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Studies in the Stories of Creation

  • Rav Shimon Klein

“How should a book start?” is a question that many authors pose to themselves, and then invest considerable thought in finding a proper answer. The opening chapters of a book are the initial point of encounter with the work and with its author, and they leave their impression on the entire reading experience.


The Torah offers a unique response to this question. The opening chapters serve as a sort of foreword, presenting fundamental ideas and rules, and introducing the reader to the conceptual world that he is about to enter.[1] In this sense the opening chapters of Bereishit serve as an introduction to the Torah as a whole. The Torah starts with a description of the Creation, with the origin of the world, even before it was complete and its elements joined together. In this sense, too, these chapters serve as an introduction – to the Creation, or to the world. The superimposition of both introductions arouses within us anticipation of a study experience that will produce in-depth insights with regard to both the Torah and the world.[2]


Thus far, all is simple and straightforward. The picture becomes more complex and more interesting in light of the double account of the “beginning” – in chapter 1 and in chapter 2.[3] A review of the two descriptions reveals two different accounts. Chapter 1 talks about heavens that were created first – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” (1:1). Chapter 2 talks about the earth being created first, and the heavens only afterwards: “These are the generations… on the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven” (2:4).[4]


Chapter 1 tells of a world that is created in six days, while chapter 2 describes a coming into being in one day: “These are the generations… on the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven” (2:4). In chapter 1, man is created in the image of God – a sort of “Divine copy,” with no explicit mention of his physical aspects. In chapter 2, the description is, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (2:7): the raw material from which he is formed is “dust of the ground,” and God breathes the breath of life into him. We might imagine addressing a question to the man created in chapter 1 – “Who are you?” or, “Where do you come from?” and he would point towards the heavens: “I am from there; it is to there that I belong.” If the same question was addressed to the man described in chapter 2, it seems that he would point towards the ground.


The above is but a brief sampling of the gap between the two descriptions. Closer study reveals that this gap concerns every possible aspect and dimension. Endless commentary has been written about the discrepancies. Some scholars have minimized it;[5] others have analyzed the different type of “man” arising from each description;[6] while a third approach suggests that the two sources offer two “aspects” that coexist.[7]


We shall propose another way of looking at these units.


Who is sovereign – God or man?


A question that goes back to the beginning of time is whether God or man is at the center of Creation. It has been formulated in many different ways: “Is it God who sets the order of values for society, or is it man who decides?” “Should man be led by his personal wants and desires, or does God’s will come before all else?”


What is the Torah’s position on this question? Simple logic would seem to point to a simple answer: the Torah asserts the existence of a Creator of the world; He is King; the world belongs to Him, and He is at its center. Examination of the verses of Bereishit suggests another, most wondrous position. The Torah does not take one unequivocal side in this question. There are two opening chapters, presenting both positions, despite the tremendous gap and contrast between them.


Chapter 1 is the chapter of Creation (beri’ah). This is the theme with which it opens – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (1),” and with which it concludes: “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it He rested from all His work which God had created to perform” (2:3). The Creation symbolizes the transition from “nothing” to “something”. Previously, nothing existed; now, there is existence. This is essentially a Divine act; it is not something that man can do. At the same time, a special status is occupied by man, who is created “in the image of God” – with qualities resembling qualities of God. This man should bring God’s word to the world; as such, his free choice is not an issue. There is one source of power in the world, and that is God. It is He Who blesses man and defines his purpose and that of the world.


A new movement makes itself felt in chapter 2 – “formation” (yetzira).[8] Essentially this pertains to existing creations, which are assembled or connected so as to create new entities and life forms. In contrast to the act of Creation, which is reserved for God, “formation” is fundamentally a human act; man forms, builds and develops the world.


We shall now examine the position in which this chapter places man: even before he is formed, the grasses and plants of the field await his arrival.[9] Without him, nothing will grow. The puzzled reader asks: why does God not cause them to grow, as He did in chapter 1?[10] What we find here is a different approach, where God leaves room for man to come and assume responsibility. Accordingly, God plants a garden in Eden, and here too an “empty space” is left for man – “to till it and to keep it.”[11] The garden is placed in his hands for safekeeping; from now on, all that happens in it is subject to his discretion and his decisions. A tangible act of “leaving room” is manifest in the following description:


“And God formed out of the ground every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and He brought them to the man to see what he would call them” (2:19).


God forms animals and brings them to man. We might imagine God bringing an animal before Adam and then “taking a step back,” as it were, leaving room “to see what he would call them.” Within that space that is created, an unmediated encounter takes place between man and the animal. This encounter facilitates in-depth familiarity, such that man is able to give each animal its identity and meaning.[12] The idea of man naming – the animals, and later the woman and even himself[13] – is not self-evident. In chapter 1 this function was filled by God;[14] now, it is man who awards meaning.


How significant is the extent and depth of man’s sovereignty? To what degree does chapter 2 introduce a truly revolutionary concept?


These questions demand that we examine the two images of man in greater depth.


High up or deep down?


At first glance, chapter 1 seems to depict man as elevated, lofty, almost Divine, while in chapter 2 he is human and occupies a place in the worldly realm. From the former perspective he is made “in the image of God”; from the latter – “dust from the earth”. The first is subject to his dimension of Creation, to esoteric Divine speech; the second is subject to the ties and connections that exist within this world. As it turns out, this perception is quite accurate in relation to man in the first chapter, but incomplete in relation to man in the second chapter. To a considerable extent, this description misses the point.


Let us first consider man of chapter 1. He is, indeed, elevated, distinguished and Divine, as expressed in the text in different ways:


“And God said, Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the beasts, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” (1:26)


This verse describes the Divine thought that preceded the act. This sort of thought is unique to the creation of man, and it reflects the abstraction appropriate to man’s quality of distinction. Altogether unique is the plural form “Let us make,” which banishes intimacy and brings other factors into some sort of partnership or sharing in the thought of creating man.[15] And who is “man”? The title “man” refers here to the human race, not a particular individual. This remains the case throughout the description in chapter 1, as part of its abstract conceptualization. “In Our image” – a sort of shadow or outline of the Creator. “After Our likeness” – in the context of the comparison or similarity between himself and God. This man is blessed by God, and the blessing, too, embodies loftiness and distinction: the blessing concerns man’s purpose, and defines his superiority in relation to the other creations (he is to fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over all creatures).


Man as depicted in chapter 2 is quite different, as is immediately apparent from the outset: “The Lord God created man of the dust of the earth.”[16] Man is, first and foremost, “dust of the earth”.[17] This quality places him squarely within the category of the worldly system of living things, along with the animals which were likewise created from the earth. The expression, “And man became a living soul (nefesh chaya),” which until now has been used for the animals, further reinforces his common denominator with the animals and with all created things.[18]


So much for what is apparent on the surface. We shall now consider another, quite surprising angle.


“And He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (2:7). This “breathing,” exhalation, passes from the inner essence of one party into the inner essence of the other (the Zohar comments, “one who breathes does so from within himself”[19]). God imbues man with something of His own essence, as it were; a part of the Divine that will now be part of his inner world – the breath of life, nishmat chayim. With the words “And man became a living being (nefesh chaya)” the Torah describes another step, whereby the “nishmat chayim” is embedded in the “nefesh,” which represents man’s point of contact with natural life.


To define it in the briefest of terms, the first depiction of man is of a being that is supernal, elevated, transcending the ‘here and now’. He is perhaps comparable to an angel – in terms of his wholeness, his commitment to his mission – as impressed upon him by God. His limitation is that he does not “touch” the ground; he certainly has no contact with life.


The second chapter describes man who is not a supernal being. He comes from the earth, and is considered part of the category of “living things” (nefesh chaya). Nevertheless, he does have a hidden advantage: the “part of the Divine” that is within him. If he becomes aware of his inner world, his desires, the “nishmat chayim” within him, he may rise to great and significant places.[20]


It seems that the deepest dimension of the distinction between the two concerns the question, “Where is Divinity in the world?” Is it in the heavens, up above this world, as man of the first chapter perceives it,[21] or it is planted right here within “this world”?[22] In the first chapter, man is created in the image of God, and his life embodies his similarity to his Creator. He is a “shadow,” as it were, of something whole and complete that lies beyond. The aspect that is introduced in chapter 2 speaks of a God Who causes His Presence to rest upon the world, within life. Man opens up to the breath of life, the living soul, that is within him; its purpose, the profound and meaningful processes that it brings about. And it is to this place, the space in which man is active, that the Dweller will come.


