The Creation Weave“The (secrets of) creation should not be taught to more than one”
(Mishnah Hagigah ch. 2)
Esoteric KnowledgeThe Rabbis of the Mishnah (circa 200 CE) considered the creation narrative to be one of the most esoteric of all texts. Its secret meaning was not to be transmitted to more than one student at a time. Consequently, we have no written records of the esoteric meaning of the creation. Still, the Mishnah’s hint of a deeper meaning is tantalizing. What could the rabbis have been referring to? Could a modern reader stumble upon their long lost understanding of the creation narrative? I have had to deal very seriously with these questions. I find myself reading this part of the Torah in a manner that does not seem to be noted in either Rabbinic or scholarly literature. What is even more surprising is that the reading I have developed provides solutions to some of the critical problems associated with Genesis, such as the two creations of mankind. Certainly I am not about to claim that I have reproduced the ancient esoteric view. If I believed that I had, I would not be writing about it, for that is clearly forbidden. Yet I can’t help but feel that I have opened a door that has long been locked.
The key to my reading is found in the relationship between form and content, between the description of how the world came into being and the literary structure of that description. The parts of creation stand in the same relationship to each other as do the parts of the creation narrative. The Torah and the world created in it are thus, formally, identical. What we learn about the creation of the world enlightens us about the creation of the Torah as well. A close reading of the creation narrative reveals its metaphysics, the underlying principles according to which the world was created, as well as the principles according to which the Torah was written. While I have no hard evidence that this interdependency between the creation and the Torah itself belongs to the category of knowledge the Rabbis considered esoteric, there are certain indications that this might be the case.
The creation of the world is described in the Torah by means of a non-linear text. In order to grasp the principles of creation, the text must be visualized in a manner consistent with its non-linearity: a table, or weave. When the text is arranged in a table, underlying principles of organization which are not directly available from the linear text suddenly appear. In other words, the text must be grasped visually, as a table, in order to obtain meanings embedded in its structure. These added meanings are virtually inaccessible in the linear text. The text must be, as it were, deconstructed, in order to be laid out in a format that makes more of its meaning accessible. This being the case, it would be understandable if the Rabbis were reticent to teach publicly that the Torah must be deconstructed in order to reveal its full depth.
Actually, from the point of view of the construction of the Torah, it might be more appropriate to refer to the act of reading it non-linearly as “reconstruction”, rather than “deconstruction.” If the Torah was in fact conceived and organized as a tabular text, then reading it as a table would be consistent with its plan. We might then consider that the linear text is in fact a “deconstruction.” Perhaps the original tables were deconstructed in order to “fit” the accepted linear format, and to be read in public. I will return to this discussion after presenting and analyzing the creation as a weave.
Two Three-Day CyclesThe initial insight which leads to identifying the formal structure of creation is that the days of creation can be grouped. Many commentators have pointed out that the first three days of creation form a unit that is parallel to the next three days of the creation story. The specific creations of days four to six give expression to the parallel creations of days one to three. The light that was created on day one appears from the heavenly bodies created on day four. The land creatures created on day six utilize the earth and plants created on day three. The fish and birds of day five are found in the elements of day two, the sky and the ocean. As strange as it might sound, the six consecutive days of creation comprise a non-linear text. They should be read as two cycles of three days each. This observation, in and of itself, is not overly significant. It takes on meaning only when we examine it more closely and connect it with other parts of the text. But even before we examine the content more closely, we should note that elsewhere the Torah explicitly divides the seven year cycle of tithes into two parallel sub-cycles of three years each, ending with the seventh, the Sabbatical year, just as creation ends with the Sabbath. This is a clear example of how the rules of organization, promulgated in the creation story, are built into other parts of the Torah.
What we have seen so far in the creation story indicates levels of organization that are not apparent in a simple linear reading. The six days divide up in two different ways. They can be read as both two cycles of three days each, 1-3 and 4-6, as well as three pairs of days: 1 and 4, 2 and 5, 3 and 6. I want to suggest now that we look at these six days in a non-linear format that displays both of the two divisions I have mentioned. The format is a table.
The Six-Day Table
13 God said, Let there be light; and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day. (Others: one day.)
414God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times the days and the years; 15and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth. And it was so. 16God made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars. 17And God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth, 18to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that this was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day..
26God said, Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water, that it may separate water from water. 7God made the expanse, and it separated the water which was below the expanse from the water which was above the expanse. And it was so. 8God called the expanse Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
520God said, Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and birds that fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. 21God created the great sea monsters, and all the living creatures of every kind that creep, which the waters brought forth in swarms, and all the winged birds of every kind. And God saw that this was good. 22God blessed them, saying, Be fertile and increase, fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth. 23And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
3-a9God said, Let the water below the sky be gathered into one area, that the dry land may appear. And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of waters He called Seas. And God saw that this was good.
6-a24God said, Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: cattle, creeping things, and wild beasts of every kind. And it was so. 25God made wild beasts of every kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. And God saw that this was good.
