Rabbi Chananya spake, and said: "Before creation began, the alphabetical letters were in reversed order; thus, the two first words in the Book of Genesis, berashith, bara, begin with B; the next two, Alhim, ath, with A. Why did it not commence with A, the first letter? The reason of this inversion is as follows: For two thousand years before the creation of the world the letters were concealed and hidden, being objects of divine pleasure and delight.
"When the Divine Being, however, willed to create the world, all the letters appeared before his presence in their reverse order. Th first ascended and. said: 'Lord of the Universe! let it please thee to create the world by me, as I am the final letter of the word Emeth (truth), which is graven on thy signet ring. Thou thyself art called Emeth, and therefore it will become thee, the great King, to begin and create the world by me.' Said the Holy One (blessed be He): 'Thou, oh, Teth, are indeed worthy, but I cannot create the world by thee; for thou art destined to be not only the characteristic emblem borne by faithful students of the law, from beginning to end, but also the associate of Maveth (death), of which thou art the final letter. Therefore the creation of the world cannot, must not, be through thee.'
"After Th had disappeared, Sh ascended and said: 'I pray thee, Lord of the Universe, as bearing thy great name Shaddai (almighty), to create the world by me, by the holy name that becometh thee only.' Said the Holy One: 'Thou art truly, oh, Schin, worthy, pure and true; but letters that go to form lying
and falsehood will associate themselves with thee, viz.: Koph (Q) and Resh (R), and with thee will make up SheQeR (a lie), Falsehood, in order that it may be received and credited, some first with the appearance of truth (Sh), which thou representest, and for this reason I will not create the world by thee.' So Schin departed and Q and R, having heard these words, dared not present themselves before the divine presence.
2b-3a "TZ then went before him, saying: 'Because I mark the Zaddikim (the righteous), and thou thyself nearest me in thy name, Zaddik (righteous), and also it is written "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness,"Ps. 9:8 it will become thee to create the world by me.' Then said the Holy One: "Zaddi, Zaddi, thou art truly righteous, but thou must keep thyself concealed, and thy occult meaning must not be made known or become revealed; and therefore thou must not be used in the creation of the world. Thy original form was a rod, symbol of the female principle, surmounted by Yod, a letter of the holy Name, and also of the Holy Covenant, and emblem of the male principle. (By this, reference is made to the first man, who was androgynous, with faces turning one to the right, the other to the left, as symbolized in the figure of Zaddi in the Hebrew alphabet). But the time will come that thou shall be divided, and thy faces shall then be turned to each other.'
"Zaddi then departed, and P ascended and said: 'I am the beginning of the salvation (Peragna) and deliverance (Peduth) thou will execute in the world. It will be fitting to create it by me.' 'Thou art worthy,' replied the Holy One, 'but thou also givest rise to Evil (Peshang), and in thy form resemblest those animals who walk with drooping heads, like wicked men who go about with bowed heads and extended hands. I will not, therefore, create the world by thee.'
"To the letter Ayin, the initial of the word Avon (iniquity), though it claimed the origination of Anava (Modesty), the holy One said: 'I shall not create the world by thee.' And forthwith Ayin departed.
"S then went and pleaded: 'I am near (Samich) to the fallen ones, as it is written: "The Lord upholdeth (soumekh) all them that fall."'Ps. 145:14 'Thou must return, Samich, to thy place,' was the reply of the Holy One, 'and must not leave it; for if thou dost, what will become of the fallen, who will need and look to thee for aid and support?'
"Samich forthwith returned, and was followed by N, who said: 'Oh, thou Holy One! that thou mayest be venerated in praises (Nura tehillim), and also because the praise of the righteous will be a Nava (delight), let it please thee to create the world by me.' To whom he replied: 'Nun, return thou to thy place with the fallen (Nephelim), for whose sake Samich hath gone back to her place, and lean for support upon her.'
