|Questions and Concepts for Parsha Bereishit
(Genesis 1:1 - 6:8)
1. The first few chapters of Genesis make up one of the two foundational texts for "deeper" Torah study, with Ezekiel's "chariot" vision being the other. The Genesis account proceeds from God, through the heavenly realm, down to man on earth. Ezekiel's vision is the converse, from man on earth, through the spiritual realm, up to God.
If one attempts to take a strict literal/chronological view to Genesis, many inconsistencies seem appear. For instance, in 1:2 it says the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, yet these waters are not created yet. In chapter 1, Adam and Eve are created at the same time, whereas in chapter 2, Eve is created subsequent to Adam. Genesis 1:12 shows vegetation on the earth, but 2:5 says there was not yet vegetation.
The aforementioned conflicts are difficult to resolve at the literal level. The deeper level of Hebraic understanding (called the "sod") often offers the explanation. Put in simple terms, creation emerged in "stages" each one associated with a certain "level of existence." (Each one of these levels is called a "world" in Hebraic study.) The first of these "worlds" is present even prior to creation (before Genesis 1:1), as man was already "created" in the "mind" of God. This is the "image" to which man was made.
Beginning with Genesis 1:1, we are dealing with three such worlds "within creation." These worlds are distinguished as follows:
Man before Gan Eden (Genesis 1:1 through 2:3) did not exist in the
physical realm that we live in -- in fact he did not have any "form" as such.
This only comes with his placement in Gan Edan. (Where did Adam "reside" before
God put him in the "garden?") Even in Gan Edan, man was still a spiritual entity
-- with some type of "form" however. He did not receive his present physical
manifestation until being expelled from Gan Edan in Genesis 3:24. At the "sod"
level, the "garments" God gave to Adam and his wife in Genesis 3:21 means the
corporeal bodies they would need to exist in the physical world after being expelled from
Corresponding to these three worlds of creation, we see three different names for God being used. Prior to Gan Edan, God is called by the name Elohim. During the time Adam lives in Gan Edan, God is called by the combined name YHVH-Elohim. Subsequent to Gan Edan, God is known simply as YHVH.
The name Elohim is associated with the attributes of judgment and restrictiveness. These attributes were necessary to "set aside a place 'apart' from God" in order for anything else to exist, as well as setting the limits and rules of creation. The combined name YHVH-Elohim shows the harmony between the judgmental and merciful aspects of both God and man, as existed in the time of Gan Edan. The name YHVH by itself indicates God's mercy that permeates the physical world which came into realization, post-Gan Edan, allowing it to exist with God's provision.
2. In Genesis 1:4, God "separates" between light and darkness. As only things that can be mixed together can be separated, and as darkness is the absence of light, it is difficult to understand how they could be "separated." At the deeper level, the term "separated" means "set aside." This "light" is a special light that has been set aside for the righteous in the world to come. (See Deuteronomy 4:41.)
3. There is a subtle yet significant spelling variation found in verse 2:7. The term "create" is normally spelled "tvav-yud-tzadi-resh" as in 2:19, with the creation of animals. However in 2:7, concerning the creation of man, the word created is spelled "tvav-yud-yud-tzadi-resh" - with two "yuds." The Hebrew sages interpret this as meaning that man has been created for both this world and for another world after he is resurrected. This is the first "hint" at the idea of resurrection found in Scripture.
4. In Genesis 2:7 we are told man comes from the dust of the earth, and that God blew into man's nostrils the breath of life. This shows that man exists both below in the physical world and above in the spiritual world(s).
5. In Genesis 2:9 God warns Adam not to "eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil." In the Aramaic translation (i.e., Targum Onkelos) this verse is translated in a verbal form as: "... the eaters of whose fruit would discriminate between good and evil." Here, "discriminating between good and evil" is seen in a negative connotation. This of course appears to make little sense. Again, the answer is found at a deeper level. Simply stated, everything that comes into our lives is allowed by God. The only "choice" we have is how to react. (The Talmudic saying is; "Everything is under the fear of heaven except the fear of heaven.") Thus, at a "higher level" (where Adam was and where we strive to be) we should view both "good" and "evil" as having the same purpose and source -- they both come from God and exist in order for us to be brought closer to God (i.e., Romans 5:3-5). To "discriminate" between them, in the sense of attributing only "good" things as being from God, and what we perceive as "bad" as ultimately coming from anything but God, is wrong.
6. Verses 3:1 and 3:14 are the first mention of an important principle found throughout Scripture called midah k'neged midah -- "measure for measure" (punishment or reward). As the serpent was the more cunning than any other creature (3:1) he was punished for his transgression more than any other creature (3:14).
7. In verse 3:3 Eve replies to the serpent that she was not to eat or touch the fruit of the tree. This was not what God said however, He only commanded not to eat of it. Eve's "adding to the Word of God" was used by the serpent to deceive her.
Consider this concept:
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