HOW OLD IS OUR UNIVERSE?
HOW OLD IS OUR UNIVERSE – 15 BILLION YEARS OLD, OR ONLY 5759?
The Jewish calendar tells us that we are now living in the 5759th year since creation. The latest scientific studies and hypothesis suggest otherwise. While accounts vary, the number which is most generally accepted amongst scientists in terms of their speculation as to when the universe came into being, is 15 billion years. It would seem as though any intelligent and G-d fearing physicist would now face serious problems concerning his knowledge. Any sort of attempted reconciliation would only further subjugate one or the other, and yet if one is proved false, than what is to become of the validity of the entire nature of the other?
Ages before Einstein, and millenniums before the question even ever had reason to rise, there existed in our world the knowledge of the age of the universe. The similarities between the structures of the paradigm in which this knowledge was contained and our current model of such ideas in both detail and number, are truly astounding. This knowledge was recorded in the scriptural commentary books of the Talmud and the Kabbalah. Please note that none of the selections from these works which we will concern ourselves with in this paper, date back later than the late Middle Ages.
In order to obtain a clearer perspective on the problem with which we are dealing with, let us first examine the current scientific consensus (which is however, unfortunately not accepted by all) concerning the origin of the universe (Otherwise known as the Big Bang theory):
1- For reasons unknown, the universe sprang into existence ex nihilo.
2- It first appeared as an almost unimaginable tiny “micro pellet.”
3- It was initially composed of a tiny proportion of matter admixed with an enormous quantity of compressed energy.
4- The micro pellet then exploded outward at nearly the speed of light the big bang. In the first second of its existence it went from being a speck smaller than a single atom, to being globular mass more than 270,000 miles across, with a volume 5,000 times that of the Earth. Its expansion caused much of the energy to convert, by stages, into matter. It has been expanding at a similar rate ever since.
5- The micro pellet started out with ten dimensions, six of which quickly collapsed down to size scales so small they are inaccessible to us now, leaving the familiar four dimensions: three of space and one of time (which, according to relativity, are interconvertible directions of a four dimensional space time). The initial substance within the pellet took the form of a ten-dimensional string of almost pure energy. The strings that now fill the universe remain almost unimaginably thin and insubstantial 10-27 centimeters in diameter but since they extended entirely across the universe, each one is estimated to have a mass equivalent to 1017 suns. This is the so-called superstring theory, or TOE : “theory of everything.”
Based upon these considerations, the density of the residual light from the initial radiation, along with estimations concerning the current size of the universe, cosmologists have ascertained that the universe is roughly 15 billion years old. Let us speculate upon the “other side” and see what Torah has to say:
1- Both Maimonides (Rambam) and Nachmanidies (Ramban) state that neither space nor time existed prior to the creation; hence it came into existence ex nihilo.
2- The kabbalists of that same era explain further that prior to the creation G-d filled all of eternity perfectly and uniformly. At the instant of creation however, He “withdrew” Himself from a spherical region at the very center of eternity to create a “hollow” or “vacuum.” Into this he placed a portion of His own essence in the form of a minutely thin line of :Upper Light, which was to evolve into the physical universe. According to Nachmanides (Ramban) in his commentary on the creation account, at the moment it appeared, the universe was “no larger than a mustard see.” To the ancients, the mustard seed was the smallest unit of life capable of expanding and growing into something huge.
3- Nachmanides characterizes the size of the “seed” as: “The matter at this time was so thin, so intangible, that it did not have real substance. It did have, however, the potential to gain substance and form and to become tangible matter.”
4- Nachmanides then describes what occurs with this tiny “seed”-size universe: “From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred. This initially thin, non-corporeal substance took on the tangible aspects of matter as we know it. From this initial act of creation, from the ethereally thin pseudo substance, everything that has existed, or will ever exist, was, is and will be formed.”
