תָּנֵי בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בְּעֶשְׂרִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה בֶּאֱלוּל נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם... נִמְצֵאתָ אַתָּה אוֹמֵר בְּיוֹם רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה בְּשָׁעָה רִאשׁוֹנָה עָלָה בַּמַּחֲשָׁבָה, בַּשְּׁנִיָּה נִתְיָעֵץ עִם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת, בַּשְּׁלִישִׁית כִּנֵּס עֲפָרוֹ, בָּרְבִיעִית גִּבְּלוֹ, בַּחֲמִישִׁית רִקְּמוֹ, בַּשִּׁשִּׁית עֲשָׂאוֹ גֹּלֶם, בַּשְּׁבִיעִית נָפַח בּוֹ נְשָׁמָה, בַּשְּׁמִינִית הִכְנִיסוֹ לַגָּן, בַּתְּשִׁיעִית נִצְטַוָּה, בָּעֲשִׂירִית עָבַר, בְּאַחַת עֶשְׂרֵה נִדּוֹן, בִּשְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה יָצָא בְּדִימוּס.
It was taught in the name of Rabbi Eliezer, "The world was created on the twenty-fifth of Elul."
(א) אֵין דּוֹרְשִׁין בַּעֲרָיוֹת בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה. וְלֹא בְמַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית בִּשְׁנַיִם. וְלֹא בַמֶּרְכָּבָה בְּיָחִיד, אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן הָיָה חָכָם וּמֵבִין מִדַּעְתּוֹ. כָּל הַמִּסְתַּכֵּל בְּאַרְבָּעָה דְּבָרִים, רָאוּי לוֹ כְּאִלּוּ לֹא בָּא לָעוֹלָם, מַה לְּמַעְלָה, מַה לְּמַטָּה, מַה לְּפָנִים, וּמַה לְּאָחוֹר. וְכָל שֶׁלֹּא חָס עַל כְּבוֹד קוֹנוֹ, רָאוּי לוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בָּא לָעוֹלָם:
One may not explain forbidden relations
in the presence of three.
Nor the work of creation
in the presence of two.
Nor [the work of] the chariot
in the presence of one,
unless he or she is a sage
and understands on their own.
Whoever speculates upon four things,
it would have been better had they not come into the world:
what is above,
what is below,
what came before,
and what came after.
And whoever takes no thought
for the honour of their Creator,
it would have been better
had they not come into the world.
§ Alexander of Macedon asked the Elders of the Negev about ten matters.
1) He said to them: Is the distance from the heavens to the earth further, or is the distance from east to west further? They said to him: From east to west is a greater distance. Know that this is so, as when the sun is in the east, everyone looks at it without hurting their eyes, and when the sun is in the west, everyone looks at it without hurting their eyes. By contrast, when the sun is in the middle of the sky, no one looks at it, as it would hurt their eyes....
2) He said to them: Were the heavens created first or was the earth created first? They said: The heavens were created first, as it is stated: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
3) He said to them: Was the light created first, or was the darkness created first? They said to him: This matter has no solution, as the verses do not indicate an answer. The Gemara asks: But let them say to him that the darkness was created first, as it is written: “Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2), and only then does it state: “And God said: Let there be light. And there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Why did they not say that the darkness was created first? The Gemara answers that the Elders maintained: We must not answer this question, lest he come to ask questions about Creation that may not be discussed, i.e., what is above and what is below and what was before and what after.
The Gemara asks: If so, then with regard to the creation of heaven as well, they should not have said anything to him. Why did they answer the question about heaven, but not the one about darkness? The Gemara answers that initially they assumed: It is merely incidental that he is asking about the creation of the universe, and therefore there is no need for caution. But once they saw that he again asked about the same general matter, they maintained: Let us not tell him an answer, lest he come to ask: What is above and what is below and what was before and what will be after?
4a) Alexander said to the Elders: Who is truly worthy of being called wise? They said to him, citing a tradition (see Avot 2:9): Who is the wise person? The one who sees and anticipates the consequences of his behavior.
4b) He said to them: Who is truly worthy of being called mighty? They said to him, again citing a tradition (see Avot 4:1): Who is the mighty person? The one who masters his desire.
4c) He said to them: Who is worthy of being called wealthy? They said to him: Who is the wealthy person? The one who is pleased with his own portion (see Avot 4:1).
5) He said to them: What must a man do and thereby ensure that he will live? They said to him: Such a man must figuratively kill himself.
6)Alexander further inquired: What must a man do and ensure that he will die? They said to him: Such a man must keep himself alive.
7)He said to them: What must a man do and ensure that he will be accepted by people? They said to Alexander: He must hate the king and the authorities. Alexander rejected their answer and said to them: My advice for gaining people’s favor is better than yours. One who wants to be accepted must love the king and the authorities, but he must use his connections to perform beneficial acts for people.
8) He said to them: Is it better for a person to live at sea, or is it better to live on dry land? They said to him: It is better to live on dry land, as all seafarers, their minds are constantly unsettled until they reach the dry land.
9) He said to them: Who among you is wiser than the others? They said to him: We are all equal in wisdom, as every matter that you say to us, we solve for you unanimously.
10) He said to them: What is the substance of this stance, by which you, the Jewish people, oppose me? They said to him: Your dominance is inconsequential, as sometimes even the Satan is victorious.