Free choice


Within the framework of chapter 1, free choice is not an issue. In this chapter, God blesses man and defines his purpose:


“And the Lord blessed them, and the Lord said to them: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves upon them earth” (1:28) –


- a purpose that is partially shared by the animals.[23] This purpose relates to the foundations of mankind’s existence (reproduction, filling the earth) and is not the sort of personal instruction that could arouse in man any deliberation as to whether to fulfill it or not. Again and again the text describes the Divine act as “good” or “very good”: “And God saw all that He had done, and behold, it was very good,”[24] and there is no room left for choice. In view of this pure Divine goodness, could there be any possibility of thinking otherwise? Any deliberation would in and of itself entail a sort of denial of both Divine goodness and Divine authority.


In terms of chapter 2, freedom of choice is an obvious fact of life. Man is comprised of two opposite poles – dust of the earth and the breath of life, a living soul. On the most basic level, he has to decide, to choose, which he will follow. (In chapter 1, there are no opposing poles; there is a single Divine voice, with no option contesting it.) The first time that God issues a command to man, He emphasizes the option of choice:


“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat. But of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil – you shall not eat of it, for on the day you eat of it you will surely die.” (2:16-17)


This formulation speaks of the possibility of transgressing God’s word. “If and when” you transgress the command – “on the day you eat of it” – such and such will happen to you. This explicit message makes man aware of the option of choosing. In the wake of this Divine utterance he asks himself, Will I obey the Divine command? Do I have a will, a desire, to act otherwise?[25]


Now, let us take a step back and try to identify the fundamental act taking place in each of these two chapters.


Separation vs. joining


“In the beginning God created…” – the root “b-r-a” (create) is related to the word ‘bar’ (meaning ‘a son’), or ‘outside’. The beginning point is defined as “son” or as “outside,” in relation to God’s primal existence. It is as if the text were saying, “In the beginning God ‘extracted’, ‘brought out’, ‘produced’, the heavens and the earth.” Like a son who emerges from or is produced by his father, separate from him, so the world “emerges” from God, separating from Him. Accordingly, the fundamental movement at the heart of the first chapter is one of separation. At first, God creates the heavens and the earth; the direct result of this is “formlessness and void,” a jumble of everything or – existence that is all a jumble. The action that is obviously required here is separation. And indeed, a process is set in motion that is essentially one separation after the next: “And God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated the light from the darkness” (1:4). The light had been mixed up with darkness, and God separated them. The naming of these two contrasting states – “light” and “darkness” – is also a sort of separation: “And God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness He called ‘night’.” The water is likewise separated: “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water, and let it separate water from water.” And once again they are separated: “And God made the firmament, and He separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament, and it was so.” There is water above, water below, and a firmament separating them. “And God said, Let the water under the heavens be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so (1:9). At first, water covered the earth; now, the water is gathered together/separated. And so the chapter continues on the path of separation.[26]

What underlies this act? What does it serve? As noted, the earth is originally “formlessness and void”. There is Divinity in it, but it is mixed up and blurred. It has no self-expression, nor can it be identified.[27] The obvious solution is separation. There is one separation after the next, with the purpose of clarifying that which is blurred and giving expression to the Godliness and infinity that exists in each and every created entity. It is remarkable that nowhere in the entire first chapter is there any description of any connection or reciprocity between different creations. There is no “Garden of Eden” to serve as a living space, nor any life system. Here, with the subject being the presentation of Creation in its purity, any dependence on or connection to another factor would appear as a blurring of essence – as though something were lacking, and it was being sought elsewhere.[28]


The second chapter opens with the words, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created”. This serves as a heading for a chapter whose subject is “generations” – the continuation of the story of Creation that was described in the first chapter. Previously, that which was created came into being ex nihilo – out of nothingness. Now, creation proceeds from that which already exists. Previously, the movement had been one of separation; now we see the opposite movement: at the point of departure the elements are separate, and the basic act is one of connecting, weaving life, and in broader terms – the reciprocal relations between the different elements that together form a system of life. For example,


“And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet grown, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground” (2:5).


There is water, and it exists alone; there is earth, and it exists in its solitude. The causing of rain connects them. In addition, the rain gives life to the plant of the field and causes the herb of the field to grow: “And there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (2:6) – there is a mist, there is ground, and now the mist waters the ground. Man, too, is a living being; he is composed of a combination of dust and Godly breath. And thus throughout the chapter God forms and forges more and more connections, and following His example, man too will come to forge connections.[29]


What is embodied in this transition from separation to connection? We might point to a simple place, existing in reality, in the nature of the world.[30] The second chapter invites man to create, to join, to forge connections with the world outside of which he exists. This is not a simple step, for who can guarantee that the encounter with the other will not lead him astray from his faithful path? Perhaps he will lose his identity in the encounter with a foreign world? Indeed, there can be no successful formative encounter unless a critical previous stage has taken place. Only after man can answer his own question, “Who am I?” will he be capable of a genuine encounter with the other with no fear of losing his own personal world. This spiritual principle is expressed in many different ways, and it would seem that the Zohar formulates it well: “The side of holiness starts with separation and concludes with connection. The other side starts with connection and concludes with separation.”[31] Proper formation (yetzira) is based upon a “place” given to each of its constituent elements, with each remaining faithful to itself, its qualities, and the Divine aspect embedded in it. This faithfulness is an essential condition that facilitates the stage of connections, of reciprocal relations. If this condition is not fulfilled, the great system of life cannot exist, since its existence is fundamentally based on each of its elements.[32]


An introduction to Creation and to the world


We started off by describing the first chapters of Bereishit as a sort of introduction – an “introduction to the Torah” and an “introduction to the world”. Let us now add some thoughts on these definitions.


“An introduction to the Torah” – this term is based on a view that identifies these chapters as the foundation stones of two longitudinal axes extending beneath the surface of the entire Torah. There are some units that extend from the conceptual system set forth in chapter 1, while other units extend from the conceptual system set forth in chapter 2. In the former group of units God is sovereign; He leads reality, and this fact is the basis of events. In the latter group, God makes space; man serves as sovereign, and reality conducts itself accordingly.[33] In between these two poles, there are different variations on the nature of their relations.

“An introduction to the world” – this term is based on the identification of the two authorities as existing side by side, in every “formation” or yetzira, in every system of life created by man.


Let us consider a simple object such as a pen. There are two arenas that exist here, alongside one another; two kingdoms. There is the “kingdom of creation (beri’a),” in which we find the raw materials – the metal, ink, the qualities of the different substances, and the laws of nature applying to them. All of these are in God’s hands.[34] The composite human creation is the yetzira. More than ever before, humanity understands today the degree to which it does not understand. Infinity is embedded in the laws of nature, in substance and its qualities – way beyond what man can contain and grasp.


A different arena is the kingdom of yetzira – formation – where the center is man. He forms and molds, he is responsible for both qualities and breakdowns. Beri’a is the kingdom of potential, which contains infinite wisdom; yetzira is the wisdom of realization, in which is embedded the wisdom of the “forger,” the one who forms, as well as the accumulated experience and development of humanity over many generations, until it reaches the present model. God does not intervene in this arena; responsibility for it is given over entirely to man. These are two kingdoms, with a very thin line of separation passing between them.


Man builds a building: in the world of “creation” we find the materials, the laws of physics, and the rules of construction. The builder grapples with and within this realm, and to the extent that he and the architect are talented and able, something will be formed (yetzira) in the world.


How does a piece of music come into existence? God’s part involves the law of Creation – the sounds, the notes, the laws of music. The human being, in the role of ‘yotzer’, from the depth of his spiritual awareness and personal expression, brings to the world a performance of the music such as has never been heard before.


The same division exists in the world of ideas: the study of Torah includes tradition, a Torah that is passed from generation to generation. On the other hand, “there is no beit midrash that does not offer something new.” Both elements exist in every beit midrash. The former emanates from the world of “creation”; the latter – from the world of “formation,” from the innovative spirit of man. The gap depends on the question of which serves as the point of departure, and which is the later expansion. To put it differently – where is the spirit of the beit midrash “located?”


This connection between the two first chapters of Bereishit is the story of the great partnership that is maintained between man and God, in every area and activity of life that is undertaken by man. Like an artist setting out his palette of colors, God puts His world at man’s disposal, inviting him to step up and start painting.



Translated by Kaeren Fish


[1] See the introduction to our shiur on parashat Bamidbar. Many generations later, the Sages of the Mishna and the Talmud adopted the same approach; they, too, set fundamental concepts, rules and principles down within the first mishna and the opening sugya of each massekhet.

[2]  Another aspect relates to the fact that the Torah sanctifies the “first” and awards it special status. It therefore seems only natural that a special status should be attached to these “first” chapters.

