CHRISTIAN BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS.2

       The First Things Created: In the beginning, two thousand years before the heaven and the earth, seven things were created: the Torah written with black fire on white fire, and lying in the lap of God ; the Divine Throne, erected in the heaven which later was over the heads of the ‘Hayyot; Paradise on the right side of God, Hell on the left side; the Celestial Sanctuary directly in front of God, having a jewel on its altar graven with the Name of the Messiah, and a Voice that cries aloud, “Return, ye children of men.” (1 Tehillim 90, 391.) When God resolved upon the creation of the world, He took counsel with the Torah. (2) Her advice was this: “O Lord, a king without an army and without courtiers and at­tendants hardly deserves the name of king, for none is nigh to express the homage due to him. “The answer pleased God exceedingly. Thus, did He teach all earthly kings, by His Divine example, to undertake naught without first con­sulting advisers. (3) The advice of the Torah was given with some reserva­tions. She was skeptical about the value of an earthly world, on account of the sinfulness of men, who would be sure to disregard her precepts. But God dispelled her doubts. He told her, that repentance had been created long before, and sinners would have the opportunity of mending their ways. Besides, the Temple service would be invested with atoning power, and Paradise and hell were intended to do duty as reward and punishment. Finally, the Messiah was appointed to bring salvation, which would put an end to all sinfulness. (4) Nor is this world inhabited by man the first of things earthly created by God. He made several worlds before ours, but He destroyed them all, because He was pleased with none until He created ours. (5) But even this last world would have had no permanence, if God had executed His original plan of ruling it according to the principle of strict justice. It was only when He saw that justice by itself would undermine the world that He associated mercy with justice and made them to rule jointly. (6) Thus, from the beginning of all things. prevailed Divine goodness, with­out which nothing could have continued to exist. If not for it, the myriads of evil spirits had soon put an end to the generations of men. But the goodness of God has ordained, that in every Nisan, at the time of the spring equinox, the seraphim shall approach the world of spirits, and intimidate them so that they fear to do harm to men. Again, if God in His goodness had not given protection to the weak, the tame animals would have been extirpated long ago by the wild animals. In Tammuz, at the time of the summer sol­stice, when the strength of behemot is at its height, he roars so loud that all the animals hear it, and for a whole year they are affrighted and timid, and their acts become less ferocious than their nature is. Again, in Tishri, at the time of the autumnal equinox, the great bird ziz (7) flaps his wings and utters his cry, so that the birds of prey, the eagles and the vultures, blench, and they fear to swoop down upon the others and annihilate them in their greed. And, again, were it not for the goodness of God, the vast number of big fish had quickly put an end to the little ones. But at the time of the winter solstice, in the month of Tebet, the sea grows restless, for then leviathan spouts up water, and the big fish become uneasy. They restrain their appetite, and the little ones escape their rapacity. Finally, the goodness of God manifests itself in the pres­ervation of His people Israel. It could not have survived the enmity of the Gentiles, if God had not appointed pro­tectors for it, the archangels Michael and Gabriel. (8) When­ever Israel disobeys God and is accused of misdemeanors by the angels of the other nations, he is defended by his designated guardians, with such good result that the other angels conceive fear of them. Once the angels of the other nations are terrified, the nations themselves venture not to carry out their wicked designs against Israel. That the goodness of God may rule on earth as in heaven, the Angels of Destruction are assigned a place at the far end of the heavens, from which they may never stir, while the Angels of Mercy encircle the Throne of God, at His behest. (9)
The Alphabet: When God was about to create the world by His word, the twenty-two letters of the alphabet (10) descended from the terrible and august crown of God whereon they were en­graved with a pen of flaming fire. They stood round about God, and one after the other spake and entreated, “Create the world through me!” The first to step forward was the letter Taw. It said: “O Lord of the world! May it be Thy will to create Thy world through me, seeing that it is through me that Thou wilt give the Torah to Israel by the hand of Moses, as it is written, ‘Moses commanded us the Torah.'” The Holy One, blessed be He, made reply, and said, “No!” Taw asked, “Why not?” and God answered: “Because in days to come I shall place thee as a sign of death upon the foreheads of men.” As soon as Taw heard these words issue from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, it retired from His presence disappointed. The Shin then stepped forward, and pleaded: ” O Lord of the world, create Thy world through me, seeing that Thine own name Shaddai begins with me.” Unfortunately, it is also the first letter of Shaw, lie, and of Sheker, false­hood, and that incapacitated it. Resh had no better luck. It was pointed out that it was the initial letter of Ra’, wicked, and Rasha’, evil, and after that the distinction it enjoys of being the first letter in the Name of God, Ra·hum, the Merciful, counted for naught. The ·Kof (Qof) was rejected, be­cause ‘Kelalah, curse, outweighs the advantage of being the first in ·Kadosh, the Holy One. In vain did ‘Zadde (Tzadde) call at­tention to ‘Zaddik, the Righteous One; there was ‘Zarot, the misfortunes of Israel, to testify against it. Pe had Podeh, redeemer, to its credit, but Pesha’, transgression, reflected dishonor upon it. ‘Ain was declared unfit, because, though it begins ‘Anawah, humility, it performs the same service for ‘Erwah, immorality. Samek said: ” O Lord, may it be Thy will to begin the creation with me, for Thou art called Samek, after me, the Upholder of all that fall.” But God said: “Thou art needed in the place in which thou art; (11) thou must continue to uphold all that fall.” Nun intro­duces Ner, “the lamp of the Lord,” which is “the spirit of men,” but it also introduces Ner, “the lamp of the wicked,” which will be put out by God. Mem starts Melek, king, one of the titles of God. As it is the first letter of Mehumah, con­fusion, as well, it had no chance of accomplishing its desire. The claim of Lamed bore its refutation within itself. It ad­vanced the argument that it was the first letter of Lu’hot, the celestial tables for the Ten Commandments; it forgot that the tables were shivered in pieces by Moses. Kaf was sure of victory. Kisseh, the throne of God, Kabod, His