Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Breishit- Sparks of Life
Breishit, bara Elohim, et hashamayim, v’et ha’aretz. V’haaretz, ha’y’tah tohu vavohu, v’choshekh, al p’nei t’hom; v’ruach Elohim, m’rachefet al-p’nei hamayim. Vayomer Elohim, y’hi or, va’y’hi or.
In the beginning, God created, the heaven, and the earth. And the land, was unformed and void, and darkness, was on the face of the void; and the spirit of Elohim, it hovered over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”(Breishit 1-3)
P’shat reading of Breishit appears to give us the steps of creation from just prior through the formation of humans. The first step of creation is God speaking, “Let there be light.” From this p’shat reading, it seems that God does not create ex nihilo. The building blocks of creation, tohu vavohu in the void and water, already exist. Trying to find commentary balancing this, I began to examine the ideas of Lurianic Kabbalah, specifically tzimtzum.
In Lurianic Kabbalah, when God makes the decision to create the universe, the first step is tzimtzum. However, while this step is necessary for creation, it is not considered part of the steps of creation, which begin with God’s words. Since God is infinite, creation necessitated the pulling back by God of God’s being to create a space in which the universe could be formed, the t’hom over which God’s spirit floats. However, being Divine, God’s presence could not be contained for long. It shattered into the empty space, spreading God’s presence throughout the void.
How does this help? Psalms tells us that God spoke and all came into being. From this we place the beginning of creation with God’s words, working with the materials already in existance. If this is the creation of the universe, but not the beginning of creation itself, we can see tzimtzum as the first step towards creation. Much like an artist gathers materials or a chef, ingredients, tzimtzum is the preparation of creation. It is the gathering of elements. It is the creation of a space, the materials in their state of tohu vavohu, and water, the same building blocks of life that science requires, with the explosion of the Divine light casting the first sparks of life into it all.