It was widely reported earlier this week that the Vatican has called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien life and its implication for the Catholic Church.
“If biology is not unique to the Earth, or life elsewhere differs bio-chemically from our version, or we ever make contact with an intelligent species in the vastness of space, the implications for our self-image will be profound,” said Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory. Some theologians fear that the integrity of the biblical creation story, which many see as a text that asserts that life only exists here on our planet, will be called into question if alien life is found. And, if the creation story – the first story in the Bible – is undermined, what happens to the rest of the religious world?
Fortunately, for those of us in the Jewish world, the discovery of alien life would only reinforce the Jewish view of creation, God, and the mysteries of the universe. Many of you know that the kabbalistic view of creation supports the notion that God created many worlds before creating our own. In addition, while the biblical creation story makes no reference to life existing anywhere but on our planet, it does not dismiss the possibility that God created life elsewhere. The Talmud, referring to an inhabited place known as Maroz which is mentioned in the Book of Judges, goes so far as to embrace the notion that life exists elsewhere. Maroz, according to the ancient rabbis, is a star.
So, as the sun sets in a few hours and we begin Shabbat, take a moment to gaze into the heavens. Perhaps, somewhere up there, there is life. Are they welcoming in Shabbat? This, we cannot answer. We can, however, take comfort in the fact that our tradition will not in any way be undermined or called into question if a real E.T. is discovered. We will simply have to make more room for our alien friends around the Shabbat table.