[3] We will refer here to the Masoretic division of chapters, according to which chapter 2 begins at 2:4 – “These are the generations…”. The names “chapter 1” and “chapter 2” will be used as conceptual handles in this shiur, with “chapter 2” referring basically to the story of creation up until verse 24. In a broader sense it also includes the story of the snake and the Tree of Knowledge, up until the Masoretic chapter 3. Chapter 4 comes back to the conceptual system of chapter 1 and serves as its continuation.

[4]  This gap is impossible to bridge. Is the point of departure the heavens, the Divine realm, upon which the entire system rests, or is the starting point and basis the earth, the physical realm, which must be climbed and transcended, stage by stage, until one reaches the heavens? This is the crux of a Talmudic dispute between the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel. The school of Shammai maintains that the heavens were created first, and they cite as support for this view the verse from chapter 1. The school of Hillel maintains that the earth was created first, based on the verse from chapter 2. This fundamental difference of opinion reflects the principles of the broader controversy between the two schools.

[5]   The early biblical commentators paid almost no attention to the gap. Where they do address it, they pose a local question and offer a local solution; there is no systematic view.

[6] Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, in his Lonely Man of Faith, speaks of man’s dual nature, as expressed in the two stories of Creation. These are two prototypes of man, two representatives of humanity, and it is no wonder that they are not identical. Each individual person contains aspects of both prototypes – Adam I, who is a majestic creator, and Adam II, who is submissive and humble.

[7]  Rabbi Mordekhai Breuer’s approach views repetitions, redundancies and contradictions in the biblical text as what he refers to as different “aspects”. His approach maintains an ongoing dialogue with the positions of academic research.

[8]  The term ‘b-r-a’ (“created”) appears seven times in the first chapter, with three appearances of the term “y-tz-r” (“formed”). We propose below that “beri’a” epitomizes the basic action that takes place in chapter 1, and it is realized in different ways. Chapter 2 is the chapter of “yetzira”, which likewise has different manifestations and takes different forms.

[9]  “And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, nor had any herb of the field yet grown, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground.” (2:5)

[10]  “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth; and it was so” (1:11)

[11]  “And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it” (2:15)

[12]  The verse continues, “… and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name”, applies this new status of man unconditionally.

[13]  “And the man said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman (isha), because she was taken out of Man (ish).” The man calls her ‘woman’, and then retroactively arrives at his own corresponding name.

[14]  “And God called the light – day, and the darkness He called night… (5). “And God called the firmament heaven… and there was evening and there was morning, a second day.” (8) “And God called the dry land earth, and He called the gathering of the waters seas…” (10).

[15]  Chazal speak of God “consulting with the heavenly household”.

[16]  In both chapters he is referred to as “man” (adam). In the first chapter, this title is derived from the fact of his creation “in the image and after the likeness” (demut) of God. In the second, his name is derived from the ground (adama) from which he is taken.

[17]  In the first chapter, in contrast, there is no mention of man’s physical body. Its existence may be deduced from the blessing to “be fruitful and multiply”, and from the attention to his sustenance: “Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, upon which is fruit yielding seed; to you it shall be for food” (1:29). Reproduction and nutrition indicate the presence of a physical body. We might imagine the lofty language of Adam, recognizing the fact of his bodily existence, but “one doesn’t speak of such matters.”

[18]  “God said, Let the waters swarm abundantly with moving creatures that have life (nefesh chaya) and let birds fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (1:20). Also, “And out of the ground God formed every beast of the field, and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and whatever the man called every living creature (nefesh chaya) – that was its name” (2:19). The fact that man himself is now described as a “nefesh chaya” is a far cry from the description in the first chapter as having been created in the image of God!

[19]  As quoted in the Chassidic works. The source in the Zohar is unknown; however, there are similar statements, such as in Zohar, parashat Tazria 46b.

[20]  Another aspect of this distinction is that man of the first chapter is preoccupied with the Divinity within him, its purpose and its perfection. Man of the second chapter belongs to “this world”, and hence he feels responsible towards this world and may serve as its mouthpiece.

[21] In the first chapter, God is not present in space. He is described as a Creator Who brings the world into existence through speech and utterance; He remains separate from this created world. The verb “And He said” conveys what He does; it is not accompanied by any action or involvement on God’s part.