3-b11And God said, Let the earth sprout vegetation: seed-bearing plants, fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it. And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that this was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
6-b26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth. 27And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them and God said to them, Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth. 29God said, See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food. 30And to all the animals on land, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything that creeps on earth, in which there is the breath of life, [I give] all the green plants for food. And it was so. 31And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Table 1: Schematic View of the Six-Day Table
Sun, Moon, Stars
Sky, Primal Waters
Birds and Fish
two separate sections
ending with “good”:
Earth and Plants
two separate sections
ending with “good”:
Beasts and Man
My argument for arranging the parts in the table in the way that I have is that this arrangement makes more information available about what the text says than the normal linear arrangement does. The tabular format gives the reader a set of instructions that are not otherwise available. This is the set of instructions about how the parts relate to each other. The table says: “Look at my columns as separate entities. Ponder my rows. Learn how my text weaves together the columns and the rows.” The tabular format reflects a mode of writing that can very well be compared with weaving. This is the format of chapters of Mishnah as well as the literary units of the Torah. In order to better understand the full significance of the weaving metaphor, I will make a short digression and explain the workings of a simple loom.
Introducing: “The Literary Loom”
The loom pictured above is a tapestry loom. In its most basic form it consists of a wooden frame with rows of pegs or nails across the top and bottom of the frame. The threads of the warp are stretched between the pegs on the top and bottom of the frame. The weft, or woof, is then woven across the warp. The two components have directional sense; the warp is vertical while the weft is horizontal. There is also a constant difference between the threads. The warp consists of thin colorless threads. Their function is to hold the weave without being seen. The picture or pattern in the tapestry consists solely of the threads of the weft.
How is the text woven? Each thread of the weft consists of a set of textual elements, usually a pair or a triad, such as each of the three horizontal pairs in The Creation Weave. Each thread is identified as a set (pair or triad) by standard literary techniques. Usually they have a common subject. Often, they have within them recurring words or phrases. The common subjects of the weft sets create the tapestry that carries the “picture” of the text. Where are the hidden threads of the warp? They are found in a fixed relationship between the elements of the weft. In the creation weave the elements of each pair are ordered so that the first element, column L, describes a primary creation, like light. The second element of each pair, column R, describes a secondary creation that utilizes its paired primary creation, as the greater and lesser lights of day four utilize the light of day one. In all cases there is a regular difference between the warp and the weft: the warp points to a constant relationship between the vertical components, the columns; the weft presents substantive similarities within the horizontal lines. The distinction between the hidden warp and the visible weft makes the weave analogy more suitable to the text than a simple table. We will now further clarify our understanding of the literary loom by seeing just how it affects our reading of The Creation Weave.
The WarpWe will start by looking at the columns, the warp. We can read the arrangement of days 1-3 and 4-6 in separate columns as an indicator that we should look for something that the first three days have in common and something else that the next three have in common, as well as an identifiable relationship between the columns. Each of the first three days has a creation specifically named by God: 1, light; 2, sky; 3, earth. God names a unique creation on each of these days. On the other hand, each of the days in column R mentions a class of objects: 4, stars; 5, birds and fish; 6, land animals. So we can begin with the fact that the columns indicate a distinction between singular creations and classes or plural creations. This distinction is reinforced by an action that is common in all three segments of column L, separation. Each of the first three days has an act of separation: 1, light from darkness; 2, the waters above from the waters below; 3, the oceans from the dry land. The act of separation emphasizes uniqueness or singularity. This last observation sends us back to column R to see whether or not it contains a counterpart to “separation” in L. As a matter of fact each of the last three days of creation describes the “occupation” of another’s space. The terminology is sharp: the sun, moon and stars are placed in heaven to “rule” day and night; man is told to “conquer” the earth; the fish are to fill the sea. In each case a second cycle creation in column R “invades” or controls its first cycle parallel in column L. This is clearly in opposition to the first cycle principle of “separation.” Another distinction between the first three days and the last three is that the creations of the first three do not move, while the creations of the last three do. We can see that the columns are in several senses opposites, based on distinctions like simple and complex; singular and plural; primary and secondary; analysis and synthesis, immovable and movable. This demonstrates the characteristic of the warp, a fixed relationship between the vertical components, the columns.
The WeftNow let’s look at the weft, the horizontal rows. The initial impetus to examine the days of creation in the format I have presented was the observation that the days are paired: light and darkness are common to days one and four; the fish and birds of day five fill the elements of day two; the creatures of day six live on and feed off the creations of day three. However, once the parts have been arranged in a table, more information becomes apparent. In effect, the parts of the puzzle fall into place and the picture of the whole, the tapestry, becomes apparent. The three rows are arranged according to a visual key. In the top row, 1 and 4, we see the heavenly bodies, sun, moon and stars: the upper, luminous, transcendent world. In the bottom row, 3 and 6, we find the earth-bound creatures, the immanent lower world. In the middle, 2 and 5, are the creatures that fill the space between heaven and earth, as well as the very division between above and below (day two). Suddenly, the grid clicks into place and the creation story takes on a whole new perspective. The non-linear text comes into focus and we see the woven text, or literary tapestry, as it was created on the literary loom.
