A husband and his wife are taking a Hebrew language course. As they walk into the class the rabbi asks the man what does he think about this class.
The husband of the woman replied "I'll only have to learn the first part of every sentence".
The rabbi replied "Why is that?"
The husband says: "Because my wife finishes all my sentences".
The holiday of Simchas Torah is the celebration of the completion of another cycle of reading the entire Torah. On the very same day, we begin the new cycle. To a Jew, "Torah is Life". As soon as we finish one breath, we begin breathing our next breath.
Today we will be discussing the first sentence of the Torah. To be more exact, the very first letter of the Torah. The Torah begins with the verse "בראשית ברא אלוקים את השמים ואת הארץ" - In the beginning Hashem created heaven and earth." We see clearly that the Torah starts with the Letter Beis.
[In light of the current situation in Israel, it is important to point out what Rashi - the foremost commentator on the Chumash – writes on this verse:
"It was not necessary to begin the Torah from "This month is to you," ...the first commandment that the jewish nation were commanded, (for the main purpose of the Torah is its commandments)...Now for what reason did He commence with "In the beginning?" Because of [the verse] "The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations." For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, "You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan]," they will reply, "The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us." ]
Many commentaries ask: "Why did the Torah begin with Beis, which is the second letter of the Alphabet and not Aleph which is the first letter"?
Let us analyze a few answers given by different commentaries:
1) The Yerushalmi ( Chagiga 2:1) writes that the letter Beis is the first letter of the word Bracha - Blessing - and the letter Aleph is the first letter of the word Arur - curse.
The Even Ezra asks on the above: This can't be the complete answer, as there are many nice words that start with Aleph and many "negative" words that start with the letter Beis!?
2) The Midrash (Shir Hashirim) answers based on a saying in the Talmud. The Talmud (Baba Basrah 25b) writes: "It has been taught: R. Eliezer says that the world is like an exedra, (a three- walled room) and the north side is not enclosed." To commemorate this, the Torah begins with the letter Beis which is also closed on three sides and open on one side.
But this is also hard to understand. The Zohar (vol. 2, 161a) writes that "Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world". Hence, the Torah is the blueprint of creation, not the other way around.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likkutei Sichos Vol. 15) gives a revolutionary explanation:
The Gemara ( Nedarim 81a) declares: "Why were the Jewish people sent away from Eretz Yisrael? Because they did not say Birchas Hatorah before they learned!"
At first glance this seems a bit harsh. Hashem usually punishes "Midah K'neged Midah" - the punishment in proportion to the crime - in a fair way. In this case, the punishment does not seem justified. Because the Jewish people did not say Birchas Hatorah, we should lose the privilege of being in Eretz Yisrael with the Beis Hamikdash?
Says the Bach (siman 47): Before we start learning Hashem's Torah, we must remember that the Torah is a present from Hashem which enables us to connect to him. It is not an "intellectual or cultural" pursuit, it is Hashem's dearest gift that he gave the Jewish people. We therefore need to make "Birkas HaTorah" before we learn to show Hashem that we understand this point. If not we are undeserving of being in Hashem's chosen home.
Based on the above the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains: The letter Beis has the numerical value of the number 2. When we begin learning the Torah, we must remember that we should already be holding by step two. Step one precedes the learning: It is the awareness that we are about to connect with Hashem through the Torah.
On Simchas Torah we connect to the Torah through joy and dancing. We don't spend the day engrossed in the study of Torah, rather we dance with the Torah.
By this we are sending a message to Hashem: Dear Hashem it is not OUR understanding of the Torah that makes us happy, it is the fact that the Torah binds us with You, Hashem. We are happy with the Torah for what it is – Hashem’s gift to us.
Talking about joy with the Torah, it is interesting to note that the Baal Haturim writes, that the word Yismach - meaning being joyous - has the same Hebrew letters as the word Moshiach. That’s not a coincidence for when we show Hashem that we happy to be connected to Him, when we serve Hashem we joy, that will usher in the times when our Hashem Yisborach will take us all back home with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu!