Before there was a Before

By Arthur Waskow, David Waskow, & Shoshana Waskow

[Copyright © 1984 by the authors. All rights reserved. These stories of the Creation were originally written in 1974, when David Waskow was ten and Shoshana Waskow was seven. They were published in 1984.

[To get a copy of this book, see the note at the bottom of this excerpt. The note at the end also includes comments on the book by Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, and Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

[What follows is the introduction to this midrashic story of the Creation. It is followed by each of the Seven Days of Creation. – AW]

Once upon a time there was a -- NO! That's not the right way to start this story. This story starts even before there was any time. There were no clocks to measure the hours, and no calendars to measure the years. In fact, there weren't any hours or any years to measure. There wasn't any light, and there wasn't any dark. There wasn't any front, and there wasn't any back. There wasn't any early and there wasn't any late.

If you want to feel what it was like then, close your eyes tight and look at what you see. There's a sort-of-darkness, but in the middle comes a flash of light. Then it's gone. There's a shadow of green, and then it fades away. The dark and the light are all mixed up. "Now" and "then" are all mixed up.

So that gives you the feeling of what it was like BEFORE THERE WAS A BEFORE.

But that was before there were any people, either. So whose eyes were closed?

God's eyes were closed. Pretend you're God. Pretend Your eyes are closed. Dark and light are all mixed up. "Now" and "then" are all mixed up. There isn't any world. There isn't any time. There isn't any no-time or any no-world either. There is Some- thing, but You can't tell what it is. Everything is Everything.

Are you still pretending that you are God?

Then -- You are Everything. All is God, God is All. Nothing is inside You, and nothing is outside You. Everything is inside You, and everything is outside You. You are All Alone.

You're lonely. There's nobody to talk with. There's nothing to look at, and no one to look at You. So You're lonely, and You want company.

So You pull all of Yourself together closer, tighter, and then You separate Yourself into two parts. One part is You, and one part is empty. Open Your eyes! Now You can see the empty space. It is outside You, but there are a few sparks and streaks of You still in it. They look like shooting stars. You say "Yes!" to the emptiness and it becomes a World.

God says Yes again, and the World says yes, and they start to sing to each other 'Yes - yes - yes - yes - yes!"

Each Yes takes one second to say and one second to hear, so time began.

Time began!

Once upon a time, God started feeling that this Yes-Yes-Yes was getting boring. "Let's get this world into some shape so I can have a real conversation," said God.

[The book continues with "One Day," "Day Two," and so on. It is illustrated by Amnon Danziger.

[Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, wrote: "I enjoyed reading it very much indeed. I am always delighted when somebody points out that God has a sense of humor."

[Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, wrote: "dazzlingly good. … Arthur Waskow and his children have proven once again that, no matter how familiar a story is, there is always something new to find in it."

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