The TapestryFrom this point on any further analysis must take into consideration the image painted by the arrangement of the six individual days in the creation weave, the picture woven into the tapestry. The critical juncture is the appearance of a coherent picture with the stars above, the earth below, and a middle level connecting them at the center; the world as we see it. I consider this visualization the stamp of truth and an internal verification of our non-linear arrangement. In order to see the picture we must arrange the six days, as we have, in two parallel columns. Only then the three-tiered representation of the world as it is experienced appears. Up to this point we dealt with an interesting literary phenomenon made up of complexly parallel texts. Now we must acknowledge that this more than a literary curiosity. Using just six “knots” of warp and weft, the Torah has woven the weave of reality. The appearance of a clear representation of experienced reality out of the peculiar division of creation into six parts marks the text as a work of art, a tapestry woven on the literary loom by a master craftsman.
It is clear now that the creation story has two aspects. It is meant to appear as a linear text by having its parts marked serially from one to seven. Nevertheless, in order to understand its underlying coherence, it must be seen as a non-linear construct. The reader must superimpose the pattern of the loom from which the text was woven. In other words, there is an additional level of meaning that can be accessed only by reading the text according to its structure. Logically, we are now confronted by the very real possibility that the creation narrative was first conceived as a two dimensional woven text that would deconstruct into a linear text.
The Prologue and the EpilogueThe authenticity of the non-linear reading is reinforced by the addition of the remaining elements of the creation, verses 1-2 and day seven. Since these elements fall outside the boundaries of creation proper, the six days, I will refer to them as the prologue and epilogue of creation. Both the prologue and the epilogue divide into two parts. The first part of the prologue and the first part of the epilogue relate to the first three day cycle. The second part of each relates to the second three day cycle. In effect, each of the three day cycles has its own prologue and epilogue.
Table 2: The Prologue
A 1When God began to create
A 2the earth being unformed and void,
Each of the first two verses should be associated with one of the three day cycles, the columns of our table. The first verse contains three unmodified nouns, God, heaven and earth. This is similar to the first three day cycle in which the simple elements are created and named. In fact, two of the entities that are named in the first three days, heaven and earth, are mentioned in verse 1. Verse 2 is like the second cycle of days. It contains three descriptions which are parallel to the three unmodified nouns of verse 1. A similar distinction can be seen between the two segments of day seven.
Table 3: The Epilogue
A 2:1Finished were the heaven
A 2Finished was God on the seventh day (the work that He had been making), 
B and the earth,
B and He ceased (Or rested.) on the seventh day from all the work that He had done.
C and all their array.
C 3And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that He had done.
I have divided day seven into two sections based on the repetition of the verb yechal, finished. In the Hebrew, both sections begin with this verb. Again we see three unmodified nouns in the first section, two of which, heaven and earth, appear in the parallel section of the prologue. The second section of the epilogue is composed of three divine actions. Here too, as in the prologue, the second section contains descriptions as opposed to the unmodified nouns of the first section. It is now clear that the prologue and epilogue divide into two sections each in a manner similar to the division of the six days into two cycles. This makes it possible to place the prologue and epilogue in The Creation Weave, thereby creating a 5X2 table.
Table 4: The 5X2 Creation Weave
A 1When God began to create (Others: In the beginning God created.)
A 2the earth being unformed and void,
3 God said, Let there be light; and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day. (Others: one day.)
14God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times the days and the years; 15and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth. And it was so. 16God made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars. 17And God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth, 18to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that this was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day..
6God said, Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water, that it may separate water from water. 7God made the expanse, and it separated the water which was below the expanse from the water which was above the expanse. And it was so. 8God called the expanse Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
20God said, Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and birds that fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. 21God created the great sea monsters, and all the living creatures of every kind that creep, which the waters brought forth in swarms, and all the winged birds of every kind. And God saw that this was good. 22God blessed them, saying, Be fertile and increase, fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth. 23And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
9God said, Let the water below the sky be gathered into one area, that the dry land may appear. And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of waters He called Seas. And God saw that this was good.
24God said, Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: cattle, creeping things, and wild beasts of every kind. And it was so. 25God made wild beasts of every kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. And God saw that this was good.
11And God said, Let the earth sprout vegetation: seed-bearing plants, fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it. And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that this was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth. 27And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them and God said to them, Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth. 29God said, See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food. 30And to all the animals on land, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything that creeps on earth, in which there is the breath of life, [I give] all the green plants for food. And it was so. 31And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
A 2Finished was God on the seventh day (the work that He had been making),
The above table is the full creation weave. I have presented it as a table containing five rows, marked I-V, and two columns, L(eft) and R(ight). The prologue and epilogue are rows I and V. Each section of the prologue and epilogue has three elements, marked A-C. The three day cycles are rows II-IV. Days three and six are subdivided into parts A and B, each day having a double creation. The use of solid horizontal lines in the table should be noted. It is a form of punctuation indicating the order of the linear text- the deconstruction of the creation weave: I-L, I-R, II-L, III-L, IV-L, II-R, III-R, etc. Once we have established the formal structure of the text, we can begin to probe the meaning embedded in the structure. We will do that in the next section.
