Pirkei Avot (Chapters of the Fathers) 5:1 says that the world was created with 10 "utterances" (מאמרות). Both Rash"I and Rav Ovadiah Mibartenura explain the term מאמרות to mean that it refers to the number of times that the term ויאמר is used in the story of creation. They both say that there are a total of 9 such occurrences, and the 10th utterance is the term בראשית. Rav Ovadiah explains why that word is considered an "utterance" by G-d.

I checked the actual text in Breishit chapter 1, which includes the story of the six days of creation. There actually are a full 10 appearances of the word ויאמר as follows (all in Bresihit (Gen. chapter 1):

  1. verse 3
  2. verse 6
  3. verse 9
  4. verse 11
  5. verse 14
  6. verse 20
  7. verse 24
  8. verse 26
  9. verse 28
  10. verse 29

So, my 2 questions:

  1. If there are actually 10 instances of ויאמר why do both of the commentators state that there are only 9 and rely on the 1st verse of Breishit as the 10th occurrence?

  2. I can somewhat understand a response to my previous question if we consider that occurrence #10 in the list does not seem to be related to the creation process itself, but it is G-d talking to the man. However, occurrence #9 is also G-d talking directly to the man, so even according to the commentaries' enumeration, they seem to refer to one expression of ויאמר that does not seem to be related to G-d's creating anything. How do we resolve this apparent conflict?

  • I think verses 28 and 29 should count, because these are not mere talking to Adam. These are establishing what mankind's role is to be within the framework of creation. Indeed, 28 is the fulfillment (what is usually vayaas) of verse 26's וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל-הָאָרֶץ, וּבְכָל-הָרֶמֶשׂ, הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל-הָאָרֶץ. Oct 31, 2016 at 15:18
  • @joshwaxman I can hear why both should count. But why only one of them (for the opinion that 1:1 counts too)?
    – Double AA
    Oct 31, 2016 at 15:20
  • If I were making the list and wanted to exclude one, I would exclude verse 29. Because 28 is a blessing (rather than command -- iirc see Ibn Ezra or Shadal), and a blessing from God has a concrete effect on the world. Meanwhile verse 29 has the word hineh in it, and has all the makings of a command to mankind, excluding the eating of meat, a set up of something to be reversed after the Mabul. Oct 31, 2016 at 15:26
  • 2
    See Bereshis Rabba 17:1.
    – Yishai
    Oct 31, 2016 at 15:26
  • But on the other hand, I could see the reverse, that 28 should be excluded since it repeats information from verse 26. Ultimately, though, @Yishai is right. See what Bereishit Rabba says, and that will be the correct answer. (I haven't checked.) Oct 31, 2016 at 15:28

3 Answers 3


Chazal give a listing of the ten utterances is given in Bereishit Rabba 17:1, together with what to swap out.

ויאמר ה' אלהים לא טוב היות תנינן: ‏ בעשרה מאמרות נברא העולם, ואלו הן: ‏ בראשית; ורוח אלהים מרחפת; ויאמר אלהים יהי אור; ויאמר אלהים יהי רקיע; ויאמר אלהים יקוו המים; ויאמר אלהים תדשא הארץ; ויאמר אלהים יהי מאורות; ויאמר אלהים ישרצו המים; ויאמר אלהים תוצא הארץ; ויאמר אלהים נעשה אדם. ‏

מנחם בר יוסי: מוציא ורוח אלהים מרחפת, ומביא ויאמר ה' אלהים לא טוב היות האדם.‏

אמר רבי יעקב בן קורשאי: מאמר ניתן לרוח בפני עצמה: ‏

Or, in English:

Hashem said it is not good (for man) to be (alone): A tannaitic source: The world was created in ten utterances. And these are:

  1. verse 1, Bereishit
  2. verse 2, middle, 'and the spirit of God hovered' / 'a mighty wind hovered'
  3. verse 3, (God said) Let there be light
  4. verse 6, (God said) Let there be a firmament
  5. verse 9, (God said) Let the waters be gathered
  6. verse 11, (God said) Let the earth put forth grass
  7. verse 14, (God said) Let there be lights (in the firmament of the heaven)
  8. verse 20, (God said) Let the waters swarm
  9. verse 24, (God said) Let the earth bring forth (the living creature)
  10. verse 26, (God said) Let us make man.

Menachem bar Yossi removed item 2 (the spirit of Hashem hovered) and inserted Bereishit 2:12, (God said) It is not good that the man should be alone.

Rabbi Yaakov ben Korshai said: One utterance was given to the ruach for itself.

As the commentary Etz Yosef explains, Rabbi Yaakov ben Korshai is arguing in favor of the Tanna Kamma, that includes item 2.

