Per the Ramban (based on Rashi) (Genesis 1:1), the purpose of the creation narrative, per Chazal, is to teach us that the Land of Israel belongs to Bnei Yisrael and that God banishes and destroys people unworthy of settling there. If the creation story, however, was simply about the fact of God creating the universe - this could have been accomplished via a single explicit verse. Per the Ramban, the creation narrative qua creation narrative is too befuddling to comprehend.

והסיפור במה שנברא ביום ראשון ומה נעשה ביום שני ושאר הימים, והאריכות ביצירת אדם וחוה, וחטאם ועונשם, וסיפור גן עדן וגירוש אדם ממנו, כי כל זה לא יובן בינה שלימה מן הכתובים. וכל שכן ספור דור המבול והפלגה, שאין הצורך בהם גדול. ויספיק לאנשי התורה בלעדי הכתובים האלה, ויאמינו בכלל בנזכר להם בעשרת הדברות (שמות כ י): "כִּי שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים עָשָׂה ה' אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ אֶת הַיָּם וְאֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר בָּם וַיָּנַח בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי", ותישאר הידיעה ליחידים שבהם הלכה למשה מסיני, עם התורה שבעל פה. the narration of what was created on the first day, what was done on the second and other days, as well as a prolonged account of the creation of Adam and Eve, their sin and punishment, and the story of the Garden of Eden and the expulsion of Adam from it, because all this cannot be understood completely from the verses. It is all the more unnecessary for the story of the generations of the flood and of the dispersion to be written in the Torah for there is no great need of these narratives, and, for people who believe in the Torah, it would suffice without these verses. They would believe in the general statement mentioned to them in the Ten Commandments: For in six days the Eternal made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day, and the knowledge of the process of creation would remain with individuals as a tradition from Moses who received the law on Sinai together with the Oral Torah.

But the Ramchal states it was essential to expressly lay out the creation process step-by-step in great detail, and that the story as presented is not befuddling, but au contraire, proves that God desired to create the universe in a comprehensible manner allowing mankind to interface with God/it and (to some extent) comprehend God/it (this could obviously NOT be accomplished via the pithy "כִּי שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים עָשָׂה ה' אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ אֶת הַיָּם וְאֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר בָּם וַיָּנַח בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי??!!).

Ramchal Daas Tevunot 40

א. אבל מפני שרצה הרצון העליון שיוכלו בני אדם להבין קצת מדרכיו ופעולותיו, ואדרבה, רצה שיהיו משתדלים על זה ורודפים אחרי זה מאד, על כן בחר להיות פועל אדרבה בדרך בני האדם, פירוש, בסדר מושג ומובן. והכלל הוא - שרצה לפעול פעולותיו לפי ערך הנבראים, לא לפי ערכו, על כן נתן לנו מקום להתבונן בם, ולהבין לפחות מעט מזעיר, אם לא כביר. והראיה לדבר - מעשה בראשית ככתוב בתורתו, שהרי שם מעיד על עצמו שברא את עולמו בחילוק זמנים, והבדל מאמרות, ובסדר מה שרצה בו, ולא הכל בבת אחת, ולא במאמר אחד שהיה יכול להבראות. ומעתה יש לנו להבחין בכל פעולותיו וטעמיהם, וכל שכן בתולדותיהם, כל הסוגים והמינים והפרטים, ככל הסדר הנשמר בדרכי בני האדם: But because the Heavenly will wanted man to be able to understand a small part of His ways and actions, and just the opposite, wanted them [man] to try to do this and to chase after this a great deal, therefor he chose to action in opposite fashion in the ways of man, meaning, in a graspable and understandable order. And the general rule is - that he wanted to act according to the measure of the creations and not according to his measure, therefore he gave us room to contemplate them, and to understand at least a tiny part, if not the enormous [whole]. And the proof of the matter - the act of creation as it is written in our Torah, for there he testifies about Himself that he created his world in divided time periods, and differentiated utterences, and in an order that he wanted, and not all of it in one moment, and not in one utterance with which He could have created. And from now we need to differentiate all his actions and their reasons, and more so their consequences, all the classes and types and details, according to the order which is maintained in the ways of mankind.

God and Creation, thus, per the Ramchal, are graspable; the proof being found in the apprehensible process expressed in the creation narrative - a peek into method, not madness; an empowering dialectic of revelation and Oneness. Per the Ramban the narrative, however, is befuddling and thus, less is more - we would be better served by a single sentence about the fact of God's creation had we NOT had THE כח מעשיו/"Israel is ours" imperative (which requires many chapters to flesh out). Is there a resolution - can they both agree?

  • According to Ramban, the details of creation could have been left for Torah Shebaal Peh. So it’s possible that according to him, the Ramchal’s point would only be relevant for those capable of learning Torah Shebaal Peh.
    – Joel K
    Jan 5 at 11:48
  • Isn't it possible that Ramchal and Ramban simply chose to focus on two different concepts of the significance of the Creation narrative?
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 5 at 12:40
  • The purpose of the creation narrative is to introduce and explain the Holy Temple worldview/ideology and explicate the concept of "sacred space" and the distinction between "sacred space" and "profane space". This is the view based on the scholarship of the Ancient Near East, and is likely correct and this is how Ancient Israelites understood the creation narrative and is imo definitely graspable. Do not rely on Rambam who got so many things wrong and wrote so late.
    – setszu
    Jan 5 at 13:41
  • 1
    The question is good. The primary distinction you are noting between Ramban & Ramchal is what started to change during that window of time. According to the Ari z”l, the wellsprings of the upper & lower waters, meaning the G-dly Wisdom & the Natural Wisdom, meaning the sciences of the material world changed. From the Jewish year 5330 onward, we entered a different stage of revelation connected with the final redemption. That is the beginning of the industrial revolution & the resurgence of the path of Prophecy. Jan 5 at 14:55
  • FYI, these “Upper and Lower Waters” opening, parallel the paradigm of what transpired with the flood of Noach. And like with the flood, life and the world were refined, elevated and changed forever. Like immersing in a mikvah. (See the opening of Mesilat Yesharim quoting Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair) Jan 5 at 15:05


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