Genesis 1:1 :בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ
Hebrew: “Berashith bara elohim ath ha-shamaim ve-ath ha-aretz.”
English: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Commentary: I suggest this first sentence might best be approached with investigating the second word initially, a verb form highlighted in red, ברא, bara. It is most commonly translated into the modern languages and English as 'to create.' Even the Latin Vulgate uses creavit.
From Webster's English dictionary create is defined: 1. to cause to come into existence; make; originate. 2. to bring about; give rise to.
In the beginning...
The above definitions applied to Genesis suggest that something or someone, in this case a god of some sort, caused an effect to happen. But for anything to 'be created', made or fabricated in any manner necessitates the ere-existence of some ingredient, substance, or material to bring about an existence or a happening of something. There is no indication in this first verse as to whereof or what of this 'happening' came to be. The most general assumption is from nowhere. Poof! Yet nothing can evolve from nothing, not even for a god. The word bara, so translated into English, renders an explanation 'creating' a situation most unsatisfying, and the cause of many varied interpretations and heated debates for centuries. This has even led us into wars. Such is the difficulty and confusion of any literal translation. Biblical literalism will never cease unless or until religious fanaticism and passion yield to sober reasoning.
There are other verb forms in the Hebrew language which translate 'to create'. For example, there is יצר, yawtzar, 'to create, generate, produce, form.' As a noun yawtzar suggests 'formation, creation, impulse, inclination, conception,' and even 'imagination.' Would this not have been a better word choice in the first line of Genesis? However, the verb ברא, bara, has other nuances besides 'create' in Hebrew dictionaries, such as: 'to cut apart, to separate.' This throws a whole new light and shade of nuance upon the idea, creating a different and speculative interpretation. To cut apart or separate anything presumes something ere-existent. Just what this could be the first few lines of Genesis offer no hint, at least not for the casual reader and from any modern language translation.
Now, perhaps, the first word in Verse 1, בראשית, berashith, can be approached in light of the above. In all the modern languages of the Bible the word is translated, 'in the beginning.' Again, the Latin Vulgate renders “in principio.” Notice that the beginning of berashith is also ברא, bara again. A Literal Qabalist, employing various tools of the trade, is able to dissect words into sub-parts. This is called Theosophic Articulation. Berashith is the composition of two words: bara, looked at above, and שית, sheeth. The English is spelled with an (i) but it is pronounced sheeth. The word sheeth has several shades of meaning from the Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. Three from there, and also found in Hebrew dictionaries, define it as: 'garment, veil; foundation.' The Literal Qabalist, then, when eyeing berashith, would not miss the subtlety.
The Divine 'garment or veil,' שית, sheeth, holds letter value of 710 by Hebrew gematria. Sharing this value is נסתר, nis'tar, meaning 'hidden, concealed, invisible; mysterious, occult.' And in the New Testament from the Gospel of St. John 20:22 we find πνεῦμα ἅγιον, pneuma agion, 'Holy Spirit,' which also sums to 710 by Greek Qabalah.
This 'beginning' would seem to implicate that a 'garment' or a 'veil' is actually the concealed, invisible Holy Spirit, Who is One. It is eternally continuous, intimately contiguous, and has existed previously as a whole, but was seemingly separated, cut apart, or divided. Spirit, then, is the commonly given name of that something which is No-Thing, and yet is It the building material, the substance, for the 'foundation' of all that is subsequent.
The idea, then, subsequently evoked from that, at least in the critical mind's eye of a Literal Qabalist, might reckon berashith as: “Firstly, was separated (or divided) a garment (or veil)...of Spirit.” Just what this totally homogeneous Spirit could possibly be is addressed within the very first tenet of another classification called the Dogmatic Qabalah.
That first tenet is: The Three Veils of the Absolute. They are called Veils because what lies behind the ideas sequestered therein are so obscure, so veiled, as to be unapproachable from our limited cognition. They are unknowable to us at our level. They are concealed within and behind the Hidden Qabalah. The Hidden Qabalah can only be given us through Intuition, if we are able rise to that level of 'reception.' If and when that occurs, what is received cannot be transferred to another by any conventional means. Accomplished Qabalists teach and remind us that Creative Imagination is the foundation of the Qabalah.
