How did God get the inspiration to create the world? This is not meant to be a theological or a philosophical question but rather it is meant to be one of method. The greatest act of creation was one of creating something seemingly ex nihilo. It was an act so great that there is even a specialized word in Hebrew (ברא) for divine creation. Everything that has followed has had at least some seed that could be used for the germination of ideas, but briat ha’olam stands alone in the physical world.
This Saturday night marks the beginning of Shavuot, the holiday on which we celebrate the giving of the Torah; and that very document seems to offer some clues to the genesis of God’s creative inspiration. While the creation is seemingly ex nihilo—God creates things simply by speaking—the second verse of the Torah indicates that there was base material in existence for God to use (see Sforno’s commentary on Genesis 1:2 for further elucidation). Furthermore, with one exception, God assesses what God has created at each step of the process. God also seems to be singularly focused on the process; as the creation proceeds, the Torah reports no other activity. Finally, towards the end of the creation, as God prepares to create God’s ultimate physical masterpiece, God collaborates with the ministering angels about the form that Adam will take.
What I take from these clues is that divine inspiration is not quite what we imagine it to be. While we might want to be completely original, everything has an antecedent that can offer the inspiration or the material for a creative idea. Ideas and their results require evaluation and feedback in order to move the process forward; rough drafts and prototypes are good things. Sometimes, sitting by oneself singularly focused on a task is necessary for the creative process; other times, working with a team and discussing possibilities is important for progress.
In the northern hemisphere at least, Shavuot comes at the beginning of summer, which is supposed to be time to relax and enjoy outdoor activities. However, at the same time, celebrating the giving of the Torah offers a reminder that summer is also an opportune time for educators to think creatively about next year and how to incorporate new ideas into their practice while, for learners, summer offers greater opportunity to expand horizons and engage in divergent thinking.
So, yes, take a break and enjoy the summer and then let your summer activities move you to greater creative inspiration.
Rabbi Eric Zaff
Curriculum Director, firstname.lastname@example.org