2. New MeaningsIn the previous section we saw that the seven days of creation can be represented in a 5X2 table. In this section we will see that viewing the text as a table leads us to new insights concerning the substance of the text. I will speak about the relationship between structure and meaning and show how certain literary techniques are used to invest the structure of the text with meaning. The purpose of this section is twofold: to demonstrate the meanings embedded in the creation weave and to give examples of literary techniques used in the Torah.
The creation weave can be viewed as having three major components, 1) the prologue, 2) the core text made up of the six days of creation, and 3) the epilogue. These three divisions can be taken together to indicate that the process of creation has three distinct stages. We have made some observations about the picture in the six-day weave, lines II-IV in the table, which can help us understand the mechanics of a three stage process. We noted a symmetrical arrangement around the center of the picture. The heavenly lights were above, the earth was below, and in the middle was a self-defined separation/connection between above and below. (While the picture is spatially symmetrical, there are also other symmetries between lines II and IV which we will explore later in this chapter.) The key point is that a special relationship exits between the first and third sections of a three part structure. The relationship can be viewed as a pair of opposites. The middle element provides a bridge between the opposites, much as line III bridges that which is above (II) and that which is below (IV). Let’s see how that works with the three part division of prologue, core and epilogue.
Conceptual SymmetryConceptual symmetry is based on a complementary relationship between symmetrically related parts of the text. This relationship can usually be seen as a pair of opposites or poles. We can see this relationship between lines I and V. The polarity between lines I and V can be expressed in a pair of terms such as “before and after” or “potential and actual.” The prologue directs us to a base state of “without form and void” that exists as a proto-creation, like a blueprint, before God begins the six detailed days of creation. This blueprint is called “the beginning.” The seventh day describes the opposite pole, “finished.” The building has received a certificate of occupancy.
From Describing Structure to Deriving MeaningBefore we look at more examples of conceptual symmetry, I want to clarify the connection between structural symmetry and conceptual symmetry. The first (I) and last (V) lines of the creation weave are set apart from the three middle lines both structurally and conceptually. The obvious structural difference is that the middle lines are made up of pairs of days in textual units that do not follow each other. We might call them “artificial” or “synthetic” pairs. The extreme lines, on the other hand, are made up of “natural” pairs, consecutive segments of text. This effectively divides the table into two structural sections, one containing lines I and V, and the other containing lines II-IV. This marks the extremes, I and V, as a pair in terms of the formal structure. Once they have been identified as a structural pair, we can compare them and see in what sense they are a conceptual pair. That is precisely when we begin to understand the meaning embedded in the structure. Let’s focus in on the comparison.
When comparing I and V we are immediately struck by the similarity of the opening sentences. Both deal with “heaven and earth.” This linguistic parallel is much like a bridge between the formal link and the conceptual link. It is like the formal similarity between the prologue and epilogue because it is clearly identifiable, but since it is part of the content it can also lead us to a meaningful link. This meaningful connection is found in the contexts in which the phrase “heaven and earth” appears. The differences lead directly to the conceptual symmetry we found between the pair of units.
|In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth||Thus the heavens and the earth were finished|
The Conceptual MiddleBetween the first stage, creating the blueprint, and the final stage, occupancy, are the six days of construction, the conceptual middle between the poles. We have a clear linguistic sign that the six days of creation should be read as a sub-unit. Each of the six days begins with the phrase “God said” and ends with the formula “There was evening and morning….” Nether of these phrases appears in lines I and V. So again we find a linguistic indicator of which parts of the text are to be read together. The linguistic evidence couples with the structural fact that lines II-IV are set off from I and V to insure that we see the three central lines as a sub-unit. Once we have identified I and V as “beginning” and “end” respectively, the block of II-IV is clearly meant to be read as “in the middle”- between the beginning and the end.
In this specific case, with respect to time, the fact that the six days of creation are a conceptual middle is essentially trivial. However, if we consider the three steps as “without form” (I), “formation” (II-IV), and “fully formed” (V), then the conceptual middle is no longer trivial. It is the link between potential and realized. During the six days of creation God works from the blueprint and delivers a finished product on the Sabbath. The six days show how God realizes His plan. We have determined according to the structure that the six days combine into three intermediate stages II-IV. These three stages also exhibit conceptual symmetry amongst themselves. We will see now how the three middle stages utilize the four primary elements, fire, air, water and earth, to create conceptual symmetry.
Fire, Air, Water and EarthEach of the weft threads in the core text, lines II-IV, is associated with a specific element, or elements. Line IV is obviously the earth. Line II deals with light. The Hebrew for light, or, also means flame. If we wish to remain close to the classical “elements”, we can say that the element associated with row II is fire. The other two classical elements are found in row III, air and water. The placement of air and water between fire and earth indicates that row III is meant to be a conceptual middle between II and IV. There are several indications that this is the case. The first is the fact that line III includes two elements. One of them is like II and the other is like IV. Air is like fire (II) because it is intangible and tends to go up as in smoke or vapor. Water is tangible like earth (IV) and tends to go down, seeking the lowest point. This combination explains the appearance in row III of the birds that go up in the air and the fish that go down in the water. So III is a conceptual middle because it combines aspects of II and IV. This is one of the fundamental characteristics of conceptual symmetry: the intermediate element provides a dividing link. We might call this “The Second Principle of Torah Dynamics” since it is so similar to the actual creation of the second day, the firmament that divides “above” from “below”- the middle. Yet another example of conceptual symmetry is found in the first three days of creation. It is based on the five entities that are named in the first three days.
The Divinely Named Elements of CreationGod gives names to five parts of the creation. On day one He names light “day” and darkness “night”; on day two He names the firmament “heaven”; and on day three He calls the dry land “earth” and the bodies of water “oceans.” These five names are distributed symmetrically in our Weave: two in line II, one in line III, and again two in line IV. Only three of the named entities are mentioned as intended parts of creation, things that were directly created by acts of divine will. On day one only light is created, although both day and night are named. On day two the firmament is created and named “heaven.” On the third day only the dry land is created while “earth” as well as “oceans” are named. So we see that each of the first three days has a single named creation, light, the firmament, and the earth. The addition of two more names awakens our curiosity: Why did God find it necessary to name night on day one and the seas on day three even though He did not set out to create them on those days? What is the function of the additional names given on days one and three? These questions will lead us to see another example of conceptual symmetry.
Naming the Non-createdIn order to answer the questions we have raised, we should look at the relationship between the entities that were created and named on days one and three and those that were named but not created. The connection between light and darkness of day one is similar to the connection between dry land and the ocean of day three. Both relationships are antithetical. Light and darkness cannot coexist, nor can the sea and dry land. We can also note that both maintain a continuing dynamic, cyclical relationship: the cycles of day and night and the tides. Both pairs are also associated with sight. Light makes it possible to see what the darkness hides. The movement of the waters makes it possible to see the dry land. Let’s look more closely at exactly how the light and dry land are created.
|1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.||1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear|
Light is created directly from divine speech. There is no intermediary. The land, on the other hand, is not actually created. The movement of “the waters under the heaven” reveals it. Neither night nor the oceans are directly called into being. Darkness, which is called night, is separated from light after God creates light on day one. The oceans are a by-product of the creation of dry land on day three. Each of these named but not created entities stands in a different relationship with the named creation of its day. Light causes darkness to disappear. The created entity of day one, light, negates its “uncreated” antipode, darkness. On day three however, the water is told to gather together and thus reveal the dry land. The movement of the oceans causes the earth to come into being. The “non-creation”, water, plays a role in the appearance of the earth. So we can postulate that the two named “non-creations” are utilized to emphasize two different types of causality.
Light is a direct expression of God’s will. There are no intermediary stages or elements; it comes into being immediately when God wills it to be. It is the only creation of its kind, the only one that God saw individually, “And God saw the light.” Earth, on the other hand, wasn’t really created on day three. It was discovered. God discovered the earth when the waters rolled back, “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.” It appeared as part of a process of events. The distinction between the creation of light and the creation of land is the difference between supernatural and natural. God made light directly without any identifiable cause but established the dry land through a natural process. This distinction is emphasized by the difference between the way light separates from darkness as opposed to the way the waters separate from the land. “God divided the light from the darkness”, but He did not directly divide the water from the dry land.
The Torah Teaches HermeneuticsWe have by now derived enough new information about the meaning of our text in order to justify having arranged it as a table. We have also begun to see the close correlation between structure and meaning, and have become acquainted with some of the Torah’s rhetorical devices, such as the conceptual middle. Now we will see that the Torah utilizes its first verses in order to teach principles of hermeneutics. These first two verses demonstrate how to read the Torah as a non-linear text as well as prefiguring the six days of creation.
Table 5: Key Elements in Verses 1 And 2
|Verse 2||Earth||The Deep||God|
The first verse contains three nouns: 1, God; 2, heaven; 3, earth. The second verse contains three descriptions: 1, “the earth was without form and void”; 2, “darkness was upon the face of the deep (space)”; 3, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Since we now know that structure can contain information, we are drawn to compare the two triads. It is immediately clear that verse 2 refers to two of the nouns in verse 1, God and the earth. Closer inspection reveals that the two nouns that are repeated are the first and last elements of each triad. God appears at the beginning of verse 1 and at the end of verse 2 while the earth appears at the end of verse 1 and in the beginning of verse 2. This reversal of order is known as chiasm, from the Greek letter chi, which is shaped like an X. It is also known as inverted parallelism and is one of the most fundamental principles of organization in the Torah.
ChiasmChiasm is a device that keeps parts of the text together while at the same time defining limits. The appearance of a chiasm clarifies the structure while indicating that it is significant. In the case we are examining the chiasm implies, “These two verses form a single unit. They must be read together.” (This is further evidence that our initial identification of the verses as a separate unit, the prologue, was correct.) It also indicates that God is definitely part of the first triad. If we did not find the chiasm, we could not be sure that we should see the first verse as having two or three parts. We could say that it contains two parts, the grammatical subject, God, and a double object, heaven and earth. The appearance of God as part of the triad in the second verse tips the balance in favor of reading the first verse as having three elements. However, it is the chiasm that forces the decision. Once the reader sees that the two verses form a single, crafted, block of text based on a chiasm, he or she sees that it has two triads.
