“Rabbi Simlai expounded: What does an embryo resemble when it is in the belly of its mother? Folded writing tablets. Its hands rest on its two temples, its two elbows on its two legs and its two heels against its buttocks. Its head lies between its knees, its mouth is closed and its navel is open, and it eats what its mother eats and drinks what its mother drinks, but produces no excrement because otherwise it might kill its mother. However, as soon as it emerges into the atmosphere the closed organ opens and the open one closes [cf. Isaiah 22:22], for if that had not happened the embryo could not live even one single hour.
A lamp burns above its head and it looks and sees from one end of the world to the other, as is said, when He shined His lamp over my head, by its light I walked in darkness (Job 29:3). And do not be astonished at this, for a person sleeping here [in Babylon] might see a dream in Spain. And you have no days in which a human dwells in more happiness than in these days, for it is said, Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me (ibid. 29:2); now which are the days that have moons but do not have years? These are the moons of bearing [i.e., months of pregnancy].
It is also taught the entire Torah, for it is said, And he taught me and said to me: ‘Let your heart hold on to my words. Keep my commandments and live (Proverbs 4:4), and it is also said, [as I was in the days of my prime]—God an intimate of my tent (Job 29:4). Why the addition of ‘and it is also said?’—in case you might say that it was only the prophet who said that [so that it does not apply to other men], come and hear: God an intimate of my tent.
As soon as it emerges into the atmosphere an angel approaches, slaps it on its mouth and causes it to forget the entire Torah, as is said, at the tent flap sin crouches (Genesis 4:7) [cf. BT Sanhderin 91b; Zohar Ḥadash 46d–47b; Plato, Meno 80a–86c]. It does not emerge from there before it is made to take an oath, as is said, For to Me every knee shall bend, every tongue shall vow (Isaiah 45:23). That unto Me every knee shall bow—the day of dying of which it is said Before Him will kneel all who go down to the dust whose life is undone (Psalms 22:30); Every tongue shall swear—the day of birth of which it is said, the clean of hands and the pure of heart, who has given no oath in a lie and has sworn not in deceit (Psalms 24:4).
What is the nature of the oath that it is made to take? Be righteous, and never be wicked; and even if all the world tells you, ‘You are righteous,’ be in your eyes like a wicked person. Know that the blessed Holy One is pure, that His attendants are pure and that the נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul, He gave you is pure; if you preserve it in purity, well and good, but if not, I will take it away from you [cf. BT Berakhot 60b].
The academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: This may be compared to the case of a priest who handed over some תְּרוּמָה (terumah), donation, to an ignorant peasant and told him, ‘If you preserve it under conditions of cleanness, well and good, but if not, I will burn it in your presence.’
Rabbi El’azar observed: What is the Scriptural proof [that an oath is taken on the day of one’s birth]? From my mother’s womb גוֹזִי (gozi) (Psalms 71:6). What is the proof that גוֹזִי (gozi) implies swearing?—because it is written, גָּזִּי נִזְרֵךְ (Gazi Nizrekh), swear your naziriteship, and cast it away [lit., cut off your hair and cast it away] (Jeremiah 7:29)” (BT Niddah 30b–31a).
“Rav Shimi son of ‘Uqva (others say, Mar ‘Uqva) was often in the company of Rabbi Shim’on son of Pazzi, who used to arrange the aggadahs [and recite them] before Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi. He said to him: What is, ‘בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי (Barekhi nafshi), bless, O my being, YHWH, and all that is within me bless His holy name? He replied: Come and see how human nature differs from divine nature: A human being draws a figure on the wall but cannot cast into it breath and soul, bowels and intestines. But the blessed Holy One is not so. צָר צוּרָה בְּתוֹך צוּרָה (Tsar tsurah be-tokh tsurah), He designs a form within a form [the fetus within the womb], casting into it breath and soul, bowels and intestines. This is what Hannah said: There is no one holy like YHWH, for there is no one beside You, and there is no rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:2). What does this mean: there is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God? There is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God!
