Organize and Prioritize by Avraham Gellman


The Midrash relates that “Bet,” the first letter in the Torah, was used to create the world because it is the first letter in the word “Berachah,” and Hashem wanted His world to be for blessing. The “Alef,” although skipped over for the first word of the Torah, was selected to begin the Aseret HaDiberot (Shemot 20:2) as the first letter in “Anochi.” What is this Midrash trying to teach us?

To answer this question, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook explains that there is a major textual difference in the Torah in the context of the creation of light. Hashem created light on the first day, but the sun and stars were formed on the fourth day. Therefore, it is difficult to comprehend what the light on the first day was.

According to Chazal, the light on the first day was an elevated and special light, so much so that Hashem decided it was too pure for His world. He hid this special light away for the righteous in the future in the Torah. The Torah and the light of the first day can be compared, Chazal taught. Just as the Torah preceded the world and its physical limitations, the light of the first day also belongs to this initial stage of creation, transcending all limitations of time and place.

Unlike the elevated light of the first day, regular light was produced on the fourth day. All our calculations of time, including the passing of days, seasons and years, come from the world’s movements and rotations and the sun and stars (BeReishit 1:14). The second light, created on the fourth day, created our concept of time, and our concept of time belongs to the limits of the created world. The second light corresponds to a lower holiness that fills the world.

The light of Torah is more important than the light of our daily lives, our own selfish needs. That’s why the light of Torah was created first and hidden, and then the light that controls our lives was created. This may help explain why the “Alef” wasn’t chosen to begin the creation of the world and was rather chosen to begin the Aseret HaDiberot. We tend to give priority to our physical need and focus on the light of the fourth day, the light that controls our life. It is often difficult for us to prioritize our spiritual needs over our physical needs, even if we know that ideally we would do so.

Therefore, the “Alef” is attached to what are primary concern must be, the primary light of creation, the light of Torah. The “Alef” begins the Aseret HaDiberot, which must be our primary concern, to live by the light of Torah before our own needs. The “Bet” was left to the days of creation, because one’s work schedule should be built to accommodate Torah, not vice versa. The Torah gives precedence to the Torah by having the “Aleph” begin the Aseret HaDiberot, the Torah. Only after creating the light for Torah did Hashem create the light for the years and seasons.

We see that we must prioritize what we do, and make sure that we focus on Torah and maximize our Torah learning. Even when we must address our physical needs, we should realize that our true priorities lie in Avodat Hashem.

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