And G‑d said: "Let there be a firmament…" (1:6)

It is written: "Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands firm in the heavens."1 Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, explained the verse thus: "Your word" which you uttered, "Let there be a firmament…," these very words and letters stand firmly forever within the firmament of heaven and are forever clothed within the heavens to give them life and existence. As it is also written, "The word of our G‑d shall stand firm forever"2 and "His words live and stand firm forever."3 For if these letters were to depart even for an instant, G‑d forbid, and return to their source, all the heavens would become nought and absolute nothingness, and it would be as if they had never existed at all, exactly as before the utterance, "Let there be a firmament."

And so it is with all created things, down to the most corporeal and inanimate of substances. If the letters of the "ten utterances" by which the earth was created during the six days of creation were to depart from it for but an instant, G‑d forbid, it would revert to absolute nothingness.

This same thought was expressed by the Ari4, of blessed memory, when he said that even in completely inanimate matter, such as earth and stones and water, there is a soul and spiritual life-force - that is, the letters of Divine "speech" clothed within it which continually grant it life and existence.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

One year, following the Rosh Hashanah prayers, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi asked his son, Rabbi DovBer: "What did you think of during your prayers?"

Rabbi DovBer replied that he had contemplated the meaning of the passage, "and every stature shall bow before You"5 - how the most lofty supernal worlds and spiritual creations negate themselves before the infinite majesty of G‑d. "And you, father," Rabbi DovBer then asked, "with what thought did you pray?"

Replied Rabbi Schneur Zalman: "I contemplated the table at which I stood."