So, the text has pointed out that the two triads in the first two verses are significant. Where do we go from here? Fortunately, we have already discovered the twin cycles of the first six days and can see the similarity between the inner structure of the prologue and the structure of the six days. The first triad of the prologue contains three simple, unmodified nouns, just as the first three days contain three named creations. The second triad of the prologue modifies the elements introduced in the first verse, much as the fourth to sixth days modify the parallel creations of the first three days. So the prologue is not just a precursor of the elements of creation, but actually contains the form of creation. It is in fact the very blueprint that we earlier anticipated it should be. The feature that enabled us to reach this conclusion was the chiasm.
Separating God from His CreationSo far I have pointed out well-known literary devices, such as symmetry and chiasm, to demonstrate how to derive meaning from structure. Now I will work with some of the peculiar characteristics of our text. The first two verses of the epilogue, line V, begin with the same word, a verb that can be translated as finished, or completed. “Completed were heaven, earth, and their multitudes. Finished was God….” Why does the Torah repeat the same verb twice, once referring to the creation and once to God? If the text means that God finished the creation, wouldn’t it be sufficient to say “He finished and rested on the seventh day”? What is added by dealing with heaven and earth and their hosts independently of God? I believe that our reading of the prologue offers an answer to this question.
Table 6 The Prologue
The earth is chaotic
The deep is dark
The double triad of the opening verses begins and ends with God. He begins creating heaven and earth and finishes hovering above the water. He is involved with the creation as a participant and hovers above it restlessly. His personal status is not mentioned again until we hear that He rested on the seventh day. This rest is in opposition to the “hovering” in the beginning. This is yet another aspect of the polar symmetry that we noted between lines I and V. The same principle can be employed to solve the problem of the double use of “complete” in the epilogue.
The effect of the double appearance of “complete” is as if to say that God is no longer involved with heaven and earth and their hosts. He is resting in His blessed Sabbath while His creation stands apart completed. In a manner of speaking, God, who was intimately and restlessly involved with His creation for six days, has separated from it in day seven. The separation is itself the sign that the creation has been completed. This observation will perforce influence our understanding of the process of creation. Earlier we identified the conceptual middle as expressed in lines II-IV as the movement from unformed to formed. Now we must take into account that the middle may also indicate the transition from a state in which God and His creation are inseparable to a state in which they are apparently independent of each other. In order to see just how this change takes place, we must broaden our reading of the creation weave.
Rereading the WeavePerhaps the most striking characteristic of the 5X2 table is that each of the columns is coherent within itself. All of column L contains individually named creations while all of R contains descriptions. There is yet another factor that distinguishes between the columns. We can best understand by having another look at the prologue, line I.
The earth is chaotic
The deep is dark
Creation from above, column L, leads us to the God of the philosophers, a transcendent God who creates an idealized universe and then retires. Creation from chaos introduces a different aspect of God. In column R we see a personal God who has a spirit, an image and a likeness. His first act, in day four, is to begin to create order out of the chaos. This is consistent with our understanding of line I as a blueprint. The first of the three elements in I-R is the chaos upon the earth. God turns the chaos into order by creating heavenly symbols (otot). In His final act, on day six, He creates an image of Himself, man and woman, who is instructed to complete the process of establishing order in the world. In the first three days God creates a perfectly ordered world, one in which the causes are clear and each entity has a name, the world of four prime elements. In the next three days God creates a world which is constantly shifting and falling into disarray, a world that needs continual attention to its symbols, a yeasty world of possibility. We can read the two columns as describing both different aspects of God and different aspects of creation. In the next section we will see how we can solve textual problems by viewing the two threads of the warp as two lines of creation.
3. Solving Textual ProblemsWhile the analysis up to this point is only preliminary, we can already begin to see that the text refers to its own structural elements. The fact is that we can no longer make a simple distinction between content and form. I see the integration of form and content as one of the goals of structural analysis and one of the themes of this book. Rather than go through the detailed reading that would pinpoint the function of each day in drawing the unifying picture, I want to jump ahead now and show how the method can shed light on textual problems. The specific problem I want to investigate has been an especially acute source of difficulty for critics of the last few generations. I am referring to the double creation of mankind, once in day six of chapter one and again in chapter two.
by Following the Threads of the Warp
The information we have derived from the picture of the creation weave will help us see the two descriptions of the creation of mankind in a new light. Seeing the non-linear character of the text provides the key to understanding why mankind is apparently created twice. We must fully grasp the significance of the two threads of the warp in order to begin to see the implications of mankind’s double creation. Each thread, column in our table, leads to one of the aspects of the creation of mankind. The link between each thread and one of the descriptions of mankind strengthens the theory that the two three day cycles are substantial parts of the plan of creation, and not just a literary nicety.
