Connecting the end with the beginning
It is well known that the Torah repeats the story of creation twice, once in the first chapter of Genesis and again in the second chapter. The first story begins with the familiar verse: “In the beginning God [Elokim] created the heavens and the earth.”1 The second account begins with the verse: “These are the chronicles of the heavens and the earth when they were created, on the day that God [Havayah Elokim] made earth and heavens.”2
On the first verse, Rashi comments that it denotes God with His name, Elokim and not with his Name, Havayah, because,
At first He thought of creating the world with the measure of judgment, but He saw that the world could not be sustained this way, so he placed mercy first and added it to the measure of judgment. And that is why later it says: “…On the day that God [Havayah Elokim] made earth and heavens.”3
Thus, the first account of creation is underscored by the measure of judgment, while the second account is inspired by the measure of mercy.
Amazingly, the numerical difference between these two verses exactly equals the numerical value of the last three words of the Torah, לעיני כל ישראל “before the eyes of all of Israel.”4
בראשית ברא א־להים את השמים ואת הארץ = 2701
אלה תולדות השמים והארץ בהבראם ביום עשות י־הוה א־להים ארץ ושמים = 3462
לעיני כל ישראל = 761
Thus, the last three words of the Torah, when connected (like a ring) and added back to the first verse of the Torah, equal the first verse of the second account of creation:
לעיני כל ישראל בראשית ברא א־להים את השמים ואת הארץ =
אלה תולדות השמים והארץ בהבראם ביום עשות י־הוה א־להים ארץ ושמים
This is a beautiful example illustrating how “the end [of the Torah] is enwedged in the beginning [of the Torah],”5 a point that we illustrate on Simchat Torah by completing our public reading of the Torah and then immediately commencing its reading at the beginning.
The Jewish soul gives God His measure of mercy
But, an even deeper and more meaningful explanation of this numerical equivalence is that thanks to the power of rectification that Moshe Rabbeinu gave to “the eyes of all of Israel” it is possible for the Almighty to include His measure of mercy in the creation of the world. The sages state that before the Almighty created the universe he took counsel from the souls of the Jewish people on whether or not to create it at all.6 They learn this, in part, from the word “king” מֶלֶךְ , which in Hebrew is related etymologically with the verb which means “took counsel,” נִמְלַךְ . Thus, thanks to the rectified foresight of the Jewish soul, which foresaw that indeed the universe is a good thing, God imbued reality with His essential Name, Havayah—the Name of mercy.
In regard to the counsel that God sought, the sages also say that the Almighty craved to create for Himself an abode below,7 meaning in a lower, physical reality. Since He craved to do so, why would the Almighty go to seek counsel on whether or not to fulfill His craving? It is explained in Chassidut that a craving has no reasonable basis as it is neither justifiable nor unjustifiable in any way. Thus, God did not seek counsel on whether or not this craving to create the universe was good, but rather He sought an endorsement, as it were. Indeed, one of the permutations of “Israel,” in Hebrew spells אַשֵׁר לִי , which means “[please] endorse for me.”
It is the rectified Jewish eye that is able to see how everything that occurs in the world, even that which seems to be harsh and unforgiving, is actually an instrument of God’s unbounded mercy and care for the universe and every one of its creatures. This can be seen in the beautiful gematria:
א־להים = כלי י־הוה
Meaning, that the Name Elokim (א־להים ), God’s Name that symbolizes judgment, is an “instrument,” or tool (כְּלִי ) of Havayah (י־הוה ), God’s Name symbolizing his measure of mercy.
An abode full of mercy
Earlier, we mentioned the sages saying that “the Almighty craved to make for Himself an abode below.” In the original Hebrew, the word translated here as “abode” is דִירָה . The last letter of this word, ה (hei) can be interchanged phonetically with a ח (chet).8 Thus דירה is phonetically similar to דירח , making it an acronym for the two words דין , meaning “judgment” and רחמים , meaning “mercy.” Thus, to begin with the “abode” God yearned for included the plan for a transition from judgment to mercy.
When the letters of “abode” דירה in Hebrew are rearranged they spell דר יה , which literally means “the place where God dwells,” an allusion to Rabbi Akiva’s saying: “A man and a woman, when they merit, the Divine Presence dwells between them.” But, here the ד , which is the first letter of “judgment,” דין , precedes the ר , the first letter of “mercy,” רחמים . Relative to mercy, judgment is considered feminine; thus, the feminine precedes the masculine. This is the order in which God created the world: “At first He thought to create it with the measure of judgment…. And then he added the measure of mercy.”
As will be explained more fully in our next article on Bereisheet, in Kabbalah and Chassidut, when the feminine precedes the masculine, this is referred to as “the woman of valor is her husband’s crown.”9 In such cases, the dynamic involved is one of the masculine refining the feminine by “sweetening judgments at their source.” Refinement of the harsh judgments of the feminine requires that the masculine be introduced second. Therefore, in the second account of creation, the earth, which represents the feminine, precedes the heavens, which represent the masculine, indicating that the second account is based on the process of refinement of the harsh judgments (in the feminine) by mercy (the masculine). But, in the first account of creation, the heavens, which represent the masculine, precede the earth, which symbolizes the feminine, indicating a theorized, ideal state.