The Unfinished Work of Creation
Elohim was able to create whole world in a blink of an eye. But why did He create it in six days and complete it on the seventh? The present study deals with a subject that has been touched upon in the articles Concealing the Infinite Light of Creation, Part 1 and Part 2, as we will explain the matter in the following vein.
There is understanding among the rabbis that in the beginning Elohim created everything in the universe simultaneously, as the narrative of Genesis 1 suggests that such work had already been in progress. However, a question presents itself: If such was the case, then why is the whole process of creation brought to our attention unless the Creator wanted us to know something about the importance of creating the world in stages and particularly the seventh day? This day, which the Creator called Shabbat (cessation) constitutes a visible sign between Him and mankind, meaning, just as He set it apart and ceased from work, so would the mankind. Thus, the Sabbath was encoded in the subconsciousness of the first humans and became testimony to all mankind that YHVH Elohim created the universe and everything in it. On that day the world came to a state of perfection and completeness.
“Unless there are people who observe the Sabbath, there is no Sabbath”. Or HaChaim
A human being of flesh and blood cannot know the creation of the world and the point of division of time that marks one period from another. Some say that with the creation of the seventh day Elohim finished His work. However, this interpretation is debatable, because saying “Elohim finished work” is not equivalent to “God did no work from that time on”. For once He created the universe and everything visible and invisible in it, His creation was not left in suspension but had to be sustained at length without interruption or weakening.
This is analogous to the conduction of energy in an electric field between the poles in electric arc. If the energy that creates the electric arc ceases even for a moment, the arc will cease to exist. This becomes even stronger when we bear in mind that the same illustration applies to the universe. If these forces of creation that sustain the universe cease to exist, the whole world will return to its formlessness and emptiness and cease to exist too.
The unfinished creation
The story of Creation concludes with the words spoken on the seventh day of Creation: “which Elohim created and made”.
And on the seventh day Elohim finished His work which He had done, and He ceased on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart, because on it He ceased from all His work which Elohim created to make. (Gen 2:2-3)
With these words the story of creation ends. While this statement at first glance seems to be giving the impression as if Elohim had ceased from all work, in fact it says that He had ceased from the work He had done prior to the seventh day, i.e., the work of creation. The ending phrase in Hebrew literally reads: asher bara Elohim la’asot, “which Elohim had created to make”. No further act of creation took place on that day, the seventh day of Creation. And Elohim was so pleased with the results of His work, and He loved so much the world which He created (see John 3:16) that He blessed it. He ceased creating in order to rejoice and celebrate His work.
A careful reading of the plain text shows that whatever work the Creator did in the previous six days, the seventh day was the completion of all. Here in verses 2 and 3, the narrator of the creation story describes the cessation of the work which Elohim created to do for the purpose of executing it.
The work, which Elohim finished on the seventh day, was not the work of creation, for the world had already been created, but the work of the creation of the Sabbath day and its sanctification. For as it is said of each day that it was good, and of the sixth day: it was very good, so of the seventh day was it said that Elohim blessed it, sanctified it, and set it apart as a special day of Creation.
Therefore, these two verses describe Elohim finishing the last touches to His creation by creating the Sabbath day, not by creating on the Sabbath. Thus, the Sabbath day completed the process of creation and must be viewed not merely as one of the seven days of creation but as the crown of creation.
As we stated above, the statement in Genesis 2:2-3 seems to be giving the impression that once Elohim had created the whole universe and rested on the seventh day, He had ceased from all work. Creation, however, has not concluded on the seventh day. When a potter has made a pot, the pot is no longer dependent upon its creator and remains in exactly the same form as when it was created. Not so with the creation of the world.
Chizkiah ben Manoach (aka Chizkuni) comments on these final words of Creation that Elohim was going to continue being involved in the improvement of His universe. He says, “The word le’asot (to make) at the end of this verse refers to the continuity of this process for as long as earth would exist”. The correct interpretation of that line, therefore, would be: “because on it He ceased from completing all His work of creating”.
The Alter Rebbe further explains in Tanya that the activating force of the Creator must constantly be vested within His creation, ceaselessly recreating, and reanimating created beings from nothing. Thus, the relationship between all created things and the supernal flow of the life-force from the Breath of His mouth, which flows upon them and brings them into existence, is continuously being created. (Chapter 3 of Shaar Hayichud Vehaemuna, Tanya).
