“In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
This is how Nachmanides opens his commentary: “Rabbi Isaac said, ‘There was no need to begin the Torah from any verse other than ‘This month shall be for you…’ (Exodus 12:2) which is the first commandment with which Israel was commanded. Why did it begin with ‘In the beginning’? There is a problem: it might indeed be necessary to begin the Torah with ‘In the beginning G-d created,’ for this is the root of faith, and one who does not believe in it and thinks that the world is primordial is a heretic and has no Torah at all. Yet, the answer that the act of Creation is a deep secret which cannot be understood from the Scripture and will not be known to its depths except through the tradition going back to Moses, and those who know this tradition must hide it… For all this will not be fully understood from the Writings, nor will the story of the time of the Flood and the division [after the Tower of Babel], for these stories are not a great necessity, and it would be enough for the people of the Torah without these verses…But Rabbi Isaac gave a reason for this…For the seven nations would say that Israel is naught but a plundering nation, and Israel answers them by saying ‘it is plundered by you.'”
We learn from Nachmanides that there is no real need for the portion of Bereshit, that “it would be enough for the people of the Torah without these verses” and that secret matters and of the Kabbalah are not learned from the portions of Bereshit and Noah, but only from tradition transmitted by mouth to ear. The portion of Bereshit was written only to make a legal claim to the nations of the world, that we are not thieves and plunderers (as though the nations of the world would accept such an odd claim simply because it is written in our books). But we have already written, on the portion of Pekudei, that the Scripture goes on at length on the less important things and is brief about important matters, as is said: “R’ Acha said: the washing of servants’ feet in the homes of the Fathers is more pleasant than the learning of the sons.”
Here Nachmanides writes that the act of Creation is a deep secret and can’t be fully understood aside from through tradition going back to Moses our teacher, but when we looked at the tradition of Chazal we found that it seems they, too, did not understand the Scriptures. In Tractate Hagigah 12b it is written, “Reish Lakish said: there are seven [firmaments] and they are the curtain, the firmament… the curtain serves no purpose, but dawn comes in and evening goes out.” And Rashi explained: “At dawn it enters its receptacle and the light is seen, in the evening it leaves its receptacle and spreads out below the light and the world is dark.” So according to Rashi at night the sun can not be seen, though it is above the dome of the heavens (about this, see Pesachim 94b), for the curtain leaves its receptacle and acts as a divider between the earth and the location of the sun. The Tosfot asked about Rashi’s comment (second reference), “And this was difficult for my teacher, for if it is so, how are the stars seen at night” if the curtain covers and divides? But it is well known that the whole matter of a curtain has no base in reality.
And Rabbeynu Chananel, in his commentary on Hagigah, wrote: “These are all matters of tradition given to Moses at Sinai…for they are definitely not matters one can say based on his own knowledge.” See what we wrote at length in Pamphlet 4 about these matters, and it is clear that Chazal erred in everything connected to the firmament and the heavenly bodies. The Maharsha already noted this in the Hidushei Agadot on Hagigah 12b, “It is true that we did not know how to relate to the details in this essay, and therefore I said to myself, ‘do not inquire about what is beyond your grasp’.” We have shown in many places that when all excuses are blocked by reality the last escape is to close off the mind: “Do not inquire about what is beyond your grasp.”
After these words, it would be also proper to ask Nachmanides the identity of the sages who received the tradition from Moses. For even Nachmanides himself erred in his commentary on the heavenly bodies (Genesis 1:14) “There are in the firmament places ready to accept the light, and these bodies [the sun and the moon] are radiant light receptors, like mirrors and the onyx stones. There they are called ‘ones which are enlightened’ [meorot] and not ‘lights’ [orim] .” According to Nachmanides the sun is a mirror-like body which does not give light on its own! In reality, the opposite is true.
Even the Zohar erred on this in volume one, Bereshit, page 33b: “Rabbi Eliezer says: it is a mirror-like light which does not give off light on its own, but gets light from higher sources and receives it.” However, today there is no secret in understanding how the sun produces energy, and no “higher sources” of light are involved.
But contrary to Nachmanides, who attributed deep secrets to the portion, Ibn Ezra wrote on Genesis 1:1, “And now I shall give you a rule: know that Moses our master did not give the Torah to the sages alone, but to everyone; not only to the people of his generation but to every generation, and he did not speak of the act of Creation but of the lowly world which was made for man.”
Therefore, those who hang hints and secrets upon our portion, in the matter of the act of Creation, see naught but their own hearts’ thoughts. We have nothing before us but a collection of ancient legends, some taken from other nations (for example, the matter of “the tree of life” is found amongst all ancient nations).
Why are there so many commentaries of hints and secrets and tradition on the matters in our portion? Because each of the commentators explains the verses and bends them to his opinion. It is obvious that each of them sells his own goods using these verses. Come see in Maimonides’s comments how the Scriptures can be forced to support reality (as seen by the commentator) and logical considerations (as understood by the commentator). According to Maimonides we do not live according to the Scriptures, but according to common sense, and common sense is usually able to find the interpretation which will bring the verse in question to the common sense plausibility… Thus he wrote in his book “A Guide to the Perplexed,” part two, chapter 25: “Know that we do not abandon the view of the world’s primordial nature because of the verses in the Torah which say that the world was created, for indeed, these verses do not tell us about the world being created more than other verses tell us about G-d being material, and the gates of interpretation are not sealed before us so that we can not escape the view of the world being created; on the contrary, we could interpret these verses [speaking of the creation of the world] just as we did with the verses speaking of G-d’s material nature – and probably it would be even easier. So we could also interpret these verses as indeed speaking of the world’s primordial nature [instead of the world being created], as we have done with other verses in order to reject the view of G-d’s material nature.” It is clear from Maimonides’s words that “the gates of interpretation” are open, and he could have either proven or disproven matters dealing with the main principles of the faith (such as the primordial nature of the world and G-d’s materiality) using his own interpretation of the same verses themselves! This is why it is said, “From Moses to Moses there was none like Moses,” and our rabbis forbade learning this book in the yeshivas.
We will bring additional proof that our rabbis write what they write based on their own opinions, on what seems to them fit, and mainly according to their own hearts’ desires, but not based on a tradition going back to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Thus, Nachmanides wrote on our portion (Genesis 2:3): “The six days of Creation are all the days of the world, for its existence is six thousand years, and therefore it is said that one of G-d’s days is a thousand years. The first two days the world was all water and nothing was completed, and it is a hint to the first two thousand years, in which no one called G-d’s name…On the sixth day in the morning…then man was created in G-d’s image…this is the sixth millennium, for at its beginning animals will rule, which are the kingdoms that know not G-d. But after a tenth of it will have passed (100 years into the sixth millennium), which corresponds the time when the light of dawn becomes daylight, the savior will come…And this will be 118 years after the end of the fifth millennium.” According to Nachmanides, the savior will come in the year 1357 CE, but he has not yet come. It is important to know that Nachmanides died in 1270, 87 years before the savior was due to come, according to his calculations. We can see that he desperately wanted to calculate that the savior would come in his lifetime, but that he dared not; he made the time of redemption close as possible to his own days. The Chatam Sofer wrote in his Responsa (part six, section 61) about Nachmanides and about the savior not coming at the set time: “I’d like to remark on the words of Nachmanides in his commentary on the portion of Genesis, on the verse ‘that G-d created to make.’ There he went on at length, revealing the secret of the end of the exile. But because of his deep yearning and his great desire for the coming of the Messiah he brought his calculations close to his own time, may his memory be blessed, and in this he made a great mistake…I was greatly amazed at Nachmanides OBM…I find it very puzzling that he forgot that day follows night, ‘and it was evening, and it was morning.’ Therefore the first 500 years of the sixth millennium are as the night which is the ‘evening’ of the sixth day of Creation, and afterwards was the creation of the animals. If we wait after that for the dawning of the sun for Him to erect His throne…it will, in any case, be after 550 years into the sixth millennium.” According to the Chatam Sofer’s calculations, the savior would come after the year 1790 CE–but he still had not come…
This matter, the interpretation of verses according to one’s heart’s desire and aimed at his own days, is not at all rare. Not only did our rabbis, the Rishonim and the Achronim, encourage their people that the savior would come in their times, but even Chazal, in Tractate Sanhedrin 97b, did so. “Eliyahu told Rav Judah, brother of Rav Sela the Hasid: ‘The world will not be less than 85 Jubilees and at the last Jubillee the son of David will come’.” According to the prophet Elijah, as told by Rav Judah, the Messiah was due in 489 CE; know that Rav Judah lived about 300-400 CE.
From all of this you see that our rabbis did not receive their words as tradition from Sinai, but spoke according to their own opinion and their hearts’ desires. Some times, from the suffering, yearning, and heartfelt longing for the coming of the redemption they interpreted matters as tough in their very day it would occur. Rav Judah, Nachmanides, and the Chatam Sofer imposed their personal interpretations onto the verses and wanted to force the verses onto reality. But reality goes its own way; it will not be forced to follow verses. The verses are forced to follow reality, and the wise one will understand.
Words of True Knowledge.