Q. Does Judaism believe in Evolution?
I am going to limit myself to one aspect as suggested by a Midrash (B’reshit Rabbah1:9).
The Midrash notices that the beginning of Genesis uses two different words for creation, bara and yatzar.
Bara is to create yesh me’ayin, something out of nothing; yatzar is to form something new out of pre-existent material. Both processes were involved in God’s actions in regard to man.
Man was not the first being to have body, limbs and physical features, but man had a qualitative difference, superimposed by God on the physical materials out of which man was made – yatzar.
That qualitative difference is implied in the verse that says that God created – bara – the “image of God” in man.
According to Targum Onkelos, the result was that man became “a speaking spirit”, i.e. possessing an “image of God” capacity for words, implying mind and morality. Man could think, reason, decide, choose between options, and express himself.
Man thus became the pinnacle of Creation, and Rav Kook and other Torah giants took up a positive attitude towards calling this Evolution.
Rav Kook, whilst acknowledging his serious reservations about Evolutionary theory, said, “Gradual evolution is one of the myriad and illimitable ways through which ‘The Life of the Universe’ reveals Himself”.
The French thinker Teilhard de Chardin, who was a scientist as well as a theologian, asks the question whether Evolution has now reached its terminus and cannot go any further. In other words, will Evolution continue to operate, no matter whether its pace is fast or slow?
Teilhard argued that it was not so much in terms of physical but intellectual and moral Evolution that the process can and is likely to continue.