What Chizkuni and the Rebbe teach is that Creation did not cease on the seventh day but continues from the eighth day on until today in the form of re-creation. Therefore, if Elohim had not ceased from all work after the seventh day, what does He do from the eighth day on? The answer may be found in the very first verse of Genesis 2, where we read thus,
And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. (Gen 2:1)
The reminiscence of this short statement is found in the Scroll of Isaiah, where in first person YHVH declares authoritatively,
I have made the earth and created man on it. I, My hands have stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded. (Isa 45:12)
The six hosts of heaven
The Most High is frequently called in the Scripture “Yehovah Tseva’ot”, which means “Yehovah of heavenly forces”. Which are these heavenly forces which Elohim had created together with the heaven and the earth, the forces He then stretched them out with the heaven, as He commanded them?
The unity of all forces of the universe is צְבָאָה, tseva’ah, “host”, (plural, tseva’ot). The creation narrative is explicit to say that “the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them”. According to the physics, which deals with matter and energy and their interactions, there are six cosmic forces, and they are: (1) the electric force, (2) the magnetic force, (3) the weak nuclear force, (4) the strong nuclear force, (5) the cosmic microwave background radiation, and (6) the gravitation. The gravitational force is the universal force presented everywhere in the universe; there is no place in the cosmos where this host is not present.
Before the Most High created the universe (when nothing was in existence), He conceptualized all things and phenomena to the smallest physical property, and the laws they would be governed by. These laws the universe would be governed by are the five hosts (tseva’ot) united in one cosmic host (tseva’ah). When the heaven and the earth were finished, all the host of them were finished simultaneously with them. Nothing came into existence without being first conceptualized and without the laws it would be governed by. These cosmic forces were in effect, even though the Creator ceased His work on the seventh day. Since these forces cannot exist independently from their Creator, for they were created and sustained by Him, and radiating from Him, He did not in fact cease working but kept on sustaining them by His power ever since. If even one of these forces ceases working (the gravitation, for example), the whole universe will return to its primordial state of confusion and disorder.
To amend the world
“What man needs is to know why his Creator needs him.” Navah
To sum up what we learned so far, Elohim created “the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1), and He finished them and all the host of them (Genesis 2:1). And when all the work was made, on the seventh day He ceased His work which he had made (Gen. 2:2) and blessed the first Sabbath. Then, the creation narrative goes on to say,
These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that Yehovah Elohim made earth and heaven. (Gen 2:4)
The generations (toledot) of the heavens and the earth do not describe the origin of the universe but retells in more details their creation in the subsequent verses of Genesis 2. Remarkably, it is stated in one breath that the heaven and the earth were both “created” and were “made” thus summarizing what has already been stated in Genesis 1. With respect to man and woman it is too said that He created them (Gen 1:27) and formed them (Gen 2:7). And on the first Sabbath day Elohim ceased the work. The text is very explicit in not mentioning a word about ceasing the Creation but only that the heavens and the earth were completed.
This subtle detail changes the whole perception of Creation. It implies that (1) YHVH created work that needs to be completed and (2) He would continue being involved in the improvement of His universe. The prophet duly recorded the distinction which YHVH made very explicit between “creating”, “forming”, and making”,
Everyone that is called by My Name, for I have created him for My glory, I have formed him, also, I have made him. (Isa 43:7)
In these verses of the very beginning of the Bible, the sages see the role of mankind to complete the unfinished work of Creation. The distinction between creating, forming, and making made in Isaiah is essential. The process of “creating” refers to bringing forth into existence out of non-existence, “forming” refers to bringing forth that which is potential in what has already been created, and “making” is the completion of the forming and the final stage of Creation. The final phrase in the creation narrative “which Elohim created to make” teaches that He who created the whole world now intended to continue His work in accordance with the laws of nature He had established.
Thus, the first seven days of Creation are intended to remind us that what happened once will happen again. They are symbolic of the six thousand years set for the universe to exist in its present form, as Psalms 90:4 says, “one thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday”. And in the last millennium, which will be all Sabbath, the world will experience a total renewal. Then, the coming down of the New Jerusalem, and then eternity.
Rabbeinu Bahya, Tur HaAroch, and Ramban teach that just as Adam was created in the image of Elohim and took control of the earth on the sixth day of creation (Gen 1:27-31), so will the Messiah, the son of Adam, who too was made in the image of Elohim, arrive with the clouds of heaven and take control of the earth, for he was given dominion, glory and kingship, peoples, nations and languages, and whose reign will not be destroyed (see Dan 7:13-14).
All this will occur after the arrival of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead. Then, all the righteous will be resurrected and participate in the millennial “Sabbath” and will rest as the Creator rested on the seventh day. But before all that, an unfinished work must be brought to an end. But by whom?
In these verses of the very beginning of the world, the sages see the role of mankind to complete the unfinished work of Creation: tikkun olam, to amend the world. How?
For if you thoroughly amend your ways and thoroughly amend your deeds; if you thoroughly do justice between a man and his neighbor; if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, neither walk after the gods of the others to your own hurt, then I shall let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever and ever. (Jer 7:5-7)
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