Parshat Bereshit – Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald
The Torah opens with the story of the creation, which is completely original, "substance out of nothingness." "In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the earth." (Bereshis 1:1) "Because there is a great need to open the Torah with 'In the beginning G-d created' because it is the root of faith. And anyone who does not believe this and thinks that the world has existed forever is a heretic and has no Torah whatsoever. (Ramban)
Nevertheless the Torah's description of Divine creation isn't comprehensible in the simple, literal way. It is on the high levels of Divine reality, which limited human understanding cannot grasp. "Since My thoughts are not your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8)
"The work of the creation" is one of the "secrets of the Torah" and we do not delve into it the same way we do with the rest of the Torah. And it is not learned, except one-on-one (a teacher and a student) and only if the student is wise and astute (Talmud Hagigah 82 a). "The work of the creation is a deep secret and cannot be understood from the written Torah, and is not fully known except through the Kabbalah (literally, received tradition) through Moshe Rabbenu, (which he received) from G-d. And those who know it must conceal it. (Ramban) Why did the Torah choose to describe the acts of the creation if only individuals (on a high level) can understand them? (Ramban)
The Torah describes the creation as a stage-by-stage process, planned down to the last detail. The opening with the word "Bereshis" – in the beginning – shows that there is a progressive timeline (like a Gantt chart) which has a beginning, an end, and middle. The Sages likened the creation to the construction of a fabulous palace according to a detailed, premeditated plan: "In normal practice, a flesh-and-blood king who builds a palace doesn't plan it (only) by himself, but by employing the expertise of an architect. And the architect doesn't build without consulting his books and notes in order to know how to make rooms and how to make gates. Similarly, G-d looks into the Torah and creates the world." (Bereshis Rabbah 1:1)
The story of the creation tells us that G-d created the world according to a wise plan which was defined ahead of time, and He carried out every step precisely. "The creation turned the thought into reality and brought it out – and thus gave thought an external, tangible existence. The whole world, in its entirety and its details, is none other than G-d's thoughts which materialized." (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch)
It wouldn't reduce the level of holiness of this insight if we call the Divine way of creating the world "the strategic plan of creation." This plan is deep in the Torah.
The Kabbalists emphasized that the plan of the creation is a Divine, independent initiative which encompasses the purpose of the existence of the world, the root of all the course of history, and G-d's direction until creation reaches its final goal. "The completion of action is (the result of) thought at the beginning." "And for this…the root must be in lights, which must be prepared in this way so this will emerge from them… And everything is such, in the secret (order) of beginning and end. And so it is written, "Tells the end from the beginning" (Isaiah 46:10). And this is the secret of the way (of the world) which goes from the beginning…to the end. And the issue is that the beginning of thought is the completion of action." (Ramchal, Adir BaMarom part 1)
But is appears that the metaphor of the palace doesn't fit! A human king who builds a palace indeed needs a plan and instructions beforehand, but G-d, who is the source of wisdom, He Himself creates the plan. So why does He need a plan in advance? He could, apparently, create the world at the same time as proclaiming the plan?!
The Ramchal (Da'at Tevunot) emphasizes that without a doubt G-d could have created the world according to His infinite character, but for a number of reasons (of which He revealed to us only some of them) He chose to create it according to the world's limited qualities, and in a way that man can learn from the ways of G-d.
"The man of faith" strives to translate this "revelation" in order to "cleave to Him" and to "walk in His ways." Man who was created "in the image of G-d" continues the work of Divine creation with his human action. This way he becomes "a partner to G-d in the work of creation", in thought and in action. (Shabbat 119 b and Maharsha)
The human work which continues the Divine creation must be conducted in a way which is strategically planned and managed, in a way that looks toward the future. Man initiates it in light of an overall purpose, from which originate the plans and execution down to the last detail. When necessary the plans must be encompassing and long-range, in the spirit of "the completion of action is (the result of) thought at the beginning." In this way man will merit wholesome and blessed work, and also to cleave to His ways, blessed be He.