honor, and Keter, His crown, all begin with it. God had to remind it that He would smite together His hands, Kaf, in despair over the misfortunes of Israel. Yod at first sight seemed the appropriate letter for the beginning of creation, on account of its association with Yah, God, if only Ye’zer ha-Ra’, the evil inclination, had not happened to begin with it, too. ‘Tet is identified with ‘Tob, the good. However, the truly good is not in this world; it belongs to the world to come. ‘Het (Cheth) is the first letter of ‘Hanun, the Gracious One; but this advan­tage is offset by its place in the word for sin, ‘Ha’t’tat. Zain suggests Zakor, remembrance, but it is itself the word for weapon, the doer of mischief. Waw and He compose the Ineffable Name of God; they are therefore too exalted to be pressed into the service of the mundane world. If Dalet had stood only for Dabar, the Divine Word, it would have been used, but it stands also for Din, justice, and under the rule of law without love the world would have fallen to ruin. Finally, in spite of reminding one of Gadol, great, Gimel would not do, because Gemul, retribution, starts with it. After the claims of all these letters had been disposed of, Bet stepped before the Holy One, blessed be He, and pleaded before Him: ” O Lord of the world! May it be Thy will to create Thy world through me, seeing that all the dwellers in the world give praise daily unto Thee through me, as it is said, ‘Blessed be the Lord forever. Amen, and Amen.’ ” The Holy One, blessed be He, at once granted the petition of Bet. He said, ” Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” And He created His world through Bet, as it is said, “Bereshit God created the heaven and the earth.” The only letter that had refrained from urging its claims was the modest Ale£, and God rewarded it later for its hu­mility by giving it the first place in the Decalogue. (12)
1st Day: …. Corresponding to the seven heavens, God created seven earths, each separated from the next by five layers. Over the lowest earth, the seventh, called Ere’z, lie in succession the abyss, the Tohu, the Bohu, a sea, and waters. Then the sixth earth is reached, the Adamah, the scene of the mag­nificence of God. In the same way the Adamah is separated from the fifth earth, the Ar’ka, which contains Gehenna, and Sha’are Mawet, and Sha’are ‘Zalmawet, and Beër Sha’hat. and ‘Ti’t ha-Yawen, and Abaddon, and Sheol, and there the souls of the wicked are guarded by the Angels of Destruc­tion. In the same way Ar’ka is followed by ‘Harabah, the dry, the place of brooks and streams in spite of its name, as the next, called Yabbashah, the mainland, contains the rivers and the springs. Tebel, the second earth, is the first mainland inhabited by living creatures, three hundred and sixty-five species, all essentially different from those of our own earth. Some have human heads set on the body of a lion, or a ser­pent, or an ox; others have human bodies topped by the head of one of these animals. Besides, Tebel is inhabited by human beings with two heads and four hands and feet, in fact with all their organs doubled excepting only the trunk. It happens sometimes that the parts of these double persons quarrel with each other, especially while eating and drinking, when each claim the best and largest portions for him­self. This species of mankind is distinguished for great piety, another difference between it and the inhabitants of our earth. Our own earth is called ‘Heled, and, like the others, it is, separated from the Tebel by an abyss, the Tohu, the Bohu, a sea, and waters. Thus, one earth rises above the other, from the first to the seventh, and over the seventh earth the heavens are vaulted, from the first to the seventh, the last of them attached to the arm of God. The seven heavens form a unity, the seven kinds of earth form a unity, and the heavens and the earth together also form a unity. When God made our present heavens and our present earth, ” the new heavens and the new earth “were also brought forth, yea, and the hundred and ninety-six thousand worlds which God created unto His own glory. It takes five hundred years to walk from the earth to the heavens, and from one end of a heaven to the other, and also from one heaven to the next,” and it takes the same length of time to travel from the east to the west, or from the south to the north. Of all this vast world only one ­third is inhabited, the other two-thirds being equally divided between water and waste desert land. Beyond the inhabited parts to the east is Paradise with its seven divisions, each assigned to the pious of a certain degree. The ocean is situated to the west, and it is dotted with islands upon islands, inhabited by many different peo­ples. Beyond it, in tum, are the boundless steppes full of serpents and scorpions, and destitute of every sort of vegetation, whether herbs or trees. To the north are the supplies of hell-fire, of snow, hail, smoke, ice, darkness, and wind­storms, and in that vicinity sojourn all sorts of devils, de­mons, and malign spirits. Their dwelling-place is a great stretch of land, it would take five hundred years to traverse it. Beyond lies hell. To the south is the chamber containing reserves of fire, the cave of smoke, and the forge of blasts and hurricanes. Thus, it comes that the wind blowing from the south brings heat and sultriness to the earth. Were it not for the angel Ben Ne’z, the Winged, who keeps the south wind back with his pinions, the world would be consumed. Besides, the fury of its blast is tempered by the north wind, which always appears as moderator, whatever other wind may be blowing. In the east, the west, and the south, heaven and earth touch each other, but the north God left unfinished, that arty man who announced himself as a god might be set the task of supplying the deficiency, and stand convicted as a pre­tender. The construction of the earth was begun at the centre, with the foundation stone of the Temple, the Eben Sheti­yah, for the Holy Land is at the central point of the sur­face of the earth, Jerusalem is at the central point of Pales­tine, and the Temple is situated at the centre of the Holy City. In the sanctuary itself the Hekal is the centre, and the holy Ark occupies the centre of the Hekal, built on the foundation stone, which thus is at the centre of the earth … Thence issued the first ray of light, piercing to the Holy Land, and from there illuminating the whole earth. The creation of the world, however, could not take place until God had banished the ruler of the dark. “Retire,” God said to him, “for I desire to create the world by means of light.” Only after the light had been fashioned, darkness arose, the light ruling in the sky, the darkness on the earth. The power of God displayed itself not only in the creation of the world of things, but equally in the limitations which He imposed upon each. The heavens and the earth stretched themselves out in length and breadth as though they aspired to infinitude, and it required the word of God to call a halt to their encroachments.
