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Sephardim and Ashkenazim pronounce certain Hebrew letters differently. Which is the authentic way?
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Parashat Bereishit

by Rabbi Yitzchok Luria

Apples from the Orchard


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Creation – Hidden and Revealed

In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth.
This is the first verse of the Torah. It begins with the letter beit, the second letter of the alphabet, rather than with the letter alef, the first letter of the alphabet, which would seem more appropriate. The mystical significance of this is as follows:

Likutei Torah, Parashat Bereishit
The Torah does not here speak about the world of Atzilut, but rather, about the world of Beriah. The Torah in general is therefore called “the Torah of Beriah.” Therefore the Torah begins with the letter beit, for the alef (which is the first letter of the alphabet) alludes to Atzilut, which is the first world and which begins with the letter alef, while the letter beit (which is the second letter) alludes to Beriah, which is both the second world and begins with the letter beit. The verb in this verse, “to create,” refers to the second of the four worlds—Atzilut (“emanation”), Beriah (“creation”), Yetzirah (“formation”), and Asiyah (“action”). This fact puts us squarely in the world of Beriah; in the words of our sages, “all is according to the beginning.” This is also alluded to by the first letter of the Torah. This letter, beit, refers to the world of Beriah both because its numerical value is 2 and because it is the initial of the word Beriah.

It is also known that “Ima nests in the world of the chariot.” This is another reason why the Torah begins with the letter beit, for beit is the first letter of binah.

It is stated in the Zohar that Abba nests in the world of Atzilut, Ima in the world of the chariot, Z’eir Anpin in Yetzirah, and Nukva d’Zeir Anpin in Asiyah. Beriah is called here “the world of the chariot” because the Divine chariot that figures in the vision of Ezekiel is identified with this world. The partzufim referred to here are the partzufim of Atzilut, meaning that Abba of Atzilut nests in Atzilut, while Ima of Atzilut descends and rests in Beriah, and so forth. All this simply means that although each world possesses its own array of ten sefirot (in the form of their respective partzufim), each world is nonetheless pervaded by an overall consciousness that is an expression of one of the partzufim of Atzilut. Abba is the partzuf of chochmah, which is the consciousness
of bitul (“self-nullification”); a person experiencing a flash of insight is not aware of himself but is rather absorbed totally in the experience of the revelation. This, overall, is the general consciousness of the world of Atzilut; the revelation of G-d in this world is so great that it leaves absolutely no room for self-awareness. Ima is the partzuf of binah, which is a consciousness of self-awareness. A person involved in understanding the implications, applications, and ramifications of an insight he has received is very aware of himself and the way he perceives the world; it is precisely this selfawareness that he uses to evaluate the effect of his insight. This self-awareness is what distinguishes the world of Beriah from the world of Atzilut. In Beriah, for the first time, there is such a thing as self-awareness or self-consciousness; the beings that exist in this world are aware of themselves as
entities distinct from G-d. The same paradigm applies to Z’eir Anpin with regard to Yetzirah and Nukva d’Zeir Anpin with regard to Asiyah.

This is why the world was created in Tishrei, which is an expression of the idea contained in the verse “His left hand is under my head.” For Abba is always associated with the right side, and Ima the left. The letters of the word for “in the beginning” may thus be rearranged to spell “on the first of Tishrei.” “In the beginning,” bereishit: beit-reish-alef-shin-yud-tav. “On the first of Tishrei,” be-alef Tishrei: beit-alef tav-shin-reish-yud. Although the world was created on the 25th of Elul, the crown of creation, man, was created on the sixth day, the 1st of Tishrei. The whole six-day creative process may thus be viewed as a preparation for what was to happen on the 1st of Tishrei, and therefore the world may be spoken of as having been truly or fully created in Tishrei. Tishrei is the beginning of the cold half of the year, in contrast to Nisan, which is the beginning of the warm half of the year. The holidays of Tishrei emphasize human effort: to crown G-d king (Rosh Hashanah); to achieve atonement for man’s sins (Yom Kippur); to rejoice in G-d’s protection, to achieve joy in His service, and unity in His people (Sukot); and to elicit Divine revelation through the study of the Torah (Shemini AtzeretSimchat Torah). In contrast, the holiday of Nisan—Pesach—emphasizes G-d’s initiative in taking us out of bondage. Thus, the cold half of the year (which we have to “warm up” on our own) is characterized by human effort ascending heavenward, while the warm half of the year is characterized by G-d “taking over” and our simply being open and receptive to His leadership. This dynamic in our relationship with G-d is alluded to in the verse, “His left hand is under my
head, and His right hand will embrace me.” The left hand signifies gevurah, the Divine attribute of judgment and justice, while the right hand signifies chesed, the Divine attribute of loving-kindness.


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Torah » Kabbalah
Torah » The Bible

(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
The seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which arrives in early autumn, has more holidays than any other month: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Simchat Torah
An extremely joyous one-day autumn festival following the holiday of Sukkot. In Israel it is the eighth day of Sukkot, outside of Israel it is celebrated the next day, the day after Shmini Atzeret. Every Sabbath we read a portion of the Torah. On this holiday we celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle.
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
The 6th month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to August-September. This is the month which precedes Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, and is a month of introspection and repentance.
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
1. Major Jewish prophet who lived in the 5th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies which Ezekiel transmitted.
Shemini Atzeret
A joyous one-day autumn festival immediately following the holiday of Sukkot. Outside Israel this holiday is celebrated for two days, the second day is known as Simchat Torah.
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Rabbi Isaac Luria, the 15th Century founder of Modern Kabbalah.
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzadikim). A saint, or righteous person.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.