Parashat Bereishit


Bereishit 1:1 In the beginning of G-d's creating the heavens and the earth -

Rashi on 1:1 IN THE BEGINNING. Said Rabbi Isaac: It was not necessary to begin the Torah except from "This month is to you," (Shemot 12:2) which is the first commandment that the Yisraelim were commanded, (for the main purpose of the Torah is its commandments, and although several commandments are found in Bereishit, e.g., circumcision and the prohibition of eating the thigh sinew, they could have been included together with the other commandments). Now for what reason did He commence with "In the beginning?" Because of [the verse] "The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations" (Tehillim 111:6). For if the nations of the world should say to Yisrael, "You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Kenaan]," they will reply, "The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us. In the beginning of G-d’s creating. This verse calls for a midrashic interpretation [because according to its simple interpretation, the vowelization of the word bara, should be different, [as Rashi explains further]. It teaches us that the sequence of the Creation as written is impossible, as is written immediately below] as our Rabbis stated (Letters of Rabbi Akiva, letter "bet"; Bereishit Rabbah 1:6; VaYikra Rabbah 36:4): [G-d created the world] for the sake of the Torah, which is called (Mishlei 8:22): "the beginning of His way," and for the sake of Yisrael, who are called (Yirmeyahu 2:3) "the first of His grain." But if you wish to explain it according to its simple meaning, explain it thus: "At the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth, the earth was astonishing with emptiness, and darkness...and G-d said, ‘Let there be light.’" But Scripture did not come to teach the sequence of the Creation, to say that these came first, for if it came to teach this, it should have written: "At first (barishonah) He created the heavens and the earth," for there is no reishit in Scripture that is not connected to the following word, [i.e., in the construct state] like (ibid. 27:1): "In the beginning of (bereishit) the reign of Yehoyakim"` (below 10:10) "the beginning of (reishit) his reign"; (Devarim 18:4) "the first (reishit) of your corn." Here too, you say bereishit bara Elokim, like bereishit bero, in the beginning of creating. And similar to this is, "At the beginning of Hashem’s speaking (diber) to Hoshea," (Hoshea 1:2), i.e., at the beginning of the speaking (diburo) of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to Hoshea, "Hashem said to Hoshea, etc." Now if you say that it came to teach that these (i.e., heaven and earth) were created first, and that its meaning is: In the beginning of all, He created these-and that there are elliptical verses that omit one word, like (Iyov 3:9): "For [He] did not shut the doors of my [mother’s] womb," and it does not explain who it was who shut [the womb]; and like (Yeshayahu 8:4): "he will carry off the wealth of Damascus," and it does not explain who will carry it off; and like (Amos 6:12): "or will one plow with cattle," and it does not explain: "if a man will plow with cattle"; and like (Yeshayahu 46:10): "telling the end from the beginning," and it does not explain that [it means] telling the end of a matter from the beginning of a matter-if so, [if you say that Scripture indicates the order of creation] be astounded at yourself, for the water preceded, as it is written: "and the spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the water," and Scripture did not yet disclose when the creation of water took place! From this you learn that the water preceded the earth. Moreover, the heavens were created from fire and water. Perforce, you must admit that Scripture did not teach us anything about the sequence of the earlier and the later [acts of creation].

G-D'S CREATING THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. But it does not say "of Hashem’s creating of" (i.e. it should say "of Hashem's G-d’s creating of" as below 2:4 "on the day that Hashem G-d made earth and heaven") for in the beginning it was His intention to create it with the Divine Standard of Justice, but He perceived that the world would not endure; so He preceded it with the Divine Standard of Mercy, allying it with the Divine Standard of Justice, and that is the reason it is written: "on the day Hashem G-d made earth and heaven."

1:2 when the earth was bewilderment and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep, and the breath of G-d was hovering upon the surface of the waters -

Rashi on 1:2 BEWILDERMENT AND VOID. Hebrew: tohu vavohu. Tohu is an expression of astonishment and desolation, that a person wonders and is astonished at the emptiness therein. Vohu an expression of emptiness and desolation. (This does not appear in all editions.)

OVER THE SURFACE OF THE DEEP on the face of the waters which were on the earth.

AND THE BREATH OF G-D WAS HOVERING. The Throne of Glory was suspended in the air and hovered over the face of the water with the breath of the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He and with His word, like a dove, which hovers over the nest, acoveter in Old French, to cover, hover over.

1:4 G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d separated between the light and the darkness.