[22] In the second chapter, God is depicted as being present within the world, dwelling within it and active through its vessels: “And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet grown, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground… And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. And God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and He placed there the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to look at and good for food, as well as the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of knowledge of good and evil.” (Bereishit 2) God causes it to rain, He breathes into man’s nostrils, and He plants trees in the garden. These are most wondrous descriptions that depict God as existing within space, as just another “player” active in the arena of life.

This distinction invites us to take yet another step, even deeper into the story. What was created first – the heavens or the earth? Early on in both chapters, mention is made of both heaven and earth: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (chapter 1); “… on the day the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (chapter 2). What are the “heavens” and what is the “earth”? Clearly the “heavens” must mean more than the physical “sky”, and “the earth” means more than the ground. “The heavens” embodies a world that is not bounded by dimensions; it belongs to the Infinite that is “out there”, devoid of the vessels of limitation and measurement that exist in the world. “The earth” means the tangible, measured, limited reality of this world. In the first chapter, the starting point of Creation is the heavens, followed by the earth. The heavens are the basis, independent of the vessels of this world; it is part of the Infinite that precedes all that is bounded and defined. “The earth” is where Creation develops to, and the path will always be accompanied by a sort of fall or descent, mirroring the inherent gap between the ideal and its realization. In chapter 2, the order is “the earth and the heavens”: the point of departure is the earth, its laws, it’s given, tangible space; from here we climb upwards, level by level. There are many different expressions of the spiritual structure that is set out in the first chapter: its point of departure is the Divine utterance, followed by realization: “And He said, Let there be… and there was….” The direction of development is from the utterance that is beyond, down to the action that takes place in this world.

In the second chapter, this world is the point of departure, the basis, and only after that do we reach up to the heavens. Metaphorically, we might put it this way: the road to heaven starts on earth, within the vessels of this world, on the floor that man builds, in society and its values. The heavens that spread over this structure are not the heavens that preceded the world. The heavens here are set up in the wake of the world, in the wake of that which is built within it, and they stand over it, giving the world inspiration and meaning.

[23]  “And God blessed them, saying: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply in the earth” (1:22).

[24]  Six times in this chapter God’s actions are described as “good”, and at the end of the sixth day – “very good”.

[25] Sometimes man is not attentive to his own inner desires, and in this chapter God makes him aware of them: “And the Lord God said, It is not good for man to be alone; I shall make him a helpmate to match him” (2:18). Man never imagined that there could be any alternative to solitude; from his point of view, he was not lacking anything. God looks down and says to Himself, “Man’s situation, his loneliness, is not good.” The problem here is that loneliness is an inner, subjective feeling; if man is not aware of it, it has no meaning. The solution to this puzzle is that man is invited to embark on a journey, over the course of which he will give names to the animals, and eventually “the penny will drop”: “But for the man no help was found to match him” (2:20). The description of man as failing to find an appropriate helpmate indicates the search, the desire, which has been awakened. He is filled with great joy when God brings woman to him: “This is now bone of my bones…” (2:23).

[26] The process continues: “And God called the dry land ‘earth’, and the gathering of the waters He called ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good” (1:10). In the wake of the separation these entities are named, and this in turn is another step in their separation: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.” (1:11-13) At the point of departure, the grass is part of the earth. The “bringing forth grass” is a process of separation whereby the earth produces grass from within itself. There is a gap between the command, “Let the earth bring forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind…” and its realization: “And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind…” – a process of separation and sub-division. The fruit was supposed to be “of the kind” of the tree – “tree yielding fruit after its kind”, while the seed is a continuation of both of these: “whose seed is in itself, upon the earth”. What happens in fact is that the fruit is not “of the kind” of the tree; there is “tree yielding fruit” – the tree yields something that is different, other than the tree, and the seed is after the kind of the fruit.

[27]  Some purposes are set forth explicitly; others are embedded in the text in more covert form. Examples of explicit expressions include the luminaries which are meant “to separate between day and night”; “Let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years”.

[28]  Even where there is some description of the relationship between one creation and another, the context is one of purpose and role, rather than a reciprocal system. For example, “God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. And let them be for light in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth; and it was so” (1:14-15). The luminaries are describes in the context of signs, seasons, days and years. While each such description points to an event that entails a connection and reciprocity, the subject is the purpose and role of the luminaries, rather than the event and the reciprocal system that it entails, in and of themselves. Another example concerns man: “And God blessed them and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heaven, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree upon which is the fruit yielding seed; to you it shall be for food” (1:28-29). Once again, the subject is man and his function in Creation, rather than the nature of the connections between himself and reality. These verses address both male and female, but there is no description of any connection or reciprocity between them. The description relates only to their purpose – their role in the world, and their rule over all other creations.

