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The Struggle to be One

The letters Aleph and Bet are fighting.

The Midrash explains that when God created the world He created it with the words "Breishit Bara Elokim," which begin with the letter "Bet." The letter Aleph complained to God and asked, "Why did you create the world with a Bet and not an Aleph?" And Hashem responded to the letter Aleph, "Don't worry, you will have your time. When I give the Torah to the Jewish people, the ten commandments will begin with the letter 'Aleph.'" And they did. "Anochi Hashem," the first commandment, begins with an Aleph.

What is the deeper lesson here? Is this about a struggle for publicity by the letters? Really, their struggle reflects an existential question in the world: Is there duality or unity? The Aleph, the first letter, represents oneness and unity. The Aleph is "asking" God: Why would you create the world with a Bet? The numerical value of Bet is 2, which represents duality. Why would you create a world with such inner conflict: light and darkness, good and evil, war and peace, body and soul?

To this God responds: You are wrong. When I show the Torah to the world everyone will see that there doesn't have to be conflict. The world may seem to have a duality so its creation begins with a Bet, but the Torah can unite them together: there can be harmony between body and soul, light and darkness. The ten commandments, as a model of the Torah, therefore, begin with an Aleph.

A great Torah sage, Rebbe Yosef, once remarked: If not for the Torah "Kama Yosef eeka Bashuk" I would be like any other "Joe" in the street. There would nothing that distinguishes me as unique or special without the Torah. One of the Rabbis comments that it can be interpreted as: If not for the Torah, "How many Joes would I be?" That is, I would be experiencing such internal struggle and I would be so many different kinds of people that I would feel conflicted. I would be one kind of person at work, another one at home, and yet another at play. The Torah creates a sense of oneness, so people don't have to experience this conflict, and can bring all of the different parts of a life and align them together. This is the power of the Aleph, and the Torah.

In life, sometime we have to struggle with who we are. Ultimately, we are one person with different jobs and roles that come together in one unified purpose. The Torah expresses that all of the parts of the world and an individual person can come together in harmony.

-Taken from Rabbi Zvi Teitelbaum of Mesorah DC


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