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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3

Jerusalem

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GENESIS — 1:3 light

Midrash Rabbah Genesis 4:6 … tells us that Ben Zoma threw everyone into a state of extreme excitement because of the text in Genesis which reads “And G-d made the sky,” “Made” – exclaimed Ben Zoma. How could that be? For there is another verse which contradicts this idea: “By word of G-d were the heavens made and by the breath of His mouth all of their host.” Psalms 33:6  It is inconceivable, Ben Zoma seems to day, that the creation of the heavens – these most exalted spiritual, immaterial regions – should have occurred through a process of making. It is only appropriate for the heaven to have been brought into existence through the agency of speech, the truly sublime motive force of the universe. And may we not interpret Ben Zoma’s words to mean that man transcends this physical world primarily through speech rather than through action? If speech has a function it also has a purpose. Where shall we look for that purpose if not in the Torah itself? The initial exercise of speech in the Torah occurs on the first day when G-d says, “Let there be light.” [this verse]. One can genuinely infer, it would seem that the very first words spoken in the history of the universe give us not only the message which they contain but also a clue to the purpose of all speech: that is, to bring light to the world. Speech can be said to possess value only to the extent that it is instrumental in illuminating the world with the reality of G-d’s existence.  If we regard speech from this standpoint, then the prohibition against certain types of speech which are enumerated in the Torah emerge naturally from this original definition. Slander, malicious talk, obscene language, idle chatter –all these activities introduce darkness into G-d’s universe. The most subtle and complex products of the human mind do not partake of the particular quality of speech if their object is not the establishment of another beacon of truth.  Hence we gain additional insight into the meaning of the Midrosh Rabboh, Genesis 2:4 which tells us that the word choshech – darkness – which appears in the second verse of Genesis is an allusion to the Greek dominion over Israel. The reason given in the Midrash is that the kingdom of Greece “Made dark the eyes of Israel by their decrees, saying to them, ‘Write on the horn of an ox that you have no share in the G-d of Israel.’” Greek culture, for all of its genius in art, science, philosophy and literature, is seen as “darkness” because of its tyrants, who insisted that Jews repudiate their belief in G-d. Among the Greeks language became a highly developed skill, to the extent that it was permissible to write sacred texts in that tongue. At the same time, the linguistic producers of this superb civilization possessed no intrinsic value because they were devoid of the purpose inherent in the first words of the Creator: ‘Let there be light.” BUILD 217-8 ft. 10
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GENESIS — 1:3 said

According to Genesis, G-d brought the world into being by speaking. Speech has been described as the “holiest of the holy” (Igeret HaGra, written by the Vilna Gaon in the 18th century). Jewish tradition teaches that “life and death lie in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21. This seemingly hyperbolic statement turns out not to be an exaggeration; words have stunning power. … In Genesis 1, G-d brings the world into being through speaking, differentiating and naming.  Giving a word or a name to something in effect makes it real.  We continue to create the world by the names we give to people and things.  If we label someone as untrustworthy or self-centered, we contribute to the way that person is perceived and treated.  AGTJL 99
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GENESIS — 1:3 said

In the beginning, there was the word.  Words create worlds.  According to the Jewish mystics, good words create good worlds; evil words create evil worlds.  Words have power: creative power and destructive power.  Words can hurt or heal.  They can form or deform a relationship.  They can be a barrier or a window.  They can endear or abuse. … As Proverbs 18:21 says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” On this verse in Proverbs the Talmud Arakhin 15b comments: “One who wants life can find it through the tongue; one who desires death can find it through the tongue.”  HTBAJ 193
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GENESIS — 1:3 said