So nobody (at least in this source) counts either verse 28 or 29.

The question then is why ruach would be included as its own utterance. According to Etz Yosef, the reason Menachem bar Yossi removed item 2 was that this refers to the spirit of Adam HaRishon and Melech HaMashiach, and was thus already included in the creation of man.

The following is just a guess, but the idea might be that the first pasuk is taken (not like Rashi) as the initial creation of the raw materials, for which we then have tohu vavohu, and the tehom, and the shamayim and eretz. If the Ruach Elokim refers to Hashem hovering (as opposed to it meaning "mighty wind"), and it is interacting somehow with the creation, then it would have to count, perforce, as an "utterance".

I'll just add that the question was well thought out, and that indeed your list of ten, including verses 28 and 29, may well be the originally intended ten utterances.

  • 2
    Congratulations and Yeyasher Kochacha on co-winning the Best Answer Contest for the first quarter of 5777!
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 17, 2017 at 15:54
  • I see that I left out accepting this question, which I just did. Congrats on being the co-winner of the contest. It's nice to see that it was a result of my question. (Would I be considered haughty if I kvetched that the questioner should receive an award, also?)
    – DanF
    Feb 21, 2017 at 19:40

Consider the ויאמר that is in verse 26

כווַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל הָרֶמֶשׂ הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל הָאָרֶץ

26 And God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth."

This was not an utterance that actually caused the creation of man, nor was it a command or a blessing. This is a "consultation" with the mal'achim and it is only afterwords that the actual creation continues. Thus, this instance of ויאמר should not be counted and the total of "utterances" that were part of creation is indeed 9. As Rashi says

Let us make man: Even though they [the angels] did not assist Him in His creation, and there is an opportunity for the heretics to rebel (to misconstrue the plural as a basis for their heresies), Scripture did not hesitate to teach proper conduct and the trait of humility, that a great person should consult with and receive permission from a smaller one. Had it been written: “I shall make man,” we would not have learned that He was speaking with His tribunal, but to Himself. And the refutation to the heretics is written alongside it [i. e., in the following verse:]“And God created (וַיִּבְרָא) ,” and it does not say,“and they created וַיִּבְרְאוּ.” - [from Gen. Rabbah 8:9]

Also note the explanation the @joshwaxman cites which pushes off both (28, and 29) as not involving actual creation for pasuk 2:18 which is the creation of Chava (instead of 1:2 which is also not ויאמר)

  • I think it actually includes verse 26 and only pushes off 28 and 29. Oct 31, 2016 at 18:12
  • @joshwaxman Yes I typed too fast and had a misteak. Fixed. Thanks for putting in the English explanation. Oct 31, 2016 at 19:17

The reason the sages say there are only 9 utterances is because there are only 9 occurrences in Chapter 1 of ‘Vayohmer Elohim’. All other occurrences are different. Such as in verse 22 it reads, “Elohim LeAmor” which is actually, “God (to them) saying”. And also in verse 28 it reads, “Elohim Vayohmer,” which is not the same as, “Vayohmer Elohim” but still translated mostly as, “And God said,”. So that is the reason there are only 9 audible utterances of creation because there are only 9 occurrences of “Vayohmer Elohim.”

There is one more in Chapter 2 when woman is taken out of man but this too is different. It is “Vayohmer Adonai Elohim”, and seeing how this is a new section of Torah and not part of the first section, it is mostly considered not part of the Creation. The reason is that when Elohim made man He made Adam as both male and female as in the likeness of Himself. Then later Elohim Adonai takes woman out of man, so it is a division of male and female but not the original creation of Adam.

So this is why the 10th utterance of Creation is unspoken. It is the First and the Last utterance as God was at Rest before Creation and on the 7th day He Rested. Elohim could have created everything with 1 utterance but in order that Righteousness would multiply He spoke 9 utterances. Since God is One He desired Creation to be divided from Himself. If He only spoke once then all would still be Him, but because He spoke 9 times we are individuals. For the sages say that “Beresheit” is the first utterance. Some say that this is Wisdom because the beginning is Wisdom or put another way, “Wisdom is the principal thing.” Regardless, Elohim created the Heavens and the Earth and some would say this was a synopsis of the rest of Chapter 1, but what if it was just the first act of creation which was willed into being by Elohim. And when He saw that Heaven and Earth were still part of Him, He spoke the 9 utterances to divide and bring forth the whole of Creation. And so the 10th utterance is the same as the first because Elohim Rested and did not speak. Elohim is the Eternal Utterance which is unspoken. He is the same from Beginning to End and does not change. He is the 10th Utterance and His goal is Shabbat.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .