Rabbi Avi Weinstein, head of Jewish studies, Brand Hebrew Academy: The rabbinic imagination through some interesting exegetical moves allows for worlds that preceded this one.
The idea of a civilization being destroyed, of course, begins with Noah. One could surmise that if worlds preceded our present one, then maybe there are civilizations “out there” that are parallel to our own.
So much of Jewish religious lives is governed by the sun in this solar system that unless these parallel worlds enjoyed similar natural rhythms, we have no context for what these parallel worlds might look like.
We would know one thing, though, that whatever that world looks like, the same God would be in charge.
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This pertains to the concept of oneness that is so central to Jewish thinking. We declare the Oneness of God, and by so doing we assume the burden of the yoke of heaven.
In the material world, where everything is systematized and compartmentalized, the concept of God being One and at the same time being all is not something we can truly understand, but it allows for the possibility of other worlds being governed by the same Creator. At least that we would have in common, and from that we might be able to build a relationship.
“The heavens, are the heavens of the Lord,
And the earth, was given to humanity.”
The Psalmist is referring to the earth as we know it. One might imagine that the same verse could be chanted for a world that we would find totally unfamiliar.
The Rev. Holly McKissick, pastor of Peace Christian Church UCC: I’m almost sure there are, but honestly I don’t know anything about “outer space” (as we used to call it).
In an effort to graduate in my high school class top 10, I took the easiest math and science classes. (My apologies to classmate James Medford, whom I edged out of the 10th spot. James recovered from that blow and went on to be NASA scientist).
Take my response for the uninformed, shoot-from-the-gut one that it is.
My gut (and faith) tell me that the world we know is so full of wonder and surprise, the billions of yet-to-be-explored solar systems must be filled with more of the same. Who can fathom what other creatures made in God’s image might look like? We fancy ourselves as unique, one-of-a-kind, but most likely we are amazing specks among a gazillion amazing specks.
I’m more interested in how we live in peace with the diverse beings we already encounter that we consider strange or “other.” What good are more beings made in God’s image if we are hellbent on destroying them; if we can’t find a way to share the universe in a just, sustainable manner?
Honestly, some days it is hard to get along with your own kin, let alone the one whose skin is a slightly different hue. But we’ve got to step it up if we want to survive and thrive.
It’s not rocket science. We have to treat the next creature we encounter as we want to be treated.