2nd Day: On the second day God brought forth four creations, the firmament, hell, fire, and the angels. The firmament is not the same as the heavens of the first day. It is the crystal stretched forth over the heads of the ‘Hayyot, from which the heavens derive their light, as the earth derives its light from the sun. This firmament saves the earth from being engulfed by the waters of the heavens; it forms the partition between the waters above and the waters below.” It was made to crystallize into the solid it is by the heavenly fire, which broke its bounds, and con­densed the surface of the firmament. Thus, fire made a division between the celestial and the terrestrial at the time of creation, as it did at the revelation on Mount Sinai. The firmament is not more than three fingers thick, nevertheless it divides two such heavy bodies as the waters below, which are the foundations for the nether world, and the waters above, which are the foundations for the seven heavens, the Divine Throne, and the abode of the angels….
3rd Day: …. The most important work done on the third day was the creation of Paradise …. Beyond Paradise begins Eden, containing three hundred and ten worlds and seven compartments for seven different classes of the pious. In the first are the martyr victims of the gov­ernment, like Rabbi Akiba and his colleagues; in the sec­ond those who were drowned; in the third Rabbi Johanan hen Zakkai and his disciples; in the fourth those who were carried off in the cloud of glory; in the fifth the penitents, who occupy a place which even a perfectly pious man can­not obtain; in the sixth are the youths who have not tasted of sin in their lives; in the seventh are those poor who stud­ied Bible and Mishnah, and led a life of self-respecting de­cency. And God sits in the midst of them and expounds the Torah to them….
6th Day: As the fish were formed out of water, and the birds out of boggy earth well mixed with water, so the mammals were formed out of solid earth, and as leviathan is the most notable representative of the fish kind, and ziz of the bird kind, so behemot is the most notable representative of the mammal kind. Behemot matches leviathan in strength, and he had to be prevented, like leviathan, from multiplying and increasing, else the world could not have continued to ex­ist; after God had created him male and female, He at once deprived him of the desire to propagate his kind. He is so monstrous that he requires the produce of a thousand moun­tains for his daily food. All the water that flows through the bed of the Jordan in a year suffices him exactly for one gulp. It therefore was necessary to give him one stream entirely for his own use, a stream flowing forth from Para­dise, called Yubal. Behemot, too, is destined to be served to the pious as an appetizing dainty, but before they enjoy his flesh, they will be permitted to view the mortal combat between leviathan and behemot, as a reward for having denied themselves the pleasures of the circus and its gladia­torial contests. Leviathan, ziz, and behemot are not the only monsters; there are many others, and marvellous ones, like the reëm, a giant animal, of which only one couple, male and female, is in existence. Had there been more, the world could hardly have maintained itself against them. The act of copulation occurs but once in seventy years between them, for God has so ordered it that the male and female reëm are at opposite ends of the earth, the one in the east, the other in the west. The act of copulation results in the death of the male. He is bitten by the female and dies of the bite. The female be­comes pregnant and remains in this state for no less than twelve years. At the end of this long period she gives birth to twins, a male and a female. The year preceding her de­livery she is not able to move. She would die of hunger, were it not that her own spittle flowing copiously from her mouth waters and fructifies the earth near her and causes it to bring forth enough for her maintenance. For a whole year the animal can but roll from side to side, until finally her belly bursts, and the twins issue forth. Their appearance is thus the signal for the death of the mother reëm. She makes room for the new generation, which in turn is destined to suffer the same fate as the generation that went before. Im­mediately after birth, the one goes eastward and the other westward, to meet only after the lapse of seventy years, propagate themselves, and perish. A traveler who once saw a reëm one day old described its height to be four para­sangs, and the length of its head one parasang and a half. Its horns measure one hundred ells, and their height is a great deal more. One of the most remarkable creatures is the “man of the mountain,” [Man Mountain, Mountain-Man] Adne Sadeh, or, briefly, Adam. His form is exactly that of a human being, but he is fastened to the ground by means of a navel-string, upon which his life de­pends. The cord once snapped, he dies. This animal keeps himself alive with what is produced by the soil around about him as far as his tether permits him to crawl. No creature may venture to approach within the radius of his cord, for he seizes and demolishes whatever comes in his reach. To kill him, one may not go near to him, the navel-string must be severed from a distance by means of a dart, and then he dies amid groans and moans. Once upon a time a traveler happened in the region where this animal is found. He overheard his host consult his wife as to what to do to honor their guest, and resolve to serve “our man,” as he said. Thinking he had fallen among cannibals, the stranger ran as fast as his feet could carry him from his entertainer, who sought vainly to restrain him. Afterward, he found out that there had been no in­tention of regaling him with human flesh, but only with the flesh of the strange animal called “man.” As the “man of the mountain ” is fixed to the ground by his navel-string, so the barnacle-goose is grown to a tree by its bill. It is hard to say whether it is an animal and must be slaughtered to be fit for food, or whether it is a plant and no ritual ceremony is necessary before eating it. Among the birds the phoenix is the most wonderful. When Eve gave all the animals some of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, the phoenix was the only bird that refused to eat thereof, and he was rewarded with eternal life. When he has lived a thousand years, his body shrinks, and the feathers drop from it, until he is as small as an egg. This is the nucleus of the new bird. The phoenix is also called “the guardian of the terrestrial sphere.” He runs with the sun on his circuit, and he spreads out his wings and catches up the fiery rays of the sun. If he were not there to intercept them, neither man nor any other animate being would keep alive. On his right wing the following words are inscribed in huge letters, about four thousand stadia high: “Neither the earth pro­duces me, nor the heavens, but only the wings of fire.” His food consists of the manna of heaven and the dew of the earth. His excrement is a worm, whose