We’re approaching the end of the annual cycle of Torah-readings and will shortly begin the cycle again.

The cycle begins with the recounting of God’s act(s) of Creation. 

In the opening verses, God seems to create the world (or universe; even universes), which then exists on its own.

This view — of a Creation that exists separately from God — can be found in all of our daily thinking. We think — implicitly believe — that the world goes along predictably. The sun “comes up” (or seems to) and then “goes down.” Seasons change: Spring follows Winter, Summer follows Spring. The moon changes its “shape” in ways that can be more or less measured. There’s much that can be “expected.” It allows us to plan — when to plant, when to celebrate or commemorate and so on.
We use words like “accident” or “luck” to designate those things that are “unexpected” — the things for which we can’t make plans in advance.

Such a view seemed to be confirmed and reinforced by the “laws” that Newton was able to recognize and express. Understand the “laws” sufficiently and your ability to “use” creation would seem to increase dramatically. 

Newton himself had a very different belief. The orderliness he observed and described was, to him, an almost inarguable indication of intent; of “design.” If there’s “design,” there must be a “Divine Designer:”

”This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being.” [1]

Einstein believed the same:

“I have nothing but awe when I observe the laws of nature. There are not laws without a lawgiver…” [2]

This might then seem to be the place were “religion” and science — Torah u’Mada — meet.

Yet it’s barely the beginning of what Torah teaches us about God.

Newton and Einstein (and others), evening recognizing the compelling suggestion of there being a Divine Designer, nevertheless understand that “Designer” to be separate from the Creation. God, to them, is like a “watchmaker” who creates the “machine” and then lets it run on its own.

Torah, in fact, tells us that beyond “designing,” God always remains in charge of Creation. Rabbi David Nieto, in the 18th century, restated this:

“…the name ‘nature’ is only an invention of the later scholars of the last four or five hundred years…But God causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall, so it is clear that God performs all these actions that the later scholars call ‘nature’.” [3]

Although the language of the opening verses seems to paint a different picture, Torah later affirms God’s ongoing dominion over Creation.

The “10 plagues” on Egypt, for example, were meant as clear demonstrations of God’s ongoing control of Creation:

“I [God] will set apart…the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end that you [pharaoh] may know that I, God, am in the midst [*] of the earth.” [4]
“God will make a division between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt; nothing of all that belongs to the Israelites will die.” [5]

Other verses in the “plagues narrative” continue in the same vein, declaring that God — Who might have seemed separate from Creation — is, in fact, eternally active in and in charge of it. (It’s curious that this theme isn’t emphasized more explicitly in the haggadah/seder). 

God is not only “in charge of” Creation. God is continuously creating:

המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית/
Ha-M’chadesh b’tuvo b’chal yom tamid ma’aseh breishith —
You are the One who, in Your Goodness, renews the work of Creation every day.” [6]

The Ba’al Shem Tov (and later Hasidic teachers) similarly taught that God is perpetually speaking the letters of the words of “Creation” in Torah. It is through those letters that Creation comes into existence. If the letters were withdrawn — i.e. if God would stop “pronouncing” them — Creation would immediately disappear:

“If the letters of the Ten Utterances by which the earth was created during the Six Days of Creation were to depart from it [even] for an instant, it would revert to naught and absolute nothingness, exactly as before the Six Days of Creation.” [7]

At every moment, then, God is re-creating all that is.

But Divine creation differs from human creation in another major way, too: 

To create, a human being gathers materials, whatever they are, and forms his or her work. The painter, for example, gathers paint, brushes and canvas, then applies the paint to create the picture. Once the picture is created, the artist can leave the room and the painting will remain the same, unchanged.

God gathers no external “materials.” God creates from Divine Existence Itself:

“1) The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of all wisdom is to know [leida] that there is a Primary [or “first” or “fundamental”] Being Who brings all that exists into existence. All that exists only exists through His true Existence.

2) If the Creator did not exist then nothing else would, for nothing can exist independently of the Creator.

3) If everything ceased to exist, the Creator alone would exist and would not have ceased to exist like everything else had. All things in creation are dependent upon the Creator for their continued existence, but He does not need any of them [for His continued existence]. Therefore, the reality of His existence is not like the reality of the existence of any creation.

4) This is implied by the prophet’s statement (Yirmiyahu/Jer. 10:10): ‘And God, your Lord, is true’ — i.e. He alone is true and no other entity possesses truth that compares to His truth. This is what [is meant by] the Torah’s statement (Dvarim/Deut. 4:35): ‘There is nothing else aside from Him” — i.e. aside from Him, there is no true existence like His’.” [8]

The artist creates his or her work, but is always separate from the work itself.

