaism too. And I want to say is the other way around, we’re not going anywhere. But we need to embody tikkun olam, we need to be, you know, establishing this world, or affecting this world, by the way we live so that God is manifest in the world. So it’s a different, it’s not earth to heaven, it’s actually Heaven to Earth, if you want to use that kind of language. And everything changes your whole orientation in life, the whole purpose of life. But there’s a whole lot more going on than just that. But for me, that’s why I had to study philosophy, understand where these ideas came from, and then to study scripture to understand what’s a better way to read the text, without those lenses which distort the text.
Geoffrey Stern 16:03
And I totally agree with you, by the way, that this is not a discussion only to have in Christian theology. It’s also one in Judaism, I think that there’s all the mysticism all of the thought processes that tries to somehow get away from this Shamayim al Ha’aretz. It’s this heaven on earth with the focus on the earth part has to really read the chapters that we are reading this week, whether with a new lens, or a naked lens to see that God created the world. And we’re going to talk in a second about what the first thing that happened as a result of that was but it was, and it is messy, and it’s celebrated. And I think that’s the takeaway that I get not only from reading the text, but also reading some of the things that you have written about this text. You know, earlier, you said that your reason for reading the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament was not to look for the antecedent of or the, the prequel to Christianity, but to understand it well, and I think, you know, many Jews have seen those versions of the New Testament, where all of the verses that talk about anything that can be construed as the future religion of Christianity are underlined. And I think it’s very refreshing that we can move beyond that and talk as two students of the Hebrew Bible, and just see, what does it mean in the moment? And what does it mean for us, and I just feel that as we start reading the book anew, it’s wonderful to know that there are different faith groups that are reading these same texts, and reading them honestly, just to get the right message, whether it’s something that agrees with their understanding of their faith, or they’re willing to re-evaluate. So the second thing that I think most Jews would say; Torah readers would say, that differentiates our reading of these verses is Original Sin is the quote, unquote, “The Fall”, I did a Google search for original sin in the Hebrew Bible. And I maybe I didn’t spend a long enough time. But the amount of scholars in Judaism that say, There’s no such thing as original sin in Judaism is staggering. But the truth is, and in in our source notes, and this is a podcast and when you listen to the podcast, you will see a reference to the Sefaria sources. I quote, one source that talks about the beautiful custom that we have for women, who are separate Challah But the Talmud says that when a woman has a girl, she is impure for twice the amount of time as she would be for a male. And one of the commentators Rabaynu Bechaya says literally, because the she is atoning for the sin of the first woman of Chava (Eve). So I think to say and he goes on to say, and that’s why women light the candles, and that’s why women separate holla to say that Jews don’t see the first sin as something that’s impactful, I think, is being dishonest. But clearly, it is a major point of; of looking at and to say what happened as a result of that and is man evil by nature. Was it a change in degree? Was it a change in kind, how has your reading of Original Sin changed over time, as you read a scripture anew,
Richard Middelton 20:10
I’ve been influenced by both biblical scholars who pay attention to the text of Genesis 2 and 3 very carefully the garden story, but also by the tradition of John Wesley, I’m in the Wesleyan theological tradition. And Wesley was influenced by what we call the Eastern Church Fathers, the Greek reading early Christians of the first few centuries, and they did not have original sin, it was St. Augustine and the Western the Latin tradition that had Original Sin. So, there is a much more empirical understanding of how sin entered the world. So, my own interpretation as I read the text, and of course, no one reads the text with no assumptions. So, my assumptions have to do with I look at the actual world, we live in the corruption of the world, there is real corruption in the world. I look at my own life experience. And I bring that to the text. I also look at the history of hominin evolution, which I am aware of how does this relate to the development of human beings, as you know, human beings before the face of God, and the way I understand it is, this is a story that is archetypal, that tells us about what happens in every human life. But it also is, I think, we can say it’s a story of what happened to the human race somehow. But we can’t get a one-to-one correspondence between the symbols in the story, and empirical data. We don’t do that. But something happened as humans became human, as they became aware of morality, that they overstepped the bounds of their own conscience, and they corrupted themselves in some way. But that corruption is not, as Original Sin puts it, a genetic defect passed on to all people. It is, I think, a social defect, a cultural defect, as we are all socialized into corrupt ways of living. And we have to learn alternative ways of living. That’s what Torah is for, right? Or a New Testament, the sermon on the mount or the letters of Paul is to encourage people to live righteously, that we learn a new way of living to counter the social worlds that we have entered into, because there was both great good and great evil among human beings. And I think these stories tell us that humans have become corrupt in some way. I don’t think we can figure out exactly how that is, though. I am reading the manuscript of a brilliant Christian geneticist, who looks at what evolutionary theory says about how humans became moral. And he’s connecting that to Biblical stuff. And it’s really interesting, he goes beyond anything I’ve ever read before. And I’m giving him feedback on the biblical side of it. But I’m learning about the evolutionary development of morality in the human race. So I think that there is something that went wrong with the human race somehow, we’re not totally evil, but we have a tendency to evil that we have to overcome. And I That’s my summary, very quick summary.
