Chapter X

 

In The Beginning

 

Noel Rude

 

Rashi famously interpreted the first word of the Bible, בְּרֵאשִׁית bǝrē’šît, as a construct noun, ‘in the beginning of …’, with the sense that the verse is not talking about some ultimate beginning but merely the lead up to verse 3, “And God said, Let there be light!”  Many commentators dispute Rashi’s claim,[1] so I include his comment for examination below.[2]

 

“In the beginning of … he created …” This verse isn’t saying anything but, “Interpret me!” As the rabbis of blessed memory interpreted it, for the sake of the Torah which is called (Prov 8:22), “the beginning [רֵאשִׁית] of his way,” and for the sake of Israel who are called (Jer 2:3), “the firstfruits [רֵאשִׁית] of his increase”. And should you come to interpret it interpret it thusly: “In the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth, the earth was a desert and a waste and darkness … and God said, Let there be light ...” And the verse does not come to teach the order of creation saying that these [heaven and earth] preceded. For if it came to teach us thusly it should be written, “In the beginning [בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה] he created the heavens,” etc. For you have rē’šît [‘the beginning of’] in no verse that is not connected to the word after it, as (Jer 26:1), “In the beginning of [בְּרֵאשִׁית] the reign of Jehoiakim …” (Gen 10:10), “the beginning of [רֵאשִׁית] his kingdom …”  (Deut 18:4) “The firstfruit [רֵאשִׁית] of thy corn …” Also here you are saying, “In the beginning of God created,” etc., such as, “In the beginning of creating.” And similar to it is (Hosea 1:2), “The beginning of [תְּחִלַּת] the word of the LORD by Hosea.” As to say, “The beginning of the Holy One Blessed Be He’s speaking by Hosea, “And the LORD said to Hosea,” and so forth. And should you say it comes to teach that these [heaven and earth] were created prior, and its meaning is “In the beginning of everything he created these,” then you have there verses where their expression is shortened and they leave out a word,[3] such as (Job 3:10), “Because it shut not up the doors of my womb,” and it does not clarify who it is that shuts, and such as (Isaiah 8:4), “he shall take away the riches of Damascus,” and it does not clarify who will take it away, and such as (Amos 6:12), “will he plow with oxen?” And it does not clarify “would some man plow with oxen?” and such as (Isaiah 46:10), “Declaring the end from the beginning [מֵרֵאשִׁית],” and it does not clarify, declaring from the beginning of a thing the end of a thing. If so you should be puzzled by your own [reasoning], note that the waters preceded, that it is written (Genesis 1:2), “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”[4] And the verse has not yet revealed when the creation of the waters was. This you have learned, that the waters preceded the land, and further that the heavens were created from fire and water.[5] Upon your compulsion the verse did not teach the order of what is earlier and what later at all.

 

When Rashi says that Genesis 1:1 does not teach the order of creation, he is not saying that the six days were not sequential—only that Genesis does not teach the order of the creation of the constituents (land, water, etc.) of the physical cosmos, just as Genesis 1:2 alludes to their existence prior to the six days.  Genesis, I would submit, is silent in regard to ultimate beginnings!  The land and the water (and perhaps everything else) were already there before God said, “Let there be light!”  Genesis 1:1 is not talking about the ex nihilo creation of everything at one point in time.  Genesis begins at a point in time—not with the beginning of time itself.

 

But what about Rashi’s paraphrase: “In the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth, the earth was a desert and a waste and darkness … and God said, Let there be light ...”?  The New Jewish Publication Society translates accordingly (NJPS 1962):

 

When God began to create heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 

 

Umberto Cassuto, however, disagrees (Cassuto 1953:19-20):

 

Had the second translation [‘At the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth, when the earth was without form and void…’] been correct, the wording would have been: וְהָאָרֶץ תֹּהוּ וָבֹהוּ wehā’āreṣ tōhū wābhōhū (‘and the earth without form and void’), omitting הָיְתָה hāyethā (‘was’); cf. I Sam. Iii 2-4, where שֹׁכֵב šōkhēbh (‘lying down’) occurs twice, but not הָיָה שֹׁכֵב hāyā šōkhēbh (‘was lying down’).  The construction וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ wehā’āreṣ hāyethā thōhū wābhōhū proves (see on this below) that v. 2 begins a new subject.  It follows, therefore, that the first verse is an independent sentence that constitutes a formal introduction to the entire section, and expresses at the outset, with majestic brevity, the main thought of the section: that in the beginning, that is, at the commencement of time, in the remotest past that the human mind can conceive, God created the heavens and the earth.

 

This accords with the finite status of בָּרָא bārā’ ‘created’.  Had the Masoretes understood בְּרֵאשִׁית ‘in the beginning of’ to be in construct to this verb, they would have pointed it בְּרֹא bǝrō’ ‘creating, to create’ as in Genesis 5:1, בְּיוֹם בְּרֹא אֱלֹהִים אָדָםin the day of God’s creating man…”  Yet however we understand the verse, its first word does behave like a “construct” noun, רֵאשִׁית ‘beginning of’, in contrast to רִאשׁוֹן/רִאשׁוֹנָה ‘beginning’ (with no sense of ‘of’), as in Genesis 13:4, “Unto the place of the altar, which he had make there at the first [בָּרִאשֹׁנָה]: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.”[6]  A construct noun precedes an absolute noun and cannot itself take a definite article.  The meaning of biblical words and expressions are best explicated with examples from the Scriptures themselves.  The biblicalרֵאשִׁית  occurs some 50 times in the Bible and is translated variously—thus:

 

רֵאשִׁית אוֹנִי

‘the beginning of my strength’

Genesis 49:3 Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength [וְרֵאשִׁית אוֹנִי], the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

 

רֵאשִׁית אוֹנִים

‘beginning of strengths’

Psalms 78:51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength [רֵאשִׁית אוֹנִים] in the tabernacles of Ham:

 

רֵאשִׁית אֹנוֹ

‘the beginning of his strength’

Deuteronomy 21:17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength [רֵאשִׁית אֹנוֹ]; the right of the firstborn is his.

 

רֵאשִׁית בִּכּוּרֵי אַדְמָתְךָ

‘the first of the firstfruits of thy ground’

 

Exodus 23:19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land [רֵאשִׁית בִּכּוּרֵי אַדְמָתְךָ] thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

Exodus 34:26 The first of the firstfruits of thy land [רֵאשִׁית בִּכּוּרֵי אַדְמָתְךָ] thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

 

רֵאשִׁית בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן

‘the chief of the children of Ammon’

Daniel 11:41 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon [וְרֵאשִׁית בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן].

 

רֵאשִׁית גְּבוּרָתָם

‘the chief of their might’

Jeremiah 49:35 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might [רֵאשִׁית גְּבוּרָתָם].

 

רֵאשִׁית גּוֹיִם

‘beginning of nations’

Numbers 24:20 And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations [רֵאשִׁית גּוֹיִם]; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.

 

רֵאשִׁית הַגּוֹיִם

‘the beginning of the nations’

Amos 6:1 Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations [רֵאשִׁית הַגּוֹיִם], to whom the house of Israel came!

 

רֵאשִׁית גֵּז צֹאנְךָ

‘the first of the fleece of thy sheep’

Deuteronomy 18:4 The firstfruit also of thy corn [רֵאשִׁית דְּגָנְךָ], of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep [וְרֵאשִׁית גֵּז צֹאנְךָ], shalt thou give him.

 

רֵאשִׁית דָּגָן

‘firstfruits of corn’

2Chronicles 31:5 And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn [רֵאשִׁית דָּגָן], wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.

 

רֵאשִׁית דְּגָנְךָ

‘the firstfruit of thy corn’

Deuteronomy 18:4 The firstfruit also of thy corn [רֵאשִׁית דְּגָנְךָ], of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep [וְרֵאשִׁית גֵּז צֹאנְךָ], shalt thou give him.

 

רֵאשִׁית דָּעַת

‘the beginning of knowledge’

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge [רֵאשִׁית דָּעַת]: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

 

רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ

‘the beginning of his way’

Proverbs 8:22 The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way [רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ], before his works of old.

 

רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכֵי־אֵל

‘the chief of the ways of God’

Job 40:19 He is the chief of the ways of God [רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכֵי־אֵל]: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him.

 

רֵאשִׁית הָאָרֶץ

‘the firstfruits of the land’

Ezekiel 48:14 And they shall not sell of it, neither exchange, nor alienate the firstfruits of the land [רֵאשִׁית הָאָרֶץ]: for it is holy unto the LORD.

 

רֵאשִׁית הַחֵרֶם

‘the chief of the ban’

1Samuel 15:21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed [רֵאשִׁית הַחֵרֶם], to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.

 

רֵאשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה

‘the beginning of the year’

Deuteronomy 11:12 A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year [מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה].

 

רֵאשִׁית חַטָּאת

‘beginning of sin’

Micah 1:13 O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin [רֵאשִׁית חַטָּאת] to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee.

 

רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה

‘the beginning of wisdom’

Psalms 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom [רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה]: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

 

רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה

‘the beginning of wisdom’

Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing [רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה]; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

 

רֵאשִׁית כָּל־בִּכּוּרֵי כֹל

‘the first of all the firstfruits of all things’

Ezekiel 44:30 And the first of all the firstfruits of all things [וְרֵאשִׁית כָּל־בִּכּוּרֵי כֹל], and every oblation of all, of every sort of your oblations, shall be the priest's: ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house.

 

רֵאשִׁית כָּל־מִנְחַת יִשְׂרָאֵל

‘the chief of all the offerings of Israel’

1Samuel 2:29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel [מֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל־מִנְחַת יִשְׂרָאֵל] my people?

 

רֵאשִׁית כָּל־פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

‘the first of all the fruit of the earth’

Deuteronomy 26:2 That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth [מֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל־פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה], which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there.

 

רֵאשִׁית כָּל־תְּבוּאָתֶךָ

‘the firstfruits of all thine increase’

Proverbs 3:9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase [וּמֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל־תְּבוּאָתֶךָ]:

 

רֵאשִׁית מָדוֹן

‘the beginning of strife’

Proverbs 17:14 The beginning of strife [רֵאשִׁית מָדוֹן] is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

 

רֵאשִׁית מַמְלַכְתּוֹ

‘the beginning of his kingdom’

Genesis 10:10 And the beginning of his kingdom [רֵאשִׁית מַמְלַכְתּוֹ] was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

 

רֵאשִׁית מַשְׂאוֹתֵיכֶם

‘the firstfruits of your oblations’

Ezekiel 20:40 For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations [וְאֶת־רֵאשִׁית מַשְׂאוֹתֵיכֶם], with all your holy things.

 

רֵאשִׁית עֲרִיסֹתֵינוּ

‘the firstfruits of our dough’

Nehemiah 10:37[38] And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough [וְאֶת־רֵאשִׁית עֲרִיסֹתֵינוּ], and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.

 

רֵאשִׁית עֲרִסֹתֵיכֶם

‘the first of your dough’

Numbers 15:21 Of the first of your dough [מֵרֵאשִׁית עֲרִסֹתֵיכֶם] ye shall give unto the LORD an heave offering in your generations.

 

רֵאשִׁית עֲרִסֹתֵכֶם

‘the first of your dough’

Numbers 15:20 Ye shall offer up a cake of the first of your dough [רֵאשִׁית עֲרִסֹתֵכֶם] for an heave offering: as ye do the heave offering of the threshingfloor, so shall ye heave it.

 

רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

‘the firstfruits of the fruit of the land’

Deuteronomy 26:10 And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land [אֶת־רֵאשִׁית פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה], which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God:

 

רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם

‘the firstfruits of your harvest’

Leviticus 23:10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest [עֹמֶר רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם] unto the priest:

 

רֵאשִׁית שְׁמָנִים

‘chief of ointments’

Amos 6:6 That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments [וְרֵאשִׁית שְׁמָנִים]: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

 

רֵאשִׁית תְּבוּאָתֹה

‘the firstfruits of his increase’

 

Jeremiah 2:3 Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase [רֵאשִׁית תְּבוּאָתֹה]: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD.

 

The following is exceptional in that לְ־ lə­­­ expresses the ‘of’ sense of the construct noun (compare Gen 49:3; Deut 21:17; Ps 78:51):

 

רֵאשִׁית לְכָל־אוֹנָם

‘the chief of all their strength’

Psalms 105:36 He smote also all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength [רֵאשִׁית לְכָל־אוֹנָם].

 

The construct also occurs with pronominal suffixes:

 

רֵאשִׁיתְךָ

‘beginning of thee’

Job 8:7 Though thy beginning was small [רֵאשִׁיתְךָ], yet thy latter end should greatly increase.

 

רֵאשִׁתוֹ

‘beginning of him’

Job 42:12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning [מֵרֵאשִׁתוֹ]: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof [מֵרֵאשִׁיתוֹ]: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

 

רֵאשִׁיתָהּ

‘beginning of her’

Hosea 9:10 I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time [בְּרֵאשִׁיתָהּ]: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.

 

רֵאשִׁיתָם

‘firstfruits of them’

Numbers 18:12 All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them [רֵאשִׁיתָם] which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.

 

In the tiny residue of examples whereרֵאשִׁית  is not pared with an absolute noun or suffixed pronoun there is an “understood” absolute.  Thus

 

מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית אַחֲרִית

‘declaring the end of [a thing] from the beginning of [a thing]’

Isaiah 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning [מֵרֵאשִׁית], and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

 

can be compared with the following where דָּבָר ‘word, thing’ occurs:

 

טוֹב אַחֲרִית דָּבָר מֵרֵאשִׁיתוֹ

‘better is the end of a thing [דָּבָר] than the beginning thereof’

Ecclesiastes 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof [מֵרֵאשִׁיתוֹ]: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

 

There is an understood חֶלְקָה ‘part, portion’ in the following:

 

רֵאשִׁית

‘first of (his portion)’

Deuteronomy 33:21 And he provided the first part [רֵאשִׁית] for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver [חֶלְקַת מְחֹקֵק], was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments with Israel.

 

In the two remaining examplesרֵאשִׁית  stands for ‘the firstfruits of’—the firstfruits of the produce of the land:

 

רֵאשִׁית

‘the firstfruits of [the land]’

Leviticus 2:12 As for the oblation of the firstfruits [קָרְבַּן רֵאשִׁית], ye shall offer them unto the LORD: but they shall not be burnt on the altar for a sweet savour.

 

רֵאשִׁית

‘the firstfruits of [the land]’

Nehemiah 12:44 And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits [לָרֵאשִׁית], and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited.

 

In all the examples with the preposition בְּ־ bə­, as in Genesis 1:1, the absolute is a kingdom,

 

בְּרֵאשִׁית מַמְלְכוּת יְהוֹיָקִים

‘in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim’

Jeremiah 26:1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim [בְּרֵאשִׁית מַמְלְכוּת יְהוֹיָקִים] the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying,

 

 

בְּרֵאשִׁית מַמְלֶכֶת יְהוֹיָקִם

‘in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim’

Jeremiah 27:1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim [בְּרֵאשִׁית מַמְלֶכֶת יְהוֹיָקִם] the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

 

 

בְּרֵאשִׁית מַמְלֶכֶת צִדְקִיָּה  

‘in the beginning of  the reign of Zedekiah’

Jeremiah 28:1 And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah [בְּרֵאשִׁית מַמְלֶכֶת צִדְקִיָּה] king of Judah, in the fourth year, and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying,

 

 

בְּרֵאשִׁית מַלְכוּת צִדְקִיָּה

‘in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah’

Jeremiah 49:34 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against Elam in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah [בְּרֵאשִׁית מַלְכוּת צִדְקִיָּה] king of Judah, saying,

 

The same expression (but without the preposition) is used for the beginning of Nimrod’s kingdom:

 

רֵאשִׁית מַמְלַכְתּוֹ

‘the beginning of his kingdom’

Genesis 10:10 And the beginning of his kingdom [רֵאשִׁית מַמְלַכְתּוֹ] was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

 

Might this also be the understood absolute in Genesis?

 

בְּרֵאשִׁית

‘in the beginning of [his kingdom?]’

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning [בְּרֵאשִׁית] God created the heaven and the earth.

 

And so Genesis is talking about the beginning of what?  Let me suggest, “In the beginning of … God said, Let us make Adam/Israel/Messiah,” inasmuch as that is (Rom 10:4) “the end of the law [τέλος νόμου ‘purpose of Torah’] for righteousness to every one that believeth.”  Let me also suggest that in Romans 10:4 Paul is paraphrasing (Ecc 12:13), “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter [סוֹף דָּבָר/τέλος λόγου ‘purpose of word’]: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man [כִּי־זֶה כָּל־הָאָדָם].”  In like manner Genesis could be read, “In the beginning of [Man] God created the heaven and the earth.”  The apex of the creation is Adam (Rom 5:14), “who is the figure of him that was to come” and who is called (Rev 3:14),

 

ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ
רֵאשִׁית בְּרִיאַת הָאֱלֹהִים

“the beginning of the creation of God”[7]

 

References

 

Collins, Clifford John.  2006.  Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary.  Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing Company. 

        

Hamilton, Victor P.  1990.  The Book of Genesis.  Volume 1 (Chapters 1-17).  New International Commentary on the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

Herczeg, Rabbi Yisrael Isser Zvi, in collaberation with Rabbi Yaakov Petroff, Rabbi Yoseph Kamenetsky and  Rabbi Yaakov Blinder.  1995.  The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated.  Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications, Ltd.

 

Orlinsky, Harry Meyer.  1970.  Notes on the New Translation of the Torah.  Jewish Publication Society.

 


 

[1] For example, Collins (2006) and Hamilton (1990).  For a defence of Rashi, see Orlinsky 1970.

 

[2] Translation is my own.  The original is as follows:

 בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא. אֵין הַמִּקְרָא הַזֶּה אוֹמֵר אֶלָּא דָרְשֵׁנִי כְּמוֹ שֶׁדְּרָשׁוּהוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה בִּשְׁבִיל הַתּוֹרָה שֶׁנִּקְרֵאת רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ וּבִשְׁבִיל יִשְׁרָאֵל שֶׁנִּקְרְאוּ רֵאשִׁית תְּבוּאָתֹה וְאִם בָּאתָ לְפָרְשׁוֹ כִּפְשׁוּטוֹ כַּךְ פָּרְשֵׁהוּ בְּרֵאשִׁית בְּרִיאַת שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וְלֹא בָא הַמִּקְרָא לְהוֹרוֹת סֵדֶר הַבְּרִיאָה לוֹמַר שֶׁאֵלּוּ קָדְמוּ שֶׁאִם בָּא לְהוֹרוֹת כַּךְ הָיָה לוֹ לִכְתּוֹב בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה בָּרָא אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְגוֹ׳ שֶׁאֵין לְךָ רֵאשִׁית בַּמִּקְרָא שֶׁאֵינוֹ דָבוּק לַתֵּיבָה שֶׁל אַחֲרָיו כְּמוֹ בְּרֵאשִׁית מַמְלְכוּת יְהוֹיָקִים רֵאשִׁית מַמְלַכְתּוֹ רֵאשִׁית דְּגָנְךָ אַף כָּאן אַתָּה אוֹמֵר בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים וְגוֹמֵר כְּמוֹ בְּרֵאשִׁית בְּרוֹא וְדוֹמֶה לוֹ תְּחִלַּת דִּבֶּר ה׳ בְּהוֹשֵׁעַ כְּלוֹמַר תְּחִלַּת דִּבּוּרוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּהוֹשֵׁעַ וַיֹּאמֶר ה׳ אֶל הוֹשֵׁעַ וְגוֹמֵר וְאִם תֹּאמַר לְהוֹרוֹת בָּא שֶׁאֵלּוּ תְּחִלָּה נִבְרָאוּ וּפֵרוּשׁוֹ בְּרֵאשִׁית הַכֹּל בָּרָא אֵלּוּ וְיֵשׁ לְךָ מִקְרָאוֹת שֶׁמְּקַצְּרִים לְשׁוֹנָם וּמְמַעֲטִים תֵּיבָה אַחַת כְּמוֹ כִּי לֹא סָגַר דַּלְתֵי בִטְנִי וְלֹא פֵּרַשׁ מִי הַסּוֹגֵר וּכְמוֹ יִשָּׂא אֶת חֵיל דַּמֶּשֶׂק וְלֹא פֵרַשׁ מִי יִשָּׂאֶנּוּ וּכְמוֹ אִם יַחֲרוֹשׁ בַּבְּקָרִים וְלֹא פֵרַשׁ אִם יַחֲרוֹשׁ אָדָם בַּבְּקָרִים וּכְמוֹ מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית אַחֲרִית וְלֹא פֵרַשׁ מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית דָּבָר אַחֲרִית דָּבָר אִם כֵּן תְּמַהּ עַל עַצְמְךָ שֶׁהֲרֵי הַמַּיִם קָדְמוּ שֶׁהֲרֵי כְתִיב וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם וַעֲדַיִן לֹא גִלָּה הַמִּקְרָא בְּרִיאַת הַמַּיִם מָתַי הָיְתָה הָא לָמַדְתָּ שֶׁקָּדְמוּ הַמַּיִם לָאָרֶץ וְעוֹד שֶׁהַשָּׁמַיִם מֵאֵשׁ וּמַיִם נִבְרְאוּ עַל כָּרְחֲךָ לֹא לִמֵּד הַמִּקְרָא בְּסֵדֶר הַמּוּקְדָמִים וְהַמְּאוּחָרִים כְּלוּם.

