A Brief History of the Universe

[Translation by Rabbi Barry Kornblau,
Chief Content Officer at Canfei Nesharim: Sustainable Living Inspired by Torah]

Adon Olam... The Ruler of the Universe who ruled before any creation was formed.”
More than 13.8 billion years ago, “In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth.”

Le-Et Naasah... At the time all was done, all was made according to His will.”  All was concentrated in one point, the Singularity, tiny beyond measure, compressed beyond measure [“Ein Sof”], in which were united all forces and particles.

After 10-43 seconds began the great explosion, the Big Bang, the Tohu Va-Vohu. At that point, the creation of time, space, matter begin, and the laws of physics – gravity, the strong force, the electromagnetic force, and the weak force – became distinguished.

From 10 seconds thereafter until 380,000 years later was the period of photons - “Let there be light”.

After 400 million years, stars began to form along with heavy elements, until [the atomic number of] iron, since until that time only hydrogen existed.  Then tremendous explosions of stars (known as supernovas) began, releasing 4,000,000,000 times the energy of the Sun, and atoms heavier than iron were created.  As since it is not good for an atom to be alone (cf. Bereshit 2:18), molecules were formed.

8 billion years ago, our galaxy, the Milky Way, was formed.

5 billion years ago, our Sun was formed.

4.6 billion years ago, Earth was formed.

About 3.8 billion years ago, large molecules of millions of atoms appeared, known as prokaryotes: a single cell, without a nucleus, with a membrane separating it from other material – such as bacteria.  They know how to replicate themselves, and thus are the foundation of biological life.

About 2 billion years ago, eukaryotes appeared.  They have a nucleus and organelles – a great revolution which later enabled them to split into different organs such as the heart, brain, liver, male and female, adult and young.

(Notably, it took 0.8 billion years for prokaryotes to appear, another 1.8 billion years until eukaryotes appeared, and another 2 billion years until the [large] creatures we recognize today appeared.  Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook writes: “Physical reality's slowness, nature's restrictions, its external sloth, the contraction of spiritual ascents, the transience of miracles: these are all supporting foundations of the unending ascent constituting the ultimate foundation of physical reality. The latter includes internal limitations which prevents reality's revelation from sinking until its lowest depth, as well a darker thought which promotes the eternal, unending ascent.” – Orot Ha-Kodesh 2.529; cf. 2.539, 2.547)

1.2 billion years ago, reproduction by male and female appeared.  Previously, a single cell duplicated itself, but this process requires two different cells.  The offspring has only 50% of each of its progenitors' traits but is nonetheless doubly enriched in traits, doubling its survival rate.  “They shall be male and female” (Bereshit 6:19)

900 million years ago, multi-celled organisms appeared – pre-sponge creatures.

(The pace is now faster.)

580 million years ago, a creature with nerves and muscles: jellyfish.
570 million years ago, creatures with six or eights limbs.
550 million years ago, flatworms with head and tail, front and back, and a controlling brain.
550 million years ago, the first species of fish.
475 million years ago, plants on land.
405 million years ago, freshwater fish.
400 million years ago, plants with seeds and insects.
315 million years ago, amphibians with lungs and gills, living in the sea and coming onto land.
255 million years ago, finally land creatures.
220 million years ago, mammalian ancestors.
150 million years ago, birds.
125 million years ago, placental animals which protect the fetus inside.
120 million years ago, flowers.
65 million years ago, a small mammal living in trees, ancestor of the primates.
40 million years ago, division of primates into different types.
25 million years ago, Proconsul africanus, a primate.
13 million years ago, a primate whose body structure approaching our own, including flexible elbows, a hard spinal base, and more.
10 million years ago, the appearance of hominids that branched off from gorillas.
7 million years ago, hominids separate from chimps [Maran Ha-Rav Kook: “Zohar (Parashat Vayikra, p. 10) states that there were many types of man before Adam mentioned in the Torah.” – Letters Vol. 1, page 108]
3.5 million years ago, Kenyanthropus Platyops.  [“And Adam became a living being” (Bereshit 2:7) - “At that point, Adam was only a living being, unspeaking until he was formed in [G-d's] Image and Likeness]”  – Commentary of Rabbenu Ovadiah Seforno, cited in The Torah of Rav Gedalyah Nadel, pp. 99-100]
2.5 million years ago, Homo Habilis.
1.8 million years ago, Homo Erectus which walks erect.
1.5 million years ago, Homo Georgicus which mastered fire.
700,000 years ago, the predecessor of Neanderthal Man and modern man.
350,000 years ago, Neanderthal Man himself.
160,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens, the predecessor of Adam. He knew how to bury the dead and to slaughter.
150,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
50,000 years ago, migration to eastern Asia.
40,000 years ago, migration to Australia and Europe; Cro-Magnon man.
10,000 years ago, the Neolithic Era.

6,000 years ago – Year 0: After a long process, man was elevated to the status of Adam the First and our mother, Chava.  They are the first with the Image of God, which expresses the permanent, holy [familial] relationship between them [Adam and Chava]. (Maran Ha-Rav Kook, Shemoneh Kevatzim 1.594)

Year 1056, Noach, the righteous man.
Year 1948, our father Avraham.
Year 2048, our father Yitzchak.
Year 2108, our father Yaakov.
Year 2368, our teacher Moshe.
Year 2448, the Exodus from Egypt.
Year 2488, the Conquest of the Land.
Year 2854, King David.

Year 2928, Building of the Temple.
Year 3338, Destruction of the Temple.
Year 3408, Renewal of the Temple.
Year 3828, Destruction of the Second Temple.
Year 5642, the First Aliyah [to Eretz Yisrael].
Year 5664, the Second Aliyah.
Year 5679, the Third Aliyah.
Year 5684, the Fourth Aliyah.
Year 5692, the Fifth Aliyah.
Year 5699, the Sixth Aliyah.
Year 5708, the Establishment of the State of Israel.
Year 5727, Return to Yerushalayim.

How great are Your works, Hashem!  (Tehilim 92:6)
If our mouths were as filled [with Your praise as water] fills the sea,
It would still not suffice to thank You.