Creation/Contemplation of the Virtual World (Genesis Rabbah)

Reading in seminar with Syracuse undergrad students Naama Erez, Sam Gelfand, Giulia Kean from Genesis Rabbah 1:4. According to the rabbis here, the Torah and Throne of Glory were created before the creation of the physical world, and the contemplation of the patriarchs, and Temple, and Israel, and mitzvot of hallah, tithes, and first fruits precede their actual creation in real time and place.

Last week we were talking about Jacob Neusner and the virtual (i.e. non-actual) world of Mishnah. And now this, the creation and contemplation of virtual object in some animate artificial intelligence, “wisdom” in the mind of God. ” The circular coherence of the midrashic virtual is captured in this line. “[I]f there was no expectation of Israel receiving it after 26 generations, God would not have written in the Torah: “Command the children of Israel” or “Speak to the children of Israel.”

About the passage from Genesis Rabbah, Sam suggested the online game Tetris. “In Tetris, players complete lines by moving differently shaped pieces (tetrominoes), which descend onto the playing field. The completed lines disappear and grant the player points, and the player can proceed to fill the vacated spaces. The game ends when the playing field is filled” (Wikipedia).

Giulia suggested the holographic world-projections in Iron Man 2. But I’m still entirely unsure of what I’m looking at here. Giulia explains that this is Tony Stark’s workshop at his mansion in Los Angeles. (He’s super rich). The artificial intelligence that runs the thing is Jarvis. It moves things around in real and virtual space. Here Stark comes to the realization that the blueprint of the 1964 World’s Fair is actually the structure of a new element. The globe in the middle of the old fairground is actually a nucleus of the new element. These sequence shots mimic the virtual logic of the ancient source.  

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

, שִׁשָּׁה דְבָרִים קָדְמוּ לִבְרִיאַת הָעוֹלָם, יֵשׁ מֵהֶן שֶׁנִּבְרְאוּ, וְיֵשׁ מֵהֶן שֶׁעָלוּ בַּמַּחֲשָׁבָה לְהִבָּרְאוֹת. הַתּוֹרָה וְהַכִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד, נִבְרְאוּ. תּוֹרָה מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי ח, כב): ה’ קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ. כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד מִנַּיִן, דִּכְתִיב (תהלים צג, ב): נָכוֹן כִּסְאֲךָ מֵאָז וגו’. הָאָבוֹת וְיִשְׂרָאֵל וּבֵית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ וּשְׁמוֹ שֶׁל מָשִׁיחַ, עָלוּ בַּמַּחֲשָׁבָה לְהִבָּרְאוֹת, הָאָבוֹת מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (הושע ט, י): כַּעֲנָבִים בַּמִּדְבָּר וגו’. יִשְׂרָאֵל מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים עד, ב): זְכֹר עֲדָתְךָ קָנִיתָ קֶדֶם. בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ירמיה יז, יב): כִּסֵּא כָבוֹד מָרוֹם מֵרִאשׁוֹן וגו’. שְׁמוֹ שֶׁל מָשִׁיחַ מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים עב, יז): יְהִי שְׁמוֹ לְעוֹלָם וגו’. רַבִּי אַהֲבָה בְּרַבִּי זְעִירָא אָמַר אַף הַתְּשׁוּבָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים צ, ב): בְּטֶרֶם הָרִים יֻלָּדוּ, וְאוֹתָהּ הַשָּׁעָה תָּשֵׁב אֱנוֹשׁ עַד דַּכָּא וגו’, אֲבָל אֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ אֵיזֶה מֵהֶם קֹדֶם, אִם הַתּוֹרָה קָדְמָה לְכִסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד וְאִם כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד קֹדֶם לַתּוֹרָה, אָמַר רַבִּי אַבָּא בַּר כַּהֲנָא הַתּוֹרָה קָדְמָה לְכִסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי ח, כב): ה’ קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ וגו’, קוֹדֵם לְאוֹתוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בּוֹ (תהלים צג, ב): נָכוֹן כִּסְאֲךָ מֵאָז. רַבִּי הוּנָא וְרַבִּי יִרְמְיָה בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר רַבִּי יִצְחָק אָמְרוּ, מַחְשַׁבְתָּן שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל קָדְמָה לְכָל דָּבָר, מָשָׁל לְמֶלֶךְ שֶׁהָיָה נָשׂוּי לְמַטְרוֹנָה אַחַת, וְלֹא הָיָה לוֹ מִמֶּנָּה בֵּן, פַּעַם אַחַת נִמְצָא הַמֶּלֶךְ עוֹבֵר בַּשּׁוּק, אָמַר טְלוּ מִילָנִין וְקַלְמִין זוֹ לִבְנִי, וְהָיוּ הַכֹּל אוֹמְרִין, בֵּן אֵין לוֹ וְהוּא אוֹמֵר טְלוּ מִילָנִין וְקַלְמִין זוֹ לִבְנִי, חָזְרוּ וְאָמְרוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ אַסְטְרוֹלוֹגוּס גָּדוֹל הוּא, אִלּוּלֵי שֶׁצָּפָה הַמֶּלֶךְ שֶׁהוּא עָתִיד לְהַעֲמִיד מִמֶּנָּה בֵּן לֹא הָיָה אוֹמֵר טְלוּ מִילָנִין וְקַלְמִין לִבְנִי. כָּךְ אִלּוּלֵי שֶׁצָּפָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שֶׁאַחַר עֶשְׂרִים וְשִׁשָּׁה דּוֹרוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲתִידִין לְקַבֵּל אֶת הַתּוֹרָה, לֹא הָיָה כּוֹתֵב בַּתּוֹרָה צַו אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. אָמַר רַבִּי בַּנָאי, הָעוֹלָם וּמְלוֹאוֹ לֹא נִבְרָא אֶלָּא בִּזְכוּת הַתּוֹרָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי ג, יט): ה’ בְּחָכְמָה יָסַד אֶרֶץ וגו’. רַבִּי בֶּרֶכְיָה אָמַר בִּזְכוּת משֶׁה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לג, כא): וַיַּרְא רֵאשִׁית לוֹ. רַב הוּנָא בְּשֵׁם רַב מַתְנָה אָמַר, בִּזְכוּת שְׁלשָׁה דְּבָרִים נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם, בִּזְכוּת חַלָּה, וּבִזְכוּת מַעַשְׂרוֹת, וּבִזְכוּת בִּכּוּרִים, וּמַה טַּעַם, בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, וְאֵין רֵאשִׁית אֶלָא חַלָּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר טו, כ): רֵאשִׁית עֲרִסֹתֵיכֶם, אֵין רֵאשִׁית אֶלָּא מַעַשְׂרוֹת, הֵיךְ דְּאַתְּ אָמַר (דברים יח, ד): רֵאשִׁית דְּגָנְךָ, וְאֵין רֵאשִׁית אֶלָּא בִּכּוּרִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כג, יט): רֵאשִׁית בִּכּוּרֵי אַדְמָתְךָ וגו’.

“In the beginning of God’s creating…” –

Six things preceded the creation of the world; some of them were created and some of them were decided to be created. The Torah and the Throne of Glory were created. How do we know the Torah was? As it says (Proverbs 8:22): “God made me at the beginning of his way.” How do we know the Throne of Glory was? As it says (Psalms 93:2): “Your throne is established as of old etc.” The Patriarchs, Israel, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah were decided to be created. How do we know the Patriarchs were? As it says (Hosea 9:10): “Like grapes in the wilderness etc.” How do we know Israel was? As it says (Psalms 74:2): “Remember your congregation, whom you purchased from old.” How do we know the Temple was? As it says (Jeremiah 17:12): “Your throne of glory, on high from the beginning etc.” How do we know the name of the Messiah was? As it says (Psalms 72:17): “May his name exist forever etc. [his name shall be Yinnon as long as the sun].” Rabbi Ahavah said in the name of Rabbi Ze’ira: Even repentance was, as it says (Psalms 90:2): “Before the mountains were birthed,” and at the same time (Psalms 90:3), “You turned man to contrition etc.” However, I do not know which was first–if the Torah preceded the Throne of Glory or the Throne of Glory preceded the Torah. Rabbi Abba Bar Cahana said: The Torah preceded the Throne of Glory, as it says (Proverbs 8:22): “God made me at the beginning of his way, the first of his works of old.” This is before that of which it is written (Psalms 93:2): “Your throne is established as of old.” Rabbi Hunna and Rabbi Yirmiyah in the name of Rabbi Shmuel the son of Rabbi Yitzchak said: The thought of Israel was before everything. This is like a king who was married to a woman and did not have a son. One time the king was in the market and said: “Take this ink and pen for my son.” They said: “He does not have a son.” He replied: “Take them; the king must expect a son, because otherwise he would not command that the ink and pen be taken.” Similarly, if there was no expectation of Israel receiving it after 26 generations, God would not have written in the Torah: “Command the children of Israel” or “Speak to the children of Israel.” Rabbi Bannai said: The world and its contents were only created in the merit of the Torah, as it says (Proverbs 3:19): “God founded the world with wisdom etc.” Rabbi Berachiyah said: In the merit of Moses, as it says (Deuteronomy 33:21): “He saw a first part for himself.” Rabbi Hunna said in the name of Rabbi Matanah: The world was created in the merit of three things–challah, tithes, and first fruits. The verse “In the beginning God created” refers to challah, as it says (Numbers 15:20): “The beginning of your doughs.” It also refers to tithes, as it says (Deuteronomy 18:4): “The beginning of your grains.” It also refers to first fruits, as it says (Exodus 23:19): “The beginning of the fruits of the land.”

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
This entry was posted in uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Creation/Contemplation of the Virtual World (Genesis Rabbah)

  1. dmf says:

    is the virtual world of Genesis an open or closed system? has everything that will happen already been mapped out in the making?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s