Ask anybody, “How was the world created?” They will tell you, “The world was created by the word of G-d.” G-d said “Let there be light” and there was light. But what does the word ‘light’ mean? Or what did it mean when it was first spoken? Since light had not yet existed, the word was meaningless.
We must understand these words to be not only names, but formulas.
Something like, H2O produces water. (O.K., it doesn’t produce water; it just describes its makeup).
Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe, explains in the Tanya that words are composed of letters, each letter having creative energy. Arrange the letters one way and you get one type of creation. Arranged differently you get another creation. Aleph-vov-reish is the ‘formula’ for light. Aleph-bais-nun is the ‘formula’ for stones.
Aleph-reish-yud is the ‘formula’ for lions, etc.
Where do letters get this power?
Speech means revelation. You reveal what is on your mind or in your heart by speaking. Words convey to others what is hidden in your thoughts. Thought has more energy than word because it is closer to the soul. This explains why speaking can bring relief from troubling thoughts. Thoughts are the soul of the words you speak; hence thoughtful words feel alive while thoughtless words feel hollow. Thus the energy behind the ‘word’ is the thought.
When you are searching for the origins of the universe you will want to get to the earliest beginnings of existence. You will, therefore, ask, “Where did the word of G-d come from?” The answer will be from His thoughts. He thought about creation before creating, thus the universe already existed in His mind before He spoke it into being.
Incidentally, during the week G-d creates the world with words, but on Shabbat He creates with thought alone. The world is holier on Shabbat because of this.
But… What produces thoughts?
We’ll get to that next week, G-d willing.