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Searching online I came across a nice article which wrote: link

It is a teaching of Chassidic thought (the only source I have for this is Shlomo Carlebach!) that the first occurrence of a certain phrase in Tanach is (as Reb Shlomo said) the “headquarters.” Something profound can be learned from the fact that a certain phrase or word occurs first in a certain context.

And also: http://www.orchos.org/vol-1---11.html:

'Rav Tzadok HaCohen explains that wherever a letter or word appears for the first time in the Torah the context in which the letter or word appears defines its deepest meaning.'

I wondered where this principle came from: is there any jewish source to confirm this idea?

Found some comments online that it's a theological (Christian) hermeneutic, but from the sources i quoted it seems to be a 'jewish' thing.

  • Rav Hirsch definitely uses this. I'll see if I can track it down, but it's a good bet that it'll be somewhere in early B'reishis. – Shokhet Mar 22 '17 at 1:18
  • I’ve heard this before as well and had been meaning to ask it. +1 – DonielF Nov 15 '17 at 0:40
  • If you like an answer, consider marking it correct. If not, consider clarifying what additional information you want. – mevaqesh Nov 26 '17 at 2:24
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Rav Zaddok HaKohen of Lublin writes in Yisrael K'doshim (ot zayin):

וקיבלתי שבכל דבר וענין במקום שמלה זו נזכר פעם ראשונה בתורה שם הוא שורש הענין

I have been taught that regarding everything, the first time it is mentioned in the Torah, that is the essence of the thing.

He also mentions this several times in P'ri Zaddik (B'midbar: Rosh Hodesh Tammuz: ot aleph, D'varim: Parashat Ki Tetse ot yod alep). In the first of these he brings support for the idea from Bava Kamma (55a) that if one sees the letter tet in a dream, it is a good omen since the first use of the letter in the Torah is in the word טוב; good.

While that has to do with the auspicious nature of letters, rather than the significance of words, R. Zaddok nevertheless mentions it as support for his tradition.

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