The First Word

Much has been said about Bereishis, the first word of the Torah. It is usually translated as “In the beginning.” Hundreds, if not thousands, of commentaries have examined this word deeply. Arguably, much more has been said and written aboutBereishis than any other word in the Torah. There are even hundreds of explanations why the first letter of the Torah is the letter beis.

Why has so much been said about the first word?

The first word of the Torah is not just the first word, it is also the head of the entire Torah. Just as the head contains within it the energy for the rest of the body, so too, the first word of the Torah encapsulates all of the Torah.

This observation is even more pronounced when we consider that the first word of the Torah also contains within it the wordrosh-head. Thus, this word can be viewed as the fountain-head of all that follows in the Torah.

One may take this point a step further. If the word Bereishis contains within it all of the Torah, even what might appear to be minutiae, it certainly alludes to the most overtly fundamental aspects of Torah.

Based on this premise, we may further suggest that the word Bereishis contains within it an allusion to the very purpose of creation, particularly because Bereishis is about creation. It therefore stands to reason that at the beginning of creation, as it is recorded in the Torah, we will discover hints to the Messianic Age, the ultimate goal of creation. As the Talmud states: “The world was created exclusively for Moshiach.”

Where in the word Bereishis can we find an allusion to the Messianic Age?

The Beis Hamikdash: The First Step of the Final Redemption

The very first letter of the word Bereishis is beis. This letter also starts the word Beis Hamikdash-The Holy Temple.

According to Maimonides, Moshiach’s arrival is divided into two stages. In the first stage, he establishes his credentials as a leader descended from King David, who is steeped in Torah, inspires Jews to walk in its path and follow its commandments, repairs the breaches in its observance and wages war with evil. Anyone with all these qualifications is presumed to be Moshiach.

When this presumptive Moshiach defeats the enemies that surround Israel, builds the Beis Hamikdash and gathers all Jews to the Land of Israel, then he is confirmed as Moshiach.

In other words, all of Moshiach’s activities before building the Beis Hamikdash are to establish him as a worthy leader who, in the tradition of all great leaders before him such as Moses and King David, has the potential to usher in the Final Redemption, when G‑d’s presence will be fully revealed and all the positive changes that were predicted will follow as a matter of course.

The first stage in the unfolding of the Messianic process is the building of the Beis Hamikdash, G‑d’s chosen location, that channels His overt presence into the world.

Thus, the very first letter of the Torah is the letter Beis, to mark the very first step of the Final Redemption, at which time the world will realize the purpose for which it was created.

The Final Stage

The final stage in the Messianic process is the Resurrection of the Dead. This phenomenon, where the souls of the deceased will return to their reconstituted bodies, has been foretold by many of the prophets and is regarded by Maimonides as the 13th and final principle of the Jewish faith.

The Resurrection of the Dead is not just a miraculous revival of the dead. It represents the climax of the entire process of creation. If the Messianic Age is the climax of all of creation, the Resurrection of the Dead is the climax of the Messianic Age. At that time, we will be exposed to G‑d’s very essence, a revelation so sublime that, as the Talmud states, we cannot presently even fathom its loftiness. G‑d’s presence will pervade all existence in ways that are unimaginable today. The dichotomy between the soul and the body, the physical and the spiritual, will no longer endure.

The Hebrew term for the Resurrection is Techiyas Hameisim, the initial of which is the letter tav,which is also the final letter of Bereishis.

In effect, the first letter of Bereishis alludes to the first step in the Final Redemption, the building of the Beis Hamikdash. Its last letter alludes to the climax and ultimate objective of the Messianic Age, the Resurrection of the Dead.

This leaves us with four middle letters of the word Bereishis: reish, aleph, shin and yud. Do these letters have their own connections with Moshiach?

The Reish: The Humble Moshiach

The letter reish can be said to allude to Moshiach himself. In the Biblical prophecy of Zecharyah, Moshiach is referred to as a “poor man (ahni) riding on a donkey.” The letter reish is a synonym for poor. This alludes to Moshiach’s humility, a trait he inherits from the first redeemer, Moses, which qualifies him to be the final redeemer.

