בראשית. חכמינו אמרו שהבי"ת נוסף כבי"ת בראשונה כי נמצא ראשונה יסעו ואילו היה טעמו כן היה הבי"ת קמוץ בקמץ גדול ויש אומרים כי בראשית לעולם סמוך והטעם בראשית הערב או הלילה או החשך והנה שכחו וירא ראשית לו ויש אומרים שהבי"ת נושא בלי טעם וטעמם שלא יעלה על לב שאין ראשית לשמים ולארץ על כן אמר בראשית ולפי דעתי שהוא סמוך כמו בראשית ממלכת יהויקים ואל תתמה איך נסמך על פועל עבר והנה כן תחלת דבר ה'. קרית חנה דוד. והטעם יתברר לך בפסוק השני: IN THE BEGINNING. Our wise men1The Hebrew grammarians. See Ibn Janah, Sefer ha-Rikmah, 6:2. taught that the letter bet (of bereshit, in the beginning) is superfluous.2The letter bet placed before the word reshit has no translatable meaning. According to Weiser it is there for emphasis. Our verse should thus be rendered: First God created heaven and earth. They compare it to the bet in the word ba-rishonah (at the first) (Genesis 13:4). We know the bet in ba-rishonah to be superfluous for we find they shall set forth first (rishonah) (Numbers 2:9).3According to this opinion rishonah and ba-rishonah mean the same. Hence the bet of ba-rishonah is superfluous. However, if this were so the bet (of bereshit) would be vocalized with a long kamatz.4As is the bet of ba-rishonah. The fact that the bet of bereshit is vocalized with a sheva proves that both cases are not exactly the same. Other scholars maintain that the word bereshit is always in the construct and its meaning in our verse is: “In the beginning of the evening, or of the night, or of the darkness.”5The word or phrase that bereshit is connected to is missing and must be supplied by the reader. According to Cherez, I.E. is trying to explain why the superfluous bet of bereshit is vocalized with a sheva while that of ba-rishonah is vocalized with a kamatz. The reason is that bereshit is in the construct and therefore is vocalized with a sheva. However, they have overlooked And he chose a first part (reshit) for himself (Deuteronomy 33:21).6Where the word reshit is in the absolute. Others say that the bet of bereshit is a preposition.7The Hebrew texts printed in our editions are most probably incorrect. We have followed Vat. Ebr. 38, which has kli ta’am rather than bli ta’am. For alternate interpretations see Filwarg, Weiser and Cherez. They explain that Scripture intends to preclude the thought that heaven and earth were preexisting. Hence it states, In the beginning.8The bet is there for emphasis. The meaning of the verse is: In the beginning, i.e., before anything was created, God created heaven and earth. I believe that bereshit is in the construct, as in In the beginning of (bereshit) the reign of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:1).9I.E. agrees that bereshit is in the construct. He disagrees with the earlier quoted opinion only in maintaining that it is not always in the construct. Don’t ask, how can a word in the construct be connected to a verb in the perfect.10A noun is usually in the construct when connected to another noun, hence I.E.’s comment. This presents no problem, for we find that very case in the verse When the Lord spoke at first with Hosea (Hosea 1:2),11Techillat (at first) is in the construct with dibber (spoke). and in the verse the city where David encamped (Isaiah 29:1).12Kiryat (the city) is in the construct with chanah (encamped). The meaning of bereshit will be explained in our comments on the next verse.13That is, the explanation of what bereshit in the construct is to be connected to.
ברא. רובי ממפרשים אמרו שהבריאה להוציא יש מאין וכן אם בריאה יברא ה'. והנה שכחו ויברא אלהים את התנינים ושלש בפסוק אחד ויברא אלהים את האדם. וברא חשך שהוא הפך האור שהוא יש וזה דקדוק המלה ברא לשני טעמים זה האחד והשני לא ברה אתם לחם. וזה השני ה"א תחת אלף כי כמוהו להברות את דוד כי הוא מהבנין הכבד הנוסף ואם היה באל"ף היה כמו להבריאכם ומצאנו מהבנין הכבד ובראת לך. ואיננו כמו ברו לכם איש רק כמו וברא אתהן. וטעמו לגזור ולשום גבול נגזר והמשכיל יבין: CREATED. Most Biblical commentators explain that the word bara (created) indicates creation ex nihilo. But if the Lord make (yivra) a new thing (beri’ah) (Num. 16:30) is similar. However, they have overlooked And God created (va-yivra) the great sea monsters14God obviously did not create the sea monsters ex nihilo, for the verse concludes, and every living creature that creepeth, wherewith the waters swarmed, which shows that the sea monsters were created out of the water. Also, it is absurd to assume that on the fifth day of creation God would create sea monsters ex nihilo. (Gen. 1:21) and the three times the word created is used in one verse, viz., And God created (va-yivra) man in His own image, in the image of God created (bara) He him; male and female created (bara) He them (Gen. 1:27). They also failed to consider I form the light, and create darkness (Is. 45:7) wherein darkness, which is the opposite of light, an existing entity, is described by the prophet as being created.15Darkness is the absence of light. Thus Isaiah uses the term created in the opposite sense of creation ex nihilo. In Isaiah it means the creation of nothing out of something (Krinsky). Hence bara does not necessarily imply creation ex nihilo. The following is the precise explanation of the word bara. Bara has two meanings, one of which has been noted above.16That is, to create or make. The second17That is, to eat. is found in the verse neither did he eat (bara) bread with them (II Samuel 12:17). However, in the latter case, an alef has been substituted for a heh.18Most of our manuscripts of the Bible have barah with a heh. However, Ibn Ezra’s manuscript must have had bara with an alef. See also Jacob ben Haim’s edition of the Hebrew Bible, 1524, which has the same reading as Ibn Ezra. There is some difficulty in understanding this comment as the printed text is corrupt. We have followed Vat. Ebr. 38 as suggested by Weiser. For a different rendering see Filwarg. The reason is that bara (in I Sam. 12:17) is similar to le-havrot (to urge to eat) in And all the people came to cause David to eat (le-havrot) bread (II Sam. 3:35). The verb le-havrot appears in the hifil (and its root ends with heh), for if it ended with an alef, Scripture would have read le-havri, as in to make yourselves fat (le-havri’achem) with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel (I Sam. 2:29). We also find bara conjugated in the pi’el, as in and cut down (u-vereta) for thyself (trees) (Joshua 17:15). This is not like the similar word beru in choose (beru) you a man for you (I Sam. 17:8) but rather like bare (hack, dispatch) in and dispatch them (u-vare) with their swords19Ibn Janah, The Book of Roots, root bet, resh, alef, explains bara in Josh. 17:15 to mean chose, as in I Sam. 17:8. Ibn Ezra disagrees. The point of I.E’s comment is that bara spelled bet, resh, alef primarily means to cut. It is encountered with this meaning in both the kal and pi’el. Bara also means to eat. However, in the latter case its root is bet, resh, heh, although it is found spelled bet, resh, alef in I Sam. 17:8. In the latter instance, however, we treat it as if there were an interchange between the heh and alef. (Ezekiel 23:47). The meaning of bara is to cut or to set a boundary. The intelligent person will understand what I am alluding to.20I. Husik, A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy, p. 190, notes, “The Hebrew word bara, ordinarily translated “created,” which implies to most people the idea of creatio ex nihilo, Ibn Ezra renders, in accordance with its etymology, to limit, to define, by drawing or incising a line or boundary. Having said this, Ibn Ezra, in his wonted mysterious manner, stops short, refusing to say more, and preferring to mystify the reader by adding the tantalizing phrase, ‘The intelligent will understand.’ He means apparently to indicate that an eternal matter was endowed with form.” Nahman Krochmal, More Nevuche Ha-zeman (quoted by Krinsky), suggests that Ibn Ezra’s belief is similar to that of the Kabbalists; i.e., the world was created out of an emanation from God. See also C. Sirot, Philosophy in the Middle Ages (Hebrew), p. 112. Ibn Ezra was a neo-Platonist. According to neo-Platonism the world came about by emanation from God. Ibn Ezra is apparently saying that at the creation spoken of in the first chapter of Genesis, God gave final form to what had previously emanated from Him.
