The Way of Water

No, I’m not talking about a James Cameron movie. This is much better. I want to bring to fore some things we can learn from a molecule of water.

My apologies if the writing on the picture above is a little small. I am not an expert in visual arts. I do hope, though, that you can see that the picture makes a kind of a rough triangle. It not an equilateral triangle. It’s actually an isosceles triangle. Two edges are of equal length – the left and right sides – and the third edge is of different length – the base.

The water molecule is based on the oxygen atom. Oxygen is the second most abundant material on earth and the third most abundant in the universe. It is the substance that we use to breathe. This in itself gives a first look at the spiritual significance of oxygen, as the words pertaining to immaterial consciousness, soul and spirit, all derive from the concept of air, wind, and breath. Check out רוח (ruach), נפש (nefesh), נשמה (neshamah), πνεῦμα (pneuma) if you’re curious.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit (ruach) of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:1-2

Then ADONAI, God, formed a person from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (neshamah), so that he became a living being (nefesh).

Genesis 2:7

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit (pneuma) of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit (pneuma) of God.

1 Corinthians 2:11

In its most common isotope, oxygen contains six neutrons and two protons. That is, two of its nuclear particles contain electric charge, while the other six don’t. This store of electromagnetic energy connects the oxygen to the universe at large via two electrons, which form water once two hydrogen atoms are added. Note from the verse above mentioning the spirit of God that water is actually the primordial substance of the universe. You find it all over the place. You can also turn it into all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s one of the only liquids that expands when it freezes, and it’s also one of the few liquids that doesn’t like to be compressed.

The oxygen atom represents divinity, and the two hydrogen atoms represent divinity expressed within created reality. Divinity itself is impossible to comprehend directly with total accuracy because the human mind cannot directly comprehend infinity. The closer you get to it, the more it resembles chaos. Trust me, I know. I found this out in Seoul, Korea.

We can understand divinity to a certain degree with our intellectual contemplations and verbal descriptions, but the most direct way to understand divinity the best is from the two expressions of it in reality. The Ruach Haqodesh (The English for this is the “Holy Spirit,” with which the Christians are familiar) is the first of these two expressions. The idea of spirit itself hearkens from the idea of air and breath, as noted above, and denotes anything immaterial. So emotions like love, ideas, wisdom, patterns, and expressions of energy, these things fall within the purview of “spirit.” This is one way divine can be recognized.

The second way is the “Word of God.” The idea of a “word” fundamentally means “representation.” So you may have a pen hidden in your pocket. If I ask you what is in your pocket, you can say “pen” and these sounds will allow me to recognize what is in your pocket. I don’t need to see the pen. I have interacted with the sonic representation of it – the word “pen.” Much has been made of this “word” concept, and the waters are very muddy due to the involvement of neoplatonic influences, and particularly from the influence of the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo. These sources had an influence on the understanding of Greek word λόγος (logos), “word,” and its relationship to the Hebrew דבר (davar), which is also translated as “word.”

From a broad view, though, both of these terms refer to that which represents a thing. This is not necessarily limited to verbal sounds and words that we make with our mouths. So then, if a being is walking around in the garden of Eden or talking with Abraham in the heat of the day or wrestling with Jacob through the night, and that being displays all divine characteristics pertinent to that particular epiphany, then this being, as the representation of God, is the “Word of God.”

From the New Testament perspective, this Word of God is Jesus the Messiah. In the Jewish tradition there are a few candidates for the “Word of God,” with the angels Metatron and Michael being the most common. Certain Kabbalistic traditions and commentators also allow for the Messiah to be a divine representative, though this concept of the Messiah can be fundamentally identical to, or have significant overlap with, or in some cases be quite different from Jesus in the New Testament. Here is an example of a Kabbalist’s understanding of the Messiah:

The position of the Messiah is Kabbalah and in many other esoteric traditions is very precise. He is the perfect human being, the living ideal for all humanity. His initial position on Jacob’s Ladder is at the simultaneous Malkut of Azilut, the Tiferet of Beriah and the Keter of Yezirah. Here, where the upper three Worlds meet in the Throne of God, he presides over the innermost part of incarnate mankind. Whoever holds this role as the Axis of the Age is the link between the Divine Elohim, the Holy Spirits and humanity. The Messiah, it is said, is the true Son of God and not his servant, as all the Archangels are despite their high rank and name of Benai Elohim. This special relationship is because Adam, or man, was God’s firtstborn, that is, the being who was of the Elohim’s own begetting in the divine’s own likeness. This it is that those of mankind who have not realized that in their self is God seeing God are given the choice of perceiving the purpose of human existence in the reality of the Messiah, the lastborn spirit to incarnate below. While, for example, orthodox Christians say the Messiah has come and orthodox Jews say the Messiah is yet to come, the truth of the matter is that the Messiah has been, is and always will be present. It could be no other way, if one know the place of the Anointed above the Self and the Crown of all incarnate mankind where humanity meets Adonai at the Malkhut of Divinity.

