Genesis - Quite a Beginning
Our Holy Torah begins with the verse “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth,” which describes the genesis of Creation. But there some who still question an act of creation, as they mix truth and falsehood into a chaotic blend. I thought therefore that it’s my duty to explain my views on this subject, so that everyone may understand what Creation and genesis actually are, at least to the degree that we can comprehend them.
The word “Bereshith” denotes a beginning, which doesn’t prevent certain people from believing that there was never even the slightest beginning, a source of error indeed. We will therefore carefully explain what the term “Bereshith” implies.
First, one must realize that all things have a beginning and an end. The construction of a house, for example, has a beginning and (unless we are stopped in the middle of work) an end. There are certain things that G-d did not complete at creation, and we come upon this idea during the Kiddush of Friday night when we say “that G-d created to make.” The words “to make” seem superfluous, but in reality signify the possibility of a new creation. What does this mean? That the Holy One, blessed be He, gave to man the strength and capability to create new things, as did Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, and Rabbi Pinchas Ben Yair (Yalkut Shimoni Vayishlach138) who, to cross a river, ordered it to split in two as Moses had done. This is called a new creation because the nature of water is such that it does not normally split in two. G-d gives the righteous the power to continue His act of creation, in the spirit of what the Sages said “Israel strengthens the heavenly host” (Yalkut Shimoni Isaiah 431).
We can add that G-d created the world, and that the world is us (Sanhedrin 37a). For if we weren’t here, it would deteriorate, much like a house that gets dirty when we don’t clean it. This is why He gave us the ability to participate in acts of creation. The Sages teach that “Whoever recites Vayihchulu [the end of the account of creation, which we say in the Kiddush], it is as if he became G-d’s partner in the creation of the world” (Shabbat 119b; Yalkut Shimoni Bereshith 16). G-d Himself set a limit to creation, but has enjoined man to continue His work, for the universe tends to continue to exist. This realization is not without cost. Thus a man doesn’t marry a woman with the express purpose of getting a divorce, but rather to pursue building the world, a world not created to be left in chaos, but to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18; See Mishnah Gittin 4:5; Megillah 27a; Tanhuma Bereshith 26). Likewise when someone undertakes a job, it is not with the intention of getting immediately sidetracked, but to continue the job until completed. Similarly the Holy One, blessed be He, undertook the creation of the world so that man might continue His work according to His will.
The world therefore represents a certain continuity, and so it is appropriate to examine this carefully. Scientists have placed satellites into orbit that they maintain will allow them to confirm that the sun is billions of years old. Furthermore they say that the sun will continue to exist for billions of years to come, and that the earth has existed for billions of years as well. In reality they have no exact date, whereas we, Bnei Torah, know exactly how long the world has existed, and for how long it will remain in existence. Every year at Rosh Hashanah another year has passed, and we believe in the statement of the Sages who say that the world will last 6000 years and will be destroyed in the seventh millennium (in parallel to the seven days of creation), which will mark the coming of Mashiah (Yalkut Shimoni Hosea 522; Zohar II, 17b; Zohar III, 253a).
All this being said, we will now explain how the earth was formed by basing ourselves on Torah verses and the explanations of the Sages. Scientists speak of an “explosion” that occurred billions of years ago, at a time when all matter was concentrated into a single point of unimaginably high temperature, which caused the “Big Bang” - the beginning of the universe. Today this theory has been support by discoveries obtained through satellites, which seem to confirm its view. These discoveries have also indicated the existence of gases under enormous pressure that may provoke other, cataclysmic explosions.
Apparently nothing has yet confirmed this theory, due to the fact that it consists of phenomena that are impossible to measure directly, and nothing forces us to believe the scientists that maintain it. But in looking at it more closely, it seems to be a reflection of the truth. Why is this?
In the account of the first day of Creation, it is written “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth,” then “the earth was without form and void,” and then “G-d said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.” But this seems contradictory! We get the impression that the light was created first, yet we are told that the heavens and the earth appeared first. Now if the light was a creation to the same degree as all the rest, what is its nature? We could not say that it came from the sun or the moon, for they weren’t created until the fourth day. What is it then? In addition, the Torah says that at the beginning the heavens and the earth were created, but immediately adds that everything was in a state of chaos, which implies that chaos existed beforehand. In that case, how are we to understand that the heavens and the earth were created first? And to return to the question of light, what is this the nature of this particular light of the first day?
