Very early Sunday morning, we celebrated the Easter Vigil. In order to save a few precious moments, we heard the short version of the first reading from Genesis, which begins with the first verse and then moves on to the sixth day: “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The radically shortened account omits the first five days as well as the seventh day, the Sabbath. This makes it appear that humanity is the peak of creation—which we are—but it goes no further than that. It is important to understand our place in creation. Otherwise we suffer from what might be called theological chutzpah. Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that may be defined as insolence or audacity. Chutzpah is a negative quality often associated with certain politicians.
The Scripture gives us a certain order of creation. This order is not scientific; rather, it teaches a theological point. The traditional explanation is: “Those things you may regard as completely superfluous to the creation of the world, such as fleas, gnats, and flies, even that are included in the creation of the world, and the Holy One, blessed be he, carries out his purpose through everything, even through snakes, scorpions, a gnat, or a frog” (Genesis Rabbah 10:7). God carried out his divine purpose through creation. We just do not understand it.
Human beings are last in the order of creation. Why? The Talmud answers: “In order that, if a man’s mind becomes too proud, he may be reminded that the gnats preceded him in order of creation” (Sanhedrin 38a). We were created last so that we might be humble.
Yet, if we conclude the Genesis reading as we should, with the seventh day, we learn why we might also be proud. The Talmud gives us a number of reasons why we were created on the eve of the Sabbath:
That he might straightway go in to the banquet. The matter may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who built palaces and furnished them, prepared a banquet, and thereafter brought in the guests. For it is written: Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars. She has prepared her meat, she has mingled her wine, she has also furnished her table. (Sanhedrin 38a).
God created the world, the plants, and all the animals before he created humankind, so that we might first have all we need.
Thus we stand between humility in proud, aware that we are last in order but first in dignity. Next time you might want to read the whole story, all seven days.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.