The Secret of the Primordial Alef

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Alef Hebrew Letter in Space

Why does the Torah start with the letter “Bet?” The key to answering this question lies in understanding the “Priomordial Alef.”

Midrash Bereshit Rabbah א:א opens by explaining the process through which God began to create the world. Toying with its beginning at א:א it begins by featuring two words starting with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet - Alef.

“Amon-Amen, The Torah proclaimed itself to be the “Amon-Amen” or “Approved Artisan” of God. As it works in a world of flesh and blood, when a king wants to build a palace they don’t design it by themselves, but rather approves an artisan to design it. The artisan doesn’t build it themselves but rather writes plans and mockups to detail every nook and cranny. So too, the Blessed Holy One looked into Torah and created the world. The Torah says “Bereshit Bara Elokim” - “In the beginning God created,” and you don’t have a beginning other than the Torah as it says “God acquired me (torah) at the beginning “reishit” of their journey [to create]."

The Midrash playfully asserts that the Torah, as the “Approved Artisan” existed with God before material creation. Holding that it would be beneath the glory of the Godhead to do the work of creation, the Torah as artisan draws up a template for creation, paradoxically existing as the tool for material creation and transcending it.

This dichotomy can be better understood by recognizing the multifaceted nature of Torah, the distinction between Alef, and Bet, singular and multiple. א:א = ב. The Primordial Alef, the first lines, letter and beginning of the word, precedes and bears on all other aspects of material creation. This is confirmed in the first act of creation, in which God proclaims “Let there be Light” - “אור.” 


The first thing spoken into existence is another word beginning with Alef. This “אור” -  “Light,” however, is not the same as the sun, moon, and stars created on the fourth day of creation, but rather the “Light” of “Truth” - “אור אמת.” The “אור” of “אמת” is the Torah in its multi-facetedness. It is both the “Approved Artisan” that draws out a world in “Truth” and the written word, i.e the Torah scroll and the words therein, that were received by Moses and all of the Jewish people at Sinai.

The Midrash hints at this elsewhere. When the first human was going to be created the Primordial Alef in the form of “אמת” - “Truth” objected on the basis that humans are full of lies. As punishment God sent “אמת” down to the earth, as it says “Truth will grow from the earth.” The material realization of “אמת” on earth exists in the moment of revelation at Sinai, in which all Jewish souls past, present, and future accepted the providence of the written word of Torah. Therefore, when God appeared at Sinai in the form of another "Alef-Alef" word, the - “אש אכלת” - God’s glory was “Ablaze and All-consuming.”

This is to teach us that if we want to encounter Godlyness and Revelation we must embolden ourselves to be consumed by the warmth and comfort of the Torah. Only then will we be able to connect “תורת אמת” with “תורת אור,” that is the “Torah of Truth” with the “Torah of Light.” Only then may we merit to encounter the Primordial Alef and draw recognize the providence of God's goodness in material terms.  This connection is most powerful because it allows us to reckon with the power we have as agents of the Good - in speaking only good things to one another and recognize goodness everywhere we go, we draw out the Light of Truth. In the action of speaking and doing only good, we bridge the primordial powers of Torah with the material powers of Torah. And we should all be lucky enough to see such miracles happen in our days. And this is easy to understand.

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