It’s been said that a Rabbi sage can spend a lifetime contemplating just the first word of the torah. To respect the profound nature of that statement, we’re going to dedicate an article to that first word alone.
’In the beginning…’
Beresheet is the very first word of Genesis, and the first word of the Torah. After beginning my journey into the study of the original forms of the sacred texts, just this word alone appears to hold tremendous meaning.
A foundational understanding
The first thing to understand about the Hebrew alphabet is its nature. It has 22 main letters, and 5 final letters. (These are alternate versions of 5 of the main letters when suffixed (at the end) of a word).
What makes it important to understand the original language of the sacred texts if you are going to undertake understanding them for yourself is the nature of the alphabets. While many would say that the English translation is a very good version of the literal writings, there is much that is lost when taking it out of its original form.
The biblical Hebrew is very symbolic, it is not as literal as the latin alphabet. The letters carry many meanings, even visually (think hieroglyphics). Hebrew is more fluid – promoting understanding rather than a definitive, straight line presentation like latin text would.
The letters themselves also each have an individual numeric value, as there was not a separate number system during their creation. Both the Ancient Greek and Hebrew alphabets assign values to each individual letter. For example, Aleph א, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet is 1, Bet, the second letter is two, and tav the final letter is assigned 400 (see below).
These numerical values relate to a symbolic meaning within the texts.
First things first
The first letter of the alphabet, Aleph א, represents the number 1. In that, it represents universal oneness, the creator. It is the denominator of all other numbers. It represents G-d itself. Aleph א is silent, just as there was silence before the beginning – the breath of god – the first vibration or wavelength.
The Torah, however, begins with the second letter of the alphabet, Bet ב. This is of major importance.
Bet represents the number 2. It’s even said that the visual shape of the 2 came from the development of bet ב. But it is also so much more.
Visually, the Bet ב symbolizes the house. It has a floor, a wall, a roof, and a doorway. In the original ancient Hebrew script, it was the perfect representation of a tent.
The house is very important. But it is not just a house in the traditional sense. It also represents the universal concept of a container or vessel. The created world is meant to house within it the spiritual. The physical world is meant to be a place for the Creator’s signature to manifest. The body is meant to contain the soul, allowing it to act in this world.
When we look at the Bet ב in context as the first letter of the Torah and the alphabet itself, we can begin to grasp some meaning.
6Hebrew is written right to left. So, behind the wall of the symbolic Bet ב is Aleph א, or the creator. It is the hidden fabricator. This is also represented by the fact the Torah begins with Bet ב. The first creation out of 1 is 2, the separation of light from darkness, duality and the beginning of existence. It is the first visible thing, and this is represented visually in the torah. The ‘House’ of God is created; it is the universe. Existence itself. And out of the doorway of this visible existence comes all other letters, and in the case of the Torah everything is expressed coming out of the doorway of the first existence, this is the representation of the Torah’s first letter.
Another way to look at the letter of Bet ב as the beginning of existence as we define it, is also in the shape of the letter.
Bet’s ב numerical representation as 2 is also related to it representing the second day when G-d is said to have separated the waters. If we look to the symbol, we see the wave coming out from the straight line.
This could be considered to represent measurable existence, before which was the infinite represented by the straight line.
Imagine an ocean, completely still and calm. So still that it becomes invisible. This is our absolute. It represents the infinite state of rest, or ‘oneness’. Now imagine we strike the surface and it begins to ripple. These ripples cause the surface of the ocean to become visible by putting it into a state of motion. This describes how material reality of physical existence comes into being.
It is still a part of the ocean or the absolute. In fact, if you examined deeper layers of the ocean, you would find layers less effected by the ripple and more in touch with the complete state of rest. These layers represent higher levels of consciousness. And eventually you would reach a layer that had not been effected by the ripple at all. This is the absolute state of rest, and in fact the creator, out of whom the ripples have been created and are still a part of.
The Ancient Hebrew symbol of the tent also expresses this symbolism in its consideration as a spiral. It is the bent or measurable line. Interestingly, the spiral is seen in many ancient cultures, and it is seen in the pattern of growth as the phi (1.618) golden ratio throughout the universe. From the formation of a galaxy, to the vortex of a hurricane.
The inner chemical secrets of Man
What’s more is that the very word for house בית in Hebrew is hidden in the first word of the Torah. It bookends the first word, ‘housing’ the other letters and solidifying this meaning.
As we look deeper, we take a look at what’s inside the house. In between the bookend, we find something else. The word in the center is the word ראש. This word can mean, head of a man, chief, leader, intelligence. As you can see, the latin translation represents but a fraction of the meaning.
So in(side) the beginning we have conscious. The control or decision, if we consider the related words. Now, if we take this word, and calculate its numerical value, we get 200 + 1 + 300 = 501 = 5 + 0 + 1 = 6.
