Myth and Science in the Natural World - Berakhot 59
In mythology, God or the gods have bodies, emotions, and physical interactions with the world. Medieval Jewish religious philosophy, Maimonides in particular, went to great lengths to explain away Biblical anthropomorphisms (God resembling humans) – but the Talmud had no such difficulties with those concepts. And for the theologically-skeptical, the more alike God looks and acts to a big and powerful person, the more likely such images are mere projections of human longing and aspiration rather than accurate descriptions of the universe.
And what’s harmful about that? If one can separate myth and literature from science and history, not too much. After all, another natural human trait exemplified in this discussion of blessings for natural phenomena is the very human reaction of wonder at the power and grandeur of the natural world. When we feel an earthquake, or see lightening, or witness a rainbow, or visit a great ocean, or study the vastness of the stars in space, we are all awed. But awe at the beauty of the natural world must not prevent scientific study or explanation of how and why those phenomena take place. If our ONLY explanation for earthquakes remained “God’s tears,” we would never be able to learn how to build better buildings to withstand them, or to create devices that can detect them and predict aftershocks. We can share mythologies from our culture and from others about why there are seasons, or rainbows, or human knowledge of good and evil – but those stories are just stories, not facts.
Rabbi Adam Chalom