At the beginning [1] of Elokim's [2] creation of heaven and earth [3],

the earth being Tohu and Bohu [4], darkness [5] over the depths [6], a wind of Elokim hovering above the surface of the waters [7],

Elokim said [8], "It will be light!" [9] and it was light [10].

Elokim observed this light [11] and saw it as good, so Elokim distinguished between the light and the dark.



[1] These words can either be read as the start of a longer prepositional phrase (conjunctively), as translated here (Rashi), or as a prepositional phrase on their own, "In the beginning," followed by "Elokim created the heavens and the earth" (Nachmanides). By either reading, the Torah is not speaking about how the world came to be. Rather, the narrative begins at creation's initial state.

It is impossible to speak about the creation of the first instant of time, since there was no instant before it, and therefore no process to be described. Elokim, also, cannot be discussed as preceding the creation in time, since He is not within the time-continuum. Rather, Elokim generates the time-continuum with this point as its beginning.

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[2] Elokim denotes a single entity from which all forces extend. The forces themselves have no volition, being no more than artifacts of a higher cause. Elokim, however, is the primal cause, with no preceding cause to determine its actions. Elokim is therefore the primary deliberate entity, freely determining what events will be and what will not. No force, necessity or reason caused Elokim to create in one fashion or another, or to create anything at all.

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[3] According to the reading, "In the beginning, Elokim created heavens and earth," the meaning is that in the first instant of creation all of heaven and earth were contained in a single point without dimension or form ( Nachmanides). This would be then counted as the first of the ten statements of creation. In terms of Kabbalah, it is a reflection of the sefira of chochma (wisdom/conception).

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[4] Tohu refers to the initial state of utter formlessness. Bohu is an intermediary state where the four fundamental properties have been established (Nachmanides). These are fire, air, water and earth. These four are not to be understood as materials, but as potential properties of the materials that will come to be. In terms of quantum mechanics they are positive, negative, matter and anti-matter (the Rebbe). From them and through combinations of them will extend all states of matter. Matter itself, however, has yet to come into being.

It should also be noted that matter can be found in four distinct states: solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Energy also comes in four distinct forms: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force. The ancients also distinguished four domains of the biosphere: domem (lit. dumb, mute), flora, fauna and "speakers" (humans).

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[5] The property of fire, which is essentially dark. The fire we observe is a result of an interaction between the essential property of fire and the other three elements. Fire is the principal property of the space beyond the earth's atmosphere (Nachmanides).

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[6] "The depths" means a basin, where earth contains water. Thus, the properties of water and earth are both mentioned (Nachmanides).

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[7] Air's appropriate place is above fire, and so it is associated with Elokim more than the other properties. It was artificially positioned below fire in order to hover above water (Nachmanides).

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[8] Or "willed" (Nachmanides). Not a passive statement of desire, however, but a will for an actual event. This is also the meaning of "said": Just as speech brings the inner thoughts and desires of a person into actuality, Elokim says His concept of world into reality.

From the perspective of Elokim, there are only events, initiated by statements of will, but no autonomous objects. As Elokim is outside of the time-continuum, so are the statements that initiate these events. From the perspective of the creations, then, each moment of their existence is being renewed from the void by a divine statement of will.

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[9] According to the Zohar, this is the first of the ten statements by which the world was created. This must also be the opinion of those who read the entire first verse as an adverb phrase, as with our translation. Although the Talmud states that "In the beginning, G‑d created..." is also a statement, this must be understood as a general, all-inclusive statement of intent, whereas actual creation begins with statements of specific actualities.

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[10] Light is the initial instance of matter, the first true creation.

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[11] An aspect of the Creator that transcends the act of creation is now brought into the story. Elokim steps back to observe that which His consciousness is bringing forth. He then draws this higher state into the creation by proceeding in accordance with His observation.

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