Seeking Aleph

October 7, 2015 at 5:01 PM , ,

“In the beginning, g-d created the heaven and the earth…” – beraishis 1:1

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹקִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ – בראשית א, א

The first letter in the Torah is a ב—the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Since everything in the Torah is precise, the Torah’s start with the second letter of the alphabet, not the first, indicates that the studied word of the Torah is only Part 2, and we must preface our study with Part 1.

What is the Torah’s Part 1?

Seeking Aleph

The prophet Yirmiyahu lamented the exile of the Jewish people from the land of Israel, saying, “Why is the land ruined, withered like a wilderness, with no one passing through? Said G-d, because they have forsaken My Torah” (Yirmiyahu 9:11-12). The Talmud (Bava Metzia 85b) discusses this verse and asserts that, in fact, the Jews in Yirmiyahu’s era studied the Torah. Nevertheless, says the Talmud, the abandonment of G-d’s Torah that Yirmiyahu referred to was, “that they did not first utter the blessing over the Torah [before studying it].” As the commentaries explain, their neglect of thebracha indicated that though they appreciated the Torah’s wisdom, they did not focus on the Torah’s holiness, its Divine origin (see Bach, Orach Chaim 47).

This passage in the Talmud teaches us that studying and understanding the Torah’s teachings is only one aspect of our relationship with the Torah. Before approaching the Torah with our tools of intellect, however, we must establish and affirm the other aspect of our relationship with the Torah, our primary objective in Torah study—to attach ourselves to the divinity of the Torah that transcends human comprehension. As the Talmud emphasizes, we must “firstutter the blessing over the Torah,” in which we bless and acknowledge G-d, “the Giver of the Torah.”

Once we are committed to unifying ourselves with the “Giver of the Torah,” we can then proceed to Part 2—the letter ב of בראשית, with which our reading and understanding of the Torah begins.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 15, pp. 1-3



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