Uri Harel

(Underlined syllables in Hebrew words are accented; otherwise, the final syllable of each Hebrew word is accented.)

In the next few minutes, I will attempt to share with you some amazing things that are hidden in the Hebrew.  This program and others in this series are designed to offer you a deeper gaze into the beauty and precision of the biblical Hebrew language.  To all who always wanted to understand the difference between the original Hebrew text of the Bible and other biblical translations, this may open a new door to a wonderful world of insight and better understanding.  I'm hoping that this program will help bring together all people who are interested in the deeper message of the biblical text and facilitate more appreciation of the children of Israel, the chosen people who have guarded this information with excellence for 3500 years to this very day.

What's hidden in the Hebrew?

We have a guest on this program, Mr. Rico Cortes, and we are going to have an interaction that will probably bring the verses we are dealing with a little bit more alive.  We are doing Genesis 1:8 today.
‏.וַיִּקְרָא  אֱלהִים  לָרָקִיעַ  שָׁמָיִם;  וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב  וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם שֵׁנִי‎

In Hebrew it sounds like: Vayikra Elohim la-raqi`a shamayim, va'y'hi erev, va'y'hi voker, yom sheni.

What does it mean?

Rico:  In God's Word Translation, it says, "God named what was above the horizon sky; there was evening, then morning, a second day."  Interestingly enough, the King James Bible uses a different type of wording.  "And God called the firmament heaven, and the evening and the morning were the second day."  I notice that in every translation, there is a different type of words.

Uri:  That is the whole point of doing this, because you can see that there are a number of translations that we have here, about 20 of them, and each one of them gives a little bit different nuance or sometimes totally different ideas about what the verse is.  In some of the others, God called the firmament heaven; God gave the arch the name of heaven.  When we did Genesis 1:7, we were talking about the firmament and explained what the firmament is.  Firmament comes from the Hebrew word raqi`a.  The word raqi`a means something that is hammered or something that is pounded into a thin layer that is used as a separation between things.  Whatever it was, that raqi`a was put in between water and water.  So God created that raqi`a, the separation, and some of the translations called it an arch, and some called it a firmament, and some called it a horizon, and all kinds of things.

Rico:  Why do you think there is a difference in the translation of one Hebrew word?

Uri:  Because the Hebrew projects an idea, a concept, and the concept doesn't always correspond with a word in English, or even the ideas of the translator or his theology or his belief system.  Sometimes it clashes with doctrines and things like that.  So each Hebrew word sometimes has more than one meaning.  If it's suspended in the air by itself, you could say, this word has three meanings.  It only becomes specific when it is imbedded in a sentence, and in that specific context, the meaning becomes evident.

Rico:  So as a Bible teacher, you're always looking for more than the word is actually translating.

Uri:  When you read it in the Hebrew, there is one meaning to it, and it's in context to that sentence, but the word itself, if you try to literally translate it, you can go all over the place, because if you don't tie it to the context, you can't really get the right particular, specific meaning.  So it always has to go in context.  The word raqi`a is a separation, as something separating between waters and waters.  In the previous verse, we were talking about what it could mean, and I heard a few different theories about that.  One of them is that the separation was on the nuclear level.  Water has a surface tension, and this is why you have the shape of a water drop.  This is why, when you fill a glass, it gets like a dome before it breaks.  So the water tension could be that raqi`a, because before that, if you don't have that, the water would be permeating everything, and now the waters are more defined.  Another explanation is that this was some kind of separation between levels of water.  We know that there are levels of water.  There is a level of water on the ground - the seas and rivers and lakes.  Then there is water suspended in the atmosphere, and there is water that keeps coming into the atmosphere and becomes part of the water system on earth.  It could be any one of those things, but that describes the raqi`a.

This particular verse starts with the words vayikra Elohim.  We showed before, when we went verse by verse, each verse starts with an action word, a verb.  Vaya'as Elohim - that was Genesis 1:7 - "and he made."  Before this, Vayomer Elohim - "and God said."  Before this, in Genesis 1:1, it was Bereshit bara Elohim, and I pointed out the legal implications of this.  This is like the Bible is telling you, the Torah is telling you right from the very first verse, who did it, so there would not be any problem of ownership that comes in later.  Your god didn't do it; God did it.  It's like a copyright in the first sentence.  Every sentence of the creation story has the name of God in it.