The first of these Three Veils is said to be אין, AIN, basically translated, 'no, nothing, not,' but also, 'the negatively existent.' For a detailed elaboration of AIN, please refer to the Glossary of definitions from the horizontal menu bar at the top of this page. To repeat here what is already in the Glossary section would be needless tedium for this writer and for you the reader. Suffice it to say here, succinctly, that AIN is that Spirit; the ALL AIN. The ALL AIN then becomes separated, divided into the 'Separated Ain,' if you will. But anything homogeneous still remains the same after separation. This homogeneity is noted again in Genesis 1:6 with '...separated the waters from the waters.'
In the Qabalistic alphabet one of the chief symbols representing the All Spirit is Hebrew letter Aleph, א, one of the Three Mother Letters: Aleph, Mem, and Shin. These three are very important in Qabalistic Cosmogony defining the Cube of Space as described in the Sepher Yetzirah (Book of Formation). Within the Cube, Aleph is positioned at the inner co-ordinate or axis through the Center, connecting the infinite boundaries Above-Below. On the Cube, Mercury is assigned the Above face, and the Moon is positioned on the Below face. This axis combines the sentient qualities of the Creator described and symbolized as elemental Air. Aleph itself is the 'Uranian' air defined by esoteric Astrology. Uranus (א, Aleph) 'air' is the all-encompassing higher octave of the element uniting the Mercurial (ב, Beth) aspects with the Lunar (ג, Gimel) modes of the air element. In Qabalistic psychology, and pictorially in the Tarot, letter Aleph is indicative of Super-consciousness. Letter Beth represents self-consciousness, followed by letter Gimel representing sub-consciousness in pictorial symbolism. Therefore all three, in turn, represent the axis of sentience, consciousness.
... God created the heavens...
Genesis instructs us that the Principal Doer of this initial separation, division, is אלהים, elohim, simply proffered as 'God' in all the modern languages. There are many names in the Hebrew Qabalah for God. Ten to be exact. One for each of the ten spheres of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. Each of these ten is not a separate or different God. By the varied spellings, and therefore by the varied numbers behind those spellings, all represent very different and specific aspects or modes of the One Creator. One Source absolutely, with different functions or 'departments,' if you will; a 'vibratory' step down from the total ONE ALL. There exists a Celestial Hierarchy, extremely intricate. There is also mention of "the Seventy-two Names of God," which is a slight misnomer. The Shemhamphorasch are the seventy-two names of angels. But these angelic names are sub-nomens again of the ten sephirotic God Names on the Tree of Life. It boggles the mind, I know.
Elohim is the Name of the specific god-mode assigned to the third sphere on the Tree of Life, Binah, Understanding. This aspect on the Tree of the overall One God cuts and divides from the one whole fabric (garment, veil) into the many individual parts. Elohim, one term for Divine Creativeness, has the literal meaning 'creative powers,' or 'strengths,' both ideas expressed in the plural. Even in ordinary English and the other modern languages there are nouns that, in the strict sense are plural in form, but are used to express a collective singular idea. Qabalists teach that this idea is also present in Hebrew grammar.
A seasoned Literal Qabalist, however, would also notice that the spelling of אלהים, elohim, holds the number value 86 within its letters. And he would also note this number to be equal to the Hebrew נבדל, nevedal, 'to be divided, separated, set apart.' Elohim is also numerically equal to הטבע, ha-tayba, 'nature.' This mode of God is Nature, but not as we normally view nature with the simplistic idea of the great outdoors. The numeric association hints the nature of a thing. Also attributed to Binah is נשמה, neshamah, translated as 'breath, life.' But Binah on the Tree, Qabalisitcally speaking, is the Grand Over-Soul of entire creation, Anima Mundi, of Adam Quodmon, who later falls from Eden to become the separated parts, us collectively, as all the sub-souls of that One Over-Soul. This is the Nature, the natural, orderly progression of creative evolution. It resulted into everything we can perceive around us, “within whom we live, move, and have our being.”
If I may paraphrase Verse 1, then:
“Initially, Elohim cut the veil of Spirit (ALL AIN) separating heaven and earth (from the ALL AIN).”
Subsequently, what was thus 'created' or separated from this ALL AIN (No-Thing) is not the 'heaven and earth' we've come to understand in its most pejorative sense as the 'sky' and the 'ground'.
Incidentally, the next Hebrew word את, ath, after Elohim, and again, ve-ath, after shamaim in the sentence, stand for the 'definite accusative' of what follows it. It is merely grammatical and deserves no specific attention through this total supposition.
