Why does the Torah begin with the letter “beth”?

I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.

AUGUSTINE, Confessions, Book XI

When it came to the beginning of creation, Augustine was not the only person who struggled with the meaning of time. Rabbinic wisdom teaches that there are some aspects to creation that are hidden; we cannot presume to know the mind of God. “Why does the Torah begin with the letter בּ (beth = “b”)? Just as the letter בּ (beth) is closed at the sides but is open in front, so you are not permitted to investigate what is above and what is below, what is before and what is behind.”[1] The Judean sage Jesus ben Sirach (is 200–180 B.C.E.) offers this practical advice to those who speculate about the “hidden matters” alluded to in the

Creation story:

Neither seek what is too difficult for you,

nor investigate what is beyond your power.

Reflect upon what you have been commanded,

for what is hidden is not your concern.

Do not meddle in matters that are beyond you,

for more than you can understand has been shown you.[2]

Sirach 3:21-23 Continue reading “Why does the Torah begin with the letter “beth”?”

Baseball and Bereshit: God Is A Baseball Fan!

BERAISHIT–IN THE BEGINNING!

Isn’t amazing that first parsha of the Torah, Berashit, always occurs during the baseball playoffs? Many years ago, when I was a young rabbinical student, I noticed this strange temporal anomaly that led me to the inevitable conclusion  that God is indeed, a baseball fan. Where do we derive this from the parsha? It states: “In the BIG INNING, God created the heavens and the earth,” A “Shabbat Berashit”—“A Shabbat of new beginnings.” After all the excitement of the High Holidays, comes the Shabbat once more

One of the famous questions asked in the Talmud is why did the Torah begin with the second letter of the Aleph Beth– the letter Beth? Why not begin the Torah with the letter Aleph instead?

The Talmudists answered, that the letter Aleph stands for arrur–a curse, whereas the letter Beth stands for bracha– a word signifying blessing. Surely it is better to begin the Torah with a bracha than a curse!

I have often found myself wondering, what kind of question is the Talmud asking in the first place. One could always ask why the Torah did not begin with one letter or another? Continue reading “Baseball and Bereshit: God Is A Baseball Fan!”