Geoffrey Stern 23:03
I think when I tried to put together the two points, to connect the dots of where we started, and when we talk about evil, the beginning of evil. I mean, in a sense, evil is slash corruption is slash imperfection, it almost is part and parcel of having a contingent, earthly, finite, physical world. I think I heard you say that, while we all listened to the Western interpretation of Christianity about this evil and I think it was propounded by the Church Fathers, fairly late, maybe Augustine…. But but the point is, that what you were saying is it’s more of a narrative, it’s more an understanding of the human condition. And I look at the rabbinic interpretations. And this is after saying that, I do believe that there is this concept of a Fall and the birth of evil and I quoted that, that one text to prove it, I’m sure there are more, but the flip side is, it says after the world is created, and it was Tov M’od, it was very good, where every other day, it says good. At the end, it says it was very good. And Bereshit Rabbah. One of the early interpretations, says Rav Nachman said, in Rabbi Samuels name behold, it was good refers to the good desire the Yetzer Tov and behold, it was very good refers to the evil desire they Yetzer Ha’rah, now this occurs before the first sin. So there already is this sense that yes, the human condition on like, a time Where there was only the infinite, right Before the time where there was this major disruption. And for whatever reason, God created a physical world where there was no Yetzer ha’rah, when God created our world, there was the possibility of good, and there was the possibility of evil. And that was very good. And if you think of the whole narrative of the fall, as something that explains the most cataclysmic question that religion has, which is mortality, why do we die? And if you project onto the story and say, Well, it’s because we sinned. So then comes along Bereshit Rabba a few chapters earlier. And it says, In a copy of Rabbi Meir’s Torah, and behold, it was very good. And behold, death was good. It’s a little bit of a play on Me’od and Mavet. And that’s why it’s a question of whether this is a textual emendation. Or it’s a commentary. But again, this is before the sin of the tree of life of tree of knowledge. To me, it is amazing, because it does put that into a different context, it does put it into the context of; this is the human condition. And guess what? It’s good. It’s what we were given.
Richard Middelton 26:27
So you see, I would say that the possibility of going wrong is always there in a contingent world. I don’t think that the fact of going wrong is necessary, but it is certainly a significant possibility. Now, some people will say that Tov Me’od comes not after God created human beings, but after God has finished all creation, and looks over the whole thing. And notice, he never said right after the creation of humans, that it was good. It was delayed to the entire creation, because maybe humans are not, we’re not sure if they’re going to be good yet, because they have freedom. So that’s one possibility. But when you go to actually the narrative of Genesis 2, 4 through to the end of chapter 3, it’s quite clear from a close Peshat reading, that mortality is not intrinsically tied to sin, mortality precedes sin, for God makes the human being out of the dust of the ground. Dust throughout the entire Bible is a metaphor for mortality. You know, remember that he remembers that we are just dust. That’s why God is compassionate knows Psalm 103, or Psalm 22, in the lament, you know, I’ve gone down into the dust of death. And you know, dust you are into dust, you shall return. This is a metaphor for mortality, human beings are created mortal I think the way the story goes is, but they’re excluded from eating of the tree of life because of their corruption. Because to eat of the Tree of Life in a sphere of corruption, would make corruption permanent. So, the eternal life is denied access to us, because of sin. Mortality, not a consequence of the fall. It’s just a normal human condition. But in both Christianity and Judaism, the notion of resurrection says that one day, there will be a time when God will perfect the world and there’ll be no possibility of going back again. But that’s a whole different question. I don’t connect mortality to sin, as most of the Christian tradition does, starting in the Middle Ages, but the early church fathers didn’t do that, which I find interesting. They were more accurate to the text.
Geoffrey Stern 28:38
Yep. And I think that is a fascinating insight coming from a Christian because I think most of us on the outside looking in, would say knee jerk, that is the most basic assumption of Christianity. You know, there’s a book written by Harvey Cox, who was a Protestant theologian at Yale. And he ended up marrying a Jewish woman and he wrote a book called Shared blessings. And he says, the first time he ever met a Jew, he said to the Jew, he says, Oh, you’re the guys who don’t believe the Messiah has come. And of course, for most Jews, that’s not how we define Judaism. Some of us don’t even believe in the Messiah. But I would think that most of us Jews looking at Christians believe that critical to the faith is that man can only get salvation can only fix the original sin by this leap of faith. And I think what you’re saying to my ears is then becomes kind of kind of radical. And again, it gets back to this rereading of our text, as it’s not all about escaping this earth. It’s not all about escaping the human condition. It’s possibly about making it better.
Richard Middelton 29:59
Yes. I definitely think that’s the dominant trend of scripture of both Testaments. That’s not a contradiction between Christianity and Judaism in their original texts anyway. In the received tradition, it may be but not in the text itself.
Geoffrey Stern 30:13
So I want to get back to Rashi’s original question. Why are we reading this? And I think one of the biggest takeaways that I took from your book is that you focus on what is the purpose of creation? That’s what this book is all about. And that’s certainly what these chapters are all about. That would be the obvious answer to Rashi. Rashi, it’s not all about just keeping the commandments. It’s like, what are we doing on this world? What is the plan that God has for us in philosophy, you know, that’s called teleology, it means, what is the end goal? What is the thing and you focus on two verses, Genesis 1: 26, God says, Let us make humankind in our image, after Our likeness, they shall rule the fish of the sea, and the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things, and God created humankind in the divine image, creating it in the image of God creating them male and female, what is that message to you?
Richard Middelton 31:24
And I back up a little and say something about why we’re reading creation and then go to the teleology?… So the question that Rashi had, the way you articulated it was, you know, why are we reading all these narratives? Why not just get to the Torah? Because it’s the law after all right? Well, even the beginning of the 10 words, right, says, I’m the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondage. There is a summary of the narrative of Exodus that ground the Torah, because the Torah is a response to the God, who was already entered into relationship with us was already acted on our behalf. And likewise, creation is really the first act of God in our behalf. Before God redeems us in any historical situation. God brings us into being and gives us a purpose in the creation accounts of the ancient world that Israel lived in. Usually, the people who are created by their god is that particular nation or that particular culture that’s who was created, in the Enuma Elish the Babylonian creation story, the gods created the black headed people. the name for the Mesopotamians. They don’t create the other people of the world, there’s no accounting for them. The Bible says God created all peoples and gives you these complex genealogies that lead to the line of Seth, and then the line of Abraham. And then that goes to Jacob and Joseph and the people of Israel. So Israel is within the larger scope. This God is not just an ethnocentric deity, this God creates all peoples, even the people outside of the Covenant are created by God, and God has a purpose for human beings. So most of the ancient Near East viewed their temples as microcosms of the universe. And Israel also does …. you have the candelabra which is like the stars, and you have imagery from, the fruits and vines, and so on, on the doors of the temple, and it was on the tabernacle too, you have a cosmic imagery, that this is like a miniature tabernacle, and it particularly Jewish scholars, like John Levinson has made this a very important point. But one of the unusual things about the view of the world in the Israelite literature was, they didn’t just do their temples, as a microcosm of the universe. They viewed the universe as a macro cosmic temple. It doesn’t seem to any other nation did that. So God makes a world you know, there is a floor …. the earth. Ha’aretz and then there is a, a roof, you know, the rakia, and it holds back the waters and then creatures are living in this world, and God wants to make this his temple. And in the later scriptures, you find the notion that God dwells in heaven, right. And when Moses takes the elders of Israel up the mountain in Exodus 