Breisheet I: Creation
Six things preceded the creation of the
world. Some were actually created, and others came up only in God's
thought as what was to be created. Torah and the throne of glory were
The creation of the fathers, Israel, the Temple, and the name of the
Messiah came up only in God's thought.
R. Ahavah son of R. Ze'era said: So, too, repentance. And some say:
Also the Garden of Eden and Gehenna.
It is said in the name of R. Samuel son of R. Isaac that the thought
of creating Israel preceded all else.
Had not the Holy One foreseen that after twenty-six generations Israel
would accept the Torah, He would not have written in the Torah:
"Command the children of Israel" (Numbers 5:2) or
"Speak to the children of Israel" (Exodus 25:2).
R. Bannai said: The world and the fullness thereof were created only
for the sake of Torah.
"I was in the mind of the Holy One," says the Torah,
"like the overall design in the mind of a craftsman."
In the way of the world, when a king of flesh and blood builds a
palace, he builds it not according to his own whim, but according to
the idea of an architect. Moreover, the architect does not build it
out of his own head; he has [a design]--plans and diagrams to know how
to lay out the chambers and where to put in wicket doors. Even so the
Holy One looked into the Torah as He created the world.
R. Zutra bar Tobiah said in the name of Rav: The world was created by
means of ten capacities and powers: By wisdom, by understanding, by
reason, by strength, by rebuke, by might, by righteousness, by
judgment, by loving-kindness, and by compassion.
"The Lord God made earth and heaven" (Genesis 2:4). A
parable of a king who had cups made of delicate glass. The king said:
If I pour hot water into them, they will [expand and] burst; if cold
water, they will contract [and break].
What did he do?
He mixed hot and cold water, and poured it into them, and so they
Likewise, the Holy One said: If I create the world with the attribute
of mercy alone, its sins will be too many; if with justice alone, how
could the world be expected to endure? So I will create it with both
justice and mercy, and may it endure!
The sages taught: The school of Shammai says, Heaven was created first
and the earth was created afterward, for it is said, "In the
beginning God created heaven and earth" (Genesis 1:1).
But the school of Hillel says: The earth was created first and heaven
afterward, for it is said, "In the day that the Lord God made
earth and heaven" (Genesis 2:4).
The school of Hillel said to the school of Shammai: According to you,
a man should build the upper story of the house first and the lower
story afterward, for in the verse "It is He that builds His upper
chambers in the heaven, and hath founded His [lower] vault upon the
earth" (Amos 9:6)
The school of Shammai replied to the school of Hillel: According to
you, a man should first make a footstool and then make the throne, for
in the verse "The heaven is My throne and the earth is My
footstool." (Isaiah 66:1)
But the sages say: Both were created at one and the same time, for it
is said, "Yea, My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and
My right hand has spread out the heavens; when I called to them, they
stood up together." (Isaiah 48:13).
In the name of the sages, R. Yochanan said: In creation, heaven was
first; in being brought to completion, earth was first.
R. Tanhuma said, I will state the proof for this statement: the verse
"God created heaven and earth" (Genesis 1:1) shows that
heaven was first in creation; while the verse "In the day the
Lord God completed making earth and heaven" (Genesis 2:4) shows
that earth was first in being brought to completion.
Concerning the verse "And God said: "Let there be a
firmament in the midst of the waters' " (Genesis 1:6), the sages
observed: When the Holy One commanded, "Let there be a firmament
in the midst of the waters," the middle layer solidified, and
thus the separation between the lower heaven and the upper heaven of
heavens came into being.
"Let there be a firmament." But was not heaven already made
on the first day?
Rav explained: On the first day, heaven was in a form that was still
fluid, but on the second day, it congealed. Hence, "Let there be
a firmament" is to be understood as meaning: Let the firmament
congeal, let it be covered by an overlay, let it be stretched out, let
it become firm.
R. Hanina said: Fire descended from above and licked the top surface
of the firmament. Hence, whenever R. Yochanan came to the verse
"By His [fiery] breath heaven was smoothed" (Job 26:13), he
would say, "R. Hanina taught me well."
"And God called the firmament heaven (shamayim)" (Genesis
1:8). Rav said: Shamayim is a composite of eish ("fire") and
The Holy One took fire and water, and worked them into each other; and
out of the two, heaven was made.
Another comment: Shamayim is so called because men wonder (mishtomemim)
at it, saying: Of what (shel mah) is it composed? Of fire? Of water?
It is an enigma!