אלהים. אחר שמצאנו אלוה ידענו כי אלהים לשון רבים ושרש זה מדרך הלשון כי כל לשון יש לו דרך כבוד. וכבוד ל' לועז שיאמר הקטן לנוכח הגדול לשון רבים. ובל' ישמעאל דרך כבוד שידבר הגדול כמו המלך בלשון רבים ובל' הקדש דרך כבוד לומר על הגדול ל' רבים כמו אדנים בעלים שאמרו אדנים קשה. ולקח בעליו.וכן מלת עליו. אליו ועדיו. על כן אמר הכתוב ברא ולא בראו. ומדרך התושיה ידענו כי הדבורים יקראו שפה בעבור שיראו שממנה יצאו. וכן נשמת האדם העליונה תקרא לב. והלב גוף והיא איננה גוף בעבור היות הלב המרכבת הראשונה לה ובעבור היות כל מעשה השם ביד המלאכים עושי רצונו נקרא כן. ובפסוק כי שמי בקרבו אבאר קצת סוד השם. ואל תשים לבך אל דברי הגאון שאומר שהאדם נכבד מהמלאכים וכבר בארתי בספר היסוד כי כל ראיותיו הפוכות. וידענו כי אין בבני אדם נכבדים כמו הנביאים ויהושע נפל על פניו לפני מלאך ה' והשתחו' ואמר מה אדני מדבר אל עבדו וכן זכריה. ודניאל. ולמה אאריך. וטעם אלהי הצבאות כמו אלהי האלהים. וטעם אלהים כמו מלך. ובני אדם המתעסקים במשפט אלהים יקראו כן. וזה השם תאר ואיננו עצם ולא ימצא ממנו עבר או עתיד ואל תחשוב שהמלאכים הם מאש ורוח בעבור שנמצא עושה מלאכיו רוחות. כי אין ככה דרך פשוטו רק דבר דוד בתחלה על מעשה בראשית. והחל מהאור ואמר עוטה אור ואחר כן נוטה שמים והוא הרקיע והמים עליו והאש והשלג והרוח. ואמר כי הרוח שלוחו של השם ללכת אל מקום שישלחנו וכן האש ממשרתיו ואמר יסד ארץ על מכוניה וזאת היא היבשה וכן כתוב רוח סערה עושה דברו: GOD. Elohim (God) is a plural. We know this because we come across the singular form Elo’ah.21Ps. 114:7. Elo’ah being the singular of Elohim. Elohim is employed stylistically. Every language has honorific terminology. In the non-Hebrew tongues when an inferior addresses a superior he employs the plural. In Arabic it is customary for a dignitary such as a king to speak in the plural. In Hebrew, too, it is considered a sign of dignity to employ the plural when speaking of a superior. Such is the case with the words adonim (lords) and be’alim (owners). Thus Scripture says, a cruel lord (adonim) (Is. 19:4),22Adonim is a plural, yet its meaning in this verse is singular (lord). The singular of adonim is adon. and and the owner thereof (be’alav) shall accept it (Exodus 22:10).23Be’alav literally means, its owners. The terms alav (upon him), elav (to him), and adav (unto him) are similar.24All of these words have plural endings, yet are used to indicate singulars. It is for this reason that Scipture reads bara Elohim and not bare’u Elohim.25Since Elohim is to be understood as singular, the verb following it (bara) is in the singular. If Elohim were plural, the verb following it would also be plural (bare’u). We know from the study of logic that speech is called safah26Safah is the Hebrew word for lip. The point is that more than the lips are involved in speech, but speech is so called because it is seen to come from the lips. because it is seen to come from the lips. Similarly man’s highest soul is called heart (lev) even though the soul itself is incorporeal while the heart is corporeal. It is referred to in this manner because the heart is its first resting place. Similarly God is called Elohim because His actions are executed via angels who do His will and who are referred to as Elohim.27Man’s soul is often referred to in Scripture as lev because the soul acts via the heart. Similarly God is called Elohim because He acts via the angels. Husik, p. 191, points out that according to I.E., “God cannot come in contact with the material and changeable (hence)…it follows that (the terrestrial world)…was not made directly by him, but by angels; hence the word Elohim is used in the first chapter of Genesis, which means primarily the angels, and secondarily God as