The ancient Jewish sages believed that the alephbet (Hebrew alphabet) was the building blocks of life. In other words, those twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet are what all of life is built on.
In the book of Ivrim (Hebrews), chapter 11, verse 3, it says that the worlds were framed by the word of YHVH. When you read Bere’shiyt (Genesis) chapter one, you see ‘Elohiym saying, “Let there be light and there was light.” ‘Elohiym said, “Let there be stars in the firmament” and “Let there be beasts in the field, and fowl in the air.” He did this simply by speaking. Some may think of this only as poetic, but the Hebrew people have historically had solemn reverence and awe for the actual building blocks of life which they believe are the individual letters; that ‘Elohiym did create the world with the alephbet. When you examine the very first verse of the Scriptures in Bere’shiyt chapter 1, verse 1, you see the same concept. In Hebrew it reads:
In beginning….created…..’Elohiym……(*)…….the heaven…….and…..the earth.
The Hebrew text, of course, does not look like the above, being that it is in Hebrew letters and written from right to left. This study is designed to be accessible to those who aren’t literate in the Hebrew script, therefore I’ve rendered the text into our western script from left to right. As you can see, the sentence structure of the Hebrew text is not according to western or Greek thought where we would expect to see “God” in the primary position of the sentence, followed by the verb “created”, and ending with the object of the action – “the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew mind focuses on the verb or action rather than the subject or noun. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew writer will accentuate the action to the point of being overly redundant, such as: “He opened his mouth and spoke, saying …”. Many people believe that this way of speaking is the poetic Elizabethan English of the King James Version, but the redundancy of verb usage is purely an eastern or Hebrew peculiarity.
Let’s go back to the verse. The word bere’shiyt is the Hebrew word from which the Greek word “Genesis” comes. (Several of the books in the Scripture are named after the opening words of the book.) This opening sentence is constructed out of seven Hebrew words. The number seven fits into the scheme of scriptural interpretation called gematria (also called numerology and the heptatic structure). The number seven is recognized as a very special number from the Jewish point of view. It is a number that speaks of spiritual completeness and fullness. Seven is used quite extensively by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) throughout the whole body of scripture. A look into Strong’s concordance will reveal that the number seven, along with an abundant number of things that are grouped in sevens, are in the hundreds. So, the ancient Hebrew sages saw a specialness in the usage of the number seven. When the ancient sages look at these opening words and see that it is made up of 7 words, and especially the context in which they are used, they see the entire heavens and earth being completed in it’s fullness from aleph to tav. In the very first verse they see a complete heavens and earth created in verse one, as opposed to those things being created in the first six days. Actually no creative process takes place in the first six days except the beasts and man. Everything else was formed from material that was already created in verse one. This is why I have absolutely no argument whatsoever with those who believe in a young earth or an old earth because I believe (as the ancient sages did) that the heavens and the earth were created in the beginning, not in the six days.
Now let’s look at the verse even more closely through the eyes of the ancient sages. After Bere’shiyt bara ‘Elohiym there is a fourth untranslatable word. That fourth word is actually two Hebrew letters: the Aleph and the Tav. The aleph-tav (את) does serve a grammatical purpose in that it points to the direct object of the sentence. These two letters do not actually form a word, but rather they express an understanding. The aleph (א) is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the tav(ת) is the last letter of the alphabet. The placement of these two very significant letters at strategic locations within many sentences of the Hebrew Scriptures express a total completeness. It is equivalent to saying “from alpha to omega, from a to z, from first to last, from beginning to end.” So, from the Hebraic point of view, they see that “In the beginning ‘Elohiym created the aleph-tav“. In other words, they believe that the very first thing ‘Elohiym created was the Hebrew alphabet, which is known through ancient writings also as the aleph-tav. They recognize that He created the letters by which all life and all physical things spring forth from. They are divinely ordained building blocks of life. They believed that ‘Elohiym had to create this first because it is all the letters of the Hebrew alephbet that form the Torah, the word of YHVH, which, according to the word of YHVH, is YHVH Himself. Now you can better understand the reverence they have for the alphabet because they are the letters of the Torah – which is YHVH. We understand the same from Yochanan (John) 1:1, “In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with God and the WORD was GOD.” If any Jewish sage would read that verse they would give it a hearty amen. He would say, “In the beginning was the WORD, the alephbet, the WORD was with God, and God was the WORD.” YHVH is the Alephbet and is revered for the same reason.
