We spent a lot of time on the nature of magic, and how to understand the prohibition in a world of Clarke’s third law:
And we explained based on the Ran that it was a matter of attitude:
I suggested that using the laws of science to manipulate the world and predict the future is not a violation of (דברים יח:יג) תמים תהיה עם ה׳ אלוקיך. Those laws, (ירמיה לג:כה) חקות שמים וארץ, are an expression of faith in ה׳'s creation and master over the world. Rav Hutner puts it more eloquently:
There’s a famous gematria hinting at the same thing:
And I would like to look at a perek of תהילים that celebrates that רצון של מקום בעולם שנברא בעשרה מאמרות.
בראשית ברא אלקים
הוד והדר is a common phrase, with as many translations as there are commentators on תהילים and the סידור. I would start from Rav Schwab’s explanation in Rav Schwab on Prayer, p. 118: הוד is from the word הֵד, ”echo“, and הדר comes from the root meaning “returning” or “reflecting”. Thus the words that JPS translate as “glory and majesty” refer to the reflection or echo of ה׳'s power in the world around us. We cannot experience it directly (as we saw in תהילים פרק קמה, לגדלתו אין חקר); we only see its reflection (I’m not going to go into the distinction between הוד and הדר now; I will just take it as a merism).
David then goes into each day of creation, one by one:
ויאמר אלקים יהי אור
עטה אור כשלמה is all David will say about the first day; as Rashi says, the mystery of מעשה בראשית is wrapped up in that initial יהי אור:
And the word עטה reflects that mystery. It is ambiguous; it could mean “He spreads light like a garment”, reflecting the creation of the primordial light, but it may mean “He wraps Himself with light light a garment”. This is the mystical idea that ה׳'s presence in the world is hidden and only manifest in a limited way, which is here called אור:
ויאמר אלקים יהי רקיע בתוך המים
After ה׳ creates the sky, separating the “waters above” from the “waters below” with מקרה במים עליותיו (a קורה is a beam used to form a roof) (and this perek takes this literally; the “waters above” are the clouds that rain on the earth), He עשה מלאכיו רוחות. This is read in the Midrash as more than just “He creates the wind, which does His will”, but encapsulates further this idea of צמצום, the Divine “restriction”, that G-d doesn’t act directly on the world but through “messengers”, מלאכים:
But note that the מלאכים here are not mystical, higher beings, but part and parcel of the physical world.
ויאמר אלקים יקוו המים מתחת השמים אל מקום אחד
ישקו כל חיתו שדי; ישברו פראים צמאם introduces a new idea: teleology. There is a purpose to creation. We haven’t introduced Man yet but in this pasuk the waters exist to provide for the animals. This idea will run throughout the rest of the perek.
The idea that this perek avoids the mystical side of creation is reflected in a “cute” dialog in the midrash:
ויאמר אלקים תדשא הארץ דשא עשב מזריע זרע
The Artscroll Tehillim cites the מדרש שוחר טוב that עשב לעבדת האדם refers to flax. I cannot find that in my edition, but it certainly fits the פשט, going with הוציא לחם מן הארץ and יין ישמח לבב אנוש, that this is referring to mankind’s ability to use the fruits of G-d’s creation in his own creation:
And I realized after reading that article that the מלאכות of שבת are in fact centered on technology. Nowadays we think of technology as electronics, but originally it was fabrics and bread, exactly this things we “rest” from on שבת:
We as technological creators are imitating G-d. In our שבת we imitate Him as well.
ויאמר אלקים יהי מארת ברקיע השמים
David here emphasizes the purpose of the heavenly bodies: not for light, but to mark the flow of time for humanity.
Ramban and Ibn Ezra assume that חלק…אתם לכל העמים refers to astrology, but Sforno points out the utility of the heavenly bodies in our lives (as אתת ומועדים, presumably) and how this proves ה׳'s role in creation:
ויאמר אלקים ישרצו המים שרץ נפש חיה
The first part of the pasuk again emphasizes Man’s role:
And then there is the Leviathan. This pasuk has always bothered me, not the idea of giant sea creatures but יצרת לשחק בו. Artscroll translates “you fashioned to sport with”. What does it mean, that ה׳ plays with something? Fortunately, there is a simpler פשט: בו means “in it” rather than “with it”, and “it” here refers to the ים:
But still, the gemara understands this like Artscroll:
To understand this, we have to look at the other source of this phrase, in איוב:
So I would take לשחק ב־לויתן as an idiom describing G-d’s incomprehensible power. The gemara then is midrashically describing ה׳'s manifestation in the world as being composed of four parts: Torah, judgment, sustenance and divine power.
ויאמר אלקים תוצא הארץ נפש חיה
The animals on Day 6 are not specifically mentioned; I assume מה רבו מעשיך ה׳ includes both fish/birds (Day 5) and animals (Day 6). And certainly כלם אליך ישברון is a common theme in תהילים:
ויאמר אלקים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו
And there’s no mention of the creation of Man here. But I think that’s part of the message: in this perek, Man is less a creature than a creator, but one who has to realize the nature of the true Creator.
ויאמר להם אלקים פרו ורבו ומלאו את הארץ וכבשה
Instead of speaking of the creation of humanity, David celebrates his responsibility. he sings of the day that all mankind can live up to the purpose for which we were created and granted the creative power that we have.
Josh Waxman notes that this must be d’rash, since the pasuk says חַטָּאִים with full patach on the ח and a dagesh in the ט, which is an agent noun (compare גַנָּב) unlike חֲטָאִים which would be “sins”:
But the Metzudot saves this lovely d’rash by understanding יתמו differently: