Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 3b-4a

BERESHITH (In the beginning). Said R. Yudai: ‘What is the meaning of Bereshith? It means “with Wisdom”, the Wisdom on which the world is based, and through this it introduces us to deep and recondite mysteries. In it, too, is the inscription of six chief supernal directions, out of which there issues the totality of existence. From the same there go forth six sources of rivers which flow into the Great Sea. This is implied in the word Bereshith, which can be analysed into BaRa-SHiTH (He created six). And who created them? The Mysterious Unknown.’

R. Hiya and R. Jose were walking along the road. When they reached the open country, R. Hiya said to R. Jose, ‘What you said about Bereshith signifying bara-shith (created six) is certainly correct, since the Torah speaks of six primordial days and not more. The others are hinted at but not disclosed; nevertheless, from what is told us we can perceive the following:

The Holy and Mysterious One graved in a hidden recess one point. In that He enclosed the whole of Creation as one who locks up all his treasures in a palace, under one key, which is therefore as valuable as all that is stored up in that palace; for it is the key which shuts and opens. In that palace there are hidden treasures, one greater than the other. The palace is provided with fifty mystic gates. They are inserted in its four sides to the number of forty-nine. The one remaining gate is on none of its sides and it is unknown whether it is on high or below: it is hence called the mysterious gate. All these gates have one lock, and there is one tiny spot for the insertion of the key, which is only marked by the impress of the key. It is this mystery which is implied in the words “In the beginning created God”, “In the beginning” (Bereshith): this is the key which encloses the whole and which shuts and opens.

Six gates are controlled by this key which opens and shuts. At first it kept the gates closed and impenetrable; this is indicated by the word Bereshith, which is composed of a revealing word (shith) with a concealing word (bara). Bara is always a word of mystery, closing and not opening,’ Said R. Jose: ‘Assuredly it is so, and I have heard the Sacred Lamp say the same, to wit, that bara is a term of mystery, a lock without a key, and as long as the world was locked within the term bara it was not in a state of being or existence. Over the whole there hovered Tohu (chaos), and as long as Tohu dominated, the world was not in being or existence.

When did that key open the gates and make the world fruitful? It was when Abraham appeared, as it is written, “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth behibaream” (when they were created) (Gen. II, 4). Now, BeHiBaReAm is an anagram of BeABeRaHaM (through Abraham), implying that what was hitherto sealed up and unproductive in the word bara has by a transposition of letters become serviceable, there has emerged a pillar of fruitfulness: for BaRa has been transformed into AiBeR (organ), which is the sacred foundation on which the world rests.

Further, in the same way, as AiBraHaM contains AiBeR, a transformation of BaRA, so it is with the splendour of the name of the Most High and most Concealed One. This is implied in the words MI BaRA AiLeH. Add the other sacred name MaH. Transpose BaRA into AiBeR. We have AiLeH on one side and AiBeR on the other side. Add the He (of MaH) to AiBeR and the Yod (of MI) to AiLeH. When we take now the Mim of both MI and MaH and join each to each we have complete the sacred name AeLoHiM and also the name ABRaHaM.

According to another view, the Holy One, blessed be He, took MI and joined it to AiLeH, so that there was shaped AeLoHiM; similarly He took MaH and joined it to AiBeR and there was shaped ABRaHaM. And thus He made the world unfold itself, and made the name complete, as it had not been hitherto. This is meant by the verse “These are the generations (i.e. unfoldings) of the heaven and of the earth BeHiBaReaM (when they were created)”. That is, the whole creation was in suspense until the name of ABRaHaM was created, and as soon as the name of Abraham was completed the Sacred Name was completed along with it, as it says further, “in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven”.’