acting through the angels.” I will explain part of the secret of God’s name when I comment on for My name is in him (Ex. 23:21). Pay no heed to the opinion of Rabbi Saadiah Gaon who holds that man is superior to the angels. I have already explained to you in The Book of Foundation that all of his proofs are wrong. We know that the prophets are the most exalted human beings. Nevertheless, the prophet Joshua fell upon his face and prostrated himself before God’s angel and said to him, What saith my lord unto his servant (Josh. 5:14).28Joshua’s bowing before God’s angels proves that angels are superior to prophets. The same is true of the prophets Zechariah and Daniel.29Both address the angels as superiors. See Zechariah 1:9 and Dan. 10:17. Why should I elaborate when this point is so elementary?The meaning of Lord of Hosts (Elohe ha-tzeva’ot) is the same as God of gods (Elohe ha-Elohim) (Deut. 10:17).30We thus see that Elohim means the same as tzeva’ot (hosts or angels). The definition of elohim (lord) is angels.31Reading malakh (angel) rather than melekh (king) (Weiser). People engaged in the dispensation of God’s justice are also called elohim.32According to Rabbinic interpretation Elohim at times signifies a judge. See Mekhilta on Ex. 21:6. Elohim is an adjective, not a proper noun.33Hence it can be declined and be in the construct. A proper noun cannot. I.E. seems to limit the term noun to proper nouns. Apparently common nouns were treated like adjectives. It is not found conjugated in the perfect or imperfect.34Hebrew adjectives have verbal forms. However, Elohim is never found in the verbal form. Nevertheless, Ibn Ezra insists that it is an adjective. One should not assume that angels are composed of fire and air because Scripture states, Who makest winds Thy messengers, The flaming fire Thy ministers (Psalms 104:4).35Which implies that God makes his angels out of wind. This is not the literal meaning of this verse. David (in Psalm 104) speaks first of creation. He starts with light and says, Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment (Ps. 104:2). He then goes on to say, Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain, heaven referring to the firmament upon which is water, fire, snow and wind. David next says that the wind serves as God’s agent; i.e., it goes wherever God sends it. He speaks in a similar vein of fire as one of God’s ministers.36Psalm 104. It is not to be taken as implying that the angels are made out of fire. It rather means that fire is God’s agent. Cf. Ibn Ezra on Ps. 104:4. David then says, Who didst establish the earth upon its foundations (Ps. 104:5), which refers to dry land. Similarly it is written, Stormy wind, fulfilling His word (Ps. 148:8).37Which shows that the wind is God’s agent. Krinsky suggests that this quote is misplaced and should follow, “it (the winds) goes wherever God sends it.”
וטעם את. כמו עצם הדבר והוא סימן עם הפעול כמו את השמים ופעם יחסרוהו כמו אשר ברא אלהי' אדם ונמצא עם הפועל כמו ובא הארי ואת הדוב. והם מתי מספר. ויהיה תחת עם ותחת מן: Et indicates the very thing. It signifies the direct object, as in the heaven (et ha-shamayim).38Gen. 1:1. The word et is a most difficult word to translate because it has many different meanings, depending on the context. However, sometimes it is omitted, as in that God created man (Deut. 4:32). It is also found placed before the subject, as in and when there came a lion, or (ve-et) a bear (I Sam. 17:34). However, the latter usage is very rare. Furthermore, et is used in place of with or from.39Cf. Ex. 2:21; 9:29.
