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Dr. Shuchat Lecture Summary and Source Sheet - 02/02/16

24804075331_c2452c0ff3_mOn Tuesday, February 2nd, Rabbi Dr. Raphael Shuchat delivered a special guest lecture entitled "Was the World Created in Six Days? The Views of Medieval Kabbalists." Rabbi Dr. Raphael Shuchat has been a lecturer at the School for Basic Jewish Studies of Bar-Ilan University for over twenty years and headed the Beit Midrash for Giyur at the Bet El Synagogue in Tel Aviv for the past four years. He has published five books and close to forty academic articles in the areas of science and Judaism as well as the thought of the Vilna Gaon and his disciples. His book Jewish Faith in a Changing World was published by Academic Studies Press in 2012, and his latest book, Kabbalat Lita was published by Bar Ilan in 2015.

Dr. Shuchat discussed a number of kabbalistic sources— from medieval and modern authorities—that posit that the six-day period of creation depicted in Genesis 1 is not meant literally, and that the creation of the world actually occurred over a period of thousands of millennia. (See the source sheet below.) Dr. Shuchat argued that this position can help to alleviate seeming incompatibility of the Torah’s account of creation with the modern scientific view that the world was formed over billions of years.


Was the World Created in Six Days? The Views of Medieval Kabbalists - Source Sheet

Rabbi Dr. Raphael Shuchat

Shmot 20,11 – "For six days did God make the heavens and the earth"

Bahir  (1176 Provence) - (Margaliyot ed. Jerusalem 1978 siman 57)– "His colleagues said and so I received since it says 'for six day God made' it means six vessels did God make." In six days is not stated, this teaches that each day had its own power(Bahir 87)


Zohar II 89B – "We learnt: It is written: 'for six days God made the heavens and the earth. 'Six days' for sure and not  'In six days". These refer to the holy transcendental days called God's days."


  1. Nahmanides (1194 Gerona- 1270 Jerusalem)– the dualist approach

( Shmot 20,11)–"In the way of truth [kabbalah]I wrote on the verse 'vayekhulu'  and from there you shall understand that 'six days God made' is not missing  a 'beit'.   "

(Bresheit 1, 3) "Know that the days mentioned in the works of creation were during the creation of heaven and earth  actual days with hours and minutes and there were six days of action as the simple meaning of the text. But the inner meaning refers to these days as [representing] the higher sefirot, for every [Divine] utterance [maamar] is called a day and there were six of them.: 'for you God is gedulah and gevurah [etc]' and all together there are ten maamarim for the first [three] the word day cannot be attached to them". (Ibid)


  1. Rabenu Bahya Ben Asher (1255-1340 Talmid of the Rashba) – time was created too

(shmot 20, 11) "The simple meaning [of the verse] is like 'in six days' and according to the way of reason: six days did God make  and they were also created and this shows that time was created as well. For if it said 'in six days' it would mean that time was eternal. According to Kabbalah: for in six days refers to the [temporal] length of the world .


Menacham Recanati (Italy 1250-1310)– Since the Holy One Blessed Be He rested on the Sabbath on that specific attribute [middah] as it says: for six days did God make the heavens and the earth etc. this teaches that every day has its own [Divine] utterance [maamar] which is in charge of it , not because  it was created by it but since it operates through it… and if you understand this you will understand that 'for six days did God make 'is not missing the letter 'bet' but six days he made  and through them [ the six days] he created the heavens and the earth". (Recanati on the torah Jerusalem 1961 p. 8b).


  1. R. Asher Ben David of Provence - (13th century) – The single  metaphysical approach


"The Philosophers call the ten sefirot spheres [galgalim]  … and the torah called the six sefirot days and lights. Days as it says: Six days did God make the heavens and the earth etc. and did not say in six days for if it said this [in six days] it would appear that six days was needed for the creation but in truth it was all created on the first day as it says: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … the sefirot are referred to as days and lights in this parsha". (Quoted in Hasegulah 7 (1934) pp. 7-8.)