'The heavens' is השמים, ha-shamaim, in the Hebrew verse. And this word, ha-shamaim, like every important, relevant word in the Bible, it seems, falls under deliberation. Some versions translate this into the plural, 'the heavens.' Other English versions use the collective singular, as does the Latin Vulgate with caelum. The Qabalist, or Qabalists,1 chose this word form deliberately, I surmise, because it does not mean 'heaven(s)' literally. By using Theosophic Articulation again, shamaim, can be separated into two parts, the Hebrew letter Shin, ש, and the noun מים, mim. A Literal Qabalist could gather a plethora of ideas from this.
The letter Shin, ש (number value 300) is a very familiar yet important number in Literal Qabalah. For certain, every Literal Qabalist would recognize this immediately as the number of רוח אלהים, ruach elohim, the 'Spirit of God.' These two words are also commonly translated as the 'Breath of Mighty Ones.' It is also the number of the noun פירוד, pirawd, 'separation.' And, as was suggested as an alternate verb form for bera above, presented again here is יצר, yawtzar, 'to create, generate, produce, to form.' Yawtzar sums to 300. So within this single letter Shin, ש, the aspect of the Creator named Elohim, and the act of creative separation is reiterated.
Moreover, Qabalists are familiar with Shin also being one of the Three Mother Letters as with Aleph mentioned previously. Within the Cube, Shin is positioned as the inner co-ordinate through the Center connecting the infinite boundaries North-South. On the Cube, Mars is assigned the North face, and the Sun is positioned on the South face. This axis combines the animating qualities of the Creator described as elemental Fire. Shin itself is the 'Plutonian' fire defined by esoteric Astrology. Pluto (ש, Shin) 'fire' is the all-encompassing higher octave of the element uniting the Martial (פ, Peh) aspects with the Solar (ר, Resh) modes of the fire element.
Next brings this supposition to the second part of shamaim, the noun מים, mim, meaning 'waters,' literally. It is also translated as the collective singular, 'water,' but takes the same Hebrew spelling. When the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, מ, mem, stands alone it is the number 40, but again it also means 'water.' It could be reasoned, then, that the word שמים, shamaim, translated so loosely as 'heaven(s)' in all versions of the Bible, actually means 'fiery-waters' in the Qabalistic sense. Like with the choice of bera over other word possibilities used for 'create,' there are other words in the Hebrew for 'heaven(s).' A Hebrew word in the Old Testament is רקיע, rakiya, which translates simply as 'sky,' for one. And, in a Hebrew dictionary, we find אויר, ahvir, for 'air, atmosphere.' And, indeed, to the collective consciousness of that period, the heavens of the Old Testament were the skies, and so were the heavens of the Christian Gnostics. Couldn't these also have been better choices for 'heaven' than fiery-water in Genesis?
I surmise, however, Qabalistically speaking in any case, that the choice of shamaim was very deliberate for getting the esoteric message through to those prepared to receive it. To translate shamaim merely as 'heaven,' by my reckoning, was perhaps an 'out' for those translators stumped back then because they might not have considered, or misunderstood completely, the uses of the Qabalists. Perhaps puzzled with the idea of 'fiery-water' within the context of Genesis, I surmise they left it hastily translated into 'heavens' and moved on. This is pure speculation on my part, of course, but the translation has stuck nevertheless. One can find the word שמים, shamaim, today in Hebrew dictionaries defined as 'heaven,' along with other selections. If there is any Qabalah student or fluent linguist of historical Hebrew reading this, and has something to add to the above for further insight, I would most certainly welcome and appreciate the input.
Mem, מ, is also the final letter of the Three Mother Letters of the Qabalistic alphabet. Within the Cube of Space, Mem is positioned as the inner axis through the Center, which connects the infinite boundaries East-West. Venus is assigned to the East face, and Jupiter is positioned on the West. This co-ordinate combines the substantive qualities of the Creator described as elemental Water. Mem itself is the 'Neptunian' water defined by esoteric Astrology. Neptune (מ, Mem) 'water' is the all-encompassing higher octave of the element uniting the Venusian (ד, Daleth) aspects with the Jupiterian (כ, Kaph) modes of the water element.
Finally with the detailed investigation of shamaim, is a closer look at the total word in the Hebrew with the definite article prefix, השמים, ha-shamaim, 'the heavens.' This also is deliberately specific in my estimation. Some translations ignore it or drop it altogether as does the Latin Vulgate, the wording of which is:
“In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram,” – “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.”
