Along with millions of others, I have been so moved by the first images of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
What was captured, in the span of time, was only one day’s slice of the universe, and in the span of space, the size of a grain of sand.
The image is sharp, flecked in reddish rose gold, glowy gold and bursts of spiked sparkles; it’s breathtaking in its deceiving simplicity.
I can still remember the first time staring at the stars, when that moment of understanding of the the mysteriousness and magic of time travel was explained to me.
“You’re looking at a different point of time, at many years in the past deep in the recesses of the universe. It takes time for the star’s light to reach us. It’s still traveling. It’s not here yet with us. You are looking at the past in action.”
What exactly did this mean, that I wasn’t looking at the star as I see it now, but rather at the star in its past time and space? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it and found myself glued to those stars in the sky, as I felt my soul touching infinity.
It was in Tzfat, Safed. The dark sky was so sharp a backdrop to the sparkling stars, they felt so low, like I could reach for one and fleetingly hold it in the palm of my hand.
When I understood I was looking back in time, rather than at a stagnant star floating out there in my present, I was gobsmacked.
Now, I keep returning and staring at the Webb image in wonder, wanting to understand more.
It feels like an intimate peak into G-d’s inner sanctuary.
It feel like I am glimpsing potential eternity, from my more finite point of view, as though I have reached a secret, hitherto unrevealed, crossroads between man and G-d.
To see each glowy cluster, or even smudge, and understand it is a galaxy — filled with its own millions and perhaps even billions of stars, while within them who knows what systems exist — it’s just unfathomable.
And that’s just one day’s worth, and the size of one grain of sand’s worth.
The endless eternity of it all is simply breathtaking. Gazing at this image, I feel truly awe inspired. It is deeply humbling, as the understanding and tangible representation of the sheer size and time of our cosmos slowly sinks in. What a nexus of science and inspiration.
Genesis records the creation of our current world as we know it, divided into six ordered days. As I was taught, prior to the completion of the creation of the world, time was not yet ordered or defined in units of 24-hour increments.
Each day could have potentially been millions, if not billions, of years (as we now define them).
To this day, I still can’t quite wrap my head around gazing at the stars, and understanding the lag in time.
One of the things I do wonder, though, is when the light of the star I am staring at does reach me in my present — what will it look like then? Now?
Will it be darker? Or more luminescent?
It makes you think about how you can decide to exist in time, and how you choose to send yourself out into the world, shooting like a luminescent star, all that you can potentially become.
While I may not understand the science of gravitational lensing, I appreciate that our generation has been granted a rare gift — in capturing the mysteries of our universe, precipitating deeper curiosity about our cosmos.
What a time to be alive.
Dots. Clusters. Smudges. Arcs. Sparkles.
Each of these graphics represent potential universes enfolded within distant galaxies.
The joy in the intimacy of this glimpse of possibility is not only educational, but inspirational.
I can’t understand what capturing and measuring light actually means. But I know a slice of G-d’s universe has been frozen in time for us to see and learn from.
It’s tricky how we are staring at the past, while here in the present, and thinking about how these stars might manifest in the future.
Hashem Melech. Hashem Malach. Hashem Yimloch l’Olam Va’ed. G-d is King. G-d reigns. G-d will reign forever.
We truly are specs in the great beyond. So much has preceded us. So much will follow us.
The celestial world, the great context for our little lives here, might seem so distant and dim. Yet, when you think about it, for all we know we are the distant and the dim.
How humbling a glimpse gazing into this image has been.
The star scattered and studded sky holds so many secrets and mysteries, yet to be peeled away.
Waiting to learn more.
About this slice of life, as small — or as great — as a grain of sand.
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