"Our rabbis of blessed memory said that before the world was created, there was  only He and His name but when he created the world the six sefirot which were called by His name were not emanated or received the inner light until it says 'let there be light' and it says 'and There was light' and our sages [in the Bahir] explained : light that already existed- meaning the invisible air that already existed he made into [the sefirah] of wisdom and its 32 pathways."

Abraham Gotleib: "There is no doubt that he [Asher ben David] means to say that from a theosophical view the ten maamarot produce the ten sefirot… so that the ontological existence and the sefirot are one heierarchy". ("The Creation story in Kabbalah" Mehqarim Besifrut Hakabbalah Tel Aviv 1976 p. 67.) As can be seen, For Asher Ban David many things happened spiritually even before day one of the creation story.


  1. R. Isaac Ben Samuel of Acre (1250-1340): The Multiple worlds approach

Nahmanides -

Behold [these verses] here draw our attention to a great secret of the Torah, as R. Abraham [Ibn Ezra] has already hinted… And curl your ear to hear that which I am allowed to tell you in the way I shall tell you, and if you will be deserving you shall understand.  I have already written in Genesis that the six days of creation parallel the history of the world [yemot olam] and "the seventh day is Sabbath of the Lord your God" (Ex. 20:10), for it will be Sabbath of His great name… The days [of creation] hint at what was created in the Work of Creation, and the years [of shemitah] hint to what will be in the works of the entire history of the world… And possibly this is what our Rabbis hinted at when they said: ,,Fifty gates of knowledge were created and all were given to Moses save one", because every sabbatical [year represents] the gate of one house.[Therefore] we see that he [Moses] was taught all of the existence from beginning to end except for the holy Jubilee."

Said the writer Isaac of Acre: I have seen the necessity to write a great Divine secret which should be concealed. Know that God's day is 1000 of our years. As it says' For a thousand years are in your eyes but a day [passed]' Our years are 365 days and a quarter. Therefore the heavenly year  is 365250 years … multiply this and multiply this until 49000 years. Since every year is 356 days and a quarter of a day and every heavenly day is one thousand of our own  as it says:' And God alone will be transcending on that day'". (Otzar HaHayyim, Ginsburg ms. 775, 87b-88a.


Kabbalists if the Modern Period


Rabbi Shaul Dweck HaCohen (1857 allepo -1933 Jerusalem): Non Temporal days


"See the comments of the Remez [Rav Moshe Zakut 1625Amsterdam-1697 Mantua] to Otzrot Hayyim in our chapter which was reprinted at the end of Mevo She'arim 121 who wrote and I quote: 'These days [of creation] are not in our temporal world [אינם בזמן הזה התחתון [ rather their secret is ten illuminations on ten vessels '. Now it appears that the words of the Remez are contrary to our Rabbi [the Ari] in chapter 25 , 3 in which he implies that they were regular days… but it seems that they were very  long days. It seems however to me… that in the creation story there were not long days but rather the influx which came to rectify the shattered sparks [בירורים] before the creation of Adam are referred to as days and years but they are not days and years at all". (Eifah Shleimah on Otrot Hayyim, Jerusalem 1996, 16A note 6.)


Rav Shlomo Eliasov : (1841 Lithuania -1925 Jerusalem, The Leshem) Very Long days


We already said… that according to the level of each world that existed in the six days of creation… so were all the aspects of all the worlds in a very different way than they are today and they were all more lofty and wondrous. I will add in this way that even the duration of time of each day of the six days of creation was very different than it is today. Those days were much greater and longer, beyond measure, from our days". (Leshem Shevo VeAhlamah, Pietrekov 1912 Sefer Hadeah, part two 37B , )

"For times the days were much longer and went on beyond measure … for before the sin… time was very different… as is written in Midrash Rabbah 10, 2" .  (Ibid 25A)