The Primeval Power

The beginning is both exciting and frightening. The first chapters of Genesis are rightfully considered to be one of the most haunting narratives in the history of  humanity. The eternal curiosity about the mystery of our origins has manifested itself in the beautiful descriptions of the Creation process.

In Genesis 1:2 the Torah describes the primeval Earth, a deformed and shapeless cluster of matter with the cosmic darkness surrounding this strange object, where only the solid and liquid are separated. The wind of God, the Divine presence is hovering above the water, which is not yet water, and the solid is not yet land. Nothing is yet illuminated as there is still no light.

Sforno gives here a commentary of exceptional, piercing insight speaking about the difference between תֹ֙הוּ֙ and וָבֹ֔הוּ. “This very center which was created at that time was composed of a mixture of raw materials, known as tohu, and its original external appearance is what is described as bohu.”. This mixture of raw materials is what we know now as the geological structure of the Earth.

Moreover, commenting on מרחפת על פני המים he brings in the notion of atmospheric electricity, “they [the מרחפת movements] activated the atmosphere above the waters which at that time surrounded the earth. This is the reason why the part which was closer to the spherical planet became incandescent through its motion. This phenomenon is what we know as the original fire.”.

In the latter part of the chapter, God creates the world as we know it but only in the first few verses of Genesis the Divine power manifests itself in such a raw and forceful way, akin to the Big Bang.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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