You Created My Innermost Parts
From behind and in front You shaped me, and You set your palm upon me… For You created my innermost parts… My frame was not hidden from You… גָּלְמִי (galmi), My unformed shape, Your eyes did see, and in Your book all was written down… As for me, how weighty are Your thoughts, O God, how numerous their sum. Should I count them, they would be more than the sand. I awake, and am still with You (Psalms 139:5; 13-18).
“Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Ḥanina said: The day consisted of twelve hours. In the first hour, his dust was gathered; in the second, it was made into גּוֹלֶם (golem), a lifeless clump. In the third, his limbs were extended; in the fourth, a נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul, was cast into him; in the fifth, he rose and stood on his feet; in the sixth, he gave [the animals] their names; in the seventh, Eve became his mate; in the eighth, they ascended to bed as two and descended as four [i.e., Cain and his twin sister were born]; in the ninth, he was commanded not to eat of the tree, in the tenth, he sinned; in the eleventh, he was tried, and in the twelfth he was expelled and departed, as is written, Man will not rest in splendor (Psalms 49:13)” (BT Sanhedrin 38b).
“Rabbi El’azar said in the name of Rabbi Yose son of Zimra, ‘If all the nations assembled to create a single mosquito, they could not cast a soul into it!” (Bereshit Rabbah 39:14).
“Rava said: If the righteous desired it, they could create a world, as is written, But your iniquities have separated [between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear] (Isaiah 59:2). Rava created a man and sent him to Rav Zeira [cf. Zohar 1:7b; 2:179b]. He spoke to him, but he would not answer. He said to him: ‘You of the חַבְרַיָּא (ḥavrayya), Companions [or: magicians], return to your dust!’
Rav Ḥanina and Rav Oshaya would sit every Sabbath eve and engage in the סֵפֶר יְצִירָה (sefer yetsirah), Book of Formation, and make for themselves a third-grown calf and eat it [i.e., a calf that has reached one third of its full growth; others interpret: in its third year; third born, fat]” (BT Sanhedrin 65b).
“What [magic] is entirely permitted? Like Rav Ḥanina and Rav Oshaya, who would sit every Sabbath eve and engage in the הֲלָכוֹת יְצִירָה (halakhot yetsirah), laws of formation, and make for themselves a third-grown calf and eat it” (BT Sanhedrin 67b, cf. Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Ner Elohim, 10, 172b).
“’Rava said: If the righteous desired it, they could create a world, as is written, But your iniquities have separated (Isaiah 59:2)’ (BT Sanhedrin 65b). If not for your sins, there would not be any separation between you and Him. We thus see that Rava created a גֶּבֶר (gever), man, and sent it to Rav Zeira. He spoke to him but he did not answer. But if not for his sins, he would have answered. And from what would it have answered? His soul. But does a human being have a soul to place in him? Yes, as is written, [YHWH Elohim fashioned the human, humus from the soil,] and He blew into his nostrils the נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (nishmat ḥayyim), breath of life (Genesis 2:7) [cf. Ba’al ha-Turim ad loc]—thus a human being has the נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (nishmat ḥayyim), soul of life [with which he might confer language], were it not for sins, through which the soul ceases to be pure. This is the difference between you and Him, as is written, And You made him little less than אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) (Psalms 8:6). Why a little less? Since he sins, while the blessed Holy One does not. Blessed be He and blessed be His Name forever and ever; He has no sins” (Bahir §196).
“And You made him little less than אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) (Psalms 8:6)—this is Jacob, as is said, [And Jacob took himself moist rods of poplar and almond and plane-tree, and peeled white strips in them, laying bare the white on the rods. And he stood the rods he had peeled in the troughs, in the water channels from which the flocks came to drink—opposite the flocks… when they came to drink.] And the flocks went into heat at the rods (Genesis 30:39). Rabbi Hoshaya: He would carve a form, and just as he carved, the water became seed within them and thus they gave birth. This teaches that he lacked only [the power] to give them נֶפֶשׁוֹת (nefeshot), life-breath” (Bereshit Rabbati, Va-Yetse 129, cf. BT Avodah Zarah 24a; Zohar 1:161a-b).
“The prophet Jeremiah was engaging with the Book of Formation alone when a heavenly voice went forth and said: Take a companion [cf. M Ḥagigah 2a]. He went to his son Sira, and they studied the book together for three years. Afterward, they set about combining the alphabets in accordance with the laws of combination, grouping, and word formation, and a man was created to them, on whose forehead stood the letters, יהוה אלהים אמת (Adonai Elohim Emet), YHWH God is Truth [cf. BT Shabbat 55a]. But this newly created man had a knife in his hand, with which he erased the letter א (alef) from the word אֶמֶת (emet), truth; there remained the word מֵת (met), dead.
Jeremiah tore his garments [in mourning over the blasphemy now implied in the inscription], and said: Why have you erased the א (alef) from אֶמֶת (emet), truth? He replied: I will tell you a parable. An architect built many houses, cities, and squares, but no one could copy his art and compete with him in knowledge and skill until two men persuaded him to teach them the secret of the art [cf. BT Sanhedrin 37a]. When they had learned how to do everything in the right way, they began to anger him with words. Finally, they broke with him and became architects on their own, except that what he charged a dollar for, they did for pennies. When people noticed this, they ceased to honor the artisan and came to them and honored them and gave them commissions when they required to have something built.
So God has made you in His image and in His shape and form. But now that you have created a man like Him, people will say: There is no God in the world beside these two! Then Jeremiah said: What solution is there? He said: Write the alphabets backward on the earth you have scattered with intense concentration. Only do not meditate in the sense of building up, as you did before, but the other way around. So they did, and the man became dust and ashes before their eyes. Jeremiah said: Truly, one should study these matters only in order to know the power and omnipotence of the Creator of this world, but not to in order to practice them” (Attributed to Yehudah ben Batira, MS Halberstam 444, 7b).
“Among the Polish Jews the golem does all kinds of housework” (Christoph Arnold, Sota hoc est Liber Mischnicus de uxore adulterii suspecta, p. 1198-99 [Altdorf, 1674]).
“[Son of Zoma said:] What labours the first man had to carry out before he obtained bread to eat! He ploughed, he sowed, he reaped, he bound [the sheaves], he threshed and winnowed and selected the ears, he ground [them], and sifted [the flour], he kneaded and baked, and then at last he ate; whereas I get up, and find all these things done for me. And how many labours the first man had to carry out before he obtained a garment to wear! He had to shear, wash [the wool], comb it, spin it and weave it, and then at last he obtained a garment to wear; whereas I get up and find all these things done for me. All kinds of people come early to the door of my house, and I rise in the morning and find all these before me” (BT Berakhot 58a).