It was reported earlier this week that Mars Rover Curiosity discovered organic molecules which are the carbon-based building blocks of life. These molecules might have been from an ancient life source.
“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 former 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. Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) teaches 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 doesn’t dismiss the possibility that God created life elsewhere. The Talmud, the great book of Jewish law and legend, actually suggests that there is life elsewhere, referring to a star or planet known as Maroz that is inhabited. Maroz? Mars? Did the rabbis of the Talmud know something we’re just beginning to discover?
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’s life. Are they welcoming in Shabbat? This, we can’t 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’ll simply have to make more room for our alien friends around the Shabbat table.