God’s Plan in Creation:
One Biblical Clue Sheds Light
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
In the Bible’s second book (Exod. 19 and 20) 3330 years ago, God reveals Himself on Mt. Sinai to the nation of the Jews, 2.5 million Children of Israel (Jacob). God gave His Bible to the Jews and shared His command that we study it, that we fulfill all 613 commandments as our life’s mission, and teach the rest of mankind its fundamental truths and laws. For as there is only one God and one mankind, there is only one religion. Giving His religion to mankind only once, and giving it to the Jew, renders the Jew mankind’s teacher.
In addition to this Written Law, the Bible, God also gave the Jews the Oral Law, the Mishna. 2000 years ago, the Rabbis spent 300 years elaborating on its profound principles and laws, known as the Talmud. This large work contains precise, analytic formulations of Jewish law. Talmud also includes Midrash; exaggerations, metaphors, parables, allegories, similes and other forms of wise, disguised lessons. Disguise was employed to secure the transmission of crucial ideas, and to conceal truths from those not ready to accept these principles. This includes Bible text derivations that unlock coded truths the Rabbis received back to Moses’ time. The Rabbis and Talmudic Sages offer us a chance to unveil the Bible’s mysteries. And when we see their underlying messages, we are in awe of their wisdom, and also of their ability to write so ingeniously. I wish to share one such Talmudic derivation I recently discovered pertaining to Creation:
“Rabbi Eliezer said, ‘Through the light God created on the first day (Gen. 1:3), Adam was capable of viewing one end of the world to the other. But once God saw that the despicable actions of generations of the Flood and of the Dispersion (Tower of Babel) God stood up and hid this light from them, as it says, ‘And He held back from the wicked their light (Job 38:15).’ But for whom did God keep this light stored away? For the righteous in the future (Tal. Chagiga 12a).”
Are we to believe the world became dark during those sinful generations? Certainly, the sun, moon and stars had their natural laws suspended only “during” the Flood; not before or after, i.e., not during civilization’s sin leading to the Flood, or during the Dispersion afterwards (Gen. 8:22). So what was this “light?” Furthermore, what was God’s concern in hiding this light, that sinful people would not have access to this light? The Torah (Bible) does not indicate that Noah’s generation sinned because of abusing light…they sinned sexually and morally. And the generation of the Dispersion sinned in its aggression towards God. Light or no light, these generations’ sins came from their instincts, not light. Clearly, this Talmudic metaphor is not describing physical light.
As the sun, moon and stars were not created until Day Four (Gen. 1:16), what is the “light” created on Day One (ibid 1:3)? Also, God uses the term “vayaas” — “And He made” — when describing physical creation. But when creating the “light” on Day One, God merely “says” it to be so: by His word alone this “light” came into being. Of course, having no physicality or human organs, God cannot speak. Thus, in reference to God, “speaking” or “saying” indicates His will. So, through will alone, was this first light made, whereas the luminaries were created — “vayaas” — through another process of forming existing matter. Again, what is this “light” on Day One?
God provides mankind clues to unravel this mystery:
1) this light was created on the first day,
2) with this “light,” Adam was able to view the entire world,
3) this light is somehow unrelated (hidden) relating to wicked generations,
4) this light would eventually find its purpose among the righteous in the future.
5) Most difficult however, is God’s “afterthought.” He created time, and therefore He is above time. Thus, He need not “wait” to see the future generations’ sins. He knew of their sins even before He created the universe! How then do we understand the quote, “But once God saw that the despicable actions of generations of the Flood and of the Dispersion (Tower of Babel) God stood up and hid this light from them”?
The Same Phraseology Sheds Light
Another Talmudic portion speaks in similar fashion, and can shed light on this. Talmud Avoda Zara 2b, quoting Havakuk 3:6 says that at one point in history, “God arose, assessed mankind, He ‘saw’ and released the nations from their 7 Noahide commands.” The Talmud asks, “What did God see?” The Talmud answers, “He saw that the nations abandoned the Noahide laws, and therefore God released them from their obligation.” We know this release is not literal, so how do we understand this?
The Talmud concludes that as the nations abandoned Noahide laws, any future Noahide who followed the laws would be considered as one “not commanded.” Meaning, once the chain of transmission of Noahide law was broken and no longer transmitted, all future Noahides would not be “following God,” since the transmission that God commanded these laws was lost from society. As such, a Noahide’s adherence to any of these laws (principles) would not be out of obedience to God, but based on societal practicality, “as if” God released them. Thus, such individuals could not be rewarded as “followers of God” for their generation was no longer in receipt of a transmission from God. It is only one who knows that he is adhering to “God’s will” who truly lives “subservient” to God. And only when man serves God — not acting merely for practical reasons — does he or she earn God’s reward. (Similarly, if one waves the Lulav, not knowing it is God’s command, he cannot receive reward for “following a command.”)
