D’var Torah by April Akiva
At the age of seventeen, enrolling in an Advanced Placement biology class marked a new chapter in my steadfast relationship with God. While a God who splits seas, speaks out of bushes, and makes elderly women fertile might have sometimes been a bit unbelievable to a questioning teenager, the intricate systems of life on Earth proved to me the miraculous and thoughtful nature of God. Flowers growing, human body systems flowing, and the working of a human cell all made me marvel at such “intelligent design.”
In this week’s Torah portion, Vayera, Moses and his brother, Aaron, travel to the Pharaoh in Egypt to demand that the Israelite slaves be set free. Repeatedly, Pharaoh refuses to let the Israelites go and God sends a number of plagues down to Egypt. We all know the story…blood, darkness, boils, hail, frogs, beasts, and the slaying of the first born, to name a few!
In 2006, my husband and I came across a fascinating documentary on the History Channel, called Exodus Decoded. In the documentary, Jewish filmmaker, Simcha Jacobovici, hypothesizes that the volcanic eruption of Mount Santorini around 1600 BCE caused the ten plagues that ravished Egypt. Using extensive visual effects and animation, Jacobovici shows how each of the plagues would have resulted from the eruption. Although Exodus Decoded came under fire by some scientists and biblical scholars, I finished the program relatively convinced. Jacobovici speaks one of my preferred languages—science—to show the truth of the biblical accounts and the powerful acts of God through nature.
Many people find that God and science are incompatible and that science “proves” that God truly does not exist. This is not how I view the world. On the contrary, it is the knowledge of science and how God can design or control the ways of the world that make me a devout believer. For me, God and science are perfect compliments. I believe in God, the Hebrew Bible, and miracles. It is science that illuminates my faith.