Daat Zkenim on Genesis
1 א

בראשית. לפיכך התחילה התורה בבי"ת, לפי שהעולם דומה לב', שהוא מסובב משלש רוחותיו ורוח צפונית אינה מסובבת, ובאותה שעה בא אות האל"ף וקראה תגר, ושלם לה הקב"ה במתן תורה, שפתח באל"ף דאנכי. ובתיבת בראשית יש ששה אותיות כנגד ימי המעשה. ובאותו פסוק יש בו שבעה תיבות, כנגד ימי השבוע. ובו כ"ח אותיות, כנגד כ"ח ימי החדש. ובפסוק זה יש ששה אלפין, כנגד ששה אלפי שני הוי עלמא, דכל אל"ף ואל"ף משמע אלף. ובפסוק שלאחריו והארץ, כתב ב' אלפי"ן, כנגד ב' אלפים ימות המשיח. ובפ' בא, בקרא דלמען תהיה תורת ה' בפיך, כתב ב' אלפי"ן, כנגד ב' אלפים תורה:

בראשית, the reason why the Torah did not commence with the letter א but with the letter ב, is that the universe, i.e. earth, resembles that letter, i.e. it is enclosed from three sides as in the letter ב only the left side being open, i.e. the north side. [I presume that what the author means is that when we read the Torah, and the reader in the synagogue is facing east, as is customary in the synagogues in the northern hemisphere, the open side of that letter is on his left, i.e. north. Ed.] According to tradition, the letter א complained to G–d that it had not been allowed for the Torah to commence with it. What did G–d do? He recompensed that letter by commencing the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai with the letter א, where we read: (Exodus 20,2) אנכי ה' אלוקיך וגו', “I am the lord your G–d, etc.” The word בראשית consists of 6 letters, symbolising the six days of creation; The first verse of the Torah has seven words, symbolising the numbers of days in a week. It contains 28 letters, symbolising the 28 days of the month. [Perhaps the fact that the first letter is in a much bigger font compensates for the slight inaccuracy of the author stating the month has 28 days and not 29. Ed.] We also find the letter א six times in that verse, symbolising the six thousand years this earth [after the creation of man, Ed.] is supposed to exist in the format as we know it. The meaning of the word aleph in Hebrew is “one thousand.” The second verse in the Torah, commencing with the word: והארץ, immediately after the word ארץ, “earth” at the end of the preceding verse, symbolises that the period known as the period of Moshiach, is to last 2000 years. (Talmud, Sanhedrin folio 97) [the last two millennia preceding the arrival of the messianic age. Ed.] In Exodus 13,9 the Torah writes: למען תהיה תורת ה' בפיך, “in order that the Torah of Hashem be in your mouth;” in that verse the letter א occurs twice to serve as a hint that two thousand of the 6000 years that the earth will function as we know it, will already be years in which G–d’s Torah will be studied by many people. [Seeing that the Jewish people began its existence with the birth of the first Jew who was a Jew at birth, Yitzchok, which occurred 400 years before the Exodus, and it is the Jewish people’s task to study and spread the Torah, and Yitzchok’s birth coincided almost exactly with the beginning of the third millennium, this may be why the author of this commentary chose that verse and the two letters א in it, as another example of the letter א being utilised as a symbol of Torah study.

2 ב

בראשית. פירש"י בזכות התורה שנקראת ראשית, וכן את מוצא בזכות שבת ברית ומילה, ונפקא להו, כי בתיבת בראשית, תמצא שבת ברית אש, והתורה נמשלה לאש, דכתיב אש דת למו. ועוד פרש"י א"ר יצחק לא היה צריך להתחיל התורה וכו', וקשה שהרי כבר נצטוו, על מילה וגיד הנשה, ומיהו י"ל, דנקט מצוה ראשונה, שנצטוו כל ישראל ביחד, ולא ליחיד:

בראשית, Rashi understands the letter ב at the beginning of this word to mean: “on account of, due to, because of the merit of;” the word ראשית, he understands as a reference to the Torah, which elsewhere has been called ראשית. We also find that the Sabbath, the holy covenant, and the circumcision have been referred to by that name. The same is true of the word: אש, “fire,” which near the end of the Torah (Deuteronomy 33,2) has been referred to as the אשדת, “fire converted into religious law.” Rashi further quotes an interpretation by Rabbi Yitzchok, also found in an ancient version of Tanchuma, according to which, if the Torah were only a record of G–d’s laws, it need not have commenced before the 12th chapter of Exodus, where we encounter for the first time a law addressed to the entire people of Israel, i.e. the sanctification of the new moon, and the fact that we count the months of the year according to the moon’s orbit. On the face of it that statement is difficult as such laws as circumcision for Jewish males, as well as the prohibition to eat the gid hanashe, the thigh vein of mammals, has been recorded alread prior to this. We must assume that the Tanchuma referred to legislation given to the people when they had become a nation, something that began with chapter 12 in Exodus. Rabbi Yitzchok basing himself on Tanchuma, argues that everything in the Torah recorded prior to chapter 12 in Exodus has as its purpose to defend the Jewish people against any claim that they had robbed the Canaanites of their land when they crossed the river Jordan.