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    Creative sparks – B’reshit

    It is a truly majestic beginning to history: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

    “Created” is bara. 52 times this verb, in all its various grammatical forms, occurs in the Hebrew Bible. Every time, it refers to an act of creation by God.

    In Biblical thinking, human beings design things, build them, make them ­ but they do not create them.

    Not that this is the way we speak these days. We constantly refer to human creativity.

    Disraeli said, “Man is made to create, from the poet to the potter”. Centuries earlier, Moses Ibn Ezra said, “The poet and the artist create by nature, not because of what they acquired by learning”.

    Does this mean that, like the builders of the Tower of Babel, man has stormed the heavens and seized the Divine prerogative of creating?

    It might appear so, but it is not true. There is a type of creativity with which God has endowed man, but there is a difference.

    Only God creates without pre-existent raw material (though a strand of Greek thought posited the eternal existence of matter).

    Man’s creation is not yesh me’ayin, something out of nothing, but yesh miyesh, something out of something. The something is the cultural inheritance of the generations.

    You could not think a new thought, develop a new technique, or discover a new cure, if not for what others did before you, going right back to God Himself, who gave man the world and told man, “Till it!”

    This is why it is amusing and rather arrogant to hear a person claim, “Until I came on the scene no-one knew anything!”

    It never hurts to have a little humility and recognition of what others have done.

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