excrement in turn is the cinnamon used by kings and princes. Enoch, who saw the phoenix birds when he was translated, describes them as flying creatures, wonderful and strange in appear­ance, with the feet and tails of lions, and the heads of croco­diles; their appearance is of a purple color like the rainbow; their size nine hundred measures. Their wings are like those of angels, each having twelve, and they attend the chariot of the sun and go with him, bringing heat and dew as they are ordered by God. In the morning when the sun starts on his daily course, the phoenixes and the chalkidri sing, and every bird flaps its wings, rejoicing the Giver of light, and they sing a song at the command of the Lord. Among reptiles the salamander and the shamir are the most marvelous. The salamander originates from a fire of myrtle wood which has been kept burning for seven years steadily by means of magic arts. Not bigger than a mouse, it yet is invested with peculiar properties. One who smears himself with its blood is invulnerable, and the web woven by it is a talisman against fire. The people who lived at the deluge boasted that, were a fire flood to come, they would protect themselves with the blood of the salamander. King Hezekiah owes his life to the salamander. His wicked father, King Ahaz, had delivered him to the fires of Moloch, and he would have been burnt, had his mother not painted him with the blood of the salamander, so that the fire could do him no harm….
II. Adam.
Man and the World: With ten Sayings God created the world, although a single Saying would have sufficed. God desired to make known how severe is the punishment to be meted out to the wicked, who destroy a world created with as many as ten Sayings, and how goodly the reward destined for the righteous, who preserve a world created with as many as ten Sayings. The world was made for man, though he was the last ­comer among its creatures. This was design. He was to find all things ready for him. God was the host who pre­pared dainty dishes, set the table, and then led His guest to his seat. At the same time man’s late appearance on earth is to convey an admonition to humility. Let him beware of being proud, lest he invite the retort that the gnat is older than he. The superiority of man to the other creatures is ap­parent in the very manner of his creation, altogether dif­ferent from theirs. He is the only one who was created by the hand of God. The rest sprang from the word of God. The body of man is a microcosm, the whole world in minia­ture, and the world in turn is a reflex of man. The hair upon his head corresponds to the woods of the earth, his tears to a river, his mouth to the ocean. Also, the world resembles the ball of his eye: the ocean that encircles the earth is like unto the white of the eye, the dry land is the iris, Jerusalem the pupil, and the Temple the image mir­rored in the pupil of the eye. But man is more than a mere image of this world. He unites both heavenly and earthly qualities within himself. In four he resembles the angels, in four the beasts. His power of speech, his discriminating intellect, his upright walk, the glance of his eye-they all make an angel of him. But, on the other hand, he eats and drinks, secretes the waste matter in his body, propagates his kind, and dies, like the beast of the field. Therefore, God said before the creation of man: “The celestials are not propagated, but they are immortal; the beings on earth are propagated, but they die. I will create man to be the union of the two, so that when he sins, when he behaves like a beast, death shall overtake him; but if he refrains from sin, he shall live forever.” God now bade all beings in heaven and on earth contribute to the creation of man, and He Himself took part in it. Thus, they all will love man, and if he should sin, they will be interested in his preservation. The whole world naturally was created for the pious, the God-fearing man, whom Israel produces with the helpful guidance of the law of God revealed to him. It was, there­fore, Israel who was taken into special consideration at the time man was made. All other creatures were instructed to change their nature, if Israel should ever need their help in the course of his history. The sea was ordered to divide before Moses, and the heavens to give ear to the words of the leader; the sun and the moon were bidden to stand still before Joshua, the ravens to feed Elijah, the fire to spare the three youths in the furnace, the lion to do no harm to Daniel, the fish to spew forth Jonah, and the heavens to open before Ezekiel.” In His modesty, God took counsel with the angels, before the creation of the world, regarding His intention of making man. He said: “For the sake of Israel, I will create the world. As I shall make a division between light and dark­ness, so I will in time to come do for Israel in Egypt—darkness shall be over the land, and the children of Israel shall have light in their dwellings; as I shall make a separa­tion between the waters under the firmament and the waters above the firmament, so I will do for Israel—I will divide the waters for him when he crosses the Red Sea; as on the third day I shall create plants, so I will do for Israel—I will bring forth manna for him in the wilderness; as I shall create luminaries to divide day from night, so I will do for Israel—I will go before him by day in a pillar of cloud and by night in a pillar of fire; as I shall create the fowl of the air and the fishes of the sea, so I will do for Israel—I will bring quails for him from the sea ; and as I shall breathe the breath of life into the nostrils of man, so I will do for Israel—I will give the Torah unto him, the tree of life.” The angels marveled that so much love should be lav­ished upon this people of Israel, and God told them: “On the first day of creation, I shall make the heavens and stretch them out; so, will Israel raise up the Tabernacle as the dwelling-place of My glory. On the second day, I shall put a division between the terrestrial waters and the heavenly waters; so, will he hang up a veil in the Tabernacle to divide the Holy Place and the Most Holy. On the third day, I shall make the earth put forth grass and herb; so, will he, in obedience to My commands, eat herbs on the first night of the Passover, and prepare showbread for Me. On the fourth day, I shall make the luminaries; so, will he make a golden candlestick for Me. On the fifth day, I shall create the birds; so, will he fashion the cherubim with outstretched wings. On the sixth day, I shall create man; so, will Israel set aside a man of the sons of Aaron as high priest for My service.” Accordingly, the whole of creation was conditional. God said to the things He made on the first six days: “If Israel accepts the Torah, you will continue and endure; otherwise, I shall turn everything back into chaos again.” The whole world was thus kept in suspense and dread until the day of the revelation on Sinai, when Israel received and accepted the Torah, and so fulfilled the condition made by God at the time when He created the universe.