A Kabbalistic Universe, Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi

In a nutshell, the Messiah is an example of Davar Hashem (“the Word of God”) in the New Testament and portions of Judaism.

So then the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are two ways that we can recognize God in a way that we can experience directly. One could say that they are the two witnesses to divinity, which brings us to a common trope of scripture:

On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.

Deuteronomy 17:6

A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.

Deuteronomy 19:15

That is, you need two witnesses really have a full grasp of divinity, or three if you can wrap your head around that oxygen atom – divinity itself.

These ideas about two witnesses are echoed in the New Testament as well.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

Luke 10:1

So ultimately what we have is a picture of the divine being recognized by two witnesses, or even a third if possible. It helps if this third witness, one’s conceptual understanding of God, is brought to the individual by the two easily identifiable witnesses. This is made apparent by yet another triangle that is not equilateral: the Ark of the Covenant.

The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they drew too close to the presence of the LORD. The LORD said to Moses: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come at will into the Shrine behind the curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, lest he die; for I appear in the cloud over the cover.

Leviticus 16:1-2

The word for “cover” here is also used in the context of atonement, and Christian translations have “mercy seat” where the JPS Tanach renders “cover.” This lid of the ark has two angels on it, and between them “God” would appear in a cloud. Since God, omnipresent, doesn’t have a mouth to declare where he will be or a specific location, this is the “Word of God” talking to Moses and appearing in a cloud.

Jewish tradition calls this the שכינה (shekhinah), a concept which has considerable overlap with the Word of God as well as some overlap with the Holy Spirit. The Shekhinah is based on the Hebrew lexical root for “dwelling” and is often translated as “Presence of God.” Since the term is not found in the Bible, Christians know little of it and quite frequently hate what they do know of it, and so it never found itself in mainstream English, as English is a combination of Shakespeare and Christian holy books. Since Jews usually maintain Hebraisms in their English writings, I will just refer to it as “the Shekhinah” in contrast to my usual practice of avoiding Hebraisms and foreign jargon for writing in “plain English,” which tends to put a bit of a Christian bent on things. It’s important to remember that the Shekhinah does not simply equate to Word of God or Holy Spirit, as God can be present via a personal epiphany and/or an immaterial “flavor” or “energy” if you will.

As a final comment on the Ark, we can even find “two-plus” in its dimensions:

They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Exodus 25:10

Exodus 25:10

Above you can see that the cubit that defines the sides of the ark and the two cubits that define the front and back of it, are each buffered by an additional “half cubit,” a sort of nebulous partial unit surrounding the full cubits. This “two and a half cubits long” rings a bit like saying two or three witnesses.

So we have two isosceles triangles thus far: a water molecule and the Ark of the Covenant. So let me just float an idea out there: If anyone is going to use the word “Trinity” to describe three ways of looking at God, they are going to have to abandon the notion of a complete identity between those three ways of looking at God. If you ask me, the insistence on complete identity of the “persons of the Trinity” as defined at the Council of Nicaea is a primary vehicle by which the Constantinian Christian Church went intellectually off the rails effectively on the day of its inception under the Roman Emperor.

Beyond this, though, I wanted to talk about those protons and neutrons. There are eight of them in total. Before I talk about eight, though, I want to talk a bit about the number seven. I want to do that because there are six neutrons, and in the Bible, six tends to be a part of a series of seven.

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.

Exodus 20:11

Further, Jewish tradition holds that the world will persist for six thousand years.

The academy of Eliyahu taught a Baraisa: the world is destined to existfor six thousand years: the first two thousand years were of nothingness; the second two thousand years were of Torah; the third two thousand years should have been the days of the Messiah, but because of our sins which are numerous, the years that have gone from the Messianic Era have gone.

Avodah Zarah 9a

I add that the above quote is from the Artscroll Talmud Bavli, as translations of the Talmud often involve a vast amount of interpretation, and this one is no exception, though I do agree with the interpretation.

I’d like to note here that the Christian chronologist Archbishop James Ussher calculated from the genealogies of the Bible that the world was created in 4,004 BCE. So that would make this year 6026 AM (Ano Mundi). The Jewish calendar calculates the current year to be 5783 AM. So the Christians have the world at just over six thousand years old, and the Jews say it is almost six thousand years old.

