The Creation of Light
The secret of concealment and revelation
Speaker of the House
To introduce Himself to us, G-d spoke a world. But in what
The Creation of Beginning
Why was the universe created precisely when it was? Whatever
G-d's reasons for creating a world, were they not equally
valid one year, a hundred years or a billion years earlier?
The Creation of Light
G-d said: “Let there be light.” And there
was light. G-d saw the light, that it was good; and
G-d divided between the light and the darkness. G-d
called the light “day” and the darkness He called “night.”
It was evening and it was mourning, one day.
Light. The first creation. Indeed, the sole creation of the
But light, by definition, is not an entity in its own right.
It is the link between two other entities, the communication
from its emitter to an observer or recipient. Light would
have no function unless it is expressing the former and influencing
the latter. So what sense is there in light as a first creation?
Why create light on the first day if the first sighted creatures
were not created until the fifth, the first beneficiaries
of light (plants) were not created until the third, and the
first luminary bodies in the universe were created only on
the fourth day of creation?
Indeed, our sages describe the light created on the first
day as something that is not part of our present-day natural
reality. “The light which G-d created on the first day,” says
the Talmud's Rabbi Elazar, “a man could see with it from one
end of the world to the other.”
“It cannot shine by day,” says the Midrash Rabba, “it would
dim the sun. It cannot shine at night - for it was created
only for the day. So where is it? It was hidden. It
is preserved for the righteous in the World to Come.” “Where did He hide it?” asks the Zohar, and replies:
“In the Torah.”
Again we ask: Why create something that has no immediate
function? We might ask this about any creation, but certainly
about light. For what is light, if not illumination and revelation?
Are not the words “hidden light” a contradiction in terms?
And yet, these two antithetical concepts are more closely
related than one might think. The Zohar points out that the Hebrew words ohr (“light”)
and roz (“secret”) share the same gamatria,
or numerical value (207). According to Jewish tradition, a
gamatrial concurrence between two words implies that
they are intrinsically related to each other. As Rabbi Schneur
Zalman of Liadi explains in his Tanya, the soul of an object
or phenomenon is expressed by its name in the Holy Tongue;
and when the names for two entities have a common numerical
value, this means that they are, in fact, two incarnations
of the same essence.
So “secret” and “revelation” are two sides of the same coin.
And the very first creation was a secret revelation - a light
destined to remain in the dark for millennia on end. An infinitely
brilliant flash which illuminated the void of the First Day,
only to retreat into its alter ego, secret, for the whole
of contemporary history. So though light may be the primary
element of creation, ours is a world of secrets: a world in
which life means grappling with darkness and wrestling with
the unknown, a world in which light is reserved for the “World
to Come” - the fulfillment and culmination of our present-day
“What is final in deed is first in thought”
from the Lecha Dodi prayer
A concept is born in its conceiver's mind. Perhaps is it
the mind of an architect, or of an artist, scientist, inventor,
writer - any creative mind will do. The hands that are attached
to this mind are fairly itching to put pen to paper, lathe
to wood and metal, color to canvass. The mind's eye is already
envisioning segments of the edifice, parts of the machine,
chapters of the book, experiments to test the theory. But
wait, it tells itself, aren't we sort of jumping ahead of
ourselves? The concept, let's get back to the concept. Is
it clear? Has it come into focus yet? The details can
wait - first we must define what it is we wish to create.
What exactly is this invention going to do? What is the point
of the theory? What is the book, painting or sculpture going
to express? What is the function and/or aesthetic message
of the structure?
Only after the concept has crystallized in his mind, does
the artist or engineer get to work. Then, as the scaffolding
rises about the developing edifice, as the canvas fills and
the experiments accumulate and proliferate, the concept somewhat
recedes, its clarity somewhat dims. Now there are sentences
to assemble, problems to solve, angles to hone. Now the focus
must shift from the concept as a whole to its component parts.
True, the creator is guided throughout by his original vision;
but what is at the fore of his mind is the vision as it applies
to the particular task at hand, rather than the transcendent
vision it was at the time of its conception.