The Angels and the Creation of Man: God in His wisdom having resolved to create man, He asked counsel of all around Him before He proceeded to execute His purpose—an example to man, be he never so great and distinguished, not to scorn the advice of the humble and lowly. First God called upon heaven and earth, then upon all other things He had created, and last upon the angels. The angels were not all of one opinion. The Angel of Love favored the creation of man, because he would be affectionate and loving; but the Angel of Truth opposed it because he would be full of lies. And while the Angel of Justice favored it, because he would practice justice, the Angel of Peace opposed it, because he would be quarrelsome. To invalidate his protest, God cast the Angel of Truth down from heaven to earth, and when the others cried out against such contemptuous treatment of their companion, He said, “Truth will spring back out of the earth.” The objections of the angels would have been much stronger, had they known the whole truth about man. God had told them only about the pious and had concealed from them that there would be reprobates among mankind, too. And yet, though they knew but half the truth, the angels were nevertheless prompted to cry out: “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him? ” God replied: “The fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, what were they created for? Of what avail a larder full of appetizing dainties, and no guest to enjoy them? “And the angels could not but exclaim: ” O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Do as is pleasing in Thy sight.” For not a few of the angels their opposition bore fatal consequences. When God summoned the band under the archangel Michael, and asked their opinion on the creation of man, they answered scornfully: ” What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him? “God thereupon stretched forth His little finger, and all were consumed by fire except their chief Michael. And the same fate befell the band under the lead­ership of the archangel Gabriel; he alone of all was saved from destruction. The third band consulted was commanded by the arch­angel Labbiel. Taught by the horrible fate of his prede­cessors, he warned his troop: “You have seen what mis­fortune overtook the angels who said, ‘What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? ‘Let us have a care not to do likewise, lest we suffer the same dire punishment. For God will not refrain from doing in the end what He has planned. Therefore, it is advisable for us to yield to His wishes. ”Thus warned, the angels spoke: ” Lord of the world, it is well that Thou hast thought of creating man. Do Thou create him according to Thy will? And as for us, we will be his attendants and his ministers, and reveal unto him all our secrets. ”Thereupon God changed Labbiel’s name to Raphael, the Rescuer, because his host of angels had been rescued by his sage advice. He was appointed the Angel of Healing, who has in his safe-keeping all the celestial remedies, the types of the medical remedies used on earth.”
The Creation of Adam: When at last the assent of the angels to the creation of man was given, God said to Gabriel: “Go and fetch Me dust from the four corners of the earth, and I will create man therewith. “Gabriel went forth to do the bidding of the Lord, but the earth drove him away, and refused to let him gather up dust from it. Gabriel remonstrated: “Why, O Earth, dost thou not hearken unto the voice of the Lord, who founded thee upon the waters without props or pil­lars? “The earth replied and said: “I am destined to become a curse, and to be cursed through man, and if God Himself does not take the dust from me, no one else shall ever do it. “When God heard this, He stretched out His hand, took of the dust of the ground, and created the first man therewith.” Of set purpose the dust was taken from all four comers of the earth, so that if a man from the east should happen to die in the west, or a man from the west in the east, the earth should not dare refuse to receive the dead and tell him to go whence he was taken. Wherever a man chances to die, and wheresoever he is buried, there will he return to the earth from which he sprang. Also, the dust was of various colors-red, black, white, and green—red for the blood, black for the bowels, white for the bones and veins, and green for the pale skin. At this early moment the Torah interfered. She addressed herself to God: ” O Lord of the world! The world is Thine, Thou canst do with it as seemeth good in Thine eyes. But the man Thou art now creating will be few of days and full of trouble and sin. If it be not Thy purpose to have forbearance and patience with him, it was better not to call him into being. God replied, “Is it for naught I am called long-suffering and merciful?” The grace and lovingkindness of God revealed themselves particularly in His taking one spoonful of dust from the spot where in time to come the altar would stand, saying, “I shall take man from the place of atonement, that he may endure.”
The Soul of Man: The care which God exercised in fashioning every detail of the body of man is as naught in comparison with solicitude for the human soul. The soul of man was created on the first day, for it is the spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters. Thus, instead of being the last, man is really the first work of creation. This spirit, or, to call it by its usual name, the soul of man, possesses five different powers. By means of one of them she escapes from the body every night, rises up to heaven, and fetches new life thence for man. With the soul of Adam, the souls of all the generations of men were created. They are stored up in a promptuary, in the seventh of the heavens, whence they are drawn as they are needed for human body after human body.” The soul and body are united in this way:”……..