Rashi brings the opinion of the Sages which holds that G-d saw that it was best not to bestow this light to the world, because the wicked were not worthy of it, and so He reserved it for the righteous in the future (Hagigah 12a; Bereshith Rabba 12:6). Now this demands to be properly understood. Does G-d have nothing else to do but to create this light, a light that He immediately puts away for the righteous? At another level, does the Torah content itself on speaking of the Garden of Eden, a garden created solely for the righteous? The Torah speaks of all men! What, therefore, is this light in question?
We are obliged to say that it is - no more, no less - the “Big Bang,” the explosion of the scientists! We will explain this point in accordance with the opinion of Rashi.
To construct an instrument, a basic material is required, without which it would be impossible to make anything. We realize therefore that when Scripture says, “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth,” it speaks of the initial matter of the universe, out of which all other things are to be formed. From this matter comes the light that G-d created. But how? By an explosion that occurred as a consequence of the existing conditions in the matter that G-d had created. Only then did the creation of the universe continue.
This idea can be confirmed by the Sages, according to whom the heavens and the earth were drawn out (Hagigah 12a), which represents the explosion of the matter. On this verse the Keli Yakar, as well as the work Ma’asei Bereshith, agree that the world was in a state of chaos (tohu), which was the first thing in existence, but that the second term that is used to designate this, bohu, can be decomposed into bo hu (literally “it contains”) meaning, that which contains everything. It is the origin of everything that was created - the initial matter of the universe - from which the heavens and the earth were drawn out. This is how the explosion occurred, how the light was created, and how the universe was afterwards formed.
Therefore we can now understand what Rashi said about the light reserved for the righteous. In effect, it is said, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree” (Psalms 92:13; see as well Bava Batra 80b; Bereshith Rabba 40:17). Just as the palm tree stands very tall, the righteous are greatly elevated. This light, which appeared as a result of the explosion, was therefore conserved by G-d solely for them, for they are holy and reach a spiritual level that no one else can lay claim to.
So now, how were the sun and moon created? Torah commentators, as well as the Zohar (Hachmatot, I, 265a), say that the sun was formed by a tiny particle of that powerful and hidden original light. All is therefore perfectly understandable, and I said to myself concerning this that the word tamar (palm tree) has the same numeric value as shemesh (sun), which alludes to the fact that the light found in the sun was created but for the righteous. We will explain this point in more detail.
However it should not be enough for us to just know about these things - we must really believe them! Faith requires much effort and much soul-searching, just as muscles require exercise and weightlifting in order to develop. To believe in one’s heart is not easy; we have to be tough on ourselves!
Exactly what is it that we are talking about here? Today, there are people who consider themselves to be good Jews, but if someone were to say “Jew” to them, they would get upset and go on the defensive. Now we have to understand what is a Jew! It is someone who observes the Torah and mitzvot, and performs good deeds. This is why, if we want to defend the moniker “Jew,” we must defend the Torah and the mitzvot, not because they are peripheral to Judaism, but because they are at the very root of it! What is it then? The answer is that it is a pure heart with respect to G-d, for there are some Jews who on the outside have a beard, payoth, and black hat, but on the inside are void of anything of substance. This type of person can under no circumstances defend nor represent Judaism, for the defense of Judaism is the defense of one’s essence, core, and substance, not the external aspects that the word “Jew” connotes.
Faith in the Creator of the world begins by this, and we find it starting from the word “Bereshith.” It is the origin of faith’s awakening and its permanence to this day, for the Torah and Judaism are without end and without limit. This too is the nature of marriage, which consists of continuing the creation of the world with faith in G-d and ceaseless loyalty to Judaism.
The Torah begins with “In the beginning” and ends with “in the eyes of all Israel,” so as to teach us that it is solely in sticking to our commitment that all the Children of Israel can arrive at the truth of G-d. So he - the Jew - will see more clearly and thereby understand that the beginning was created for him, and that for him it is very good.
From all this we note that the explosion of which the scientists speak is nothing, in and of itself. For there is Someone who stands behind all this - the Holy One, blessed be He! In effect, the dust and ash from which He formed the earth were formed by Him as well. They didn’t appear all by themselves, for all originates from Him. We can compare this situation to that of a man who is running in a certain direction. On the way, a righteous person encounters him and asks, “why are you running there?”
He replies, “because I might meet-up with some luck.”
“How do you know that your luck lies in the direction you’re running in,” replies the righteous person. “Perhaps it’s in the exact opposite direction, and you’re turning your back on it.”