R. Simeon ben Jehozadak interrogated R. Samuel bar Nachman, saying:
Since I hear that you are a master of Aggadah, tell me how light was
R. Samuel bar Nachman replied: God wrapped Himself in a white garment,
and the radiance of His majesty illuminated the world from one end to
This is a lovely midrash on Psalm104:2. It states: You covered
yourself with light as with a garment, You spread out the heaven like
"And God saw the light, that it was [for the] good, and God set
it aside" (Genesis 1:4). R. Eleazar said: By the light that the
Holy One created on the first day, one could see from one end of the
world to the other.
But as soon as the Holy One observed the generation of the flood and
the generation of the dispersion of mankind, and saw that their
conduct was to be depraved, He proceeded to hide His light from them.
And for whom did He hide it? For the righteous in the time-to-come,
just like a king who has a goodly treasure and sets it aside for his
And where did He hide the light? In the Garden of Eden.
."And God divided the light from the darkness" (Genesis
1:4). R. Berechiah said: Two men of renown, R. Yochanan and R. Simeon
ben Lakish, took the words "And . . . divided" to imply
actual division of domains and illustrated this interpretation by a
A king had two chiefs of the guards who argued with each other. One
said: I am to be in charge during the day.
And the other said: No! I am to be in charge during the day.
So the king summoned the first, saying to him: So-and-so, daytime is
to be your domain;
then he summoned the second: So-and-so, nighttime is to be your
Likewise, "for the light God summoned the day" (Genesis
1:5), saying, "Daytime is to be your domain";
"and for the darkness He summoned the night," saying,
"Nighttime is to be your domain."
Why is "It was good" not written about the second day [of
R. Samuel bar Nachman said: Because the disposition of the waters was
not yet finished.
Consequently, "It was good" is written twice in connection
with the third day, once about the disposition of the waters and a
second time about the work that was begun and completed on that day.
A Roman noblewoman asked R. Yose, "Why is 'It was good' not
written about the second day?"
He replied, "But in fact, Scripture subsequently does include all
the days in the words 'And God saw everything that He had made, and
behold, it was very good.' "
She said, "Suppose six men came to you, and you gave to each of
five one maneh, but you did not give one to the sixth, and then you
gave a second maneh to all of them together. Would not each of the
first five now have a maneh and one- sixth, while the sixth man would
have only one-sixth of a maneh? I am still baffled."
At that, R. Yose, retracting his own explanation, explained the matter
in the same way as R. Samuel bar Nachman.
R. Simon, in the name of R. Joshua ben Levi, told the parable of a
king who had an excessively fierce legion, and he said: Since the
legion is so fierce, let it not bear my name.
Likewise, the Holy One said: Since the generation of the flood, the
generation of Enosh, and the generation of the dispersion of mankind
will be punished by water, let not "It was good" be set down
But R. Hanina explained: Because separation [that is to say, disunion]
was brought into being on the second day, as indicated in "Let
[the firmament] separate water from water" (Genesis. 1:6), [the
statement "It was good" does not occur].
In this regard, R. Tavyomi noted: If there is no mention of "It
was good" about an act of separation conducive to the world's
improvement and well-being, all the less should such words occur in
describing occasions leading to the world's disarray.
On the third day, the earth was as flat as a plain, and the waters
covered the entire surface of the earth. And when out of the mouth of
the Almighty there issued the command "Let the waters be gathered
together . . . and let the dry land appear" (Genesis 1:9),
mountains and hills rising up in different parts of the earth emerged
over its entire surface, so that it became pitted with many valleys.
As the core of the earth rose up, the waters rolled down into the
valleys [and became seas]. Forthwith, swelling with pride, the waters
rose in order to cover the earth as at the beginning.
But then the Holy One rebuked them, subdued them, placed them beneath
the soles of His feet, and measured out their extent with His own
span, so that they should neither enlarge nor diminish. And as a man
makes a hedge for his vineyard, so He made the sand into a hedge for
the seas, so that when the waters rise and see the sand before them,
they turn back and recede.
R. Simon said: There is not one herb without its own constellation (mazzal)
in heaven, which slaps it and says, "Grow!"
R. Simeon ben Pazzi pointed out a [seeming] contradiction between two
parts of the same verse. The verse begins by saying, "And God
made the two great lights" (Genesis 1:16), and then goes on to
speak of "a greater light . . . and a lesser light."
[However, this is what happened]: The moon dared say to the Holy One,
"Master of the universe, is it possible for two kings to wear the
same size crown?"