Rashi on 1:4 G-D SAW THE LIGHT WAS GOOD, AND G-D SEPARATED. Here too, we need the words of the Aggadah: He saw it that it was not proper for the wicked to use it; so He separated it for the righteous in the future. According to its simple meaning, explain it as follows: He saw it that it was good, and it was unseemly that it [light] and darkness should serve in confusion; so He established for this one its boundary by day, and for that one its boundary by night.

1:5 G-d called to the light: "Day," and to the darkness He called: "Night." And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Rashi on 1:5 ONE DAY. According to the sequence of the language of the chapter, it should have been written, "the first day," as it is written regarding the other days, "second, third, fourth." Why did Scripture write "one"? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, was the only one in His world, for the angels were not created until the second day [i.e., yom echad is understood as ‘the day of the only One’] So is it explained in Bereishit Rabbah (3:8).

1:6 G-d said, "Let there be a firmament between the waters, and let it separate between water and water."

Rashi on 1:6 LET THERE BE A FIRMAAMENT. Let the firmament be strengthened, for, although the heavens were created on the first day, they were still moist, and they solidified on the second [day] from the rebuke of the Holy One, blessed be He, when He said, "Let there be a firmament." This is what Scripture says (Iyov 26:11): "The pillars of the heavens trembled" the entire first day, and on the second day: "They were astonished by His rebuke," like a person who stands in astonishment because of the rebuke of the one who frightens him.

BETWEEN THE WATERS. In the middle of the water (Targum ), for there is a separation between the upper waters and the expanse, as there is between the expanse and the waters that are on the earth. Behold you have learned that they are suspended by the word of the King.

1:7 G-d made the firmament, and He separated between the waters which were beneath the firmament and the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.

Rashi on 1:7 G-D MADE THE FIRMAMENT. He fixed it upon its base, which is [what is meant by] "making" it; as [in the verse] (Devarim 21:12): "and she shall ‘do’ her nails," veasetah.

ABOVE THE FIRMAMENT. It does not say, "on the expanse," but "above the expanse," because they [the waters] are suspended in the air ( Midrash Tehillim 19:4). Now why does it not say, "that it was good" on the second day? Because the work involving the water was not completed until the third day, although He commenced it on the second day, and an unfinished thing is not in its fullness and its goodness; and on the third day, when He completed the work involving the water and He commenced and completed another work, He repeated therein "that it was good" twice (sic): once for the completion of the work of the second day and once for the completion of the work of that [third] day.

1:8 G-d called the firmament: "Heavens." And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

Rashi on 1:8 G-D CALLED THE FIRMAMENT: "HEAVENS." Hebrew: shamayim. [This is a combination of the words sa mayim, bear water (Bereishit Rabbah 4:7); sham mayim, there is water; esh umayim, fire and water. He mingled them with one another and made the heavens from them.

1:9 G-d said, "Let the waters be gathered beneath the heavens into one area, and let the dry land appear." And it was so.

Rashi on 1:9 LET THE WATERS...GATHERED. They were spread out over the surface of the entire earth, and He gathered them in the ocean, [the Mediterranean], which is the largest of all the seas.

1:10 G-d called to the dry land: "Earth," and to the gathering of waters He called: "seas." And G-d saw that it was good.

Rashi on 1:10 HE CALLED "SEAS." But is it not one sea? However, the flavor of a fish that comes up from the sea in Acre differs from the flavor of a fish that comes up from the sea in Spain - [from Ekev 39].

1:11 G-d said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation of plants bringing forth seed, trees of fruit yielding fruit each after its kind, which have their seed in them on the earth." And it was so.

Rashi on 1:11 LET THE EARTH SPROUT VEGETATION OF PLANTS BRING FORTH SEED - deshe does not have the same meaning as esev, and esev does not have the same meaning deshe. And it would have been inappropriate for the Scriptural text to use the expression taasiv haaretz, (let the earth bring forth herbs) for there are various species of deshe, each one by itself which is called a particular esev. And it would not be the correct term for the speaker to say, "such-and-such a deshe," because the term deshe applies to the earth’s covering, when it is filled with vegetation.

LET THE EARTH SPROUT. Let it be filled and covered with a mantle of herbs. In Old French, deshe is called erbediz, herbage, all in a mixture, whereas each root individually is called esev seed-yielding. That its seeds should grow in it from which to sow elsewhere.

TREES OF FRUIT. That the taste of the tree should be like the taste of the fruit. It [the earth] did not do so, however, but "the earth gave forth, etc., trees producing fruit," but the trees themselves were not fruit. Therefore, when man was cursed because of his iniquity, it [the earth] too was punished for its iniquity (and was cursed-not in all editions).

