If this is a simple minded question, please forgive me, but I'm not Jewish and so most of my information is via naive study and second hand.

I've been told by a Jewish friend in my physics class that the Torah teaches that G-d created only two things: light and a very small point. Everything else in creation that followed from this was forming and arrangement of the original created matter and light. As 'light' is radiation (depending on what kind of light) and a 'very small point' is a great non-technical way to describe an exotic state of matter, this (if it really is part of Jewish canon) implies that something pretty close to the standard conception of the beginning of the universe was known thousands of years ago.

He said that his Dad (a Rabbi) told him this before he died and that it inspired him to study physics. However, he couldn't tell me exactly where I could verify this. I have asked people, but I'm assuming that if this is true, it's not a major part of Jewish teaching and the people I've asked say that they doesn't know. Can anyone point me in the right direction or debunk this outright?

  • There are a lot of different understandings of the Creation story told in the beginning of Genesis. Many people might understand it in a way similar to how you described. Others would disagree. – Daniel May 24 '14 at 20:31
  • This actually comes from a medieval debate about the nature of the creation of the world. I can't remember if it's Ramban, Rambam, Rashbam or Raavad who suggests this explanation. Otherwise I'd give an answer. – avi May 24 '14 at 20:36
  • @avi I'm pretty sure it's the Ramban...see also Gerald Schroeder's Genesis and the Big Bang – MTL May 25 '14 at 3:01
  • God created other types of creations beside physical light matter and physical time. There is a whole chain of mystical worlds as explained in the books of the kabalists such as shaarei kedusha. – ray May 25 '14 at 7:03

Far from being a "simple" question, this is actually very complicated, and I'm in no position to answer it properly. I can tell you, however, that the doctrine to which you refer is kabbalistic. There are allusions to it in the Ramban's (Nachmanides') commentary on Genesis 1:1 and in the writings of other mediaeval scholars. Its fullest treatment is in the Zohar and in the two major 16th century schools of Zoharic interpretation: the Lurianic (after R' Yitzhak Luria, the "Arizal") and the Cordoveran (after R' Moshe Cordovero).

To provide you with but one passage from the Zohar that treats of this, consider the following:

ויאמר אלקים יקוו המים וגו׳ בארח קו למהוי בארח מישר דהא מרזא דההיא נקודא קדמאה נפיק כלא בסתימו עד דמטי ואתכניש להיכלא עלאה ומתמן נפיק בקו מישר לשאר דרגין...

"And God said: Let the waters be gathered (yiqavu)" (Genesis 1:9) - by means of a line (qav), so that it should be a straight path, for all emerged, while still hidden, from the mystery of the primal point (nequda), until it reached and entered the supreme palace. From there it went forth in a straight line to the remaining levels...

  • Zohar I:18a; Isaiah Tishby, The Wisdom of the Zohar: An Anthology of Texts (trans. David Goldstein; 3 vols; Oxford, 1989), I:318.

I've no doubt that by searching online you could find more information on this, but it's a complex and esoteric branch of enquiry, the practitioners of which are unlikely to upload material to the internet in any real detail. As such, most information that you will encounter will be of a dubious nature.

If you wish to read print material about this subject, a good place to start will be the text from which I took the translation above, and Gershom Scholem's Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken Books, 1974), §6.

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