Bereishit – 1st Letter

There are three reason given why the Torah begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet – the “beit” – and not the aleph:

1) We don’t want to begin the Torah with an “aleph” because that is also the first letter of the word arur, meaning “cursed.”  (Talmud Yerushalmi Hagiga 2:1)

2) The letter “beit” is open from one side, and so the world was created with the north side “open” (incomplete) so that if someone is crazy enough to suggest that he created the world, we can tell him, “If so, please go and finish off the north side.”  (Midrash Hane’elam on Shir hashirim)

3) The Torah as it exists in the world of Atzilut begins with an aleph.  However, as it descends to our world it changes and begins with a “beit.” (Sefer Maamorim 5700 of the Fredike Lubavitch Rebbe, page 68).

There are problem with all of these explanations: 1) There are many words beginning with aleph that have positive connotations, as well as many words beginning with beit that have negative connotations.  2)  God “looked into the Torah and created the world,” not vice versa…rather than write the Torah in accordance with the creation of the world, He first consulted the Torah and then created the universe…3)  We bless the Torah in this world, referring to it as the Torah that was “given to us.”  If so, why is there a difference between the Torah in the upper world of Atzilut and the Torah as it exists here below?

When King Ptolemy of Greece requested that the Torah be translated into Greek, he took seventy Jewish scribes, who all translated the begiing of the Torah as “Elokim bara…”  That is, the translation into Greek assumes that the first word of the Torah is Elokim, which starts with an aleph.  If so, we see that there is very good reason for the Torah even down here in this world to begin with the letter “aleph.”

There are two aspects of the relationship of the Jew to the Torah – there is his relationship to the Giver of the Torah, and there is his relationship to the Torah itself.  Our relationship to the Giver – to God – transcends emotions and intellect.  It even transcends the words of the Torah.  It is represented by the letter aleph, which is our connection with Godliness that is beyond expression in letters and words.  The beit represents the intellect of the Torah, which we develop as we take time to learn and absorb the Torah.  So, the aleph represents our connection to God, while the beit is our connection to the Torah as we learn it down here.  The Torah down here begins with a beit because the Torah descended to our world in order for us to learn and absorb it.  Once we  have established our connection with God, it is we who draw down the aleph into the Torah…

The three explanations above are inter-related; each corresponds to one of the ways in which the Torah influences the world:  There is the Torah itself, the effect of the Torah upon man, and the effect of the Torah upon the world…for more, see

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 20, page 13-24

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