I surmise, however, that the original Qabalist who scribed these words knew very well what he was hinting. The definite article changes the number of the word from 390 to 395 by adding the prefix Heh (ה). This is the number equal to נשמה, neshamah, translated variously by Qabalists as 'life breath, Divine Soul, Intuition.' This was addressed previously in connection with Elohim above.
The Literal Qabalist, then, by careful scrutiny over these very initial letters and words of Genesis,
...בראשית ברא...אלהים את השמים
In the beginning...God created the heavens…
discovers the first TWO of the Three Veils of the Absolute clearly defined. The initial Veil, the garment of the ALL AIN (No-Thing), was separated, divided, creating a 'Separate Ain' from the ALL AIN Spirit. The separated portion then blasts an endlessly continuing expansion into infinite Above-Below as symbolized by the letter of omniscience, Aleph (א). Simultaneously, the continuing expansion blasts into infinite North-South and omnipotence with Shin (ש); then, and thirdly, into infinite East-West and omnipresence with Mem (מ). We must keep in mind, however, that the qualities of the three axes are not really separate from each other. These co-ordinates and their qualities are described thus for our linear and finite cognitive comprehension. Each 'co-ordinate' actually expands in all three dimensions simultaneously; Omniscience expands every which way, as does Omnipotence and Omnipresence, endlessly. Thus Infinite Space is defined. And any or every point within that Infinite Space is possessed with these three qualities. Anything conceivable in the imagery of the Creator may become manifest out from any point within that Infinite Space, even that central point at the heart of any galaxy. And no less is that central point at the heart of each of us.
Thus אין סוף, AIN SUPh, the Limitless Expansion, the Second Veil of the Absolute is created. This is השמים, ha-shamaim, 'the heavens,' of initial creation implied in Genesis 1:1, an infinite, continually expanding Cube of AIN SUPh. The entirety of infinite Space is נשמה, neshamah, the Over-Soul is ALL SPACE. And we are of it, with intimate contiguity through our Intuition.
By this one word, השמים, ha-shamaim, in Genesis, the original author implicated the very same idea as was presented initially in Sepher Yetzirah with the Great Divine Name יהו, Yod-Heh-Vau, into the six directions of space, אין סוף, AIN SUPh, the Limitless Expansion. By use of this word, Moses or whoever, offered an explanation for creation to the masses while concealing an esoteric message to those capable of its detection. The beginning of the Genesis creation story was built upon the very much earlier teachings from Sepher Yetzirah. The two texts concur with each other.
...and the earth.
'The earth,' in this first line of Genesis has nothing whatever in common with our physical planetary world. The next verse in Genesis is very specific concerning 'earth.' Ha-aretz, הארץ, contains letters totaling 296 by Hebrew gematria. Another word equaling that value is צור, tzur, meaning 'rock, flint or silex', which reveals some interesting correlations, according to Qabalists. For one point, a flint suggests a stone that contains latent fire. Philosopher Alchemists also claim this concerning their Alchemical Earth. If the vowel point above letter Vav (ו) in צור, tzur, is moved to the left side of it, the word becomes tzoor, meaning 'god, refuge.' Accordingly, צור, tzoor, is the root of the verb form meaning 'to bind, to wrap, to form'. And finally, Qabalists teach, צור is the root of the noun forms for צורף, tzoreph, 'alchemist', and צורפות, tzorephoth, 'alchemy.'
Esoterically speaking then, Qabalists and the genuine Alchemists alike teach that the 'earth,' introduced in the first line of Genesis, is like a certain Stone containing latent fire that is our God and Refuge. This God wraps and binds all creation within His Formative Power, and is the ultimate goal of students of the Qabalah, and Alchemists through the Art of Alchemy.
Furthermore, the very next verse in Genesis informs us that “...the earth was formless and void.” This will be detailed shortly with Genesis 1:2. The point made here, however, is that 'formless and void,' by its own definition must be invisible. The 'earth' in Genesis 1:1 is invisible, yet apparently filling a blackness of limitless and unfathomable height, depth, and breadth.
1 Whether Moses was indeed a Qabalist or even the author of Genesis, or whether the Pentateuch was originally scribed by one or more persons has never been confirmed. Neither has the date nor location of its authorship ever been verified.