בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא

The Torah starts with two words—Bereshit bara—“In the beginning, [God] created…” Bereshit in Hebrew means “in the beginning,” and bara means “created.” What is interesting is that both words begin with the same letter, bet, the equivalent of b.

Another two-word expression that describes the process of creation and each of whose two words also starts with the letter b is, of course, the Big Bang. This similarity could be a coincidence, but not according to Nachmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi, known by the Hebrew acronym Ramban, 1194–1270). Here is Nahmanides’s description of the initial moments of the creation:

At the briefest instant following creation, all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. . . . From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred.

(Ramban Al HaTorah 1:1)

This unmistakably reads like the description of the Big Bang. Let us compare the above description with scientists’ various descriptions of the Big Bang:

Ramban’s Description of Creation Description of the Big Bang
“At the briefest instant following creation. . .” At the briefest moment after the Big Bang
“All the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place. . .” All the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small space, no larger than an infinitesimally small dot called the “primordial singularity.”
“No larger than a grain of mustard. . .” Georges Lemaître, who proposed what later became known as the Big Bang, called it a “primeval atom” or “cosmic egg.”
“From the initial concentration. . .” From the initial concentration of superhot and superdense matter
“Intangible substance. . .” The unformed substance of superhot and superdense matter
“The substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. . .” The substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. Approximately 10-37 seconds into the expansion, a phase transition caused an exponential expansion called “inflation.”
“As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred.” As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred, and quarks and elementary particles began to form.

 

The history of science attributes the concept of the Big Bang to four twentieth-century scientists: Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann, who in 1922 found a solution to Einstein’s field equations in the General Theory of Relativity leading to the expansion of the universe; Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître, who independently showed that the universe was expanding and confirmed it by astronomical observation in 1927; American astronomer Edwin Hubble, who first saw distant stars and galaxies receding from each other at speeds proportional to their distance from each other, as if the universe was expanding; and British astronomer Fred Hoyle, who in 1949 coined the phrase “Big Bang.” I think it would only be fair if the history of science reflected the fact that the first functional description of the Big Bang was put forward some seven centuries earlier by the Jewish Kabbalist and Biblical commentator Nachmanides.

I do not suggest that Fred Hoyle, when he coined the phrase “Big Bang,” had in mind the Hebrew Bible beginning with Bereshit bara. However, Divine Providence (hashgachah pratit) saw to it that the Big Bang hints at Bereshit bara. Or the other way around, if you prefer.

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