But a man who believes in a “Bereshith” knows that at every instant there is someone who watches over and protects him. There are equally many people who discover the light of Torah after many years spent far from it. And why? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, watches over them. With regards to this, I am often asked how it is that so many people discover G-d after having lived far from Him for so long. It is obviously because each one has a Jewish soul that is a divine fragment, so much so, that even when he has made mistakes, there still exists a good beginning - a “Bereshith” - which is a Jewish soul, and the Holy One, blessed be He, helps him in everything that he does. You too, who are still young and who has still much to discover in life, you are the “Bereshith.” The Holy One, blessed be He, supports you on every side, but only on condition that you grab hold of the Tree of Life, which is the Torah, and which will enlighten you. Thus, you will truly merit to see the hidden light that it conceals.
Our Sages tell us that in the future, the Holy One, blessed be He, will give 310 worlds to each of the righteous (Uqsin 3:12; Shocher Tov 5:2; Midrash Mishlei 8:9). And if you’re asking yourself why 310 worlds, and not 400, we don’t know. But because our Sages say it, there is certainly a reason. Do you really believe that G-d will give 310 worlds to each righteous person? It’s a given! For if our Sages affirm this to be true, we trust in them - that’s faith! And we should say that we believe it. Each Jew has faith, but one must entrench it deep in the heart. Often we say, “yes, of course I believe it” even when we have no proof. But for us, this should be without doubt; it is obvious that we believe it.
We can now return to a question that we have asked: It is written that G-d created the world and the light. Where is this light? We answered this by saying that G-d created the world by means of the light, yet Rashi
gives another explanation, saying that it was put away for the righteous to rejoice therein in the future. We have thus raised another question: Why did G-d feel the need to act in such a way?
Now we know that the sun exists. Therefore we term bursts of light “sunlight,” and scientists say that some sun bursts (known as prominences) can measure 350 000 kilometers in length, but that they are so far away we can’t see them. Certainly there are things that we don’t believe, but in any case, this - I believe it! An emanation of such a length is something unimaginable. If we were to light a candle and an efflux of light appeared that was a meter long, would we not be petrified? How much more so a light burst from the sun!
The word shemesh (sun) and tamar (palm tree) each have a numerical value of 640. Now we know that the palm tree represents the righteous (“the righteous will flourish like a palm tree”). And the Sages say that G-d kept this light for the righteous, a light that we consider to be like the light of the sun (Yoma 38b; Kiddushin 72b; Bereshith Rabba 58:2; Vayikra Rabba 28:1). And in the final analysis, it was for them that it was created. This means that the universe is really the sun and the righteous, for it was for them that it was created (Berachot 6b; Shabbat 30b; Yalkut Shimoni Kohelet 999).
Just how does the greatness of the righteous compare to that of the sun? Somewhere in Morocco can be found the tomb of one of the greatest Tsaddikim ever, so great that we call him “the father of Issachar, master of the source.” He died on a Friday and was buried in the spot that he died, as many Tsaddikim did who wished to rest in the exact place where they left this world. That is why in Morocco there are some righteous who are buried on mountains, and this is also why Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzera, who left for Egypt where he died, also has his tomb there.
Because this “master of the source” died on a Friday shortly before Shabbat, there was no time to bury him in the city, which was too far away. Therefore everything necessary for a local burial was prepared. There was amongst those present a Tsaddik well versed in Kabbala. When people suddenly realized that there were but a few minutes before Shabbat, he wrote something on the skin of a pomegranate, placed this writing facing the sun, and then - the sun stopped! It stopped exactly as it had done for Joshua, the servant of Moses. When Joshua was waging war against Jericho, at Gibeon he told the sun to stop, and it did (Joshua 10:12).
There are many stories of great figures in Israel who performed miracles and wonders. This clearly demonstrates that “G-d created to make” so that it be known that He created the “Bereshith,” and that the righteous, who evoke the sun, can “make” the world according to their will. They never act through pride or for the love of honor, but when they see that the world is in need, it is then that they perform supernatural feats. And why all this? Because they firmly believe that Someone is standing behind the “Bereshith,” and once we become aware of that, the Holy One, blessed be He, comes to our aid. Again, one must have the certainty that He is truly the source of all Creation.
That is why the Torah begins with the letter beit (“Bereshith...”). It is an extraordinary letter, one that resembles a box into which one may enter. The Holy One, blessed be He, has prepared a “box” for everyone, the inside of which one may penetrate to commence his never-ending journey. Without the beit of the word “Bereshith” there is reshith (“beginning”), to teach us that what we’ve done just now is but a beginning, and that the Torah must be searched over and over, for everything can be found in it (Perkei Avoth 5:27). In addition, faith in G-d knows no boundary, and to the degree that we perceive His greatness and His loftiness, we experience our own insignificance.