In English we can understand Bere’shiyt 1:1 as “In the beginning God created A to Z.” Our own expression that parallels this one is, “He finished everything from A to Z, or from beginning to end.” This is also the reason for several of Yeshua’s titles: the “Author and Finisher of our faith;” He is the Aleph Tav, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, and the First and Last.
It is also believed by these ancient sages that these Hebrew letters are not only the building blocks of life, but that we are supposed to study them, and speak them forth continuously, because if ever there is a time when Torah is not being vocalized, the ancient sages believed “the earth will melt away with a fervent heat.” That saying should ring familiar to those who study the New Testament; Kefa (Peter) made a similar statement in his first letter, that there will be a time when the earth melts away with a fervent heat! From a scriptural point of view that simply means that “there will be no Laws and no Torah on the earth, and that it is Torah (that is, the word of YHVH) that is keeping all things together!” This brings to mind the book of Colossians, where in chapter one it says that Yeshua’ holds all things together and that by Him all things consist. We know from Yochanan 1:1 and 1:14 that Yeshua’ is the WORD of YHVH, and that He holds the entire universe together with His physical and spiritual laws which in actuality – is Yeshua’ Himself! The ancient sages believed the same way about the alephbet as modern science believes concerning the elements; that they are the fundamental building blocks of everything we see. They cannot be created, but you can take those basic building blocks, combine them, and make something out of them. In reality, that is all that man can do; that is – make or form something from existing material. He cannot create anything. We can only take what ‘Elohiym has created, and manipulate that material, and make something out of it. We cannot bara (create). We can only ‘asah (make) or yatsar (mold). We must take care as to the proper elements to use in our making and molding because some combinations produce useful and helpful results, and other combinations produce hazardous and even deadly results. It is this parallel comparison of the elements and words that teach us that we must be careful which words we should and should not write or speak. This is the reason Yeshua’ said that we would be judged by every word that comes forth from our mouth. We may use the comparison of letters to the elements in the following example. You can take two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen and produce H2O or water, which is a life sustaining compound. However, you may take the same two parts hydrogen and combine it with one part sulphur (instead of oxygen), and that produces H2S, hydrogen sulphide, which is very lethal, indeed. From this simple example we can see that the substitution of one simple element can cause disastrous and even deadly results; forming something deadly rather than life-sustaining. The same care must be used in communication. We are held accountable for every word that we speak. Our words can also be life sustaining or life threatening. The same care must be used in our understanding of the word of YHVH, and our teaching that is a result of our understanding. When we read the scriptures, and we do not recognize an idiom as an idiom, and we teach the idiom as literal truth rather than symbolic of an intended meaning, we are communicating our understanding in a way that is not life-sustaining, and in many ways can be life threatening when spiritual truths are not understood as the truths they are intended to convey. To teach spiritual things without spiritual understanding is death to the hearer. Therefore, we must get back to the original context and mind set and understanding of the writers, rather than trying to force our own particular meanings into the text.
This is as good of a stopping place as any, but in actuality we could go on and on into the applications of the Hebrew alephbet in the creation story and beyond. I believe that if you can get motivated to seek out the truths contained within this study, and apply them to all areas of your studies, you will find a more solid basis for your faith and start to weed out those beliefs that you had originally felt were true, but have found deeper understanding through the proper use of the alephbet.
This essay is an edited transcript excerpted from Brad Scott’s series entitled “Alephbet – the building blocks of life.”