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The beginning of Genesis Rabbah 4 talks mainly about the firmament in creation account. It goes as follows (from the Artscroll Mesorah publication):

(4:2): "At the moment the Holy One, Blessed is He, said, 'let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters', the middle drop of the waters of the universe crusted and the lower heavens and the upper highest heaves were made."

This I understand less. What does it mean, when it says, "the middle drop of the waters of the universe crusted?"

If there are two firmaments, "lower heavens and upper highest heaves" (as the footnote in this publication says), shouldn't there be three waters (waters above, waters between, and waters below)?

Also, in 4:1 it says that the firmament itself is water. How can something which is water separate water? What is the firmament? What is the water? etc.

I am very confused. Could someone please explain?

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for bringing us your interesting question. Hope to see you around. :) – Scimonster Apr 4 '15 at 19:03
  • How do you get to "If there are two firmaments" from the fact that there are "lower heavens and upper highest heaves"? There is one firmament between them (assuming this understanding in the words). – user6591 Dec 12 '16 at 17:46
  • If you can accept that water crusted, why can't that crusting separate between liquid water? – user6591 Dec 12 '16 at 17:48
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When I read that piece, I imagined a giant onion of water, with lots of layers. When Hashem created the firmament, He took one of the middle layers and "crusted" it, such that it became solid. He then took a lower layer, still with plenty of water beneath it, and did the same thing, emptying out all the water between these two layers. (Based on note 3 in the Artscroll.) Thus, the firmament was made of water, as 4:1 depicts, yet there's no middle waters, because, well, they don't exist. (Besides, if there were middle waters, we would be required to make use of our gills. Little-known science fact is that all vertebrates have gills, just that most don't or can't use them.)

The entire second day of creation is difficult to understand. For that matter, the entire week of creation is difficult to understand. Kudos to you for not letting that stop you from trying, though. :)

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Like we learn from the opening words from Kabbalat Shabbat (Tehillim 95:1-4) we can understand the Upper Wisdom of the Torah via the allegorical models of the Lower Wisdom. The Upper Wisdom refers to the wisdom of the Kabbalah. To a large extent, what is found in Midrash is based upon these inner teachings of the Torah. The Lower Wisdoms refers to the 7 sciences (mathematics, chemistry, physics, mettalurgy, etc.).

What you are translating as "the middle drop of the waters of the universe crusted", is actually from the Hebrew:

גלדה טיפה האמצעית

The middle drop (of water) froze...

This root גלדה is better translated as freezing, becoming ice. What it is describing is the transition from liquid to solid. The liquid state is more like what is described in modern Physics as the plasma state of existence at the beginning of the Big Bang. The point of transition from Liquid to Solid is referred to as the point in the expansion of the universe when Large-Scale Structure Formation started to take place.

A very good allegory for the firmament (Rakia) in this case is the concept of an inversion layer as discussed in chemistry. What is described as Rakia would be the analog of the inversion layer.

In this case, the concept of the transition from dextro-rotary (right rotating particles) molecules to their chiral (mirror) counterparts, levi-rotary (left rotating particles) molecules corresponds to the mirror aspect of the transition from the spiritual to the physical.

A second good allegorical model from chemistry is called a phase separation or to be more precise, and Aqueous Bi-Phasic System. In this case, there are quite literally two Waters, aqueous solutions, which are separated or distinguished by the transitional phase which is also Water.

Again, the Rakia is the layer of transition (the phase separation between the upper waters and the lower waters). That transitional point also corresponds to the ideas of Nekuda, Kav and Shetach which are discussed in the Kabbalistic areas of the Torah discussing the same subject.

The significance of this aspect is that like is understood from the geometric definition, a point (Nekuda) and a line (Kav) do not occupy space, meaning the type of existence as we know it. Similarly, a plane (Shetach) occupies space only from the point of observation above or below the plane itself. If one observes the plane from the level of the plane itself, it has the appearance and qualities of the line (Kav) which means it does not occupy space. It does not appear to exist at all.

Another important concept that relates to this particular allegory is that Phase Separation is used for the process of performing extractions which corresponds to the idea of Birrur HaNetzutzot which we perform through the performance of the Mitzvot and the reciting of the accompanying Brachot.

  • Like we learn from the opening words from Kabbalat Shabbat (Tehillim 95:1-4) we can understand the Upper Wisdom of the Torah via the allegorical models of the Lower Wisdom. The Upper Wisdom refers to the wisdom of the Kabbalah. To a large extent, what is found in Midrash is based upon these inner teachings of the Torah. The Lower Wisdoms refers to the 7 sciences (mathematics, chemistry, physics, mettalurgy [sic] , etc.). What is your source for all of this? What has it to do with Psalms? | That transitional point also corresponds to the ideas of Nekuda, Kav and Shetach Source? – mevaqesh Dec 25 '16 at 21:56
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Firmament is a weird word that you basically only see in old bibles in this passage.

We understand that there were "waters" and the "firmament" was a separation introduced to make two sections of "water." Your midrash rabbah says that this separating layer became the world but was made from the "waters"

I put "waters" in quotation marks because these early passages invoke deep mysticism. The hebrew word for waters could also be interpreted as the plural of the word "what." The "waters" thus refer to "whats" or undefined things (what?)

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    Any example where מים is used in rabbinic literature as the plural of 'what'? – mevaqesh Apr 4 '15 at 0:12
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    Not forty five minutes before yom tov, there isn't – Clint Eastwood Apr 4 '15 at 0:13
  • Ok. How about now... – mevaqesh Oct 13 '16 at 14:53

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