The Torah, which begins with letter bet,
does not begin with aleph, I suggest,
in order to make sure we don’t forget
that being second sometimes comes out best.
Bet did not take for granted it would be
the first, and therefore surely was most grateful
that it comes first in Torah scrolls, quite free
of pushiness, which can be rather hateful.
I’ve also found a second reason why.
The letter aleph cannot be pronounced.
It’s just a vehicle for vowels, too shy
to make a sound without them, and was trounced
by bet, which became proud, a consonant
that can be heard when vowelless, as in
breishit, first consonant that we all chant
as vowel-less it does not make a din,
but demonstrates it does not then depend
on vowels like aleph, which we see without
the help of vowels has no way to defend
itself from silence, and therefore from doubt
regarding its intended sound. The choice
God made was of a letter that shows in-
dependence, demonstrated by its voice,
and, lacking that, poor aleph couldn’t win
the honor to start Genesis, although
the starter’s gun for anokhi, big “I”,
that leads the Ten Commandments, helps us know
that in the sermon on a mount, Sinai,
no man, but God, spoke clearly to us Jews,
an aleph, First Cause — not a beit, like Moses,
or someone else who later would confuse
with words that he on God’s superimposes.
I, God, am speaking: message of this aleph,
a message that most sadly is ignored
by those who choose a prophet or a caliph
to act the role of alpha male adored.
Inspired in part by an article by Kenneth Seeskin, Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University, “What Did the People Hear at Mount Sinai? The answer, or lack thereof, teaches us something important about the meaning and limits of divine revelation,”: (2/4/21):
Immediately following the presentation of the Decalogue in Exodus, the text continues:
שמות כ:יד וְכָלהָעָם רֹאִים אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת וְאֶת הַלַּפִּידִם וְאֵת קוֹל הַשֹּׁפָר וְאֶת הָהָרעָשֵׁן וַיַּרְא הָעָם וַיָּנֻעוּ וַיַּעַמְדוּ מֵרָחֹק. כ:טו וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶלמֹשֶׁה דַּבֵּר אַתָּה עִמָּנוּ וְנִשְׁמָעָה וְאַל יְדַבֵּר עִמָּנוּ אֱלֹהִיםפֶּן נָמוּת. Exod 20:14 All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they fell back and stood at a distance. 20:15 “You speak to us,” they said to Moses, “and we will obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.”
The discussion between the fine point between a and b based on the literary conceit that anthropomorphizes the letter of every word in the Torah. The rabbis imagine them as living beings who compete for the privilege of being the first letter in the Torah. The first letter in Genesis is bet, the second letter of the alphabet, and the poem and endnote explain why bet manages in the First Commandment to trump the first letter of the alphabet, aleph, thereby redeeming its failure to be the first letter in the Torah. Hiddushim is a Hebrew word for novellae, and in my poem I propose a hiddush, a novel new explanation, implying that aleph has no reason to complain about being superseded by aleph as the first letter in the Torah since it is the first letter in the Ten Commandments, where aleph is the first letter of anokhi in the First Commandment, which states:
ב אָנֹכִי יְהוָהאֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים: לֹא-יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים,עַל-פָּנָי. 2 I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.