5- The pencil-beam of “Upper Light” that formed the universe in its “seed” state was composed of ten aspects or dimensions. During the six days of creation, six of these ten aspects became so small that we are capable only of detecting four – the four dimensions of physical existence.
There are endless parallels between Torah and scientific study. This paper deals with the one concerning the age of the universe. The Torah is literally the blueprint of the entire universe. All events and all of things lay therein. Upon accepting these principles, it is most obvious when flipping through a standard version of the Bible, that there is much more that lies beneath the surface level.
In addition to the Oral accompaniment which was given at Mount Sinai, from the very hand of G-d along with the written Torah, the Oral Law consists of much elaboration and commentary on these two. The commentators were the mystics and the rabbis, who went about their annotation in a very structured and set manner, which some might even call scientific. In order to even remotely qualify as an acceptor commentator, one had to be thoroughly versed in Torah, both in theory and in practice, and have many other qualities which well exceed those of most humans. Every letter is examined on an individual basis, and then reexamined in terms of the word in which they are to be found. (Commentary on the very first letter of the entire Torah fills many volumes in and of itself!!) Every word is individually examined, and then reexamined in terms of the sentence, or overall context in which they are to be found. The numerical values of the letters help point out correlations, along with many other techniques.
Commentary on the Torah is thus not the interpretation that most conceive it to be. It provides insights which exist in and of themselves, but which the layman is unable to catch on to on his own, lacking the knowledge and information which the commentators posses within their minds. Having being made aware of these things, the laymen is then able to study the Torah on deeper levels with the aid of the commentary.
Due to the reasons stated above, one thus must always accept these commentaries to be as true as the subject that is being commented on, regardless of one’s own personal understanding or interpretation. With all of this in mind, we may now examine a number of selections from Torah (in using this word I refer not only to the five books of Moses, but the Prophets, Writings, Talmud, Kabbalah, and all other such works of commentary or revelation) which relate to our topic.
Perhaps the most important fact which must be made clear from the start, is that the year 5759 (in which we find ourselves today), corresponds to everything that occurred from the seventh day on. It was only after Adam was created on the seventh day that we begin the Hebrew calendar. Thus as far as the universe itself is concerned, its age would be 5759 years + 6 days. Our calendar does not concern itself with these six days, as the ultimate purpose of Torah goes far beyond mere speculation.
The purpose of creation is a physical, and practical one, thus our perception of time should concern that time which concerns us, as human beings. Nevertheless, the first six days of creation obviously were of much importance in and of themselves. Rabbi Schwab translates the first passage of the Bible as such: “Out of absolute nothingness the entire Universe and the Earth were called into existence.” The distinguishment that is made between the Universe and the Earth, is to be found in any literal translation, which acknowledges that the word Shamayim (most often understood to mean sky) refers to the entire Universe. The message that is being conveyed here, is that there is something essentially distinctive that separates the creation of the Universe, from the creation of the Earth.
The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 29:1) also separates the two, in examining the last three things which were created – The entire universe and the laws of nature, the Nefesh (the soul of the animals (which we as humans posses as well)) and then finally, at the very end of Day six, the Neshama (the human soul). In Deuteronomy 32:7, Moses ends his speech towards the Children of Israel by saying that if you want to see the fingerprint of G-d in the universe , “consider the days of old, the years of the many generations.” In the Kabbalah, Nachmanides explains that this verse refers to two distinctive periods of time. “The days of old”, refers to the first six days of creation, whereas “the years of many generations” refers to everything that occurred succeeding Adam. It is evident then, that there is something different about the seventh day of creation, which separates it from the first six.