But when the last bolt is tightened, or the final cornice
or door-handle fitted into place; when the last brush-stroke
is satisfactorily executed or the last revision is made to
the manuscript or theorem - the concept re-erupts in all its
radiance and purity. This is what was meant, this is what
the sleepless nights and endless days were all about. This
is what preceded all, this is what receded from view while
the project developed, and this is what the final culminating
detail again brought to light.
What is final in deed is first in thought.
So the concept has two states - revealed and hidden - both
essential to its function. Before a creative process may begin,
the concept manifests itself, clearly and vividly; for the
slightest ambiguity in the foundation will set the entire
structure askew. Then, during the developmental phase it withdraws,
lending continued but covert focus and direction, lest it
overwhelm the many short term goals which must be conceptualized,
pursued and met.
Finally, when the finished product sits before us, the concept
is once again manifest. This time, however, it is not
floating in an abstract void; rather, it suffuses and emanates
from the multifarious details of the actual creation, now
integrated as a single entity with a single function and import.
What is final in deed is first in thought.
The Big Y
Why a world? What's the point to this tremendous work of
art, the function of this engineering marvel?
G-d wanted a world that conveys His truth. A world that overcomes
initial darkness and distortion to express the goodness and
perfection of its Creator. A world that is a ray of light
shining off the Divine luminary. A world that reveals its
essence and source. Light is G-d's concept of existence. It
is the vision He articulated into being before getting down
to the nuts and bolts of creation. The vision which precedes
all, pervades all, and culminates all.
After the First Day this vision receded, as many sub-visions
were articulated to create the particulars of our world. After
the seven days of creation it faded into the background, so
that man's subsequent development of the world not be overwhelmed
by its intensity. Throughout the process of creation
and history, it retreated into the mind of G-d and consciousness
of humanity - the Torah - a subdued but accessible secret
to guide and mold a maturing world.
A secret until the world becomes the “World to Come.” Until
our efforts to make our deeds, our lives, and the very substance
of our environment a statement to the all-pervading reality
of G-d are realized. Until the day the world comes off the
assembly line, leaves the studio, to be seen for what it is.
Based on an address by the Rebbe, Simchat Torah 5726 (1965)
of the House
The power of the word.
What is it about the spoken word that can evoke such tremendous
feeling? The way it is said? The one who says it? The implications
it holds for the speaker and his listeners?
What are spoken words? Nothing really, at least not in the
material sense. If speech is creative, it is only in the sense
that it impacts its listener. Physically, speech has no substance---all
it is is a pattern of sound waves. Yet there is no mistaking
the power of the word. The simple word has the power to move
you, to inspire you, to utterly transform your perspective
“Let there be light.” “Let the waters gather and land emerge.”
“Let the earth sprout forth vegetation.” The Torah describes
the creation of the world as a series of divine statements.
If we wish to understand the nature of the created reality,
the Torah is telling us, we must examine the phenomenon we
As speech, G-d's creating words did not actually create anything
of substance. All they did was change a perception, change
the manner in which a preexisting reality, the Preexisting
Reality, would be perceived. When G-d said “Let there be light”
nothing really happened---other than the impact this had on
us, the listeners, to whom it made a world of difference.
Say something. Any word or phrase. Say it again. And again.
As you repeat your words they spin into meaningless noises.
They have lost their impact. Spoken words that have no listener
have no impact and, by definition, no existence. But say them
again, this time to someone who hasn't heard them yet, and
they will regain their meaning and impact.
If G-d speaks a world, then, by definition, someone
is listening. Someone outside of Himself---“outside” in the
sense that he perceives his own existence as something distinct
of His, failing to comprehend that he is but the embodiment
of the divine desire that he be. Someone who might consider
G-d to be an idea, something to think about, or a force to
be reckoned with. Or who might question His existence altogether.
Someone who hears G-d's speech of a world. Man.
You hear someone speak. He is saying something very powerful.