 

[3] Here Rashi uses examples with unspecified subjects (and in the one instance, Isaiah 46:10, unspecified heads of construct nouns) to argue that the construct בְּרֵאשִׁית ‘in the beginning of’ in Genesis 1:1 should also be understood as implying an unspecified head: “In the beginning of [when God said, ‘Let there be light!’ or ‘Let us make man …’].”

 

[4] Rabbi Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg (1995:4, note 6): “The verse’s use of הַמָּיִם, ‘the water,’ with the definite article, rather than מָיִם, ‘water,’ indicates that it refers to pre-existing water, not water created after the creation of heavens and earth (Levush HaOrah).”

[5] Based on a false etymology, thatשָׁמַיִם  šāmáyim is composed fromאֵשׁ  ’ēš ‘fire’ and מַיִם máyim ‘water’, as suggested in the Talmud (Chagigah 12a): “It was discussed apart from the Mishna: Fire and water, teaching that the Holy One Blessed Be He brought them and mixed the one with the other and from them he made the firmament.”

בְּמַתְנִיתָא תָּנָא אֵשׁ וּמָיִם מְלַמֵּד שֶׁהֱבִיאָן הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וּטְרָפָן זֶה בָּזֶה וּעָשָׂה מֵהֶן רָקִיעַ.

 

 

[6] Hebrew ­ît is a feminine suffix attaching not just to רֵאשִׁית ‘beginning’ (cf. רֹאשׁ ‘head’) but also to the feminine אַחֲרִית ‘last, end’ and שְׁאֵרִית ‘remainder, remnant’ which typically appear in the construct:  שְׁאֵרִית יִשְׂרָאֵל ‘remnant of Israel (Ezek 11:13),  שְׁאֵרִית אֱדוֹם ‘remnant of Edom’ (Amos 9:12),  שְׁאֵרִית חֵמֹת ‘residue of wrath’ (Psalms 76:11[10]), אַחֲרִית רְשָׁעִים ‘end of wicked’ (Psalms 37:38),  בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים ‘in the end of days’ (Num 24:14),  אַחֲרִית דָּבָר ‘end of a matter’ (Ecc 7:8).  The ordinal numbers also take this suffix in the feminine and often (though not necessarily) occur in the construct, e.g., שְׁלִשִׁית הַהִין ‘the third of a hin’ (Num 15:7), חֲמִשִׁית כֶּסֶף ‘a fifth of silver’ (Lev 27:19), שִׁשִּׁית הָאֵיפָה ‘a sixth of an ephah’ (Ezek 45:13).

[7] For the Hebrew translation, see http://mlbible.com/revelation/3-14.htm.