Bereishit’s First Letter

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The first letter of the very first word of the Torah is the Hebrew letter bet (ב). Numerous commentators have written on this choice of a bet, rather than an alef ( א)- the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

One particularity of the letter bet is to be enclosed on three sides and open to the front. Our sages understood this as meaning that we shouldn’t speculate on the origins of God or on what may have existed before the act of Creation. (Genesis Rabbah 1:10)

This does not mean that we should not inquire into the origins of the universe but rather that we are not to try to prove the unprovable. Thus what matters is not the “before” but the “now”.

The bet indicates that we are not to look backward but forward. Thus we are told, right from the begining of the first scroll, that the Torah is not an ancient book with old tales but that God gave it to us to live with, in our time.