TEHOM – The Deep – formless and void



In the beginning … the earth was formless and empty


In the duet between individuation and sociality, specifics and generalizations, implicit and explicit — all those pairs floating between the inconceivable large and inconceivably small, deep and shallow… we search for a reference point, even if full acceptance that the boundaries are necessarily inaccessible.  All our successive transcendences–each a pleasure–might finally be felt as points along an infinite regress, or endless loop or a Möbius strip, but we are still unable to resist the pusuit.  In fact the pursuit may be the essence of life as we know it.  

In any event, I like the word Hebrew word Tehom as a stand in for the inexpressible and as a reference point, borrowing it from Genesis 1:2 : 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.    Genesis 1-2



Ayana Mathis, speaking of “The Prophetic Imagination” by [the great Old Testament scholar of the Hebrew prophetic tradition and sociopolitical imagination of the Church],  Walter Brueggemann :  “The prophetic utterance is untamed and subversive. It is, we might say, the language of art and of the imagination: aesthetically highly developed, illuminated with meanings that are recognizable to the listener, often unbidden and usually uncomfortable. Some prophets shout full-throatedly, with complete knowledge of their mission; others, almost unwittingly, hold up a mirror in which some specter, some twisted face, appears.

Then she speaks of Toni Morrison’s  “’A Mercy’ [(2008), as] a meditation on an American tehom, an ancient Hebrew word that means “the deep” and refers, in the biblical context, to the oceanic, inchoate depths at the moment of creation — as in Genesis 1:2: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” In Morrison’s novel, the American tehom swirls with any number of possible outcomes and directions.”



From Aharon Monday, March 13, 2023:   I really like this d’var Torah from Rabbi Gordon Tucker for this week’s parashah.  …   The two readings on this Shabbat (Ki Tissa and Parah) together give us an embrace and a celebration of what is inescapably human: a sense of uncertainty about ultimate truths. move notes on this to \A&O\A&O – METAPHOR for the transcendent.docx

New Scientist 18 September 2021  


connect chaos and order: as in John 1:1 an arcane han ho logos — where the logos, the word, dispelled the chaos merely by being spoken



 Nothing produces virtual particles in pairs that quickly meet back up to annihilate one another, and if this happens on an event horizon, the pair are separated forever, cannot meet back up to annihilate, and thus become real particles with a permanent existence.

[So] It turns out that not even nothing is truly nothing. In fact, absolutely nothing seems to be against the laws of physics.


Sarah E. Fisher analyses Biblical TEHOHM in her blog, https://hebrewwordlessons.com/2020/07/12/tehohm-a-dive-into-the-deep/


Professor Emeritus, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.