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The Name of the Parsha

Why does the Torah begin with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, beis (ב), and not the first letter, alef (א)?

The Jerusalem Talmud suggests that alef would be an inappropriate beginning, since it is the first letter of the begins the world bracha, meaning "blessing" (Chagiga 2:1).

But surely there are many positive words in Hebrew that begins with an alef, and many negative words that begin with beis? Why should beis be identified with "blessing" in particular?

The fact that the Torah begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, beis, indicates that reading the text is actually the second phase of Torah study. Before a person even looks at the first verse of the Torah, he needs to prepare himself for the experience that he is about to undergo.

Basically, Torah study is somewhat of a paradox. On the one hand, it is mitzva that connects a person to God and - as with any mitzva - the person needs to be aware of this fact to achieve a full "connection." On the other hand, if a person actually think about God while he is studying Torah, he will not be able to concentrate on the subject at hand.

The solution to this problem is through preparation. Before even opening the book, a person should take a few moments to reflect that he is about to study God's wisdom that has been "condensed" into humanly intelligible form. He is about to bind his mind into a total union with God.

Of course, when he actually studies the Torah, he will not be able to meditate on this fact, since he will be concentration on the text. Therefor, it is crucial that a person has the correct intentions before he begins.

And that is why the Torah begins with beis, to hint to its reader the study is only the second phase of this mitzva.

Through studying Torah with appropriate preparations blessings will come into a person's life. Thus, the Jerusalem Talmud taught that the beis at the beginning of the Torah stand for bracha-blessing.

(Based on Likkutei Sichos vol. 15, pp. 1ff; ibid. p. 326)

 

 


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