As explained by the Jewish Encyclopedia, the Talmud draws a distinction between the Messianic Kingdom and the Olam Haba, or the world that comes after this one. Also explained in the Jewish Encyclopedia article is the concept of the week of millennia. I’ll put a few different verses on on this point below to complement what we find in the Jewish Encyclopedia article.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:16-17

In the verses above, we find the declaration that Adam and Eve would die in the day they ate the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. They didn’t die within 24 hours, though. In fact, they lived centuries afterward and had multitudes of children. The longest-lived person in the Bible was Methuselah, who actually died in the flood of Noah at 969 years old. People used to live a very long time, evidently. No one ever lived a thousand years, however. So let’s take a look at a thousand-year day.

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

Psalm 90:4

This sentiment is restated in the New Testament.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

2 Peter 3:8

So if the Talmud is saying the history of the world is six thousand years, this could refer to the history of the world before the Messiah comes. The six neutrons of the oxygen atom. It is interesting that it also refers to a two-thousand year age of the Messiah within the six thousand years of the history of this world. However, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe stated a view, not unique to him, that this six thousand years precedes the Messiah.

So with the world: Only when it has been brought to its perfection, by our service during the 6,000 years which precede the Messiah, will its purpose (“light”) be revealed.

Torah Studies: A Parsha Anthology from the Teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, page 13

The New Testament adds the specificity of a one thousand year reign of the Messiah.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4

Taken together, it looks like we have a total history of our world amounting to a week of millennia which corresponds to our daily week: six days of work followed by a day of rest on the sabbath, the seventh day corresponds to six thousand years of normative human history followed by a seventh thousand years of divinely inspired rest, with the enigmatic statement from the Talmud that there will be a two-thousand year period of history belonging to the Messiah within the six thousand years of normative human history.

Now other than a specific reference to one thousand years of Messianic reign, all of this information that I am presenting comes from the Talmud and the Tanach, that is, the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament in Christian parlance, all sources recognized throughout Judaism. The concept of the thousand year day, the six thousand years of normative human history, the concept of a two thousand year period of the Messiah within that history, the idea that the Messiah will arrive after that six thousand years, all of these are from the most prestigious of Jewish sources. Only the concept of the thousand year reign of the Messiah comes from the New Testament, an apocryphal Jewish source disparaged by most Jews, which makes the whole structure of history into a week of millennia.

If this system is valid, then according the the Jewish calendar, the Messiah should be here in a couple hundred years. According to Christian chronology, the Messiah is already late. I’ll have some things to say about this at some point when I write a dedicated essay on details of eschatology. The Rambam told us not to speculate about the date of the coming of the Messiah, and the sad examples of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and scores of Christian cults who have told us exactly when Jesus would return only to be wrong have confirmed the Rambam’s wisdom, but I am not sure I will be able to resist, as I have some reasons for throwing some eschatological conjecture on the table.

I’m not going to get into that here, however. Here, I only want to lay out some historical structure that we find in the Hebrew Bible recognized by Christians and Jews as well as the Talmud, recognized by Jews and respected by a few Christians, plus that one little factoid from the New Testament that ties the thing together nicely as a total human history of week of millennia capped with a thousand year sabbath of the reign of the Messiah.

But even more specifically, I want to show how all of that is expressed in a water molecule, the substance the Torah says everything was made out of.

So then finally, that second proton, the eighth nucleon. It’s not included in the seven thousand year history. But as mentioned above and referenced in numerous Talmudic sections according to the Jewish Encyclopedia article, the Jewish sources distinguish between the kingdom of the Messiah and the Coming World. That is, after the Messianic reign, there will be a new world created that will continue forever. The Messianic kingdom will actually have more in common with that world, as the Messianic Kingdom and the world that follows it will have more in common with each other than with the six thousand preceding years, as the spirit and power of God will be reigning during both of those periods as opposed to the godlessness we see everywhere today.

So there we have it. The water molecule not only with its six neutrons and two protons in its oxygen atom provides a subtle nod to an elaborate concept of human history as a week of millennia ended with the Messianic kingdom and followed by a coming world found interspersed throughout the most respected Jewish sources and slightly buttressed just a touch by a controversial Jewish apocryphal source (the New Testament), but it also points to the Torah’s presentation of two (or three) witnesses that allow the recognizing of God in a kind of a correction of the Christian notion of Trinity.

This is one of those essays that I could come back and quote explicitly all of those references mentioned in the Encyclopedia Judaica article and add a number of apocryphal sources when time permits, but I hope this first draft of this essay is sufficiently clear. So with that, I will publish this thing and pass it to people I know for critique.

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