Davar Torah Evyoni: B'reshiyt
Shemayah Phillips

 

When Elohim began to create the heavens and the earth--- the earth being featureless and empty, with darkness over the faces of the raging Deep and the breath of Elohim sweeping across the water--- Elohim said, 'Light, be! and there was light. Elohim saw that the light was good, and Elohim made a separation between the light and the darkness. Elohim called the light 'Yom' (day), and the darkness He called 'Lay'lah' (night). There was a setting and there was a dawning--- one day.

 


The word bara' create is dependent much upon context. In the first passage of the Torah it can be thought of to mean 'when Elohim began to prepare the heavens and  earth for something totally new.' The earth was a barren rock. But YHWH chose to prepare it for His purpose and immediately His breath (ruah) enveloped the surface of an Ocean unbound by land or controlled by a moon. Is it wrong to imagine chaotic waters stormswept and agitated by winds conditioning the world to support life? Life was coming to an alien uninhabitable planet through the Giver of Life.

The first conditions prepared for imminent life was not just the light illuminating the world, but instead He balanced a world with both light and darkness. Darkness remained from a time of formlessness and emptiness and chaos countering the light of day. Elohim contains not just the light but the darkness also, and neither chaos or illumination lies outside His rule. YHWH yimlok l`olam wa'ed--YHWH rules forever and ever. Every setting of the day and absence of light and its return in light should remind us that everything has a purpose, YHWH's alone.

Later Elohim separates mayim (water) to those below and shamayim (sky, heavens) above, holding them in their place with a canopy (raqia`); and then water from the dry earth to set the seas. After this second day vegetation sprouts, fruited plants appear --without a sun but only by YHWH's will for light to BE and His breath nurturing the earth.

When the sun is created for the light of day opposed to the darkness, the world is not left to total darkness but YHWH prepares for us even before mankind comes to be a lesser light to lead us even in darkness. Even in the vestiges of formlessness, chaos, and darkness YHWH still leaves the light on.   

 


 

20God said, ‘Let the waters be alive with a swarm of living creatures, and let birds wing their way above the earth across the vault of heaven.’ And so it was.21God created great sea–monsters and all the creatures that glide and teem in the waters in their own species, and winged birds in their own species. God saw that it was good.22God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds multiply on land.’23Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.

24God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature in its own species: cattle, creeping things and wild animals of all kinds.’ And so it was.25God made wild animals in their own species, and cattle in theirs, and every creature that crawls along the earth in its own species. God saw that it was good.

26God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground.’27God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.28God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth.’

29God also said, ‘Look, to you I give all the seed–bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed–bearing fruit; this will be your food.30And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food.’ And so it was.31God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day. [NJB]

 

 


So a living world comes to be, a mixture of matter and the Breath of Elohim, the enlivened seas and earth generating living things at Elohim's word. First Elohim creates/prepares bara'  and things "become" (y'hi,   'let him be'); the seas teem with life, marine life and birds; the earth produces (sends out ) living things; and then mankind is "made" (`asah) or fashioned just as the sun and moon were made.

Elohim says, 'Let us make,' in our selem and our demut ---but who is "us"? We could follow either two courses to discover this. Some will say elohim as a plural collective must refer to a collection of personalities of a godhead! A schizophrenic god? Talking to Himself in all of His personalities?! No, there is either one god as the rest of the entire Bible illustrates thousands of times, or along our friends' line of thought there must be gods! And if they wish to pursue this, we can look at the many ancient near eastern parallels of gods creating man.

But consider the possiblity that Elohim is a singular version of El(oh) Elohim "God of gods" just as in the ancient near east among the Canaanite "Westerners/Amurru" Ba`al was sometimes Ba'alim---Lord of Lords.  

What if Elohim is not refering to Himself when saying, "Let us . . ."? We have just read how He enliven the world itself, enabling it, in conjunction with YHWH's breath that animates matter bestowing on it an active place in His purpose,  to be, generate, send out, and even teem living things. Did Elohim, the Ein Sof (Incomprehensible) and enlivened matter of His creation take part in the making of man? Were His other creations not present, and were they not also of the life's breath of YHWH and matter?

Much is made of man being in the image of Elohim---mostly idolatry! But is He saying that mankind is the spitting image of His Incomprehensible, spirit Self? Early man understood God in anthromorphic terms, for examples seeing, touching, with a strong arm, because he knew He interacted with the physical world for a purpose which man was a part, and even a partner in covenant. This doesn't mean YHWH is a little old man sitting away in a room at the edge of the universe. Let's not be absurd.

But man has life from YHWH and His selem in that he has a reflection of the spirit attributes of his Creator yet having the physical attributes of matter which helped supply his demut  or configuration also. Form follows function. So man and all living things are a combination of the life given by YHWH, something unseen that defies description, but joined to the physical to provide an earthly vessel, and that material semblance is configured or purposed in the larger purpose of YHWH.

You might say this does not sound reasonable. I am saying that as part of Elohim's creative act that existing matter was prepared, enlivened, and purposed, and commanded to combine and act in purpose. And it responds! It participates! Otherwise, everything is just loose, chaotic, unpurposed matter. Who is "us" in creation? Elohim and responding purposeful particles of matter enabled to be so by Him. No?

What happens when something loses the life YHWH gives it? The ability to respond and participate in the purpose established for it is absent, the life given to it leaves. Dust to dust. Is it different for a blade of grass, a worm, or yourself?

All living things have free will. We are like Elohim in that Life has also given us this attribute from Him that allows us to choose. In other words we can respond to YHWH's purpose that binds us into what we are or resist and make our way back to dust. It is not a matter of sin or evil. It is a matter of purpose and response or not responding and participating in our purpose and causing others not choose to or be able to choose.   

This is what I have gained from the parasha and how it spoke to me. It is an explanation, perhaps correct or incorrect, but I hope it brings YHWH and our purpose in creation to mind. And to have dominion over the creatures of creation we are obligated to try to understand creation also.

 

Shalom,
Shemayah