Ramban, in his Commentary to the Torah, explains that chronology is not accidental, but follows a pattern paralleling the six days of creation.

In that scheme, each day of creation represents a millennium.As our Sages comment on the verse, “A thousand years in Your eyes are like a bygone yesterday,” “The day of the Holy One, blessed be He, is 1000 years.” As emphasized by the Sages of the Kabbalah, there are seven sublime emotional qualities and each one is expressed on one of the days of Creation and in one of the millennia in the world’s spiritual history.

The first of the six sublime qualities is Chessed, “kindness,” unbounded generosity. It is reflected in the creation of the first day, light, which is a source of manifold forms of positive energy. For that reason, the first millennium of the world’s existence was characterized by abundant Divine influence. Man’s lifespan was prolonged and copious blessings were seen in every form of existence.

Moreover, these blessings were granted without judgment. Although the overwhelming majority of the people in this era were sinners who showed no appreciation for the Divine standards of justice and righteousness, G‑d bestowed His generosity indiscriminately. For this is the nature of kindness, to grant influence because of the openhandedness of the giver, without consideration of whether or not the recipient is worthy.

Our Torah reading reflects the function of the second of the sublime qualities, Gevurah, “might,” which is also associated with the quality of Din, “judgment.” (The two are interrelated, because the adherence to a standard of judgment requires inner strength; moreover, strength and power are often necessary to enforce those standards and punish wrongdoers.) These qualities were reflected in the creation of the second day, establishing the firmament as a divider, for creating a division is a function of strength and judgment. Since these qualities are not overtly positive, the second day is the only day concerning which the statement: “and G‑d saw that it was good” is not mentioned. For although the ultimate result of these qualities is good, that good can often be seen only after a process has been played out in its entirety.

Similarly, the second millennium of the world’s existence was characterized by judgment and punishment. The flood wiped out all existence except for Noah and those with him in the ark. And through the dispersion that followed the sin of the Tower of Babel, division was created among mankind.

Our Torah reading concludes with the birth of Abraham whose recognition of G‑d at age 48 would initiate the third millennium. The third supernal quality is Tiferes, “beauty.” The Kabbalists explain that beauty results from the fusion of opposites. Now how can opposites come together? When they are motivated by the revelation of a quality that surpasses them both. As our Sages state, G‑d “creates peace in the high places;” His transcendent influence brings about harmony between Michael, the archangel of water, and Gabriel, the archangel of fire.

Thus on the third day of creation, the expression “And G‑d saw that it is good” is mentioned twice, for the third day consummated and brought out the positive dimension of the division of the waters of the second day. And on the third day, the first forms of life, an expression of G‑d’s transcendence, were brought into being.

These motifs were given full expression in the third millennium which featured the Giving of the Torah which, as our Rabbis state, “was given solely to establish peace in the world.” And it concluded with the construction of the First Temple in which G‑d’s infinite presence became manifest in the physical world.

Looking to the Horizon

To continue this theme and relate it to our present time: There is an amazing prophecy from the Zohar based on this week’s Torah reading. On the verse, “In the 600th year of the life of Noah,… all the fountains of the great deep erupted and the windows of heaven were opened,” the Zohar comments: “In the 600th year of the sixth millennium, the gates of sublime wisdom will open and the wellsprings of lower wisdom [will burst forth, to] prepare the world to enter the seventh millennium.”

The 600th year of the sixth millennium began in 1839. The sublime wisdom refers to the teachings of the Torah and more particularly, to the mystic knowledge of the Kabbalah. “Lower wisdom” refers to secular knowledge, and “the seventh millennium” refers to the era of the Redemption which, like the Sabbath that follows the six ordinary days of the week, will be characterized by rest, comfort, and spiritual activity.

There is no need to spell out the details of how the Zohar’s prophecy is being fulfilled. We are all aware of the sweeping changes that have occurred since 1839, as advances in science and technology, “the bursting forth of lower wisdom,” produced the Industrial Revolution, the Information Revolution, and the post-information societies of today.

These advances were not self-contained goals. Instead, as mentioned before, they are building the backdrop for the Redemption. According to the pattern of a millennium for a day of creation mentioned above, in the present age, it’s Friday afternoon, past midday. Now at that hour, in many Jewish homes, the spirit of Shabbos can already be felt. Similarly, at this time, G‑d’s home, the world, is beginning to anticipate the era of the Redemption. By opening our eyes to the Messianic dynamics at work in our lives at present, our waiting for Mashiach can be charged with the force of an idea whose time has come.