WHICH HAVE THEIR SEED IN THEM. These are the kernels of every fruit, from which the tree grows when it is planted.

1:12 And the earth brought forth vegetation: herbage yielding seed after its kind, and trees yielding fruit, each containing its seed after its kind. And G-d saw taht it was good.

Rashi on 1:12 AND THE EARTH BROUGHT FORTH. Even though leminehu, "according to its kind," was not said regarding the herbs when they were commanded [to grow], they heard that the trees were commanded thus, and they applied an a fortiori argument to themselves, [a kal vachomer - from the minor to the major], as is explained in the Aggadah of Tractate Chullin (60a).

1:14 G-d said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate between the day and the night; and they shall be for signs, and for festivals, and for days and years;

Rashi on 1:14 LET THERE BE LIGHTS. They were created on the first day, and on the fourth day, He commanded them to be suspended in the sky, and likewise, all the creations of heaven and earth were created on the first day, and each one was fixed in its proper place on the day that was decreed upon it. That is why it is written: "with the heavens (et hashamayim) to include their products, "and with the earth (et haaretz)," to include its products.

LET THERE BE LIGHTS. It [the word, meorot, is written without a "vav," [thus, the word can be meerot meaning curses] because it [the fourth day] is a cursed day when children become ill with croup. This is what we learned (Ta’anit 27b): "on the fourth day [of the week], they [the men of the maamad] would fast so that children should not become ill with croup."

TO SEPARATE BETWEEN THE DAY AND THE NIGHT. (This happened) after the first light was hidden away, but during the seven (another reading: during the three) days of Creation, the primordial light and darkness served together, both by day and by night. According to the Ramban and early editions of Rashi, it appears that the reading, "during the seven days of Creation," is the authentic reading. Ramban, however quotes the Bereishit Rabbah, which states that the original primordial light served only during the first three days, until the sun and the moon were suspended in the sky. After that, the primordial light was hidden away, as in Rashi to v4. Note also that several early manuscripts and printed editions of Rashi read: "but in the seven days of Creation, the primordial light and darkness served, this one by day and this one by night." This is also the reading of Mizrachi, and it appears more accurate than our reading, because, in fact, the light and the darkness did not serve together, as Rashi explains in v4.]

AND THEY SHALL BE FOR SIGNS. When the luminaries are eclipsed, it is an unfavorable omen for the world, as it is said (Yirmeyahu 10:2): "and from the signs of the heaven be not dismayed, etc." When you perform the will of the Holy One, blessed be He, you need not fear retribution.

AND FOR FESTIVALS. This refers to the future, when the Yisraelim are destined to be commanded concerning the festivals and they [the festivals] are reckoned from the first phase of the moon.

AND FOR DAYS. The sun serves for half a day, and the moon for half of it, so that you have a full day.

AND YEARS. At the end of 365 days (other editions: and a 1/4 of a day) they complete their revolution through the twelve constellations of the zodiac, which serve them, and that constitutes a year. (Other editions read: and that is 365 and 1/4 days), and they return and start a second time to revolve on the sphere like their first revolution.

1:15 And they shall be for luminaries in the expanse of the heavens to shed light upon the earth. And it was so.

Rashi on 1:15 AND THEY SHALL BE FOR LUMINARIES. In addition, they will serve in this function, viz. to shed light upon the world.

1:16 And G-d made the two great luminaries: the great luminary to rule the day and the lesser luminary to rule the night, and the stars.

Rashi on 1:16 THE TWO GREAT LUMINARIES. They were created equal, but the moon was made smaller because it brought charges and said, “It is impossible for two kings to use the same crown.” Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this derash is based on the discrepancy of the two expressions, “the two great luminaries,” which intimates that the moon was a great luminary, and “the lesser luminary,” which intimates that the moon was smaller than the sun. To reconcile this difference, the Rabbis asserted that the moon was originally created equal to the sun, but, because of its complaint that the sun wielded the same power that it wielded, it was forced to relinquish that power.

AND THE STARS. Because He diminished the moon, He increased its hosts, to appease it, i.e., the stars serve as the entourage of the moon. When it comes out, they accompany it, and when it sets, they too set.

1:20 And G-d said, "Let the waters swarm a swarming of living creatures, and let fowl fly over the earth, across the expanse of the heavens."

Rashi on 1:20 LIVING CREATURES. That there should be life in them.

A SWARMING. Hebrew: sheretz. Every living thing that is not much higher than the earth is sheretz; among the winged creatures, such as flies; among the insects, such as ants, beetles, and worms; and among the [larger] creatures, such as the weasel, the mouse, the lizard, and their like, and so [among] the fishes.


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