Where’s Page One?

Question

Dear Rabbi, Why does each tractate in the Talmud begin with page number two (the letter beit in Hebrew) and not on page one? Thank you.

1 month

Answers

  1. The real reason is because the front page of the volume is considered page one. Look at printed books today, Jewish and secular, which usually begin with page nine because of all the pages before the beginning of the actual book.

    I once heard a deeper explanation of why they began with page two: When a person sits down to study, even though he has not yet begun to study, by merely opening the book of Talmud he has overcome a negative human inclination to curtail Torah study. This is considered as if he has begun already, and that is the “first page.”

    Other possible reasons for no page one in the Talmud:

    1. So that nobody can ever claim that they have mastered the entire tractate, from the first page to the last. That is, there’s always more to learn!

    2. Just as the Torah begins with the letter “beit” (Bereishet), so too the Talmud begins on page “beit.” Page 2. A reason for both is that “alef” stands for the “Aluf” (The Commander), meaning God, and God comes before the Torah and before the Talmud. Also, in both cases it teaches us that while we may (and, indeed, ought to) study and question, we should know that we aren’t starting from scratch in our Torah study. Rather, we are building on what has come before.

    3. Last but not least: One does not know everything, and even when one has finished studying, one must review – but if it were from the beginning, it would make a person feel despondent! (This reason may sound humorous, but it may possibly be the most important and profound reason of all!)

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team