Day Three Adam and Day Six AdamThere are two fundamentally different aspects of reality that are demonstrated through the two columns. Everything in the world shares these two characteristics. We can think of them as “uniqueness” and “class.” The left column, as we have seen, depicts unique elements of creation that are referred to by the text itself as “heaven and earth” and named by God. The right column depicts classes of objects that are associated with the unique elements. The text refers to them as “hosts” or “multitudes.” Mankind also shares these two characteristics. Each person is both a unique individual and a member of the class called “mankind.” The Torah describes these two characteristics through the two stories of Adam’s creation. The story of Adam follows two different lines. One is the continuation of day three and the other continues from day six. The stories pick up in chapter 2:4, which continues from the line of day three, and 5:1, which continues the story of day six man.
Elemental Day 3 Adam
Day 6 Adam in God’s Image
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 1:12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 1:27 So God created man (Adam) in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them1:28 And God blessed them
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 2:5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 2:6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 5:2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. 5:3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth: 5:4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:
In the above table I have collected four segments of the first chapters of Genesis. On the left at the top is the end of day three, the description of plant life. Chapter two, verse five, is a clear continuation of day three “And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.” This link is preceded by an introduction, “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” We have already identified the left-hand column of the creation weave with heaven and earth, which are mentioned in this introductory verse. It is the column of “the unique”, where God names things. The story continues in a manner that is totally consistent with our analysis of the dichotomy underlying the two three-day cycles, or columns. Adam is created from the earth as a single unique creature, as opposed to day six Adam who was created “male and female”. This distinction is emphasized when day six Adam reappears (right-hand column above) in chapter five “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam (Man), in the day when they were created.”
Two Intertwined ThreadsLet us focus now on the non-linear flow of Genesis, from the beginning through chapter five. For the sake of simplicity I will refer to day-three-man as “Adam” and day-six-man as “Mankind.” The creation story of chapter one implies the existence of two seemingly antithetical principles in creation, which we can indicate as “one and many”, expressed through the cycles of days 1-3 and 4-6. All people share the characteristic that they are both unique individuals, as well as members of the class “people.” These two aspects of “Adam” are expanded through two non-linear blocks of text. From chapter 2:5 until the last verses of chapter 4, the Torah describes the individual “Adam” who is a farmer. Like God in the first three days, third day Adam gives names, both to the woman created from him and to the animals:
2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (This follows the principle of separation we noted in days 1-3.)
Just as God created third day Adam out of the ground, so too does He create the animals and birds out of the ground after the creation of Adam. (Sixth day Mankind is created after the animals and birds.) The animals are originally presented to Adam as potential mates. Only after exhausting the possibilities of finding a mate amongst the animals, is Eve created from him. They sin, are cast out of the Garden and have two sons, Abel who is a shepherd (and not named), and Cain who is a farmer like his father (and named by his mother). Cain kills Abel and the narrative ends with a list of Cain’s descendants.
Day six Mankind includes both male and female. From the outset, when God first considers creating Mankind, the Torah uses the plural and specifically mentions male and female. Mankind is created in God’s image in order to be a gamekeeper: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Mankind’s relationship to animals is diametrically opposite Adam’s relationship to them. Mankind was created after the animals in order to rule them. Adam was created before the animals that were offered to him as mates. Adam is a farmer and Mankind is a gamekeeper. Abel, the shepherd, took after Mankind and was killed by his brother the farmer who took after Adam. The story of Mankind continues in chapter five with the birth of Seth: “And Mankind lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth.” The connection to day six is emphasized by the fact that Mankind’s son is born “in his own likeness, and after his image” just as Mankind was created in the image of God. Seth was to replace Adam’s son Abel, the shepherd, “God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” The Torah then enumerates Seth’s descendants, ending with Noah, the ultimate gamekeeper. The lists of Cain’s descendants and Seth’s descendants include several confusingly similar names.
| ||4:25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.|
|4:17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. |
4:18 And unto Enoch was born Irad:
|4:26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD. |
5:6 And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: 5:7 And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: 5:8 And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.
5:9 And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan: 5:10 And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters: 5:11 And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died.
5:12 And Cainan lived seventy years and begat Mahalaleel: 5:13 And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters: 5:14 And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died.
|and Irad begat Mehujael:||5:15 And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared: 5:16 And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters: 5:17 And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died. |
5:18 And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch: 5:19 And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 5:20 And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died.
|and Mehujael begat Methusael:||5:21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: 5:22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 5:23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 5:24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.|
|and Methusael begat Lamech.||5:25 And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech. 5:26 And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters: 5:27 And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.|
|4:19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 4:20 And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. 4:21 And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. 4:22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah. 4:23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. 4:24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.||5:28 And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: 5:29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.|
4. Summary and Conclusions
Seven Days and Seven Principles of OrganizationWe have seen that according to the Torah’s narrative, the days of creation and their objects are not the primordial elements of reality. They are logically preceded by a weave of two sets of principles. Each day comes to signify the unique meshing of two primary principles which are conceptual threads, one in the warp and one in the weft. The day itself is the knot of the two threads, the intersection of the underlying principles, such as “transcendent” and “manifold” for day four. There are five such principles in the six-day weave, two vertical and three horizontal. The addition of the prologue and the epilogue, two more horizontal principles, brings the total number of prime principles to seven- like the total number of days mentioned in the narrative. So we have seven numerated “days” or stages in the linear narrative matched by seven embedded principles of organization that are virtually inaccessible without reconstructing the creation weave. If we take the days of creation to represent the physical world, then we must understand the embedded primary principles as pertaining to metaphysics. The exoteric reading of creation as a description of the physical world is paralleled by the esoteric, hidden, weave that reveals the metaphysical underpinnings of creation. The seven days of the creation narrative are based on seven principles of metaphysics embedded in the structure of the creation narrative.
