We know that every word of the Torah contains infinite wisdom. Indeed one could dedicate many lifetimes to even just one word of the Torah. While this is true of every word, probably the Torah’s most studied word is the first word in the Torah, Bereishis, In the Beginning. It has never failed to amaze me how many secrets are lurking in this one word. Likewise, every year I am astounded to find new insights and lessons here in very first word of the Torah.
My wonderful friend and talmid, Mr. Mendy Schwartz, Shlit”a, shared with me some new ideas that I am delighted to pass along to you. It is now the universal custom that we start reading the Torah again in Shul the first Shabbos after Simchas Torah. How fascinating that word Bereishis, with its individual letters beis, reish, alef, shin, yud, and saf, is an acronym for Yikra’u b’Shabbos rishon achar Simchas Torah.
Rav Yonason Steif, Zt”l, Zy”a, (who was Mesader Kidushin at my parent’s wedding) cites a Medrash stating that the letter shin denotes learning Torah, for shin stands for shinun which means to learn. He points out that if you take the shin that signifies learning from the word Bereishis, the remaining letters equal taryag. Taryag is the word that denotes the 613 mitzvos of the Torah because it has the exact gematria of 613. Thus, the very first word in the Torah indicates the Torah’s mission which is for us to learn the 613 mitzvos.
The Alexander Rebbe’s Grandson had a Bar Mitzva on Shabbos Braishis. The Rebbe told his Grandson that he is now responsible for 613 mitzvos and it is thus appropriate for Shabbos Braishis, since Braishis equals 613. The Grandson remarked in surprise, “But Zaidie Braishis has a shin and it’s gematria is thus 913!” The Rebbe smiled and explained, “Correct, but shin equals yetzer (both are 300), thus if you knock out the yetzer – you will be able to fulfill the 613 !” I then noticed that Braishis equals “rak taryag”-only taryag for this world is all about doing the 613 mitzvos. As Rashi teaches us Braishis-bishvil Torah shenikra raishis.
Furthermore, the Vilna Gaon has taught us in the word Bereishis all of the 613 mitzvos are alluded to. As an example, he would say Bereishis refers to pidyon haben for it is an acronym of “Ben rishon achar shloshim yomim tifdeh – One’s first son, after thirty days he should redeem.”
One of the highlights of a Jewish man’s day is the public sanctification of Hashem’s Name. He does this with the answering of, “Amein, yehei shemei rabbah…” That’s why Bereishis stands for, “Ameim, yehei shemei rabbah b’kol tefilah.”
We all know that the three cardinal sins of Judaism are idolatry, immorality and bloodshed. Less known is the fourth cardinal sin: to embarrass someone publically. For this heinous crime, the Gemora in Masechtas Sanhedrin tells us that that the habitual perpetrator is stripped of his afterlife. Thus, in the first word of the Torah Hashem warns us about this terrible crime because we find that the words yorei boshes, which is a directive to be ever fearful from embarrassing someone, is an anagram of Bereishis.
We also know that the very survival of the Jewish people hinges upon Shabbos observance. When a family is so assimilated that they don’t even observe Shabbos, sadly intermarriage is only a few step away. Thus, Bereishis is also an acronym of yorei Shabbos, be ever mindful of the Shabbos.
The last Mishna in Shas teaches us that every righteous person is destined in the Afterlife to inherit shai olomos, 310 (shin plus yud) worlds of pleasure. Thus, the word Bereishis is anagram of borosa shai, He created 310 worlds (and not just one world). It is for this reason that tribe of Torah is called Yisasschar, for it is an anagram of shai schar, the reward is 310.
It is well know the Vilna Gaon states that he word Bereishis is an acronym for the six most important pursuits of life: bitachon, ratzon, ahavah, shtika, yirah and Torah. These are 1) trust in Hashem, 2) the proper will to do the right things in life, 3) the correct kind of love such as love for Hashem, a spouse and a fellow man and the proper ways to love oneself, 4) knowing when to keep silent, 5) fear of Hashem, and 6) the study of Torah. I have seen different versions from the Gaon. In another, the saf stands for tefilah, prayer, and the shin stands for either simcha, happiness, or shkeidah, diligence.
One of my favorite anagrams for the word Bereishis is Rashi savo! The first word of the Torah informs us that the great teacher of Torah, Rashi, will come and unlock many meanings of the Torah for us.
Bereishis is also b’Alef Tishrei. The world was created on the 25th of Elul, and man, the purpose of creation, was created six days later on the first day of Tishrei, which is Rosh Hashannah, the beginning of the year.
There is a complex and exciting branch of gematria known as A”T Ba”Sh. This is where the letter alef equals suf, the beis equals shin, the gimel equals reish, and so on throughout the alef-beis. It is hard to spot this kind of gematria but there are many secrets to unearth using this methodology. For example, in A”T B”Sh, the word tzedakah is tzedakah, since it is meant to convey that charity is a two-way street for we give to the poor and then Hashem gives us back. Similarly, the words Lech Lcha, the Divine directive to Avraham Avinu to leave his homeland and go to the “promised” land is in A”T Ba”Sh also Lech Lecha. Perhaps this is meant to convey that although Avraham was told to leave, he was told that Eliezer would go back to his homeland to get a wife for Yitzchak.
Mendy Schwartz pointed out to me that within the word Bereishis there are the letters of a”t ba”sh, or alef, suf, beis, and shin. The letters that remain are the reish and the yud, which in A”T Ba”Sh are the letters gimel and mem. Thus, it means when A”T Ba”Sh is applied to the word Bereishis, it can be read, Gam A”T Ba”Sh – Also A”T Ba”Sh,” teaching us that the Torah should be read using A”T Ba”Sh as well. If this sounds too complicated, the letters in A”T B”Sh of the next word of the Torah, bora, are shin, gimel, and suf, which has the numerical value of 703, which amazingly is the exact numerical value of A”T Ba”Sh. So this method of gematria is clearly alluded to in the very first two words of the Torah.
While Mendy was showing this to me, I realized to my surprise that, when rearranged, the letters A”T Ba”Sh spell av Sheis, the father of Sheis. Thus, if we take out the alef, beis, shin, and suf from the word Bereishis, we’re left with the reish and the yud which can stand for yichus rishon, first pedigree, or reishis Yisroel, the beginning of the nation of Israel, for Adam and Chava’s first two children were not the progenitors of Klal yisroel. (Hevel was murdered and Kaiyin and his descendents were wiped out by the flood. All of mankind thus descended from Sheis.) This is all forecast in the first word of Bereishis, which tells us that the yichus rishon of Sheis, meaning that the first genealogy is that Adam is the father of Sheis.
This is just a sampler to whet your appetite of the many, many, many, more secrets that are lurking in just one word. May it be the will of Hashem that we have long life and good health to enjoy the sweetness of the Torah until the coming of the Moshiach, speedily and in our day.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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