Did You Really Understand The First Day of Creation?

By Rabbi Moshe Weiner from Jerusalem

The First Day of Creation (1:1)

In the beginning God created the heavens etc.: Rabbi Isaac said: [Why did the Torah narrative begin with In the beginning —relating the story of the Creation? Since] the Torah should have begun with “This month is to you” (Exodus 12:2), which is the first commandment that the Israelites were commanded. Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning”? Because of [the verse in Psalms 111:6] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations”. [He related to His people the strength of His works in creating the world, in order to give them the inheritance of the nations]. For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they [Israel] will reply, “The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whomever He deemed proper. When He wished, He gave it to them [the Canaanites], and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us. (Rashi)

The explanation of this statement of the Sages is that from the outset of Creation, God chose the nation of Israel as a special nation to serve Him, as it says, [Exodus 19:6] “And you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, and He designated for them a particular land that is to belong solely to them, and He made it known in His Torah that He created it and gave it to whom He deemed fit.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth: This verse relates about the Creation in general, and then explains the details of the Creation later on. The explanation of In the beginning is “At the beginning of the time of the Creation” [and He wrote In the beginning in a generic fashion, as if to say “At the beginning of everything”], He created these things, and there was no time prior [to this “beginning”] in which there was something else, such as some sort of primordial material, but rather the beginning of the creation of time and the beginning of the creation of matter was on the first day, along with the creation of Heaven and Earth.

And the relating of the Creation fulfills a great need, because it is the root of all faith, since anyone who does not believe that the creation of the world was ex nihilo [= from nothing], and rather thinks that the world existed eternally, essentially denies the basis of all faith and is entirely devoid of Torah.

God created: The meaning of “created” is an act [that is particular to God alone], to produce something from absolute nothingness to a detectable existence. [And this capability cannot be found among any created things, nor can it be comprehended by them at all, but rather this ability is peculiar to God alone.]

God: This name, [Elohim in the Hebrew], is one of the names of the Holy One, Blessed be He. The meaning of this name is Rulership and Dominion, as God acts as a Judge and Adjudicator, how He judges and adjudicates over the entire world. This name is mentioned first in the act of Creation [Chapter 1. No other name of God is mentioned until Genesis 2:4 “on the day which Hashem created Heavens and Earth”], because the Creation is performed by means of this name, that the existence of the world should appear as a created existence. And the beginning of Divine conduct with the world is by means of the attribute of Justice, as exemplified by the name Elohim [and only later will the Holy One, Blessed be He, appear as described by other names which indicate other types of conduct, such as the attribute of Mercy or other attributes].

Elohim: This name means dominion, a fact that gives importance to the created [world, man] as the sages said “there is no king without a nation”. In contrast – the name Havaya (YHWH) means the creator of existence, hence the created [world, man] has no self-importance in regard to his power of creation, only he [the creator] is the sole figure in true existence, therefore all that is created is nullified before him. See 2:4.

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