The Letter Bet (ב)
The letter Bet is the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the first letter of the Hebrew Bible. The letter Bet is actually the source of the Greek letter Beta, as you can see by the similarities in the two letters’ names. The English letter “B” is therefore ultimately derived from Bet, as well. Being the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter Bet has the numerical value of two, and the name of the letter itself comes from the fact that it is shaped like a house, which is called a “bayit” in the Hebrew language. This may make it easy to remember the name and sound of the letter Bet if you are first learning the Hebrew alphabet or learning the Hebrew language, and it gives you another word to add to your Hebrew vocabulary list, as well!
The Bet is generally pronounced like a “B,” but sometimes, if it doesn’t have a dot (called a “dagesh” in Hebrew) in the middle, it then becomes the Hebrew letter Vet and has a “V” sound. These sounds are often similar in many world languages. In Spanish, for example, the “B” may often sound more like a “V” and vice versa. While the letter is almost universally pronounced as “Bet,” there are variations on pronunciation of the letter’s name. According to some Ashkenazic pronunciations, for example, it would either be pronounced “Beit” or “Beis.”
There are many stories as to why Bet is the first letter of the Hebrew Bible and not Aleph, which is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. While some say it was due to Aleph’s humility, another theory explains that G-d decided to start the Bible with the letter Bet in order to show man that he did not know the first thing about how the world works! Due to the fact that Bet is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and perhaps for other spiritual reasons as well, in Kabbalistic (Jewish mystical) teachings, the Bet represents the duality of nature present in all of creation.