"M then followed after, saying: 'Thou wilt by me be called Melech (King).' 'Truly so,' said He, 'but I will not, for all that, create the world by thee. Go back at once to thy place with thy companion letters, L and CH; for there must be a King, and for the world to be without one would not be seemly.'"
AT that moment bh descended from off the throne of light and splendor, exclaiming: "I am thy glory, create the world by me." As it stood trembling with excitement before the Holy One, two hundred thousand worlds together with the throne itself were seized with a sudden tremor and seemed ready to fall. "Caph, Caph!" cried the Holy One, "what hast thou done? I will not create the world by thee, for thou beginnest bhala (ruin, loss). Return at once to thy place on the throne of glory and abide there!" Then Caph retired and went back to its place.
I next appeared and claimed that being the initial letter in the divine name IHVH, it was the best for the work of creation. But the Holy One replied: "Let it suffice thee to be what thou art, chief letter in my name and foremost in all my designs, thou must remain where and as thou art!"
Then came I and spake before the Eternal One: "Create the world by me, for in me alone is thy goodness (Tobh) and uprightness, both attributes of thee." "I will not, Oh Teth," replied the Holy One, "use thee in the creation of the world, because the goodness within thee is hidden and concealed from sight as it is written, "How great is thy goodness which thou hidest for them that fear thee."Ps. 31:19 Seeing thou wilt remain invisible to the world, I am about to create, and furthermore because of the goodness hidden within thee, the gates of the temple will sink into the earth as it is written, 'Her gates are sunk into the ground,'Lam. 2:9 and besides all this, thou with thy comrade the letter Heth (bh) composed sin. Therefore, these letters will never enter in the names of the twelve holy tribes." On hearing these words bh went not before the Holy One, but returned at once to its place.
Z then went up and urged its claim, saying: "Thy children will through me keep the Sabbath, as it is written: 'Remember (Zecor) the Sabbath to keep it holy."Ex. 20:8 "Thou, Oh Zain," replied the Holy One, "art of too warlike a form, resembling as thou dust a spear. I cannot use thee in the creation of the world."
When Z heard this decision, like N it retired and gave place to V, who said: "I am a letter in thy holy name." The eternal one answered and said: "Remain contented, Oh V that together with H you are in the great name. I shall not choose you by whom to create the world."
D, accompanied by G, went before the divine presence. To them it was said, "Let it suffice you, that so long as you are conjoined and associated, there will always be the poorDeut 15:11 on the earth who will need succor and help. Daleth (D)--poverty and Gimel (G)--help or the benefactor. Therefore both of you keep together, the one helping the other." (In the Hebrew alphabet G and D are successive letters).
Then came B and said: "Create the world by me, because I am the initial letter of beracha (blessing) and through me all will bless thee, both in the world above as in the world below." "Truly, Oh B," said the Holy One, "I will surely create the world by thee only."
Hearing these words, A remained in its place and went not into the divine presence, who therefore exclaimed "Aleph (A) Aleph! why comest thou not before me as all the other letters?" Then replied A: "Lord and sovereign of the universe, it is because I have observed that (B excepted) they have returned as they went, without success. Why, therefore, should I come before thee, since thou hast already given to B the great and precious gift we all of us craved and desired. Moreover, it becometh not the monarch of the universe to withdraw and take back his presents from one subject and give them to another." To these words the Holy One responded: "Aleph, Aleph! Thou shalt be the first of all letters and my unity shall be symbolized only by thee. In all conceptions and ideas human or divine, in every act and deed begun, carried on and completed, in all of them shalt thou be the first, the beginning."
Therefore did the holy one make the letters of the celestial alphabet, capitals, and those of the earthly, small, each corresponding to one another. Therefore also the Book of Genesis begins with two words whose initials are B, viz.: Braeshith, Bara (in the beginning created) followed by two others, whose initials
are A, viz., Alhim, ath (God, the substance of) to show that the letters of these alphabets celestial and earthly are one and the same by which every creature and thing in the universe has been formed and produced.