The Ideal Man: Like all creatures formed on the six days of creation, Adam came from the hands of the Creator fully and com­pletely developed. He was not like a child, but like a man of twenty years of age. The dimensions of his body were gigantic, reaching from heaven to earth, or, what amounts to the same, from east to west. Among later generations of men, there were but few who in a measure resembled Adam in his extraordinary size and physical perfections. Samson possessed his strength, Saul his neck, Absalom his hair, Asahel his fleetness of foot, Uzziah his forehead, Josiah his nostrils, Zedekiah his eyes, and Zerubbabel his voice. History shows that these physical excellencies were no bless­ings to many of their possessors; they invited the ruin of almost all. Samson’s extraordinary strength caused his death; Saul killed himself by cutting his neck with his own sword; while speeding swiftly, Asahel was pierced by Abner’s spear; Absalom was caught up by his hair in an oak, and thus suspended met his death; Uzziah was smitten with leprosy upon his forehead; the darts that killed Josiah entered through his nostrils, and Zedekiah’s eyes were blinded. The generality of men inherited as little of the beauty as of the portentous size of their first father. The fairest women compared with Sarah are as apes compared with a human being. Sarah’s relation to Eve is the same, and, again, Eve was but as an ape compared with Adam. His person was so handsome that the very sole of his foot ob­scured the splendor of the sun. His spiritual qualities kept pace with his personal charm, for God had fashioned his soul with particular care. She is the image of God, and as God fills the world, so the soul fills the human body; as God sees all things, and is seen by none, so the soul sees, but cannot be seen; as God guides the world, so the soul guides the body; as God in His holiness is pure, so is the soul; and as God dwells in secret, so doth the soul. When God was about to put a soul into Adam’s clod-like body, He said: “At which point shall I breathe the soul into him? Into the mouth? Nay, for he will use it to speak ill of his fellow-man. Into the eyes? With them he will wink lustfully. Into the ears? They will hearken to slander and blasphemy. I will breathe her into his nostrils; as they discern the unclean and reject it, and take in the fragrant, so the pious will shun sin, and will cleave to the words of the Torah……..

Also, a sample from the Soncino’s Midrash Rabbah on Bereshith-Genesis, vol. 1, edited by Freedman, 1939:
Midrash Rabbah Bereshith-Genesis Chapter 1:
1. R. Oshaya commenced [his exposition thus]: Then I was by Him, as a nursling (amon) ; and I was daily all delight (Prov. viii, 30). ‘Amon’ means tutor; ‘amon’ means covered; ‘amon’ means hidden 1; and some say, ‘amon’ means great. ‘Amon’ is a tutor, as you read, As an omen
(nursing-father) carrieth the sucking child (Num. xi, 12). ‘Amon’ means covered, as in the verse, Ha’emunim (they that were clad i.e. covered) in scarlet (Lam. iv, 5). ‘Amon’ means hidden, as in the verse, and he concealed (omen) 2 Hadassah (Est. ii, 7). ‘Amon’ means great, as in the verse, Art thou better than No-amon (Nah. iii, 8)? which is rendered, Art thou better than Alexandria the Great, that is situate among the rivers? 3 Another interpretation: ‘amon’ is a workman (uman). The Torah declares: ‘I was the working tool of the Holy One, blessed be He/ In human practice, when a mortal king builds a palace, he builds it not with his own skill but with the skill of an architect. The architect moreover does not build it out of his head but employs plans and diagrams to know how to arrange the chambers and the wicket doors. Thus, God consulted the Torah and created the world, while the Torah declares, IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED (I, 1), BEGINNING referring to the Torah, as in the verse, The Lord made me as the beginning of His way (Prov. viii, 22). 4
(1 The speaker is the Torah (Wisdom) personified, referring to the pre-Creation era. The Torah was with God as with a tutor, reared, as it were, by the Almighty (this is similar to E.V.); it was also covered up and hidden. This may mean that the laws of the Torah were unknown until the Revelation at Sinai, while some of them remained ‘hidden’ even then, i.e. their reasons are not known. 2 E.V. ‘brought up’. The Midrash understands it to mean that Mordecai concealed her from the public gaze. 3 Translation of the second half of the verse. 4 Here too the speaker is the Torah. Thus, the verse is translated: By means of the ‘beginning’, sc. the Torah, God created, etc.)

Midrash Rabbah Bereshith-Genesis Chapter 2:
AND THE DARKNESS HE CALLED NIGHT, Esau; AND THERE WAS EVENING Esau; AND THERE WAS MORNING, Jacob. ONE DAY [teaches] that the Holy One, blessed be He, gave him one [unique] day: and which is that? the Day of Atonement.1
4. R. Simeon b. Lakish applied the passage to the [foreign] Powers. NOWTHE EARTH WAS TOHU (E.V. ‘UNFORMED’) symbolises Babylonia: I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was tohu E.V. ‘waste’ (Jer. iv, 23) 2; AND BOHU (E.V. ‘VOID’) symbolises Media: They hastened (wa-yabhillu) to bring Haman (Est. vi, 14). 3 AND DARKNESS symbolizes Greece, which darkened the eyes of Israel with its decrees, ordering Israel, ‘Write on the horn of an ox that ye have no portion in the God of Israel/ 4 UPON THE FACE OF THE DEEP —this wicked State 5: just as the great deep cannot be plumbed, so one cannot plumb [the depths of iniquity of] this wicked State. AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD HOVERED: this alludes to the spirit of Messiah, as you read, And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (Isa. xi, 2). In the merit of what will [this spirit] eventually come? [For the sake of that which] HOVERED OVER THE FACE OF THE WATERS, i.e. in the merit of repentance which is likened to water, as it is written, Pour out thy heart like water (Lam, ii, 19). R. Haggai said in the name of R. Pedath: A covenant was made with water6 that even in the hot season a breeze stirs over it. 7
(1 I.e. it is the one day over which Satan, symbolizing the wickedness of Esau, has no power; cf. infra, iii, 8. 2 Jeremiah refers to the desolation wrought by the conquering might of Babylonia, Tobu and bohu are applied to Babylonia and Media (Persia) respectively in the sense that they caused chaos and destruction. 8 This happened in Media, and wa-yabhillu is linked up with ‘bohu’. Or possibly wa-yabhillu is read: wayabo bohu lo, and they brought desolation to him. Mah. 4 The reference is to Antiochus who endeavoured to annihilate Judaism and implant Hellenism in its stead; ‘write on the horn of an ox’ probably implies a public disavowal of Judaism. 5 Pesik. R.: to the wicked State of Edom i.e. Rome. 6 I.e. it is the eternal nature of water. 7 He translates ‘ruah’ literally, wind, and also stresses the present tense of merahefeth) lit. ‘hovers’; thus, the verse means that at all times a breeze, caused by God, stirs over the waters.)

