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BET:

The second letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Its numerical value is two, wherefore the bet in the word (Gen. xxi. 12) is interpreted as an allusion to the two worlds Isaac is destined to inherit—this world and the world to come (Yer. Ned. iii. 38a), or in the existence of which Isaac and his descendants believe (Gen. R. liii.). According to Bar Ḳappara, the Torah begins with the letter bet in allusion to the present and the future worlds (Gen. R. i. 14); according to R. Levi, in order to suggest by its shape (ב) that men should not pry into the secrets of what is above or beneath or behind, but simply inquire into the work of creation that liesopen before them (ib. i. 13). See also Akiba ben Joseph, Alphabet of.

Bibliography:
  • Buxtorf, Tiberias, xiv., xviii.
  • On the origin of the letter, see I. Taylor, The Alphabet, 1883;
  • A. J. Evans, Primitive Pictographs, 1894;
  • Cretan Pictographs, 1895;
  • Further Discoveries, etc., 1897, 1898; and the works named in Nos. 1 and 2 in the bibliography of Alphabet.
T. K.
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