In fact, God did not “release” the Noahides, they are still obligated in those 7 laws. Loss of the transmission is described “as if” God released them, since He can no longer reward any Noahide who fulfills these 7 principles without knowing God desires them to do so. The Rabbis phrase the Noahide’s loss of transmission of God’s commands as the Noahides own doing — “as if” God had released their obligation. This must be clear.
The same applies to our case; God did not “hide the light.” This “hiding of light” too must be ascribed to the actions of the generations of the Flood and the Dispersion, and not to an act of God.
Torah has a precedent: light refers to knowledge, as in, “Nare mitzvah, v’Torah ohr; A (single) flame is a command, and Torah is light (Proverbs 6:22).” That is, one mitzvah is akin to a single flame, whereas Torah (all mitzvos) create light, something greater that what a single mitzvah achieves. Light allows man to acquire knowledge through sight, just as mitzvah and Torah informs man of truths. Thus, light refers to knowledge.
The Riddle Solved
Physical light was part of Creation. But Rabbi Eliezer teaches that more than just physical matter must have been part of Creation. Why? Physical matter alone cannot be God’s objective in Creation; matter cannot exist for itself. A universe that abounds with giant mysteries and brilliant answers must have as its goal, the realization of the Mind behind it all; God. Why permeate the universe with astonishing scientific marvels, if not for a race of beings to perceive them all? As inanimate matter cannot “realize” anything — it is lifeless substance — intelligence, and intelligent beings must be God’s objective.
Thus, Rabbi Eliezer teaches that such monotheistic knowledge must play a central role in Creation. So crucial is this knowledge, this “other light,” that God created it on Day One. In other words, Creation was justified only by attainment of knowledge of God. Being created immediately on Day One convey’s its essential role in Creation.
Now, as we know this “light” is not the sun, for its was created 3 days later, to what type of knowledge does this “light” refer? It cannot refer to sciences, since physical creation — what God made subsequent to this light — gives evidence to natural laws. What then was this other “light?”
The other “light” refers to knowledge of God’s justice: crime, morality, reward and punishment. I say this, since this light was “hidden” from sinful societies. But God did not hide this knowledge. This hiding means those societies followed their instinctual urges, and ignored justice…hiding it from themselves. These peoples saw no repercussions to their sins, so they continued sinning, as if God hid the system of justice from them. God’s Creation “hides,” not immediately revealing, reward and punishment. For if God immediately struck every sinner with lightning, man would no longer possess free will. Man would abstain from sin due to fear of imminent death, and not due to a reasoned consideration of sin’s harm. Thus, man’s mind would be disengaged: the opposite of God’s plan in granting each human an intellect.
“God stored the light away until the future for the righteous people” means the righteous alone will enjoy God’s justice. King David said, “Were it not that I believed I will see God’s goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27).” King David was troubled by enemies. This is of course disturbing and would rightfully cause one to despise such a tortured existence. “Land of the living” refers to the afterlife, and David expressed that his knowledge of his ultimate state in the afterlife was what kept him going. He knew that ultimately, justice would be served to all souls.
This also explains why the term “vayaas” is not applied to the “light”: that light was not a physical creation molded from primordial matter like the sun. That light refers to knowledge…knowledge of God’s system of justice, and reward and punishment. God created this system of truths on Day One, this was the “light.”
Creation finds purpose in humans who accept God’s authority and justice. Ibn Ezra describes Adam as a “chocham gadol” – a great intellect (Gen. 2:16). Adam was able to “see” (metaphorically) “from one end of the world to the other.” Meaning, Adam understood not only the natural world, but the world of God’s government of man: metaphysics. The generations of the Flood and the Dispersion, violated God. The former was annihilated and the latter was scattered over the Earth. Sodom too was destroyed as they violated God’s system of justice and righteousness. Conversely, God gave fame and success to Abraham who rejected idolatry and taught monotheism. And God eventually saved his descendants from Egypt, and gave them a Torah (Bible) to study, and share with the world.
Rabbi Eliezer does not reject that there was physical light created on Day Three. His point was to highlight a purposeful Biblical hint that teaches a truth concerning Creation: knowledge of God and subservience to Him is a primary purpose in His Creation, and this was the “light” created on Day One. This is a powerful message about God’s objective in creating the universe.