(From: Internet Sacred Text Archive’s selections from Midrash Rabbah):
It is forbidden to inquire what existed before creation, as Moses distinctly tells us (Deut. iv. 32): “Ask now of the days that are past which were before thee, since the day God created man upon earth.” Thus, the scope of inquiry is limited to the time since the Creation.
The unity of God is at once set before us in the history of creation, where we are told he, not they, created.
The Torah was to God, when he created the world, what the plan is to an architect when he erects a building.
The aleph, being the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, demurred at her place being usurped by the letter beth, which is second to her, at the creation; the history of which commences with the latter, instead of with the former. She was, however, quite satisfied when told that, in the history of giving the Decalogue, she would be placed at the beginning, for the world has only been created on account of the Torah, which, indeed, existed anterior to creation; and had the Creator not foreseen that Israel would consent to receive and diffuse the Torah, creation would not have taken place.
There is a difference of opinion as to the day on which angels were created; one authority decides for the second day, on the ground that they are mentioned in connection with water (Ps. civ. 3, 4), which was created on that day; while another, arguing from the fact that they are said to fly (Isa. vi.), assigns their creation to the fifth day, on which all other flying things were created. But all authorities are agreed that they did not exist on the first day of creation, so that skeptics cannot say that they were helpers in the work of creation.
The title of an earthly king precedes his name, for instance, Emperor Augustus, etc. Not so was the will of the King of kings; He is only known as God after creating heaven and earth. Thus, it is not said, “God created,” but “In the beginning created God heavens and earth”; He is not mentioned as God before he created.
Even the new heavens and earth, spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah (lxv. 17), were created in the six days of creation.
When any divergence is found in the Scriptures it must not be thought that it is by mere accident, for it is done advisedly. Thus, for instance, we invariably find Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but once, as an exception, Jacob is mentioned before the other patriarchs (Lev. xxvi. 42). Again, whilst Moses has always precedence over Aaron, in one instance we find Aaron’s name placed before that of Moses (Exod. vi. 26). This is also the case with Joshua and Caleb; whilst the former normally precedes the name of Caleb, there is one exception (Numb. xiv. 30).
This is to show us that these men were equally beloved by God. The same is the case with the love and honor due to parents; whilst the father is as a rule mentioned first in this connection, once (in Lev. xix. 3) the mother is mentioned before the father. This is also intended to indicate that children owe the same love and honor to the mother as to the father.
The man that gloats over another man’s disgrace and thinks himself raised in dignity by it, is unworthy of future bliss.
Light is mentioned five times in the opening chapter of the Bible. This points to the five books of Moses. “God said, let there be light,” refers to the book of Genesis, which enlightens us as to how creation was carried out. The words, “And there was light,” bear reference to the book of Exodus, which contains the history of the transition of Israel from darkness to light. “And God saw the light that it was good”: this alludes to the book of Leviticus, which contains numerous statutes. “And God divided between the light and between the darkness”: this refers to the book of Numbers, divided as that book is between the history of those who came out of Egypt and that of those who were on their way to possess the promised land. “And God called the light day”: this bears reference to the book of Deuteronomy, which is not only a rehearsal of the four earlier books but contains Moses’s eloquent dying charge to Israel and many laws not mentioned in the preceding books.
“And the earth was without form and void.” There seems to be some reason for the earth’s despondency, as though she was aware of her lot beforehand. This may be illustrated by the following parable: A king acquired two servants on precisely the same conditions but made a distinction in their treatment. Regarding the one, he decreed that she should be fed and maintained at the expense of the king. For the other, he decided that she must maintain herself by her own labor. In the same way, the earth was sad because she saw that the heavens and the earth were equally and at the same time called into being by the same “let there be,” or will of God, and yet the heavenly bodies feast on: and are maintained by divine glory; whilst earthly bodies, unless they labor and produce their own sustenance, are not sustained. Or, again, it is as though the king decreed that the one servant should be a constant dweller in his palace, whilst the other should be a fugitive and a wanderer; or gave to the one perpetuity or eternity, and to the other, death. Thus, the earth knowing–as though by inspiration–God’s words spoken afterward to Adam (Gen. iii. 17): “Cursed is the ground for thy sake,” put on mourning, and thus was “without form and void.”
In the words, “And there was evening and there was morning one day,” the “one day” referred to is the Day of Atonement–the day of expiation.
There seems to be a covenant made with the waters that whenever the heat is excessive and there is scarcely a breath of air moving on land, there is always some breeze, however slight, on the waters.
God knew beforehand that the world would contain both righteous and wicked men, and there is an allusion to this in the story of creation. “The earth without form,” means the wicked, and the words, “and there was light,” refers to the righteous.