Now, which name of God?  The name of Elohim.  That particular name.  Any other name comes in later.  Those are not names like Rico Cortes.  God doesn't have a name like that, but the names that we assign to God represent certain characteristics or certain traits of God, certain facets of him.  This particular name represents God of many powers.  El is power, and him, the plural ending (it's not plural - Gods; it's God of many powers), in this particular instance, is representing the kind of characteristics that God has in the idea that he has many powers and he actually created all of this.  So the action fits.  And God called this raqi`a that he made, shamayim.  Shamayim in modern Hebrew, in today's understanding, is sky.  I mentioned earlier that there is a phenomenon of changing of the names.  The building blocks of creation from the very beginning, little by little, were changed into things that are easier to comprehend, easier to understand and to live with.  So here is this raqi`a that we are not sure exactly what it was.  Its name now is changed to shamayim.  But there is a problem here.  Shamayim is already taken by something else.  What was it?  What is shamayim in the first verse?  Heavens, in a sense of the universe.  So now we have raqi`a, this firmament.  We're taking the name from the heavens and giving it to the raqi`a.  What happened to the universe?  Did it become nameless?  What is the name that will be assigned to the universe now?  There is no name assigned to the universe because it's none of our business.  He created the galaxies and the billions and the shmillions, and what do we have to do with that?  We call it cosmic gases.

Rico:  Basically, what we can comprehend is what's in front of us now.

Uri:  It's very interesting.  We would love to know all these details, but we have a job here.  Take your time and do this.  Forget about all these big things.  So you take the name from the shamayim as a universe and you assign it to the raqi`a, and now the raqi`a is called shamayim.  And what is shamayim?  The sky.  So now sky becomes shamayim.  This is why, in modern Hebrew, we have shamayim and we're looking up at the sky, so we think that this is shamayim.  The raqi`a and the universe got lost in the shuffle.  They were just put aside so that we would not be concerned about it.  There is a simplification of the terms, so we live with that.

Rico:  For lack of understanding of the Hebrew, as much as I want to learn it, you miss those little nuggets like that that really make a difference in the whole text.

Uri:  But you see, those are not nuggets.  This is the essence of the text.  This is not biblical entertainment.  This is it.  If you don't understand this, then what do you understand?

Vayikra Elohim la-raqi`a shamayim, and God called this raqi`a shamayim, vayehi erev, vayehi voker, yom sheni.  And again, like in every day of the creation, it says, "And it was evening and it was morning, second day."  This absolutely makes no sense.  What evening?  What morning?  What are you talking about?  There is no sun; there is no moon, so what are you talking about?

Earlier, at the end of the first day, I mentioned that the word erev in Hebrew means mixture, something that is mixed together, and the word boker means something that is in order, or something that is under control.  In Hebrew, a control room, as when a shuttle is sent up to space, is called cheder bakara, from boker.  If your business is being audited, you will be called m'vaker hamdina.  This is the chief auditor of the state.  So boker really implies order, and erev implies chaos.

So now if you read this, instead of morning and evening, it was chaos and it was order, the second day.  Now you start to see something that makes absolute sense.  This is the second day.  The day could have been a very long day.  This is not implying a 24-hour day.  It's implying a period of time.  It implies that this is the second period.  Not until the fourth day of creation, when the sun and the moon were created, could you start talking about 24 hours.  Even then, I'm not sure, but at least you have a logical reasoning for it.  But this could have been millions of years.[A]

Rico:  Because basically, we are in time, but God is outside of time.  There is no time for him.

Uri:  That's for sure, but even if you're just looking at it straight from an analysis of the text, the text doesn't imply that these were 24-hour days.  It implies that there was a period, and there was chaos and there was order.  By the way, that goes absolutely against nature.  In nature, there is no such thing as going from chaos to order.  Usually things go from order to chaos.  If you build a building and you don't maintain it, it will fall into disrepair.  If you come to visit it after 50 or 100 years and there was no maintenance, the house will have deteriorated.  This is the natural way, the entropy, of the universe.  Everything works that way.  So if you're talking about the universe here, it's the same thing.  The idea that there was evening and there was morning is just totally a mistranslation of this.

Rico:  So in reality, every translation here doesn't really give justice to what the Hebrew is really trying to convey.

Uri:  It's not really a question of giving justice, but it's a question of misunderstanding.  It's a misunderstanding of the naming, the shamayim, that the name was taken from the universe and given to the raqi`a, and now the raqi`a becomes shamayim.  The whole idea of the morning and the evening didn't exist at the time.  What existed was chaos and order.

There were three steps in the making of that raqi`a, that firmament.  The first one was in verse 6.  It says, Vayomer Elohim (and God said), yehi raqi`a b'tokh hamayim (let there be firmament inside of the water, and there will be separating between waters and waters).  Verse 7 says, "Vaya'as Elohim et ha-raqi`a (and God made that raqi`a)."  So first he said it, but it wasn't made yet.  Then he made it in verse 7, and it did what he assigned to it in the beginning.  He wanted to make raqi`a to separate between water and water.  In verse 7, he made it, and what it did was to separate between water and water - water that was below the raqi`a and water that was above the raqi`a.  Then in verse 8, God called the raqi`a shamayim.  Now he's calling it after it was made.  So there was a thought process, planning.  There is an utterance, execution of the thoughts, and the thoughts actually caused the existing material in the universe to rearrange itself in the way that God wanted it to.  It created what he wanted to, and then he called it a name.  He manipulated the name to become unthreatening to human beings, because he knows our limitations.

Rico:  That is extremely interesting.  I never saw that before.  It's fascinating that the Hebrew language goes through so many different layers.

Uri:  The main point that I'm trying to convey ... yes, Hebrew is important and Hebrew is wonderful if you can help the understanding with the Hebrew, it's really great, but it's not the main point.  The main point is reading it carefully.  If you read several translations side by side and you're able to compare them, you get 85% of the picture right there, just because you are able to analyze what it is that you're reading.  The Torah is written in almost riddles, and the answer to the riddle is in the writing.  If you read it ten times carefully, you will finally get it.  If you read the three verses next to each other, you can see the pattern.  There was a thought process in planning.  There is a saying, an utterance, which was the execution, and then he made it, and he made it for a purpose, and then he called it a name.  So you have a whole story unfolding right in front of you, if you read it carefully.

Rico:  Through all these years, when we read Bereshit and we thought that we had a deep understanding, in fact we have really not even scratched the surface.

Uri:  Even if you do what I suggest, we're not even scratching the surface.

Rico:  That's very encouraging.

Uri:  That is just the beginning, just knowing what the text says.  The problem is that most of us read this as a story.  I once had a class for a year and a half just on Genesis 1.  Why?  Because otherwise you can read it in 5 minutes, and you could say I read it, I know what's in there.  But if I start asking you questions, you have absolutely no idea what it is that you read.

So the whole point is to try to convey the idea that reading it carefully over and over again with a comparison to other translations will open it up like a flower.  It will open up the ideas that are embedded in this text.  Of course, if you know something about Hebrew, if you know how to recognize the Hebrew letters, if it comes to that, you can pick up a dictionary and help yourself with the interpretation with a word or two, that is going to be a complete study.

Rico:  What I gather from what you're saying is that the process of creation wasn't just a random thing like evolution tries to tell you happened.  This was thought out.  It was conceived, it was a creative process.

Uri:  Here's your answer.  It was chaos, then it was order.  Things in the universe do not go from chaos to order, so who did this?  I'm not giving you the answer; I'm asking the question.  Who is responsible for taking something that was like a house that was built and was left for 50 years with no maintenance, and after 50 years, what do you know?  The house is still new like it was on the first day.  Something happened there.  Somebody was responsible for it, because otherwise you have wind and sun, and after 50 years the house will be a bunch of stones.  So if you see here a story that tells you that things went from chaos to order, there has to be an answer to that question, "Who did this?"

Rico:  This reminds me of a quote that I read, that the rabbis said that there are like 70 layers to the Torah.  It makes me feel, after listening to you for the last 25 minutes, that I'm not even scratching half of one.

Uri:  That's how I feel, and I've been doing it for years.  And every time you read it, you see another angle and another layer of it.  It reveals more information as you go.  If I read the same thing next week, I'm sure that we can come up with something even deeper than that.  The text is going to respond to you.  It's going to reveal more information as you increase your understanding, and your spiritual level will go up.

Rico:  Isn't the word of God so incredible?  It reveals something to you every day.

Uri:  It's more than incredible.  It's the essence of life.  It's mayim chayyim, the water of life.

The word shamayim was the universe and then it became the sky.  But you can take it apart into sham and mayim.  Mayim is water, and sham means over there.  This is the difference between reading it and comparing translations and then reading the Hebrew.  This is what you get in Hidden in the Hebrew.

[A] Consider The Age of the Universe by a Jewish scientist. Return

Beit HaDerekh
(House of the Way)

Transcribed from "Hidden in the Hebrew" program on God's Learning Channel on April 25, 2008.

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Last update 12 May 2020
04/25/2008 GLC