I knew a couple from Venezuela who were childless. The husband was very rich. When I asked him if he studied Torah, he answered that he didn’t have enough time to open a book. So I said to him, “If you find time for the Holy One, blessed be He, He will likewise find time for you.” But he told me that this was very difficult. So I suggested that he open a kollel and finance some avrechim that would study there, and that perhaps he would come by as well to study, since it was his kollel. He welcomed this suggestion with joy, and consequently three children were born to him (two girls and a boy). I went to Venezuela to be the Sandak for the circumcision of his son.
As a result, when there is a good beginning, a good “Bereshith,” one should ensure that what follows be equally as good, as in the case of marriage. That’s why when you come to a Torah class, you should continue in like manner and stay concentrated during the course or while studying. But the essential is to realize that there is someone who is behind us and takes care of us, the Holy One, blessed be He.
If all this is true, we can better understand certain verses of the Holy Torah. From the word “Bereshith” we have learned that G-d created light, that it comes from the Torah, and that from it the world was created, as the Zohar says, “The Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the Torah to create the world” (Introduction, 5a). It follows that this light is found in the interior of Creation, and only the righteous of each generation are those who will enjoy it in the future. In effect, they truly see that G-d is all-powerful, and is found in every place. Consequently they are the only ones who merit the ability to change nature according to their needs.
We have said that this light caused the “Big Bang” and the creation of the universe, and that it penetrated Creation and then disappeared, disappeared so well in fact that everything became dark, as the verse says “and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Now this is difficult to understand: If G-d had created light, from where does this darkness come? This forces us to say that He hid the light inside of Creation itself, and that only the righteous rejoice in it for the good of their generation and the needs of their divine service. The vast majority of this light, however, is reserved for them in the future.
All this is because the entire world is the sun, and the sun is the righteous (the Hebrew words for “sun” and “palm tree” - the latter being synonymous with the righteous - have the same numerical value). G-d therefore hid the light inside of worlds not seen, in accordance with the verse “No eye has ever seen...except for You” (Isaiah 64:3). Nevertheless every Jew should draw the light of “Bereshith” to himself by continuing the work of creation (which is his duty), in order that he may rejoice in the light that was created on the first day, and which has been embedded into Creation even until today -embedded into Creation, into Gan Eden, and into all the worlds that belong exclusively to the righteous.
Up to today explosions of celestial gases continue to occur, creating suns and worlds like those we know, but don’t see. And all this is in order that the Children of Israel, by noting these phenomena, should believe that the Holy One, blessed be He, continues to create worlds. Thus He keeps the light for the righteous, and for them to know as well that when the universe was in a state of chaos, there was one initial cause that was uniquely G-d, accompanied by the Torah, His constant delight (Bereshith Rabba 1:1; Shir Hashirim Rabba 5:4). By means of the Torah, G-d created the universe and all the people of Israel. It is also the source of the sun. But men do not see the light, because, as we said, it is reserved for the righteous in the future. He who becomes obstinate in his error by claiming the opposite finds himself confronted by an enormous problem: Where did the matter for the “Big Bang” - the origin of the universe - come from, and how did it get there? The only possible response is that behind all this stands the Holy One, blessed be He, and blessed be His Name forever, Who is the Creator. He created the heavens and the earth, light and darkness, ex nihilo! And even until today, He continues to create from nothing!
I took this idea from a book Torah U'Mada (The Torah and Science), which outlines research done by the author of the book. In it he reports that the explosion (which is the beginning of the universe) had as its source the light created by G-d on the first day, but that this did not happen all by itself! This explanation brought me to the conclusion that I have mentioned earlier, which is that we should know that G-d looked at the light of the Torah to create the world, hence the Torah was with Him, and it was the Torah that is called reshith (Tanhuma Bereshith 3; Shemot Rabba 2:2; Shocher Tov 78:1; Yalkut Shimoni Bereshith 2). In effect, without Israel, G-d would have had no reason to create the world, since He seeks only to do good to those who perform His will. But as He didn’t want the wicked to use this powerful and holy light (which may have perhaps also let them perform miracles), He concealed the light inside Creation, exclusively for the righteous who perform His will.
When man takes note of all the explosions that continue to take place until today (by which the Holy One, blessed be He, continues to create the world), he can arrive at but one thought concerning the existence of a Creator who created all ex nihilo. King David exclaimed, “When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have set in place...” and “How abundant are Your works HASHEM!” (Psalms 8:4;104:24). By this he emulates Abraham, who also proclaimed the handiwork of G-d to the world, His wisdom, and His kindness toward His creations. His is One, His Name is One, and there is none else but Him. If everyday a man were to contemplate His works, and were to prolong the act of creation (as the verse instructs, “that G-d created to make”), he would be aware that only G-d creates and destroys worlds (Zohar I, 24b), that He is constantly fashioning the universe, and that He renews each day in His goodness the work of Creation.
However, the senseless one who refuses to understand and wishes to retain his erroneous beliefs doesn’t even begin to understand that the universe has an origin. He completely saves the beginning for the end, and from that end he draws his conclusions, as if Creation had started at the end! Does this have any semblance of logic? To arrive at the end, we have to begin at a given moment. To arrive at the primordial explosion that occurred as a result of intense temperature and pressure conditions, it is obvious that it must have had a beginning! Yet these senseless explain but the end, and do so by putting aside the beginning. To think like this, one must be “a boor [who] cannot know...a fool [who cannot] understand” (Psalms 92:7). In effect, this reasoning is a way of refusing to admit that the world continues to behave as at the beginning of Creation. “Bereshith” indicates a continuity in Creation up to our days, for G-d began then, and still stands behind His work today. Therefore we are responsible to prolong existence itself. This is the sense of the prayer, “Who renews in His goodness each day the work of creation,” for all continues as at the moment of “Bereshith,” so well that, even up to today, new creations continue to occur.
Happy is the man who puts his confidence in G-d, who trusts in Him, studies the Torah, practices mitzvot, and who discovers before his eyes this light hidden of the Torah. And woe to those who pass their entire lives in error and darkness, convinced that the world was created all by itself, and that there is no Creator. Many objections can be presented to them for which they would have no answer, for if all things have a beginning, where is the “Bereshith” of Creation found?
But to resolve all their challenges and their doubts, they would do well to look up and study Torah verses, at which time all their objections would disappear as quickly as they appeared. Thus, if they opened the Book of Genesis and read, “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth,” they would understand that there is a Creator behind all this.
We see by this that it is extremely easy for the entire world to arrive at a belief in the Creator of the universe, and it is particularly easy for us, Jews - who possess the Torah, where His existence is certified - to do so.
It is really a certificate that the Creator is One, that His Name is One, and that He gave us mitzvot in order to maintain the existence of Creation. But because of their many sins, these types continue to follow idle notions and perform absurd research that leads to chaos and obscurity, resulting in ridiculous conclusions! It is from there that enormous contradictions in their research originate, to the point that one contradicts and destroys the other, eliminating it completely. If, instead of wasting time and money, they educated themselves a little more and studied the Book of Genesis in the Holy Torah, they would arrive at the truth concerning Creation: It is He Who created it, Who formed it, Who directs the world, He from whom all originates, and to Whom all belongs; He is the Master of it all (Bereshith Rabba 39a; Yalkut Shimoni Psalms 650), a conclusion arrived at by the first believer, our father Abraham.
Rashi writes that the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world for the sake of the Torah, which is called reshith and for Israel, which is called reshith (as G-d had envisioned men before Creation [Pesachim 54b], they were called reshith). The universe was therefore created for the Torah and for Israel, who are two (which is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter beit, B). Thus it is written: “B-reshith,” G-d created the heavens and the earth by the merit of the two reshiths (the Torah and Israel), for both are truth, without any mix of evil or falsehood.
Therefore, before Creation, only the souls of the Children of Israel beheld the light of the Torah, for they and the Torah were the sole existent things alongside the Holy One, blessed be He. When He envisioned the creation of the universe in order to bestow goodness upon His creations and to show Himself compassionate toward them, He wanted that the light of the Torah and the souls of the Tsaddikim continue to enlighten each other in this world as well as in the world to come. This is why when G-d created the world, He incorporated the light of the Torah into the cycle of Creation, the same light by which the universe was created and which brought life to the worlds, and which was also absorbed in them. Later, when the souls of the Children of Israel came down to live in this world, they continued to rejoice in the Torah (which is found in the universe and in space) in the same way that they rejoiced in the light before Creation.
The divine wisdom is understood as follows: The Holy One, blessed be He, will reward the righteous with the light of the Torah in this world, in order to let them pursue their labors in holiness and purity, and prolong and maintain the existence of the universe. The rest of the light has been put aside for the future.
From this, from the Book of Genesis, we truly observe that the Creation originates from the Holy One, blessed be He, and that it continues to exist because of Him, forever!