If the non-linear stratum of the Torah is an integral part of the text, as it appears to be, we must ask why the text has both linear and non-linear aspects. Inevitably, this question leads us to query the very nature of the Torah. At this point, I will offer a far-reaching hypothesis which will be tested in the following chapters.
The HypothesisAccording to internal testimony, God gave the Torah to Moses, and Moses in turn gave it to the whole nation. This double giving is reflected in common introductory phrases such as “God spoke to Moses saying ‘speak to the Israelite nation.’” These phrases indicate that the Torah was given twice in two different voices, the voice of God heard by Moses the prophet, and the voice of Moses the lawgiver heard by people. Nowhere does the Torah itself indicate whether the text is meant to reproduce the voice of God or the voice of Moses. The hypothesis that I want to suggest is that the Torah was constructed in such a manner as to echo both voices. It reproduces Moses’ voice through the linear reading, and a replica of the voice that Moses heard in the non-linear reading. The creation weave has made it possible to read the Torah as a document containing two different strata and to hear both voices in it. The linear, exoteric reading mirrors the experience of the people hearing the Torah from Moses. The non-linear, esoteric, reading would then reflect Moses’ subjective experience of God’s voice. If this voice can be heard in the Torah, then the function of the esoteric Torah might be to lead the reader to the experience of Moses as prophet. In other words, the esoteric Torah could be a handbook of prophecy, a book designed to develop the reader’s ability to hear the voice of God. Let us examine the implications of this hypothesis regarding our example from the days of creation.
The Creation Weave as the Prophetic VisionIf the esoteric, non-linear, aspect of the Torah is associated with the prophetic experience, then we might say that the prophet perceived the nature of the created world as a grid or weave similar to the table of the six days we have reconstructed. The prophetic vision, the way Moses grasped divine speech, is a tight weave containing well-defined concept-threads and relationships that compose a unified whole. He sees reality as a grid, a network of inseparable concepts, a gestalt. By studying this weave, one is led to the overriding unity behind the plethora of experience. We may well ask why Moses did not present his unifying vision directly. Why was it deconstructed and hidden by an ostensibly linear progression of divided and numbered days? I believe that the answers to these questions are implied by the creation weave itself. In order to understand them, we must return to the figure of the loom.
The Primacy of the WarpWe noted that there are two different types of threads on the loom, the warp threads that are meant to be nearly invisible, and the weft threads that form the picture of a three-tiered creation. The warp must be strung on the the loom first, in order to receive the weft. So we could say that the warp, even though it will ultimately disappear, is the first principle of the weave. We characterized the warp of the creation weave as distinguishing between the unique singular creations of the first days and the manifold creations of the last days. In other words, the most fundamental principle of the created world is “one and many.” Translating this principle from metaphysics to experience, we can say that the most fundament characteristic of human experience is the the divide between the one, the self, and the many, society, or more abstractly, subjectivity and objectivity. These dyads will lead us to the distinction between the two aspects of Moses experience, and our two readings of the Torah.
The two strata of the Torah speak to two different readerships, the whole nation and the individual, thus reflecting the primordial dichotomy of one and many. As a public document, one to be read in public, the Torah sounds like speech, like the voice of Moses speaking to the people. Each law and each bit of narrative can be grasped as an independent entity, like the numbered days of creation. This is the linear, exoteric Torah, which defines the relationship between God and the whole Jewish nation. But the Torah also connects each individual member of the nation to God. This is the hidden esoteric stratum found in the structure, as we found in the creation weave. This is the Torah that the Rabbis said must be taught to individuals, not in public. Each individual who reads the Torah in this manner is like Moses receiving the Torah as a unified whole. Moses the prophet who received the Torah thus becomes the model for the student of the esoteric Torah, just as Moses the law-giver is the model of a national leader. In this respect, the Torah is like Moses, integrating the deepest of subjective experiences, the voice of God, and objective reality, the Torah set before the nation.
 Deuteronomy 14:28
 I read the verb vayechal, complete, in verse 2 as parallel to the same verb in verse 1. In verse 1 it is intransitive, describing the state of the subject. I think that the parallel construction implies that verse 2 should be read as having a similar meaning. Therefore, I do not read “the work that He had been doing” as the object of “complete” in verse 2, i.e. “God completed the work”. As in verse 1 the verb is intransitive, describing the subject, God. This reading is supported by the fact that the grammatical indicator of the direct object, et, does not appear before “the work.” That is why I indicate that “the work…” is a parenthetical reference to the seventh day.