השמים. בה"א הידיעה להורות כי על אלה הנראים ידבר ולעולם לשון רבים ויתכן להיות משטרו משטר כל אחד ואחד. וטעם שמים גובה ומעלה וכן בל' ישמעאל שרובה על מתכונת לשון הקדש ויש שמי השמים. ולא יתפרדו כרחים וצהרים. ואנשי המדות יבינו אלה הסודות. ואמר הגאון כי הארץ כנקודה והמים כחוט הסובב. ואחר שאלה שניהם נבראים יהי' כל אשר בתוכם נברא כמים וכאש. ואחרים אמרו כי המים בכלל הארץ והרוח בכלל השמים. ולפי דעתי כי אלה השמים והארץ הם הרקיע והיבשה כי לא נברא ביום אחד כי אם דבר אחד בראשון האור ובשני הרקיע ובשלישי הצמחים וברביעי המאורות ובחמישי ובששי נפשות החיות והמזמור הנזכר לעד. ולא יתכן להיות הקו הסובב קודם הנקודה או הוא קודם הקו על כן אמרו שנבראו השמים והארץ בפעם אחת והעד קורא אני עליהם יעמדו יחדו. וזאת העדות איננה ברורה. בעבור שפירוש הפסוק איננו כן כי איך יאמר אליהם לאשר אינם ואיך יקרא לתוהו. רק פירושו אני בראתים ובעת שאקראם יעמדו יחדו לפני שניהם כעבדים לעשות רצוני. כטעם דברך נצב בשמים. ואח"כ הזכיר הארץ ואמר אחר כן כי גם המה יעמדו לעשות משפט שיצום: THE HEAVEN. The definite article (ha) is placed before heaven (shamayim) to indicate that Scripture speaks of the heaven visible to man.40That is, the firmament. According to I.E. there is a heaven above the firmament which is invisible to man. This heaven is eternal. It contains the spheres in which the planets and constellations are embodied. Above this heaven is the abode of the angels. Cf. Husik, p. 190. Heaven (shamayim) is always written in the plural.41The word shamayim (heaven) is a plural. It is possible that its dominion in Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens? Canst thou establish its dominion over the earth?42In this verse its dominion is in the singular. Since shamayim is a plural, we would expect “their dominion” rather than “its dominion.” (Job 38:33) refers to the dominion exercised by each one of the heavenly spheres.43See note 40 above. See also Ibn Ezra’s Introduction, page XVII, second paragraph. The meaning of shamayim (heaven) is high and above, as it is in Arabic, a language akin in form to Hebrew. There is also a heaven of heavens.44Cf. Ps. 148:4. Scripture in our chapter speaks of the visible heaven. However, in Psalm 148 it speaks of the “heaven of heavens.” The heaven of heavens is the spheres (Krinsky). See note 40. The word for heaven (shamayim) is never written in the singular.45Even if the reference is to one of the heavens. It is like the words millstone (rechayim) and noon (tzohorayim). Those who are well-versed in geometry will understand these secrets.46They will understand the reference to the heaven of heavens. Saadiah Gaon says that the earth may be compared to a point and the heaven to a thread circling it. Since Scripture tells us that heaven and earth were created, we deduce from this that all their contents, such as fire and water, were also created.47Scripture does not explicitly mention the creation of fire and water, two of the four elements. However, according to Saadiah the creation of these two elements is implied. There was no need for Scripture to mention their creation as their creation is self evident. For how could the fire and water, which filled the void between heaven and earth, be in existence before the creation of their container? Cf. I.E.’s alternate commentary on this verse in Weiser, p. 145. Others say that the earth includes water and the heaven air.48Hence Scripture does state that these two elements were created. However, in my opinion the heaven and earth spoken of in our verse refer only to the firmament and the dry land.49Gen. 1:1 does not tell us that God created heaven and earth on the first day; neither does it deal with the creation of matter. I.E. will explain the meaning of this verse later on in his comments. For only one thing was created on each day. Thus light was created on the first day, the firmament on the second, plants on the third, luminaries on the fourth, and living creatures on the fifth and the sixth. This interpretation is borne out by the psalm quoted above (Psalm 104). It is impossible to maintain that the line circling the dot was created before the dot, or the dot before the circle. Hence our sages say that heaven and earth were created simultaneously.50Hagigah 12a. They offer as proof of their viewpoint, Yea, My hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand hath spread out the heavens; When I call unto them, They stand up together (Is. 48:13).51They stand up together implies that they were created simultaneously. However, this proof is questionable. The plain meaning of this verse is not so, for how could God address that which was not yet created?52How can the Bible say, “When I call unto them,” if they were not yet in being? How could He call to that which was in a chaotic state? The explanation of this verse is as follows: I, God, created heaven and earth. When I call them, they stand before Me as servants ready to do My will. The meaning of this verse is similar to that of Thy word standeth fast in heaven (Ps. 119:89). After stating this the Psalmist makes mention of the earth (Ps. 119:90). He then goes on to say that heaven and earth stand ready to execute any commands that God will direct to them (Ps. 119:91).