Skip to Main Content

The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis

Commentary on the First Three Chapters

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



Free shipping when you spend $40. Terms apply.

Buy from Other Retailers

About The Book

A bold line-by-line reexamination of the first 3 chapters of Genesis that reveals the essential nature of mind and creativity

• Deconstructs each line of Genesis chapters 1-3 with esoteric methods derived from the oral teachings of the Kabbalah

• Reveals the sefirot, the Tree of Life, as the Divine blueprint of the creative process

• Explains how Genesis reveals the Divinity of mind and consciousness

Hidden within the first three chapters of Genesis rests one of the greatest jewels of Western mystical literature. For millennia religious literalism has dominated our understanding of the Bible, imprisoning its subtle inner wisdom within the most coarse and superficial aspects of the narrative. Generations have been led to believe that Genesis 1-3 is only a primitive proto-cosmic history, a mythological explanation of the human moral disposition, a religious fairy tale. But by accepting the text as pure kabbalistic metaphor, the mystical content of Genesis springs forth, revealing the Divine nature of creativity as well as a new understanding of the human mind.

Deconstructing each line of Genesis 1-3 with esoteric methods derived from the oral teachings of the Kabbalah, David Chaim Smith reveals how the ten sefirot, collectively known as the Tree of Life, are not simply a linear hierarchy. They are a unified interdependent whole with ten interactive functions, forming the template through which creative diversity manifests. Through acts of creation and creativity, the mind expresses its Divine nature. Through our Divine creative power, we are able to touch upon Ain Sof (the infinite), the lifeblood of all creative expression. Smith’s line-by-line examination of Genesis 1-3 reveals a complete model not only of Divine creativity but also of the predicament of the human mind, of the Divine nature of consciousness as well as our inability to recognize the mind’s Divinity.

With this new interpretation, which removes the concept of a Creator God, we are able to transcend the contrasting notions of “being” and “non-being” at the heart of conventional habits of perception and awaken a new mystical understanding of Unity and the fathomless depth of Divinity.


The Essential Nature of Creativity
The First Word of Genesis

With-beginningness Elohim created the heavens and the earth.
(Gen. 1:1)

The first word of the Bible in Hebrew is B’reshit. This word is usually translated with the phrase “In the beginning,” but the interpretive translation “with-beginningness” is preferred here. In Hebrew the letter bet (B’) is a prefix, which signifies “in” or “with.” The word Reshit refers to a continual state of becoming. This is the condition that all things are “in.” B’reshit is the dynamic nature of creativity that presents total possibility. It is always unfolding fresh, new, and unique. The continual beginning is the volatile and playful disposition that can do or be anything, which displays itself as everything.

When properly understood, B’reshit constitutes a direct assault on all conventional assumptions about the solidity of substance, the linear cohesiveness of time, and the integrity of thought. Conventional perception assumes that moments in time, appearances in space, and individual thoughts are separate, unrelated, random occurrences. The wisdom of B’reshit attacks this by asserting the changeless basis of continual change.

The primordial dynamism of B’reshit is evident in the relentlessness of perception. Considering the “texture” of cognition is helpful in appreciating this. Ordinary perception is an ever-changing ocean of transformation. Waves of thought arise and fall back onto themselves, following an unquestioned and unexamined continuum. When an attempt is made to grasp a thought or feeling, the perceived moment and its contents immediately slip away into the next moment. The next moment always presents itself in a manner subtly different from the last. As this occurs, the moment that was originally sought has vanished before it could even be glimpsed. Neither the content nor context of any moment of perception is the fortress of security that it is assumed to be. The artifice of perception erodes on contact with any attempt to investigate it. The only conclusion that can be made is that the unfolding of perceptual events is not a static parade of frozen moments to be grasped at one by one, it is a constant, uncatchable, and
elusive barrage.

Exoteric religion interprets the Bible’s first word as an indication of creation “ex nihilo.” In the proto-historical mythology a distinction is made between “before” and “after” creation. In the mystical sense, this separation is nullified by the equalizing nature of Divinity, which goes beyond all distinctions. It is asserted by the essential nature of B’reshit, which equalizes all divisions with the wisdom of pure creativity. The wisdom of B’reshit is a “Beginningness” that cannot be experienced or known in any conventional sense. Ordinary perception cannot comprehend its own nature. This would be like trying to see your own face without a mirror. B’reshit is not a concept about wisdom that confronts the mind like a visitor, it is the mirror of the mind itself and reflects whatever habits and tendencies the mind clings to. However, B’reshit is beyond all habits--it is the open reflectivity of the mirror that can reflect anything. It is equal before birth and after death; it is beyond change but is the basis of all change. It is the common basis of what is known as well as that which knows it. Realization of this simultaneity is gnosis (mystical realization).

