Chaos and Creation

4.0 According to Torah, the universe is tohu va–vohu: wild, chaotic, unstable, and incapable of holding form (Genesis 1:2). God does nothing to calm the chaos, but merely calls forth form from out of the formless, “And God said….” God speaks the world into existence (Genesis 1:3).

4.1 Chaos is the fundamental reality over which we spread a veneer of order through the power of speech. The world that you and I know, the world we inhabit, the world in which we seek to find meaning and purpose is a linguistic fabrication. Actual reality is chaos.

4.2 Chaos is not the same as random. If the world were random an African elephant could appear in your bedroom at any moment; that is what random means. Chaos is something else. Chaos means that nothing completely fits our ideas of how things should be. Chaos means that the map is never the territory, and that even the territory isn’t always the territory. Chaos means that things are always in flux, that surprise is part of the game, that mutation is inevitable, and that you are not in control.

4.3 Chaos is not controllable. You cannot master chaos, but you can navigate it. Judaism at its best is a way to navigate chaos through acts of compassion and justice, and by so doing create meaning and purpose for oneself and perhaps humanity as a whole.

4.4 Yet Judaism, like everything else in our universe, is a linguistic creation: words piled upon words giving us the illusion of order when in fact chaos reigns.

4.5 The more we fear chaos the more tightly we cling to our words. The more tightly we cling to our words, the more fearful we become of those who speak other words. Whoever said, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was a fool. All violence among us humans has its origin in words.

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