What is For there is no one beside You? Rabbi Yehudah son of Menasya said: Read not, there is no one בִּלְתֶּךָ (biltekha), beside You, but, there is no one לְבַלּוֹתֶךָ (le-vallotekha), to outlive You. For the nature of flesh and blood is not like that of the blessed Holy One. It is human nature to be outlived by its works, but the blessed Holy One outlives His works. He said to him: What I meant to tell you is this: To whom did David refer in these five verses beginning with ‘בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי (Barekhi nafshi), bless, O my being, YHWH’? [see Psalms 103:1, 2, 22; 104:1, 35]. He was alluding only to the blessed Holy One and to the soul. Just as the blessed Holy One fills the whole world, so the soul fills the body. Just as the blessed Holy One, sees, but is not seen, so the soul sees but is not itself seen. Just as the blessed Holy One feeds the whole world, so the soul feeds the whole body. Just as the blessed Holy One is pure, so the soul is pure. Just as the blessed Holy One abides in the innermost chambers, so the soul abides in the innermost chambers. Let that which has these five things come and praise Him who has these five things [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 14:9]” (BT Berakhot 10a).
“The way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. A human being cannot fashion a creature from water. However, it is not so with He who spoke, and the world came into being. Rather, He fashioned a creature from water, as is written, Let the waters swarm with the swarm of living creatures (Genesis 1:20).
Worker of wonders (Exodus 15:11)—for the way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. A human being cannot fashion a creature in darkness. However, it is not so with the blessed Holy One. Rather, He fashioned a creature in darkness, as is written, When I was made in a secret place, knitted in the utmost depths (Psalms 139:15).
Another interpretation: Worker of wonders—for the way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. When a human being fashions a form, he begins from its head, or its feet, or from one of its limbs. However, it is not so with the blessed Holy One. Rather, when He fashions a form, He fashions it [all] at once, as is written, He is יוֹצֵר (yotser), Fashioner, of all things (Jeremiah 10:16). And it says, There is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God (1 Samuel 2:2)—there is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God!
Another interpretation: Worker of wonders—for the way of the blessed Holy One is not like the way of a human being. A human being goes to a sculptor [and] says to him, ‘Make me a bust of [my] father!’ He says to him, ‘Bring me your father and stand him in front of me, or bring me his likeness, and I’ll make it for you according to its likeness!’ However, it is not so with He who spoke, and the world came into being. Rather, from [only one] drop, He gives someone a son who looks like the image of his father!” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Pisḥa, 8–11).
“Quarry of the Torah, treasury of Wisdom, quarry of רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים (ruaḥ Elohim), God’s breath, to teach that the blessed Holy One hewed out all the letters of Torah, engraving them with breath, and actualizing צוּרוֹתָיו (tsurotaiv), His forms, within, as is written: There is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God (1 Samuel 2:2)—‘there is no צַיָּיר (tsayyar), artist, like our God!’ (BT Berakhot 10a)” (Bahir §143, cf. Zohar 3:135b [IR]).
“When a woman yields seed (Leviticus 12:1).
Rabbi Yehudah opened, ‘There is no one holy like YHWH, for there is no one beside You, and there is no rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:2). This verse is difficult: There is no one holy like YHWH implies that there is someone else holy, since it is written like YHWH. And there is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God implies that there is another rock.
Well, surely, There is no one holy like YHWH, for there are various holy ones. Holy ones above, as is written: [This verdict] by order of the holy ones (Daniel 4:14). Israel is holy, as is written: You shall be holy (Leviticus 19:2). All of them are holy, yet not holy like YHWH. Why? Because it is written for there is no one בִּלְתֶּךָ (biltekha), beside You. What does this mean? That the holiness of the blessed Holy One exists בִּלְתִּי (bilti), without, their holiness, since He does not need theirs; but they are not holy biltekha, without You. This is for there is no one biltekha—their holiness does not exist without You.
And there is no צוּר (tsur), rock, like our God—as has been established, that the blessed Holy One צָר צוּרָה גוֹ צוּרָה (tsar tsurah go tsurah), designs a form within a form, perfecting it, blowing into it the spirit of life, bringing it forth into the world.
Alternatively, And there is no rock like our God—there is that which is called rock: Look to the rock from which you were hewn (Isaiah 51:1); You shall strike the rock. Look, I am about to stand before you there on the rock (Exodus 17:6). All of them are called rock, yet there is no rock like our God, who possesses power and dominion over all’” (Zohar 3:44a).