24, they see God on a throne seated upon something blue, which is the sky, God is reigning in heaven … now it’s an image. It’s a metaphor. But the idea is that God is in the Holy of Holies, of the cosmic temple, and God places in the cosmic temple, an image and every pagan temple would have an image, but this image is human. And this image is the human being who is meant to manifest to channel the presence of deity from heaven to earth, by the way they live in the ordinary processes of human life. So ruling over animals in Genesis, as many scholars will tell you refers to animal domestication. And you know, the man names the animals in Genesis too which is asserting some kind of authority or power over them, subduing the Earth …. don’t think about modern technology destroying deforestation or something. Think about what it was like in the ancient world, for a farmer to bring the Earth into productivity, it took a huge amount of work. So animal domestication and agriculture are being spoken of in the ordinary mundane aspects of human life. Human beings are to manifest God’s presence that is defined later in Scripture in terms of what sorts of ways in which we should live. How should we use the agency and the power that we have in the world for good, not for evil, and that’s what Torah is for, to reshape Israel after the deformation, of Egyptian bondage, because once you are slaves, you are not a full human being anymore, you have become deformed, to remake them as full-fledged human beings and community that can become a royal priesthood or a kingdom of priests manifest to the other nations. Because as God says in Exodus 19, all the earth is mine, but you are going to be for me special, you will be my manifestation, primarily because narratively speaking, human beings have not been doing it, they have become corrupt. So I’m going to pick a one, peoples, and I want them to manifest what the whole human race should be, you become the model for all other peoples. And in my, one of the articles I wrote, I don’t think you read that one. I quote Martin Buber, who says, Why does God pick this one people? And in Deuteronomy in the Torah, I think it’s chapter 32. God speaks about like a mother Eagle, taking Israel on his wings, and teaching her to fly. So why is God picking this one eagle? What about all the other little eaglets in the whole world, but God wants this eagle to fly, that the others may imitate and follow her. And so the whole human race may be restored. That’s basically my summary of what the teleology of creation is all about ….. restoration. But the imaging of God in the world by righteousness in ordinary, everyday activities. And God wants to restore that, that’s what the rest of the Scripture is about.
Geoffrey Stern 37:12
That’s, that’s beautiful. I mean, one of the things that I did take away from your writings was this sense of agency and responsibility, that being in the image of God implies, but I also and I want to finish on this, the question that you ask is so simple, so obvious. But because we spend too much time reading the Rashi’s of the world, and looking at the commandments and all that, we sometimes forget to ask the question, What does God want of us, and I come from a tradition started by Robbi Yisrael Salanter in the 19 century, called the Mussar Movement. And he basically said the same thing. He said, you can spend all your life keeping all the commandments. But if you don’t ask, what am I doing here? And more importantly, in terms of that agency and responsibility, you don’t focus on what can I do to improve myself and thereby the world? You’re missing the boat? And so, I think, and I thank you for bringing your insight into rereading, which is what we all do when we begin the cycle of the Torah, rereading the holy text in the Scripture, to ask what does it mean to us? And what is really there, and I just found this conversation. So fascinating. I hope, Richard that you’ll join us again, I hope you enjoyed a fraction as much as I did, and you felt your time was worthwhile. I do want to open it up if anyone in the audience has any questions. But again, I want to thank you so much for studying with us the way we did five years ago. Thank you so much.
Richard Middelton 38:59
May just said Geoffrey, that I found our time together at Hadar wonderful. It was liberating, and I loved getting to know you. So, this is why I wanted to do this because you’re a great person. And I love your spirit. Thank you so much.
Geoffrey Stern 39:12
Thank you. Be sure to listen to this as a podcast. It will be published later on and share it with your friends and family. And we’ll see you all next week when we study Noah and the Ark and see how the story progresses. Shabbat Shalom and thank you again, Richard.
Listen to last year’s Bereshit episode: Exile and Return from the Beginning
Check out Dr. Middleton’s book: A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology, 2014 by J. Richard Middleton