Creation and the Hidden Light

Parashat Breishit

The Torah relates the story of the six days of creation in order to refute other theories that claim that the universe came into being through some cosmic accident or coincidence. As such, the story of creation speaks only in general terms to illustrate that nothing came into being except at G-d’s command. The Hebrew word, bara, emphasizes this. The word bara, used here for “create,” grammatically can only be used in connection to G-d (never for humans), and alludes to the creation of something from nothing.

The Torah’s narrative of creation is meant to directly establish G-d as the sovereign of the universe. Unlike other creation accounts circulating around the Ancient Near East, the Biblical account makes no attempt to explain the origins of G-d, or try to persuade the listener of G-d’s existence. The existence of God is an axiomatic fact. Therefore it immediately jumps to the explanation of G-d’s creation of heaven and earth.

In verse three, G-d says, “’Let there be light’: and there was light.” However, if one reads more carefully, the sun and moon were not created until the fourth day of creation (see 1:14-19). Therefore, what is the “light” that is being spoken of? Interestingly, there are two possible answers.

Within Jewish tradition there are, of course, a wide variety of perspectives regarding Messiah. Yet, the pre-existence of Messiah, and the presence of Messiah at creation, has been discussed among certain Jewish writers throughout history.

A medieval rabbinic anthology commenting on this verse states:

‘And G-d saw the light, that it was good.’ This is the light of the Messiah…to teach you that G-d saw the generation of Messiah and His works before He created the universe, and He hid the Messiah … under His throne of glory. Satan asked G-d, Master of the Universe: “For whom is this Light under your Throne of Glory?’ G-d answered him, ‘It is for … [the Messiah] who is to turn you backward and who will put you to scorn with shamefacedness (Yalkut Shimoni on Isaiah 60).’

According to Midrash HaGadol, “The final goal of humanity is to attain the state of the days of Mashiach; therefore the name of Mashiach had to be formulated even before the world’s inception (Midrash HaGadol, 1:1).”

Another perspective in the Talmud relates:

It was taught that seven things were created before the world was created; they are the Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gey-Hinnom, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah … The name of the Messiah, as it is written: ‘May his name endure forever, may his name produce issue prior to the sun (Pesachim 54a, Nedarim 39a, also Midrash on Ps. 93:3).’

The light, which some rabbis speak of as alluding to the Messiah can also serve as a representation of the “Ein Sof,” the hidden/unexplainable aspect of G-d. There is a midrashic legend that teaches that this light was hidden until the time of the Messianic Age, after which it will be once more revealed. When this happens, it will be like in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 21:22-23, 22:5, etc.), where there will no longer be any need of the sun, for G-d’s “Ein Sof,” His presence, will provide all needed light.

However, nowhere is the Messiah more clearly connected to the themes of light and creation than in the Gospel of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d. He was with G-d in the beginning. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing made had being. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not suppressed it … the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his Sh’khinah, the Sh’khinah of the father’s only Son, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-5, 14).”

May our divine Messiah, Yeshua, who was present at creation, continue to work in each of our lives to dispel the darkness, and make each of us into a new creation!

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Ahavat Zion Synagogue in Santa Monica, CA, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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15 Responses to Creation and the Hidden Light

  1. Monique says:

    Can I brag on my husband for a moment? That was a great post!

  2. Rainsong says:

    Brilliant words. Thank you.

  3. Danny A. Fluker Jr. says:

    This was beautiful. Very encouraging; I learned so much. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I've always enjoyed the topic of the pre-existent Messiah. I think it's fascinating! I'm really glad you tied this into the book of John. The themes of John are constantly pointing us back to Torah. I love it! I do have one question. Isn't "Ein Sof" the 10th emanation of God in Kabbalah? I understand the hidden aspect of this in the Kabbalistic context. Is there actual mention of "Ein Sof" in non-Kabbalistic, rabbinic literature?

  5. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Shalom Jennifer,

    Ein Sof is complex topic. To clarify, it is not the 10th emanation of the Sefirot. Rather, according to Kabbalistic thought the Ein Sof is even beyond that. It is the aspect of G-d which is completely beyond knowing or understanding. The 10 Sefirot represent the "knowable" aspect of G-d. And to answer your other question, I believe a basic understanding of Ein Sof existed in Jewish mystical thought prior to Kabbalah. In fact, as I pointed out from Revelation 21 & 22 above, a similar conception of G-d is existent in the New Testament.

  6. Zack says:

    What are your thoughts on the time frame of the creation of the universe? Do you think Genesis’ account stating creation occurred in 6 days is to be taken literally? If so, how can this be reconciled with scientific predictions of the age of the universe to be ~13.7 billion years (based on measurements of the expansion of the universe and calculations to trace that back to the singularity of the Big Bang).

    I don’t think the big bang theory and creationism are necessarily conflicting theories. Certainly, when God said “Let there be light.” He could have created light with the big bang. But I was just curious to hear your thoughts on this.

  7. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Hi Zack,

    I don’t believe the intention of Genesis is meant to be a scientific account, but rather a theological one. As such, I am not necessarily a literal 6 days person. IMHO, like you, I don’t think the Biblical text and Science are in conflict with each other.

    Hope this helps.

  8. Ron Krumpos says:

    I think of the divine light as illumination, rather than an incandescence. It is removal of the darkness of ignorance which prevents us from realizing the immanence of the divine in the Shekhinah and its transcendence in Ein Sof.

  9. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Ron,

    Nice thought. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Ron Krumpos says:

    Rabbi Joshua, I loved your description of yourself: “I am a rabbi, writer, thinker, messianist and mystic. According to my wife, however, I’m just a big nerd.

    I’ve been married for 41 years to a woman who I adore and who supports me even when I don’t deserve it. At age 70 I wrote an ebook on comparative mysticism and now conduct an email forum for 500 professors who teach mysticism. Whenever I get too proud of that my dear wife brings me back to earth. Humility is a great teacher as long as we remember to be humble.

  11. Pingback: The Tent of God | Morning Meditations

  12. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Ron,

    Thanks … and I’ll check out “Mystical Bridge” and your ebook!

  13. Pingback: Genesis in Context | Yinon Blog

  14. James O'Neal says:

    @Zack, a great book you would probably want to get is “The Challenge of Creation, Judaisms encounter with Science, Cosmology, and Evolution”. It covers all aspects of the Creation approach. Just to give you a hint, in his book, Rabbi Slifkin does conclude to the theological appraoch.

    This is a nice blog Rabbi Joshua!

  15. James O'Neal says:

    correction… *conclude with*

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