[29]  The causing of the herbs and plants to grow, and the assumption of responsibility over the trees of the garden, are a form of connection or formation. Certainly the identification of animals and the awarding of names of them are cognitive acts that entail creativity.

[30]  A basic, simple explanation of the fact that the connections in the second chapter do not blur the uniqueness of each creation is that in contrast to the connection in the first chapter, which comes about automatically, as it were (“and the earth was formlessness and void”), in the second chapter it is not an automatic result. At first God forms and joins, then man joins things, and he is also responsible for maintaining the connections. For example, God plants trees, and man presents himself as a cultivator and guardian of the garden (“to till it and to keep it”). From this moment, the garden becomes a unit, a space that is under his control, and he is responsible for what happens inside it. As time goes on, the connections are broadened, as a result of the broadening of his circles of responsibility. The answer to the question of whether the world will revert to formlessness and void now lies in man’s hands; it is dependent on the choices he makes and the path on which he leads the world.  

[31]  Zohar, part II, 95a, cited by Rav Kook in several places: Orot ha-Kodesh, 1, 15; Shemonah Kevatzim, V, 61.

[32] This principle takes on an interest dimension in relation to Torah study. “Rava said: At first [the Torah] is attributed to God, but ultimately it is attributed to him [man], as it is written, ‘He delights in God’s Torah, and meditates in his Torah day and night.’” (Avoda Zara 19). There are two stages in Torah study. The first entails regarding the Torah as “God’s Torah”. A person is required to leave his place and to go to a different place, to “God’s Torah” – as it is, lofty, as yet unconnected to the ways of thinking of his own heart. The second stage is where the Torah is attributed to him who studies it – “and meditates in his Torah…”. At this stage man is invited to find the logic and the explanations that suit his own inner world. At the first stage he must understand that God’s Torah is higher, more elevated, than his own personal place. Only after he has internalized this stage can he arrive at the further destination of finding the connections. Proceeding to this more advanced destination prematurely will place the Torah in the position of being dependent upon man; he causes it to lose its dimension of loftiness and eternity.

In fact, something like these two stages exist in every relationship. An example is the relationship between parents and children. As a first stage, a child must understand his place in relation to his parents; the gap and the differences between them. Then, as a second stage, an infinite number and depth of connections may be forged. If the first stage does not exist, and the child fails to understand the gap and the distance, the closeness may become a stumbling block.

[33]  For example, in our study on parashat Bamidbar we noted the gap between two chumashim – Vayikra and Devarim – as an expression of this principle. We might comment briefly on this as follows: Sefer Vayikra, from beginning to end (with the exception of two local deviations) consists of Divine utterances. Starting from the very first verse, in which God calls to Moshe from the Tent of Meeting, until the end of the Sefer, we hear God’s voice from the Tent of Meeting and from Mount Sinai (in the later parashot). Sefer Devarim, in contrast, consists entirely of Moshe’s own words; there is almost no direct speech of God. Anyone seeking God in this Sefer has to lend his ear to the man who was closer to God than any other man ever was; this man now delivers a speech in which God’s word is present, as reflected in Moshe’s world. This gap between the two chumashim has endless ramifications. “Things that one sees from there” – from the elevated Divine perspective in the Tent of Meeting – “cannot be seen from here” – from the perspective of the mortal Moshe, who brings himself and his world to Sefer Devarim. On the other hand, “things that one sees from here” – from Moshe’s perspective of forty years of leadership of the people, and the maturity that he attained, “cannot be seen from there” – from the lofty view that invites man to transcend the here and now.

[34]  Every “formation” (yetzira) may, at some stage, be viewed as a “creation” (beri’a). To illustrate: a man and a woman produce a child. From their point of view, this is a process of “formation”. From the point of view of the child, however, he did not choose his parents, and he was born without any consent or free choice on his part, and he also possesses an aspect of Godly creation. To compare a different example: a teacher “forms”; he conveys works, formations. From the point of view of his students, the experience is one of acceptance of truth that is inert, with no processing, grappling, or choice.