The Holy One answered, "Go, then, and make yourself
But the moon protested, "Master of the universe, must I make
myself smaller merely because I suggested to You something that is
The Holy One conceded, "Very well. Go and rule by day as well as
"And the stars" (Genesis 1:16). R. Aha said: [The
association of the stars with the moon] will be understood by the
parable of a king who had two administrators, one ruling in the city
and the other ruling over the [rest of the] province.
The king said: Since one was willing to be diminished to rule only in
the city, I decree that whenever he goes forth, the city council and
the populace shall go forth with him, and whenever he returns, the
city council and the populace shall return with him.
So, too, did the Holy One: Since the moon was willing to be diminished
and to rule by night, I, [said God], decree that when she comes forth,
the stars shall go forth with her, and when she returns, the stars
shall return with her.
"And God said: 'Let us make man' " (Genesis 1:26). With whom
did He take counsel?
R. Ammi said: He took counsel with His own heart. He was like a king
who built a palace with the counsel of an architect. When he saw the
palace, it did not please him. At whom was he indignant? Was it not at
the architect? Hence, "and it grieved Him at His heart"
(Genesis. 6:6) [with which He had taken counsel at the making of man].
R. Hanina said: He consulted the ministering angels.
R. Berechiah said: When the Holy One was about to create Adam, he saw
both the righteous and the wicked who were to issue from him. So He
said: If I create him, wicked men will issue from him; if I do not
create him, how are righteous men to be born?
What did the Holy One do? He diverted the way of the wicked from
before His sight, partnered the quality of mercy with Himself, [saying
to it, "Let us make man], and then created him.
R. Simon said: When the Holy One was about to create Adam, the
ministering angels formed themselves into groups and companies, some
of them saying, "Let him be created," while others urged,
"Let him not be created."
Thus it is written, "Love and truth fought together,
righteousness and peace combated each other" (Psalm 85:11).
Love said, "Let him be created, because he will perform acts of
Truth said, "Let him not be created, because all of him will be
Righteousness said, "Let him be created, because he will do
Peace said, "Let him not be created, because he will be all
What did the Holy One do?
He took truth and cast it to the ground, as is said, "Thou cast
down truth to the ground" (Daniel 8:12).
The ministering angels dared say to the Holy One, "Master of the
universe, why do You humiliate Your seal? Let truth arise from the
Hence it is written, "Let truth spring up from the earth."
The elder R. Huna of Sepphoris said: While the ministering angels were
arguing with one another and disputing with one another, the Holy One
created Adam and then said: What are you arguing about? Man is already
.R. Samuel bar Nachman said in the name of R. Jonathan: At the time
when Moses was engaged in writing the Torah, he had to set down what
happened on each of the six days of creation.
When he got to the verse "And God said: "Let us make Adam,'
" (Genesis 1:26) Moses dared ask, "Master of the universe,
why do You give heretics their opportunity?"
"Write, O son of Amram," God replied: "Whoever wishes
to err, let him err."
The Holy One then added, "O Moses, this Adam whom I created by
Myself--will I not cause both greater and lesser men to issue from
Accordingly, whenever a great man is inclined to seek approval [for an
important act] from one who is less than he and holds back, saying,
'Why should I seek approval from one who is less than I?' he will be
told: Learn from your Creator, who created the creatures above and the
creatures below [on His own], yet when He was about to create Adam, He
took counsel with the ministering angels."
R. Hila differed: No taking counsel is implied here. What happened
will be understood by the parable of a king who was strolling at the
entrance to his palace when he saw a clump of earth lying about. So he
said: What shall we do with it? Some might suggest: [Use it to build]
public baths; others might suggest: Private baths. But I will make a
statue-like figure out of it! Who is to hinder me?
Man was created alone in order to teach you that if anyone causes a
single soul to perish from Israel, Scripture imputes to him the
destruction of the entire world;
and if anyone saves alive a single soul in Israel, Scripture imputes
to him the saving alive of the entire world.
Again, [man was created alone] for the sake of peace among men, that
one might not say to his fellow, "My father was greater than
yours;" and that heretics might not say, "There are many
ruling powers in heaven."
Another reason: To proclaim the greatness of the Holy One. For if a
man strikes many coins from one die, they all resemble one another; in
fact, they are all exactly alike.
But though the King of kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He,
fashioned every man from the die of the first man, not a single one of
them is exactly like his fellow.