Other worlds were created and destroyed ere this present one was decided on as a permanent one.
Rain is produced by the condensed effusion of the upper firmament.
“How is it,” asked an inquisitive matron of Rabbi José, “that your Scriptures crown every day of creation with the words: ‘And God saw that it was good,’ but the second day is deprived of this phrase?” The Rabbi sought to satisfy her by pointing out that at the end of the creation it is said: “And God saw all that he had made, and it was exceedingly good,” so that the second day shares in this commendation. “But,” insisted the matron, “there is still an unequal division, since every day has an additional sixth part of the praise, whilst the second day has only the sixth part without the whole one, which the others have for themselves.” The sage then mentioned the opinion of Rabbi Samuel, that the reason for the omission is to be found in the fact that the work begun on the second day was not finished before the following (the third) day; hence we find the expression “it was good” twice on that day.
Three were accused: Adam, Eve, and the Serpent; but four were sentenced, viz., the earth, as well as those three. The earth received her sentence as the element out of which rebellious and fallen man was formed.
The waters of the various seas are apparently the same, but the different taste of the fish coming from the various seas seems to contradict this.
God made a condition with Nature at the creation, that the sea should divide to let the Israelites pass through it at the Exodus, and that Nature should alter her course when emergency should arise.
When iron was found the trees began to tremble, but the iron reassured them: “Let no handle made from you enter into anything made from me, and I shall be powerless to injure you.”
The following are God’s presents, or free gifts, to the world: The Torah (Exod. xxxi. 18), light (Gen. i. 17), Rain (Lev. xxvi. 4), Peace (Lev. xxvi. 6), Salvation (Ps. xviii. 36), Mercy (Ps. cvi. 46). Some add also the knowledge of navigation.
When creation was all but ended, the world with all its grandeur and splendor stood out in its glorious beauty. There was but one thing wanting to consummate the marvelous work called into existence by the mere “let there be,” and that was a creature with thought and understanding able to behold, reflect, and marvel on this great handiwork of God, who now sat on his divine throne surrounded by hosts of angels and seraphim singing hymns before him.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our likeness, and let there be a creature not only the product of earth, but also gifted with heavenly, spiritual elements, which will bestow on him reason, intellect, and understanding.” Truth then appeared, falling before God’s throne, and in all humility exclaimed: “Deign, O God, to refrain from calling into being a creature who is beset with the vice of lying, who will tread truth under his feet.” Peace came forth to support this petition. “Wherefore, O lord, shall this creature appear on earth, a creature so full of strife and contention, to disturb the peace and harmony of thy creation? He will carry the flame of quarrel and ill-will in his trail; he will bring about war and destruction in his eagerness for gain and conquest.”
Whilst they were pleading against the creation of man, there was heard, arising from another part of the heavens, the soft voice of Charity: “Sovereign of the universe.” the voice exclaimed, in all its mildness, “vouchsafe thou to create a being in thy, likeness, for it will be a noble creature striving to imitate thy attributes by its actions. I see man now in Spirit, that being with God’s breath in his nostrils, seeking to perform his great mission, to do his noble work. I see him now in spirit, approaching the humble hut, seeking out those who are distressed and wretched to comfort them, drying the tears of the afflicted and despondent, raising up them that are bowed down in spirit, reaching his helping hand to those who are in need of help, speaking peace to the heart of the widow, and giving shelter to the fatherless. Such a creature cannot fail to be a glory to his Maker.” The Creator approved of the pleadings of Charity, called man into being, and cast Truth down to the earth to flourish there; as the Psalmist says (Ps. lxxxv. 12): “Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven to abide with man”; and he dignified Truth by making her his own seal.
The sun alone without the moon would have sufficed for all his purpose, but if he were alone the primitive people might have had some plausible excuse for worshiping him. So, the moon was added, and there is less reason for deifying either.
The progeny of man is reckoned from his father’s and not from his mother’s family.
“Let us make man.” God may be said to address the spiritual and the material elements thus: “Till now all creatures have been of matter only; now I will create a being who shall consist of both matter and spirit.”
“In our form, in our likeness.” “Hitherto there was but one such creature; I have now added to him another who was taken from him. They shall both be in our form and likeness; there shall be no man without a woman and no woman without a man, and no man and woman together without God.” Thus, in the words AISH VASHH (“man and woman”) there is the word IH (God).
If they are unworthy the I from the word AISH and the H from VASHH is taken away, and thus IH, God, departs and there are left the words ASH VASH = “fire and fire.”
Adam was created with two bodies, one of which was cut away from him and formed Eve.
If man had been created out of spiritual elements only there could be no death for him, in the event of his fall. If, on the other hand, he had been created out of matter only, there could be no future bliss for him. Hence, he was formed out of matter and spirit. If he lives the earthly, i.e., the animal life only, he dies like all matter; if he lives a spiritual life he obtains the spiritual future bliss.
Michael and Gabriel acted as “best men” at the nuptials of Adam and Eve. God joined them in wedlock and pronounced the marriage-benediction on them.
Rabbi Meier wrote a scroll for his own use, on the margin of which he wrote, in connection with the words: “And God saw that it was good.” “This means death, which is the passing from life transitory to life everlasting.”
God knows our thoughts before they are formed.
There is a limit to everything except to the greatness and depth of the Torah.

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About mjmselim

Male, 65, born in Jamaica, USA since 1961, citizen in 2002; cobbler for 40 plus years, Christian since 1969; married to same wife since 1979; 6 daughters and 2 sons, with 7 grandkids. Slowly adapting to the digital world of computers and internet; hobby in digital editing.
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