The First and the Last

The ancient Greeks called it the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.  Jews call it HaRishon  v’Ha Acharon. In the 24 books which comprise the Hebrew Bible, the first is Genesis and the fifth and final volume of the written Torah is Deuteronomy.

The very first word in Genesis is “b’raishit”… in the beginning. And the very last word in Deuteronomy is “Yisrael”… Israel.

Joining the two together forms the phrase “In the beginning….Israel”.  From this we can learn that Israel was first in God’s planning. And with the completion of Deuteronomy, the laws of Moses come to an end.

The remaining 19 books of the Bible include Judges, Prophets, Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, and the Scriptures which include the five megillot (scrolls) of Lamentations, Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther and Ecclesiastes and concludes with Chronicles, a review of Israel’s historic ancient past.

In the Book of Genesis, the first 11 chapters are referred to by biblical scholars as pan-Semitic literature. That is to say, similar stories of creation, a great flood, a towering structure, can also be found in the literature of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians, more than a thousand years before the Book of Genesis was written. Our sages borrowed from the literature of neighboring cultures and re-wrote the stories to give them the sense of Divine origin written in language which ancient Hebrews understood and re-told.

Hebrew history begins only in the 12th chapter of Genesis with the call to Abram (later Abraham) to leave his homeland in Ur-Kasdim, the great Chaldean city of Ur, to go forth from his father’s home, and to wander across the great deserts in search of the land which God had promised to Abraham and his descendants.

You and I are the descendants from the loins of Abraham.  Isaac, his son, was followed by his grandson Jacob, whom God loved and bestowed upon him the names of Israel and Yeshurun. These three men are the patriarchs of the Jewish religion, accompanied by the four matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

While Ishmael, son of an Egyptian slave, Hagar, was also a son of Abraham and is therefore revered by Muslims, his progeny and their descendants were not a part of the Hebrew people. And the land which God promised to Abraham was not promised nor intended for the descendants of Ishmael.

The Bible is testimony and witness that Israel belongs to the Jews and only to the Jews.

It would be well-advised for diplomats sitting at tables in the halls of nations to open their bibles to the first Book of Genesis, therein to discover the sole truth of possession and ownership of the land of Israel.

In the Christian New Testament references are made to the Jewish teacher from Nazareth as the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, but Judaism has never accepted the idea that a man born of woman can be the son of God.  In truth, all monotheistic peoples can be called B’nai ha-Elohim, children of God.

Though the first chapters of Genesis describe the creation of the world, man was the last to be created in order that he might enjoy the wondrous glories which preceded him.

In the pan-Semitic tales, names are given to describe persons, not necessarily names for the sake of names. Thus, the first man was called Adam (man) and the first woman was called Eve (Chava, meaning life).

In reading the lines “God created Adam and from Adam there came forth Eve”, what we are in fact reading is “God created mankind and from mankind came forth life”.  Understanding the Hebrew terminology makes it much clearer to understand the underlying message given by God to the sages who wrote and later codified what became known by the Greeks as “ta biblia”… the Books.

For Jews, God was first and last. There were none before him and there are none after him. He alone reigns supreme above all.

While  God  was creating the world He saw that it was “tohu va-vohu”, filled with darkness and confusion. And so He commanded “Yehi Or”, let there be light. “Va yehi or”, and there was light.

We are today living in a world of “tohu va-vohu”, of darkness, confusion and despair.

Perhaps we should ask the computer whizzes of the universe to send e-mails to God begging Him to restore the light into His world.

I wonder what His reply might be!

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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