The fifth point made by Satinover concerning the Big Bang theory, recognizes time as a dimension. Being a dimension, time, or at least our perception of time, is thus relative to the system one finds oneself in, due to variants in gravity and velocity. A day on one planet may be equivalent to 10 years on another. The absolute time depends on where you gather data from. This is the essential idea behind the information that follows. Time during creation is recorded in terms of days. These days are made distinct, in the words “Vayehi Erev Vayehi Boker Yom…..”. This is most commonly translated as “And there was Evening and there was Morning, Day………”. Upon examining the words Erev (evening) and Boker (morning), however, their roots become manifest. The root of Erev (i.e. simply the letters with no vowels) means mixture or chaos. The root of Boker, on the other hand, refers to order, and discernment. Thus every day consisted of a process of moving from disorder to order. Additionally, Rabbi Schwab explains that much of the early stages of creation occurred through light. At the start of the day (the Erev), the light would be mixed up and hidden within the darkness. It is only in the Boker, that the light emerges all encompassing and pure. When G-d began to create the next day, once again, the chaotic Erev came about, and thus proceeded the cycle. It was thus these cycles which divided day from day.
The planets, the stars (including the sun) and the moon were not brought into existence until the fourth day, and thus the idea of a day being defined in terms of the Earth’s rotation, was non-existent. It was only in the seventh day of creation, that the Earth’s rotation coincided precisely with the cyclical appearances of the creation of Light (which unfortunately remain invisible to us), and we were thus able to measure days according to the rotation of the Earth (note that time is still being measured in terms of the light cycles, as they are the true definers of time). Prior to the seventh day, the Earth rotated at a relatively high pace. On the seventh day, however, G-d ceased to actively create, and thus the rotation of the Earth slowed down, until it coincided with the light cycles. Thus, 24 hour days which occurred prior to the seventh day, would be perceived by us to have been much longer. King David alludes to the distortion in our perception of time in Psalm 90, verse 4: “1000 years in Your (G-d?s) sight are like a day that passes, a watch in the night.”
In a similar manner by which cosmologists have measured the age of the universe, they have estimated that the general relationship between time near the beginning and time today, is a million million. This means that if a pulse were to be sent at one point in time every second, it would arrive in one million million seconds. Due to the expanding universe, after receiving the first pulse, the succeeding pulses would not arrive every second after that. As time goes by, the universe expands, and thus the time it relationship between time would rise. In viewing the six days of creation as this “pulse” which was being transmitted, we find, that the first day, (of whom’s hours numbered 24) would have been experienced by us to be 8 billion years. The second 24hr day, would be experienced by us as 4 billion years. The 3rd – 2 billion. The 4th – 1 billion. The 5th – ? billion. The 6th – 1/4 billion. 8+4+2+1+1/2+ 1/4 = 15 3/4 billion years!!!!!
This is in addition to the fact that the most precise and authoritative commentator on Genesis, Nechunya ben HaKanah wrote that the 42 lettered name of G-d had within it the answer to the age of the universe. His successor, Rabbi Yitzhak deMin Acco insisted that the 42 lettered name alluded to the 42,000 “Divine Years” which transpired between the initializing of creation and man. Drawing on the quote that has been quoted above from the Psalms, he concluded that a divine day is 1000 years in our world, and that thus, a “Divine Year”, is 365 1/4 x 1,000 =365,250 of our own years. Thus the time between the beginning of creation and the creation of man is: 42,000 x 365,250 = 15.3 billion years!!!!!!!!!! .
As far as the valitdity of the year 5759 goes, this too becomes more and more evident with study. While fossils and the like have been dated by carbon dating (actually a very unreliably method of dating objects, as floods and other natural catastrophes affect the texture of objects immensely, dating them to be much older than they actually are) to go back many millions of years, any historian will testify to the fact that the earliest written history which we are in possession of dates back around 5,000 years. Thus it has been demonstrated that the question as to what the age of the universe was, needed no reconciliation whatsoever, as there was never a conflict to begin with.
There is a slight variation, however between the two separate demonstrations which have been provided. It is of my humble opinion that the second calculation is more precise, as the first one is still somewhat dependent upon the laws of science, which as useful as they may be, do not compare in terms of their foundational and essential truths with the truth of pure Torah.