Something with the ability to enlighten you, to provoke you,
to open new vistas before you. You realize as much from the
tone and timbre of his words. But you are unmoved. He is speaking
For the word to impact the listener, the listener must know
To appreciate the significance of the divine speech we call
universe, we must first acquire the language in which it was
spoken. “G-d looked into the Torah and created the world.”
You can spend a fruitful lifetime just listening to the tone
and timbre of the galaxies and quarks He articulated. But
if you sense a significance to the grandeur of the stars,
if you sense the whisperings of nature to be a communication,
look to the Torah, the dictionary of creation. G-d gave us
the Torah in order to teach us the language of creation, to
enable us to comprehend His communication to us---and to communicate,
in turn, with Him.
A conversation may sometimes serve no purpose other than
to convey the information contained in its words. Directions
to the bank, the price of the dress in the window. But this
is speech at its shallowest. Meaningful speech is the endeavor
to communicate, to reveal oneself to another.
G-d spoke to us so that we may understand Him. Not just the
world He said, but Him, its speaker. By mastering the language
of Torah, we not only gain insight into the significance of
the created existence---we also enter into a heart-to-heart
conversation with its author and orator.
The Creation of Beginning
“In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.”
These words, perhaps the most well known of the Bible's,
are in fact a mistranslation.
The correct translation of the opening Hebrew word of the
Torah, bereishit, is not “in the beginning” (that would
be borishonah), but “in the beginning of.” How, then,
are we to read the Torah's first sentence? In the beginning
The commentaries offer various interpretations. Rashi sees
this as an indication that the verse is to be interpreted
allegorically: the word bereishit is to be read b-reishit
or 2-reishit (in Hebrew, the letter bet is also
the number “2”), meaning “for the sake of the two things described
by the Torah as reishit (‘first’)---the Torah (Proverbs
8:22) and Israel (Jeremiah 2:3).” In other words, the Torah's
opening verse informs us not only of the fact of G-d's creation
of existence but also of the purpose to which He did so: that
the people of Israel should implement the divine will by observing
the mitzvot of the Torah.
But how, after all, are we to read the literal meaning of
the verse? Rashi explains that the first three verses of the
Torah form a single sentence: “In the beginning of G-d's creation
of the heavens and the earth, when the earth was chaotic and
void ... G-d said: ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
Sforno (Rabbi Ovadia ben Yaakov, circa 1470-1550) interprets
the word bereishit as “In the beginning of time.” The
Torah's first verse is telling us, he goes on to explain,
that the creation was not an event which took place in time,
but an event which marked time's onset. Bereishit is
the very first moment of time, a moment without a past; nothing
preceded this moment, since with this moment G-d created time
itself out of utter nothingness.
Put another way: rather than “in the beginning G-d created...”
we might say that “G-d created the beginning.”
In light of this, an oft-posed philosophical problem can
be resolved. Since G-d is eternal and unchanging,
we obviously cannot say that He “matured” to a certain state
or had a certain idea “grow on Him.” So why did He create
the world only when He did? Why not one year, a hundred years
or a billion years earlier, since whatever reasons He had
for creation were certainly just as valid then?
But as Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi points out, the question
is a non-sequitur: since time is itself part (indeed,
the first part) of G-d's creation, there is no stretch of
time that can be termed “before” creation.
Certainly, the universe was “preceded” by a state of non-existence--preceded,
that is, in the conceptual sense. At a certain point, G-d
desired to create a world. But this is not a point in time,
but a point in the divine reality. G-d, in essence, is above
the desire for a world, yet He desired that He have this desire.
In relation to this desire, the world exists; in relation
to the divine essence which transcends this desire, it is
utter nothingness. This is the “before” and “after” of creation.
But in terms of physical time, creation “always” was, since
the very first moment of time is also the first moment of
Based on the Rebbe's talks, Cheshvan 24, 5738 (November
5, 1977) and on other occasions
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber
 Talmud, Chagigah 12a.
 Tanya part II chapter 1.
 Midrash Rabba, Bereishit 1:2.
 “I, G-d, have not changed” (Malachi 3:6).
 Siddur, Shaar HaKriat Shmah.