Indeed, the Midrash cites Moshiach’s announcement to the world that “the time of your Redemption has arrived” with the preface, “Humble ones.” In other words, humility is not just a qualification for Moshiach; it is also a qualification for us to be receptive to his message and to be worthy of Redemption.

The letter reish also begins the word rabeinu, our teacher. Moshiach’s qualification is based on his fidelity to the teachings ofMoshe Rabeinu. Moshiach personifies all the qualities of Moses, and then some. Moshiach takes all the ideals of Moses and implements them, fully. Moreover, Moshiach will become the world’s greatest teacher, whose students will include all of the greatest Jewish personages of the past including the Patriarchs and Moses! Moshiach is the ultimate Rabeinu because he embodies Moshe Rabeinu and more in his capacity as the preeminent teacher of the Jewish people and of all humanity.

The Aleph: Master, Teacher and Wonder of the World

The next letter, aleph, connects us to Alufo shel Olam-Master of the World. The Rebbe frequently referred to the Alter Rebbe’s teaching that the sole difference between Golah-exile and Geulah-Redemption is the letter aleph. The underlying message here is that while Redemption will negate exile generally, it will not erase all of our accomplishments during this pre-Redemption period; Redemption will retain all of the positive features of exile with the “mere” introduction of the “aleph.”

This aleph, the Rebbe says, actually has three dimensions:

a) Recognition of G‑d as the Master (Alufo) of the entire Universe.

b) The word aleph also has the connotation of wisdom and knowledge. The entire world will be inundated with Divine knowledge.

c) The letters of the word aleph when rearranged form the word peleh, which means “wonder.” The world will be exposed to the most wondrous and transcendent Divine energies, all of which will be comfortably contained within the parameters of the world.

The aleph can also allude to Elijah the prophet, whose name in Hebrew begins with an aleph.

Elijah will be Moshiach’s ally in many areas. First he will pave the way by bringing the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. His focus will be to bring peace to the world. Elijah will also have a role in announcing the arrival of Moshiach, resolving unanswered questions of Jewish law and assisting Moshiach in the Resurrection of the Dead, among other roles he will fill.

The Shin: Shalom and Shabbos

This leads us next to the letter shin, which is the initial character of the word Shalom-peace. One of Moshiach’s most momentous pronouncements will be the word “shalom” because the Messianic Age will bring the ultimate peace between G‑d and the world, which will, in turn, remove all the barriers that exist between people. There will be true unity at last within the Jewish community. Furthermore, all of the nations will join the Jewish people in serving one G‑d, although they will not have to convert to Judaism.

The shin also refers directly to Shabbos. The entire Messianic Age is compared to the tranquility and serenity that the Shabbos introduces. Whereas in the present we have a taste of the future Shabbos one day a week, in the Era of Redemption every day will be Shabbos; perpetual delight and bliss.

The Yud: Yechidah and Ultimate Oneness

This leads us to the penultimate letter, yud. This letter, besides being the first letter of G‑d’s name, is also the initial of the word Yechidah, which is the name for the soul’s very essence. It is the soul’s purest expression of its connection with G‑d’s essence; indeed, Yechidah is the essence of the soul as it connects to the essence of G‑d. This level of the soul, which can only be expressed intermittently in the present day and age, will become the staple in the Messianic Age.

Moreover, Moshiach himself is called the Yechidah of all souls. This means that he possesses the ultimate expression ofYechidah, which represents the ultimate in oneness with G‑d, and ignites the Yechidah spark within all of us.


Bereishis stands for six features of the Messianic Age:

Beis: Beis Hamikdash-The first stage in the Final Redemption

Reish: Moshiach, the epitome of humility and the ultimate teacher.

Aleph: The introduction of the Master, Teacher and Wonder of the world into the parameters and framework of our exile lives.

Shin: Shalom-universal peace and the eternal Shabbos

Yud: The revelation of the Yechidah-essence of our souls

Tav: The Resurrection of the Dead