The wisdom of B’reshit continually explodes into phenomenal play. It is always arising and dissolving, beyond grasp, never static, insubstantial yet vivid. Appreciating this irrepressible wisdom in all things is the door out of the superficial, petty concerns that obscure the Divine mystery. Conversely, not appreciating it perpetuates ordinary perceptual fixation, which literally shuts the door to gnosis. This is made clear in The Zohar:

B’Reshit is a key enclosing all, closing and opening.
(Haqdamat Sefer HaZohar)

The pure Divine creative essence is referred to by the Hebrew term Ain Sof, which can be translated as “the infinite.” The essential nature of creativity is not dependent on anything, but it is not an independent existent entity either. Ain Sof is composed of two words: Ain (without) and Sof (limitation).

No matter what phenomena arises, or does not arise, the purity and wholeness of Ain Sof is unaffected. Ain Sof cannot be diluted or subjugated, no matter how it appears to be distorted, misapprehended, or ignored. Nothing ever leaves and nothing can ever be brought in. These categories are attempts at a definition, which is impossible. All that can be said is that Ain Sof is creative and free. This is indicated in the following quote from the thirteenth-century kabbalist Moshe de Leon.

The highest crown is the pure avira (luminous space) that cannot be grasped. It is the sum of all existence, and all have wearied in their search for it. One should not ponder this “place.” It is secretly named Ain Sof, for it engenders everything that is. The belt of the wise is burst by this mystery. Arouse yourself to contemplate, to focus thought, for the Divine is the annihilation of all thoughts, uncontainable by any concept. Since no one can contain the Divine, it is called Ain (nothingness). (Sheqel HaKodesh)

Ain Sof is the essential unadulterated purity that arises as all things, and B’reshit is its nature. Here the esoteric dimension of language must be extremely precise. Ain Sof is pure essence, and B’reshit expresses the nature of that essentiality. Both aspects, the essence and its nature, are a complete unity. For example, sugar’s nature is to be sweet. We know sugar through the expression of its nature in a variety of forms. No matter how the nature becomes known, it is always sweet. In any form this sweet nature expresses the essence of sugar directly, and it can be known that sugar is present.

The essence and nature of creativity are represented by the first two sefirot, called keter (crown) and chochmah (wisdom). Keter is Ain Sof ’s sublime essential potentiality, and chochmah is its wisdom nature. Both are included in the word B’reshit.

About The Author

David Chaim Smith was born in 1964 in Queens, New York. His early career was as a visual artist throughout the 1980s. In 1990 he began an immersion into the root sources of Alchemy and the Hermetic and Hebrew traditions of the Kabbalah. In 1996 he abandoned visual art for a total dedication to spiritual practice, from which came a unique blend of practical mysticism and creative innovation. This blend coalesced while working with an obscure thirteenth-century text called The Fountain of Wisdom, which he mapped out diagrammatically in notebooks during his ten-year hiatus from visual art. The resulting symbol vocabulary served as the basis for his 2006 return to art, generating the content for several books. He currently lives in the suburbs of New York City with his wife, Rachel.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (October 10, 2015)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620554630

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

“An amazing book--boy does it have chutzpah!”

– Hymenaeus Beta, Frater Superior, Ordo Templi Orientis

“A gifted artist who has a deep contemporary understanding of Jewish mystical wisdom, David Chaim Smith takes us into the domain where zero is one, where the all is nothing, and where the creative moment is constantly renewing itself. The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis is not a book simply to read but to contemplate and live with.”

– Rodger Kamenetz, author of Burnt Books and The Jew in the Lotus

“A unique mystical voice out of a Blakean tradition, The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis is a mind-expanding spiritual text that will both clarify and transform you. Smith has rethought biblical basics from the ground up (‘with-beginningness’) providing insights into the profound depths of mind, perception, reality, life, creativity, luminosity, and transcendence. . . . This is kabbalistic commentary from a living practitioner that will help us immeasurably to help heal the world.”

– John Zorn, musician

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images