The traditional objection is to any material having existed prior to the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, but then why not call it "creation without material"? The will of Hashem is not "nihilo" - "nothing."

Just because we don't comprehend how His will can translate to materials and the laws within which they act, should that allow us to equate His will to nothing?

  • Would be valuable if you quote the source of the expression ex nihilo, יש מאין in hebrew, Because you are asking on this premisse. – kouty Feb 1 '19 at 8:14
  • @kouty I see it in virtually all commentaries on Bereishit. Even scholars of theology and history find it difficult to pinpoint exactly where the idea first appeared. Some argue from Plato. Do you know the oldest Jewish source? I assume somewhere in Talmud. – user1879026 Feb 1 '19 at 17:21

Creation "ex nihilo" is a [mis] translation of the Jewish idea of "ברא יש מאין" where אין here does not mean "nothing, it just means "לית ביה תפיסא" - we don't have any apprehension of it.

The closest I could find explicit is Raavad's interpretation on the Sefer Hayetzira:

"יש מאין אבל נקרא אין לפי שאינו מושג לא מצד עילתו ולא מצד עצמו שעילתו הוא עילת העילות ונקרא האי"ן קדמון לפי שקדם לעולם ואין זה דבר גשמי."

Zohar also calls the divine wisdom "אין":

"כְּפוּם דַּרְגָּא דִּילֵיהּ, דְּאִתְקְרֵי יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן -וְדָא חָכְמָה עִלָּאָה."

  • 1
    I remember ayn is keter והחכמה מאין תימצא – kouty Jan 31 '19 at 13:43

A very important aspect of the Jewish theology championed by Maimonides is that God does not have any attributes separate from His essence. "God's will" is not some kind of metaphysical force; God's will is simply God. This is discussed at length in Book I of Guide for the Perplexed, but here is one quote from Chapter 69 there to illustrate this:

According to either opinion, the series of the successive purposes terminates, as has been shown, in God's will or wisdom, which, in our opinion, are identical with His essence, and are not any thing separate from Himself or different from His essence. (Friedlander translation)

Thus, creatio ex nihilo simply means that there was nothing besides God before the universe was created. God's will, being identical with God Himself, is not an exception to this.

  • And then He created something different from Him? Or does G-d "exist" at all? ... Just kidding. – Al Berko Jan 31 '19 at 10:36
  • @AlBerko Indeed, Rambam also writes: AFTER YOU have advanced thus far, and truly comprehended that God exists without having the attribute of existence (Guide 1:65) – Alex Jan 31 '19 at 21:14

Sefer Hatanya Igrot Kodesh chapter 11:

וביאור הענין הוא רק אמונה אמיתית ביוצר בראשית דהיינו שהבריאה יש מאין הנק' ראשית חכמה והיא חכמתו שאינה מושגת לשום נברא הבריאה הזאת היא בכל עת ורגע שמתהוים כל הברואים יש מאין מחכמתו ית' המחיה את הכל וכשיתבונן האדם בעומק הבנתו ויצייר בדעתו הווייתו מאין בכל רגע ורגע ממש האיך יעלה על דעתו כי רע לו או שום יסורים מבני חיי ומזוני או שארי יסורין בעולם הרי האין שהיא חכמתו יתברך הוא מקור החיים והטוב והעונג והוא העדן שלמעלה מעוה"ב

Nihilo is His wisdom that is not accessible by any created.

Chapter 25:

...ההבדל הגדול שבין מעשה אנוש ותחבולותיו שהוא יש מיש רק שמשנה הצורה והתמונה למעשה שמים וארץ שהוא יש מאין

The difference between Creation and human creation is that is yech meyesh, is that when a man creates something, I'd just trans__form, change the form.

שבהסתלקות ח"ו כח הבורא יש מאין מן הנברא ישוב הנברא לאין ואפס ממ

If the creator ceases to give his force his strength, the creation will came back to nihilo and nothing.

..ההבדל הגדול שבין מעשה אנוש ותחבולותיו שהוא יש מיש רק שמשנה הצורה והתמונה למעשה שמים וארץ שהוא יש מאין

The man can only change but not create, but G-d creates without using a primary without basic.material.

  • I understand this as an interpretation, but my question is still why His wisdom or will is described as "Ein" or "nihilo"? The important part is there was no "matter" and now there is. His wisdom still exists in the things he created, correct? If he removed it, it would not be there. We do not understand its nature, but it is certainly not "nothing". – user1879026 Jan 31 '19 at 23:33

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