It the biblical context, 6 is the number of Man. So here we have the head of a man, the leader or intelligence; consciousness, who’s number is six. Now I believe that the term ‘Man’ represents conscious life, the soul.
Why else is this important?
When we consider the number six, there is one further relation to the number six.
“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.” Revelation 13:18
When I see the reference to the ‘number of man’ I believe that it refers to gross existence. The physical or material manifestation of life in which is the soul and the spirit of G-d. If we jump to the periodic table of elements, and find the atomic number six, we find carbon. Carbon is found in all known life. The word organic, is actually used chemically to refer to any molecule containing carbon. But wait, there’s more… When we look at the structure of carbon, it has the atomic number 6 because it has six protons, but not only does it have six protons. If we look at 99% of all carbon, it exists as carbon-12. Carbon-12 has six protons, six neutrons, and six electrons. It is the backbone of all known life and its number is, 6 6 6.
Perhaps the best known and most chased secret of alchemy is the claim of turning lead into gold. While it seems that the philosophers stone has eluded most people in their desire for material possession, missing the true meaning of transmutation as a metaphysical and not a physical concept, it did lead to the birth of modern chemistry out of alchemy. And chemistry shows that black, impure carbon (Coal) can be transmuted through heat and pressure into luminous and brilliant pure carbon (Diamond).
I’ll be adding some great articles on alchemy and its true value very soon.
Continuing with the majesty of the first word in the Torah, we will go a little deeper. So far we have seen how Beresheet (in the beginning) represents the beginning of existence in its translation, and in its visual and symbolic essence. Now, let’s go deeper into the numerical values.
Now, if we split the word down the middle this time, we get ביא שית meaning He Created A Garment. That garment is the universe, within which is the supreme being itself.
Another way to consider the first word is a guide to the purpose of the sacred texts.
Out of the house of God comes the poor man (the letter… represents the poor man bent over or crooked, who must again align himself).
Who must master (Aleph א is Master) Kesser (will and pleasure), the intellect, and the emotions (represented by shin or sin ש, which can mean change, but interestingly is also called sin.)
To return to oneness with G-d (which is represented by the yod י, meaning the indefinite point of the universal creator.)
Which is truth (as represented by the final letter of the word, tav ת, which is also the final letter of the alphabet and means truth. As we know in philosophy and alchemy, the physical world is considered but an illusion and mere shadow of the true reality.
So the poor man comes out of the created house of god, the physical world, who must master his Will, Intellect, and emotions (sin/impurity) to return to Truth.
Furthermore, the final letter Tav ת, representing the word truth, does so because the essence of truth is determined at the end of a journey or passage, not at the beginning.
Therefore, it is the final letter of the word truth (tav ת) that represents the word. And another question, why is the first letter, Aleph א, not representative of truth? The Rabbi says because the letter tav ת represents humankind’s ultimate destination, the culmination of our Divine service to perfect the world.
This truth is unveiled at the coming of the Meshiach, that is the messiah. In this case the messiah is in all and is the Christening or purification of the self.
Interestingly, the ancient Hebrew letter of the Tav ת was a cross. Rather than this being a symbol of the prediction of Jesus, I believe that this represents the allegorical nature of the story of the New Testament. It is once again, a guidebook for the reader to liberate themselves.
These books teach the individual how to purify themselves to elevate their true, immortal self through the death of the gross and physical self, the ego, through allegory and symbol.
“The fool lives but for today; the philosopher lives forever.” Manly P. Hall Secret Teachings Of All Ages
Let’s look at the first sentence of the Torah as a whole:
בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארֵֵֵעָ
In the beginning (בראשית) created (ברא) God (אלהים) (את) the heavens (השמים) and (ואת) the earth (הארֵֵֵעָ).
If we calculate the total value from the values above that pertain to each of the words, we get a total value of 2,701. If we boil this down to its essence (2+7+0+1) we get 10, which is the number of completeness, and is represented by the yod; the return to wholeness. Now, even more curious is a multiple of this number. 37 x 73 will give us 2,701.
These numbers are opposites of each other, a balance. Each of their boiled down values is 10, or 1. What makes this even more curious is that these are both prime numbers (divisible by only 1 and themselves). They are the only numbers. Not only that, but they are the 12th and 21st prime numbers respectively. Do you see that? 12 and 21 are also mirrors of each other… This could be considered to represent duality and the beginning itself (light separated from darkness).
Just scratching the surface
Here we have only touched on some of the possible ways to interpret the torah. In fact, we have only briefly visited the very first sentence of the Torah, and have really only contemplated the very first word! That’s over two-thousand words on the first word alone, and I feel confident in saying that there’s much more that remains in the genius of its six letters.
References and Links
Manly P. Hall, Secret Teachings of All Ages, Youcanprint, 2017, ISBN: 9788892676848