What exactly is being said in the first chapter of the Torah? The first thing to note is that it is not a standalone utterance, an account without a context. It is in fact a polemic, a protest, against a certain way of understanding the universe. In all ancient myths the world was explained in terms of battles of the gods and their struggle for dominance. The Torah dismisses this way of thinking totally and utterly. G-d speaks and the universe comes into being. This, according to the great 19th-Century sociologist Max Weber, was the end of myth and the birth of Western rationalism. More significantly, it created a new way of thinking about the universe. Central to both the ancient world of myth and the modern world of science is the idea of power, force, energy. That is what is significantly absent from Genesis 1. G-d says, “Let there be,” and there is. There is nothing here about power, resistance, conquest, or the play of forces. Instead, the keyword of the narrative, appearing seven times, is utterly unexpected. It is the word tov, good. Tov is a moral word. The Torah in Genesis 1 is telling us something radical. The reality to which Torah is a guide (the word “Torah” itself means guide, construction, or law) is moral and ethical. The question Genesis seeks to answer is not “How did the universe come into being?” but “How then shall we live?”  This is the Torah’s most significant paradigm shift. The universe that G-d made and that we inhabit is not about power or dominance but about tov and ra, good and evil. For the first time, religion was ethicized. G-d cares about justice, compassion, faithfulness, loving–kindness, the dignity of individual, and the sanctity of life. This same principle, that Genesis 1 is a polemic, part of an argument with a background, is essential to understanding the idea that G-d created humanity in His image, in His likeness. This language would not have been unfamiliar to the first readers of the Torah. It was a language they knew well. It was commonplace in the first civilizations, Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Certain people were said to be in the image of G-d. They were the kings of the Mesopotamian city– states and the pharaohs of Egypt. Nothing could have been more radical than to say that not just kings and rulers are G-d’s image. We all are. Today the idea is still daring; how much more so it must have been an age of absolute rulers with absolute power.  SACKS 4
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GENESIS — 1:4 good

…all things should not be believed to exist for the sake of man’s existence.  Rather all other beings too were intended to exist for their own sakes, not for the sake of something else.  … We say that all parts of the world were brought into being by G-d’s will, intended either for their own sake or for the sake of something else intended for its own sake … This view too is stated in the prophetic books: “The Lord made each thing le-ma’enehuProverbs 16:4.  The reference might be to the object [each thing for its own sake]; but if the antecedent is the subject [G-d], the sense is ‘for Himself,’ i.e., His will, which is His identify…also called His glory … Thus His words, “All that are called by My name and created for My glory, I created, yes and made” Isaiah 43:7 … If you study the book which guides all who seek guidance toward what is true and is therefore called the Torah, this idea will be evident to you from the outset to the end of the account of creation.  For it never states in any way that any of the things mentioned was for the sake of something else.  Rather, of every single part of the world, it is said that He created it, and its being agreed with His purpose.  This is the meaning of its saying, “G-d saw that it was good” [this verse].  JHRHV 35-6  
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GENESIS — 1:4 good

R. Elazar said: “With the light that the Holy One Blessed be He created on the first day man could look from one end of the world to the other.  But when the Holy One Blessed be He envisioned the perverse deeds of the generation of the flood and of the generation of the Tower of Babel, He arose and secreted it for the righteous in time to come, as it is written: ‘And G-d saw the light that it was good,’ and “good” is nothing other than a righteous man, as it is written Isaiah 3:10: ‘Say of the righteous one that he is good’” Chagigah 12. TEMIMAH-GEN 4
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GENESIS — 1:4 good

The idea of creation as an act of grace is not so much the warrant as the equivalent of our core claim, identifying the being with the desert of things.  For being is an expression of divine creativity manifested in, and upon, the recipients of grace.  It was in keeping with such a conception that the school of R. Ishmael framed their question about the purpose of the world’s existence as a quest for deserts: For whose sake – “for whose merit does the world exist?” Why does G-d bother, why create or sustain the world? Their answer: “For the merit of the righteous” Midrash ha-Gadol, Gen. 3, II. 11-13; c.f. B. Shabbat 119b; B. Yoma 38b, glossing [this verse].  Or, generalizing: For the good that it contains, for the sake of the beings, which is to say, for G-d’s glory.  JHRHV 43
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GENESIS — 1:4 light

Rav Yisrael [Salanter]’s profound contemplation of Mussar led him to realize that its “light was good” [this verse] and that it was an excellent means to strengthen Torah observance amongst the general public. Thus, with the G-dly wisdom that permeated his being, he investigated, considered, and refined this body of study. His goal was to prepare and streamline a method that would make it easily accessible to the masses, as well as to raise the banner of its glory. He developed and nurtured it with righteousness and nobility, in order to set it as a path amidst the people and a trail amongst the living.  OHRYIS 122
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