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בראשית ברא אלהים ... לעיני כל-ישראל

The Torah begins with the letter Bet – ב and ends with the letter Lamed – ל. Together they form the word Lev - לב

This seems to be a famous teaching which I would like to know the source of, on the other hand I want to know why these letters are reversed in order to form the word lev, while from beginning to the end the Torah spells the word בל. Is there any teaching which explains why it spells בל (do not)?

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    I suspect that we're not taking the first and last letter and then reading it backwards. Rather after we read the last word, we return to the beginning so its more like כל ישראל בראשית. – Y K Dec 23 '16 at 7:49
  • I have heard (and seen) that the common shape (the way people draw it) of the heart is a bet with the lamed flipped around to face the bet. As I can't attach a drawing to the comment, you may have to use your imagination to get this idea. (My cardiologist been told that the actual shape of the human heart is not even close to the typical curved V drawing. Having and having seen many hearts in his life, I trust his opinion!) – DanF Dec 23 '16 at 16:20
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Probably one of the earliest sources is the Midrash Osios d'Rabbi Akiva, Os Beis (eighth or ninth-century) which reads:

דבר אחר מפני מה ברא הקב"ה את העולם בב"י בראשית ומסיים לעיני כל ישראל, שכשתדבקם יחד אינן אלא ב"ל וכשהפכת אותם אינו אלא ל"ב, אמר הקב"ה לישראל, בני אם אתם מקיימים שתי מדות הללו בל ולב מעלה אני עליכם כאלו קיימתם כל התורה כולה מב"י ועל למ"ד.

Why did HKBH create the world with ב and end with ל? When you put them together they result בל (not) and when you reverse them around they read לב (heart). Thus, HKBH says to Yisroel: If you serve me in these two ways, with your nothingness (humility) and with your heart (kavod) I will consider it as if you fulfilled the entire Torah from ב to the ל.

On the reverse reading of לב , there is an interesting piece in Letters of Fire by Matityahu Glazerson (NY: Feldheim, 1991, p. 15). He says:

When read in reverse order, the word לב becomes בל (bal, “not”), indicating negation. One's life depends upon the heart; if one uses his heart properly, it can bring him to perfection. Otherwise, God forbid, it can bring him a feeling of lack and negation. Kohelet says: “The heart of the wise man is to the right, and the heart of the fool is to the left." That is, when we read the word from the right, לב (lev, "heart"), it shows the way of the wise; from the left, בל (bal, "not"), it shows the way of the fool.

  • @Levi If you like an answer, consider marking it correct. – mevaqesh Apr 30 '17 at 9:28
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Perhaps "an ignorant man cannot be pious" in pirkei avot. so first learn and then work on the heart. not the other way around.

Or perhaps it needed to start with Beit for other reasons.

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