God creates the world, the universe, all the universes, all the dimensions that there might be — and remains in the things created.

And just as God looked on Creation and “saw that it was good,” [9] we can — should — look on God’s continuing, moment-to-moment creation and say, with Rabbi Akiva, “All that the Merciful One does is for the good” — even at this very moment! [10]

Everything that exists, then, is perpetually expressing Unchanging Divine Existence. A wave is an expression of the ocean; both are expressions of their unchanging essence — water. The wave and the ocean can never be separate from “water.” Creation, too, can never be separate from God, any more than a wave can be separate from the ocean, or either can be separate from water itself. 

Ultimately, all true existence is God’s alone.

“The essence of Divinity is found in every single thing — nothing but It exists. Since It causes every thing to be, no thing can live by anything else. It enlivens them; Its existence exists in each existent thing…Realize…that Ein Sof [God’s Infinite Existence] exists in each existent thing. Do not say, ‘This is a stone and not God.’ God forbid! Rather, all existence is God, and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity.” [11]

“All is God.” [12]

As Rebbe Nachman of Breslav also teaches: 

“[One] must continually, deeply contemplate [הסתכל] the wisdom [שכל] in all things, and bind himself [קשר עצמו] to the wisdom [חכמה] and intelligence [שכל] that is found in everything.” [13]  

“Bind him/herself” to the wisdom in things. Not only in their design, as do Newton and Einstein, but to the actual Divine Wisdom — inseparable from Divine Existence — that pervades all things at every moment.

Because we can never be separate from God, every thought, word or action of ours occurs in this “Divine Milieu” [**] that pervades and surrounds us: “God is the Place of the world.” [14] To have “emunah” — faith — is simply to recognize this “milieu,” our true place in It and Its place in us, and to adjust our thoughts accordingly. We truly know this only to the extent that we experience it: “Faith is d’veikut’.” [15]


Knowing this in our hearts, through repeated personal experience in contemplation and prayer, we find that this world is, in fact, Gan Eiden — the Garden of Eden.

We can then find ourselves with God, “walking in the Garden in the cool of the day.” [16]

With all this in mind, we can read “B’reishith” — the opening section of Torah and Bible — knowing what it’s telling us about God’s Presence in our world and our lives.


[1] Newton, Sir Isaac; Principia Mathematica, Book III; cited in Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from his writings; p. 42, ed. H.S. Thayer, Hafner Library of Classics, NY, © 1953.

[2] Hermanns, William; Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man; p. 60; Branden Books; Brookline Village, MA; ©1983

[3] cited in:
Freehof, Rabbi Solomon B.; A Treasury of Responsa, p. 178; The Jewish Publication Society, © 1962

[*] “in the midst of”– The Hebrew  בקרב/b’kerev would seem to literally mean “near the earth;””near,” not “in.” But “nearness” here means “intimately involved in the management and operation of everything that happens. I do with it as I please: I cause a plague in one land, and leave the adjacent land untouched.” We see something similar today: Earthquakes and hurricanes devastate Haiti, while the Dominican Republic — which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti — remains relatively untouched. 

[4] Sh’moth/Ex. 8:15 — i.e. the plague was not a result of “natural phenomena.” This is meant to be understood of all the plagues. Even today, we hear attempts to explain the plagues in “natural” terms

[5] 8:19

[6] Shachrit/Morning Service (in Yotzer Or; 1st blessing before the Sh’ma). 

[7] see: Tanya; Sha’ar Ha-Yichud, ch. 1

[8] Rambam; Mishneh Torah; Book of Knowledge 1:1-4

[9] Bereishith/Gen. 1:4 et al

[10] Berachot 60b

[11] Cordovero, Rabbi Mosheh; Shi’ur Qomah, p. 206b

[12] Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac [Yiddish: Eizik] of Homel (“Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik Epstein 1770-1857…rabbi of the town of Homel in White Russia for 58 years, was a leading figure in the first three generations of Chabad Chassidism”). Further citation unavailable.

[13] Rebbe Nachman of Breslav; Likutei Moharan 1:1

[**] a phrase coined by Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin for his book of the same name.

[14] Midrash Bereishith Rabbah 68:9 and elsewhere

[15] Rabbi Yakov Yosef of Polnoye; Toldot Yakov Yosef; from commentary to parshat Yitro;
found online at:
(p. 192, bottom and p. 193, top)

[16] Breishith/Gen. 3:8