Hence, each and every person should say, "The world was created
for my sake."
The sages taught: Man was created as a single.
And why so?
That the heretics (originally meant Jewish Christians) might
not say: There are many ruling powers in Heaven. (First meaning:
the "alone " refers to God, not the man....)
Another answer is: For the sake of the righteous and the wicked;
that the righteous might not say: ‘Ours is a righteous heredity.'
and that the wicked might not say: ‘Ours is an evil heredity.'
Another answer is: For the sake of [the different] families, that they
might not quarrel with each other.
Now, if at present, though but one was [originally] created, they
quarrel. how much more if two had been created!
Another answer is: Because of robbers and plunderers: If at present,
though but one was originally created, people rob and plunder, how
much more had two been created.
And why are men's faces not like one another? Lest a man see a
beautiful dwelling or a beautiful woman [belonging to someone else]
and say, "she is mine."
Man was created on the eve of Sabbath, [the last of all created
beings]. And why?
Lest heretics say, "The Holy One had [Adam as] partner in His
work of creation."
Another answer: Should a man's opinion of himself become overweening,
he may be reminded that the gnat preceded him in the order of
Another answer: So that immediately [after his creation] he could
proceed to fulfill the precept [of hallowing the Sabbath].
Another answer: So that he might at once go to the banquet.
Thus, God was like the king of flesh and blood who built a palace,
decorated it, and made arrangements for a banquet [so that all would
be in readiness when his guests arrived].
"Then the Lord God formed (va-yitzer) man" (Genesis 2:7).
There were two formations, a formation partaking of the nature of
beings below and a formation partaking of the nature of beings above.
R. Tifdai said in the name of R. Aha: The celestial beings were
created in the image and likeness [of God], but they do not reproduce,
while the terrestrial beings reproduce but were not created in the
image and likeness [of God].
Said the Holy One: I will create man in My image and likeness, [and
thus he will partake] of the [character of] celestial beings, but he
will also reproduce [as is the nature] of terrestrial beings.
R. Tifdai said further in the name of R. Aha: The Holy One also
declared: If I create man out of celestial elements, he will live
[forever] and not die; if out of terrestrial elements, he will die and
not live [in a future life].
Therefore I will create him out of both celestial and terrestrial
elements. If he sins, he will die; if not, he will live in a future
"And God saw everything that He had made, and [said], Would that
at all times it were very good."
R. Hama bar Hanina told the parable of a king who built a palace. When
he looked at it, it pleased him, and he said: O palace, palace, may
you find favor in my eyes at all times just as you find favor in my
eyes at this moment.
So, too, the Holy One said to His world: My world, My world, may you
find favor in My eyes at all times just as you find favor in My eyes
at this moment.
"And on the seventh day God finished" (Genesis 2:2). Isn't
this statement curious?
Geniva explained it by the parable of a king who made a bridal
chamber, which he painted and decorated. Now, what did the bridal
chamber still lack?
The bride to enter it.
So, too, what did the world still lack?
Ten things were created on the eve of the Sabbath at twilight.
(1) the mouth of the earth [which engulfed Korach],
(2) the mouth of the well [which supplied Israel with water in the
(3) the mouth of the ass [which spoke to Balaam],
(4) the rainbow [given as a sign after the flood],
(5) the manna [dropped from heaven],
(6) the rod [of Moses],
(7) the shamir [a mythical creature employed for splitting stones at
the building of the Temple],
(8) the shape of the written characters [on the Tablets],
(9) the writing, and
(10) the Tablets.
And some say: also the destructive forces [that afflict mankind],
the grave of Moses,
and the ram of Abraham our father.
R. Judah said: Also the original tongs, for, as he put it, [in human
conception] tongs can be made only by means of other tongs.
.R. Jeremiah ben Eleazar said: With everything that was created during
the six days of creation, God made certain stipulations, about which
Scripture says, "I, even My hands, have stretched out the
heavens, and all their host have I commanded." (Isaiah 45:12)
I commanded the Sea of Reeds to split apart for Israel;
I commanded heaven and earth to be silent before Moses;
I commanded the sun and the moon to stand still before Joshua;
I commanded the ravens to feed Elijah;
I commanded the heavens to open before Ezekiel;
I commanded the fish to spew out Jonah;
I commanded the fire to do no hurt to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah;
I commanded the lions not to harm Daniel.
Any of a group of Jewish commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures compiled
between A.D. 400 and 1200 and based on exegesis, parable, and haggadic