Secrets of Extra Large Letters in the Torah

If you read an English translation of the Bible, you would never know about the Jewish custom of writing some letters larger or smaller than other letters. You would only see this in a Hebrew text or Torah scroll. 17 times in the five books of Moses, a letter is printed either larger or smaller than the surrounding letters. In Hebrew, there are no capital letters – all letters are normally the same size. The first time this occurs is in the first word, “BERESHIT” which means “In the beginning [of]”.

There are three approaches to these letters: 1) Letter Interpretation – based on the meaning of the letter itself, 2) Magnification/Diminuation – the impact of the size of the letter on the meaning of the word, 3) Addition/Omission – treating a large letter as doubled, or a small letter as omitted.

The first book of the Hebrew Bible is named “BERESHIT” after it’s first word (not the Greek word “Genesis”). This first word begins with an extra large letter “BEIT” (BEIS for ashkenazi pronunication). The Ba’al HaTurim (Rabbi Jacob ben Asher of the 1300s), teaches that the Torah wanted to start on a pleasant note, as Proverbs 3:17 states: “Its way are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.” So why the second letter “BEIT” instead of the first letter “ALEPH”? The letter “B” (BEIT) because it is associated with “BRACHA” (blessing), whereas the first letter of the alphabet, “A” (ALEPH) can be associated with the word “ARUR” (curse).

Can you see here, how the Rabbi was using the “Letter Interpretation” method here? He uses the meaning of the letter to interpret the verse. He further tells us that the letter “BEIT” has the numeric value of two. (In Hebrew school, children quickly learn that each letter has a numerical value, the first 10 letters based on the sequence of the alphabet). The number two is associated with duality. If we use our imaginations, to what duality could the first verse of the Bible be referring? Perhaps of heaven and earth, or the physical world verses the spiritual world (the seen as opposed to the unseen).

It could also suggest that the creation of the physical world depends on the male and female, duality of all species. It could also allude to the positive and negative charges of protons/electrons, or the magnetic fields which complement and balance each other.

The letter “BEIT” is also the word “BEIT” which literally means “house” or “home”. The temple is called the “BEIT HA-MIKDASH” – basically meaning “the house of holiness”. Thus, the large “BEIT” at the beginning of BERESHIT can also allude to the first and second temple, which represents God dwelling among men.

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