The Ten Utterances of Creation Parallel the Ten Commandments
10 + 10 = 10
The Zohar, one of the earliest and most important Jewish mystical texts, was written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his disciples. The following is an original translation, in bold face, of a selected text from the Zohar [vol. III, 11b ff.] on the first chapter of the Torah, together with selections based on major commentaries. The latter have been woven into the text itself, in plain face within parentheses, in order to provide the reader with a smooth, comprehensive text without requiring extensive footnotes, which are used mostly for technical information and sources. — M.M.
("The world was created by means of ten utterances."1 The following section explains the connection between the asarah ma’amorot [Ten Utterances] in Genesis and the aseret hadibrot [Ten Commandments] in Exodus 20.)
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught: kaf asarah asarah — (“Each incense bowl weighed ten sanctuary shekels”—lit:) each bowl ten ten.2 Why (the doubled words) “ten ten?” Once, to allude to the work of creation, and once to allude to the Torah. There are ten utterances in the creation of the world, and (corresponding to them) ten utterances in the Torah (the Ten Commandments).
What does this tell us? That the world was created for the sake of Torah, and as long as the Jewish people occupy themselves with Torah, the world will continue to exist. But if the Jewish people abandon Torah, the verse declares, “If not for My Covenant (the Torah3), I would not have set day and night, and the bounds of heaven and earth.”4
The Zohar now explains how the ten utterances parallel the Ten Commandments.
The 1st (commandment, instructing us to have faith in G-d) states: I am the Lord your G-d...” Regarding creation, the verse states: “There shall be light, and there was light.”5
From the verse “G-d is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?”6 we learn that faith in the Holy One, blessed be He, is also called “light.” (Hence, light and faith in G-d, the first commandment, correspond.)
The 2nd states: “You shall have no other gods before Me,” and (the second utterance) states: “There shall be a firmament between the waters, and it shall divide between water and water.”
“There shall be a firmament,” refers to the Jewish people who are part of G-d Above,7 for they are attached to that plane which is called shemayim (Heaven , or firmament). “Between the waters,” — among the words of Torah (which is called water, as our Sages explain8) “And it (the Jewish people) shall divide between water and water” — between G-d, who is called “the Source of Living Water”9 and false deities which are called “broken wells”9 containing bitter, putrid and stagnant water. (Thus, the division between water and water is dependent on the Jewish people learning Torah.)
The 3rd states: “Do not take the name of G-d in vain,” and (the third utterance) states: “The waters below the firmament shall be gathered into one place..” Do not cause a separation in the unity of the waters (referring to the Shechinah — the indwelling Divine Presence10) by uttering a false oath.
The 4th states: “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy,” and (the fourth utterance) states, “The earth shall sprout vegetation..” When does the earth become fertile and become covered with vegetation? On the Sabbath, when the bride (the Sabbath) unites with the King (G-d).11 This brings forth vegetation and blessing for the world. (Every weekday is provided its food by virtue of the blessing it receives from the Shabbath,12 just as the manna which came down only during the week, was by virtue of the Sabbath.13)
The 5th states: “Honor your father and mother,” and (the fifth utterance) states, “There shall be luminaries in the sky ...” This means that the luminaries are your father and mother — the sun is your father, and the moon your mother, alluding to the Holy One, blessed be He, your father, as the verse states. “For the sun and its sheath are G-d, the Lord.”14 (The verse makes an association between G-d — who is the ultimate source of all “light” in the sense of Divine revelation — and the sun, the source of physical light.) And the moon refers to Knesset Yisrael (the collective soul of the Jewish people), as the verse states (regarding Israel), “Your moon shall never disappear.” 15 (It seems that the intention here is that our “father and mother” — G-d, and the collective Jewish soul — are honored by the Torah which the Jewish people learn in this world, as our Sages explain, “There is no honor other than Torah.”16)
The 6th states: “Do not murder,” and (the sixth utterance) states “The waters shall teem with living creatures.” Do not kill a man, who is also called “a living creature.”17 And do not be like fish, the larger of which swallows the smaller.
The 7th states: “Do not commit adultery,” and (the seventh utterance) states, “The earth shall bring forth living creatures... in their species.” From this we learn that a man should not approach a woman who is not his soulmate. For this reason the verse, “in their species.” A woman must not bear children from one who is not her “species” i.e. her soul mate.
The 8th states: “Do not steal,” and (the eight utterance) states, “I have given you every seedbearing plant on the surface of the earth.” i.e. that which I have given you, and allowed you to use, is yours. Do not steal that which belongs to someone else.
The 9th states: “Do not testify as a false witness,” and (the ninth utterance) states, “We shall make man with Our image, of Our likeness.” Do not testify falsely against one who bears the Divine image. And if one testifies falsely, it is as if he blasphemed.
The 10th states: “Do not be envious of your neighbor’s wife...” and (the tenth utterance) states, “It is not good that man is alone. I will make him a helper to match him.” This refers to each person’s soul-mate who matches him perfectly. Hence, “Do not be envious of your neighbor’s wife...”
These are the ten utterances of creation, which parallel the Ten Commandments. Therefore the verse (quoted originally) states, “Each bowl weighed ten,” for they weigh the same. and by virtue of this the world survives and maintains equilibrium....
1. Avot 5:1
2. Numbers 7:86
3. Or Yakar
4. Yeremiah 33:25, Rashi
5. Note that this passage in the Zohar does not regard the first word in the Torah, bereishit, as the first utterance, as explained previously. (Zohar 1:39b) Perhaps this is according to the view that the verse, “I am the Lord your G-d,” also expresses belief in G-d Himself, which is not a commandment, but precedes all commandments. Nevertheless, in the light of other passages in the Zohar this seems unlikely.
6. Psalms 27:1
7. Job 31:2.
8. Bava Kama 17a
9. Jeremiah 2:13
10. See Chagiga 14b regarding the advice of R. Akiva to the Sages who entered the Pardes: Do not say, “Water, water.” (i.e. cause a separation between the waters); Pardes Rimonim s.v. shayish
11. Technically, this refers to the yichud (unification) of malchut and zair anpin - Commentaries
12. Zohar vol.II,p 88a
13. Zohar ibid
14. Psalms 84:12. The Names used in this verse are Havayeh, the Tetragrammaton, denoting the transcendent revalation of G-d as He is in Himself, and Elokim, G-d as He is within creation.
15. Isaiah 60:20
16. Avot 6:3; Zohar vol.III, p. 81b.
Excerpted from a pioneering English translation, from the original Aramaic, of selected passages in the Zohar, together with commentary, by Rabbi Moshe Leib Miller, formerly an occasional guest teacher at Ascent and currently a Rosh Yeshiva in New Jersey.