In the beginning of G‑d's [Elokim] creating….(Gen. 1:1)
Originally He thought of creating it with the attribute of severity. He saw that the world would not endure so He preceded it with the attribute of compassion. This is indicated by the verse: In the day that Havayah Elokim made…(ibid. 2:4, Rashi)

The shape of the letter hei alludes to human freedom of choice….

It is known that the Blessed Holy One contracted His light in order to create worlds. First He contracted His light and created the Upper World with the letter yud. After this He further contracted His light until He created this material world with the letter hei. The shape of the letter hei alludes to human freedom of choice: the letter is open underneath, signifying that people are free to leave; the letter also has a higher opening which signifies the possibility of spiritual return (i.e. repentance) and the fact that the Blessed Holy One accepts those who return to a life of holiness. This is explained by our sages.

The Upper World, however, is one of supernal holiness and there is no spiritual return there, for the Blessed Holy One is exacting with the righteous and with the angels to the point of a hair's breadth.

The greater the holiness, the more stringent is the treatment….

The greater the holiness, the more stringent is the treatment. To the extent that there is less holiness - due to the contraction of divine light - there is greater compassion and possibility of return. It is for this reason that the World to Come - the world of the angels - has no aspect of return whereas This World is one of compassion and return.

This is the meaning of the statement of the Sages quoted by Rashi: Originally, at the beginning of G‑d's contracting His light, He created the Upper World, a place of great severity due to its supernal holiness. Later, when He wished to create This World, in which the divine light is very hidden, He used the attribute of compassion, which is also the aspect of spiritual return.

This idea is alluded to in the words "…the heavens and the earth…" (Gen. 1:1). "The heavens" refers to the Upper World; "the earth" refers to the Lower World. The letter vav is added to the word "the earth" to signify that it is created through G‑d's compassion, as we will explain. The letter vav alludes to a year, for it may be spelled either "vav-vav", in which case its numerical value is twelve, or "vav-alef-vav", in which case its numerical value is thirteen. These correspond to a regular year of twelve months and to a leap year of thirteen months, which in turn correspond to the twelve or thirteen Attributes of Mercy. There is more divine compassion in a leap year, as signified by the addition of the letter alef between the two vavs, for supernal holiness is drawn down from the Upper World then.

The holier a day or a place is, the more stringent are the rules concerning it….

The same is true within This World. There are many different levels of holiness in days and places. The holier a day or a place is, the more stringent are the rules concerning it. Shabbat is the holiest day and the source of holiness for all the days of the week; it is also a day with very exacting regulations. The letters of the word, "In the beginning…" [in Hebrew "Bereishit"] can also spell "awe of Shabbat" ["yirah Shabbat"]. Concerning places, all the lands receive their holiness from the Land of Israel; the Land of Israel from Jerusalem; Jerusalem from the Temple; and the Temple from the Holy of Holies. The greater the level of holiness of a place, the stricter are its regulations.

Moses yearned to enter the Land of Israel - and unto the very Holy of Holies - for he wished to draw down that luminous holiness upon Israel. This is the meaning of the verse "Moses ascended from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the height of the summit…He died there…"(Deut. 34:1). Moses ascended to the highest spiritual levels in order to draw down supernal awe and holiness upon Israel. He held close to the supernal holiness of the Land of Israel that G‑d showed him until he "died with a kiss", and even in death his eye saw.

Moses…drew down a level of awe upon Israel through his gazing at the Land of Israel….

This is the explanation of Rashi's comment on the words "his [Moses'] eye did not weaken" (Deut. 34:7): "Moses did not die but was absorbed in a state of supernal holiness; he drew down holiness and supernal awe upon all Israel, and after, he died." This is the meaning of the verse, "Moses, servant of G‑d, died in the land of Moab by the mouth of G‑d". The numerical value for the words "by the mouth of G‑d" is the same for that of "awe". Though Moses was in the land of Moab he drew down a level of awe upon Israel through his gazing at the Land of Israel.

This is the connection of the last phrase of the Torah, "for all the great awe that Moses rendered in the eyes of all Israel", with the first phrase of the Torah, "In the beginning of G‑d's creating": Moses drew down great awe from the upper worlds for all Israel. He drew it down into their heart [in Hebrew, "lev", spelled lamed-beit] - an idea alluded to by the first and last letters of the Torah [also lamed -beit]. Their heart became purified and they experienced "beginning" and "the awe of Shabbat" (mentioned above), the joining of the Upper World to the Lower World, the joining of heaven and earth, the yud [of the name Havayah] with the hei.

This is the "desire to sing" [in Hebrew, "shir ta-ev"], which is also formed by the letters of the word "Bereishit". This is the Song of Songs of Solomon, song that is holier than all other songs - the song that signifies the completion [in Hebrew, "shleimut", resembling Solomon's Hebrew name, "Shlomo"] of the building of the Temple.

The numerical value of the word "Bereishit" ["In the beginning"] equals that of the words "of Solomon" ["asher lishlomo", from Songs 1:1] plus seven, which signifies Shabbat [the Seventh Day]. The most complete revelation of holiness and light comes through Shabbat, concerning which the verse states, "You shall delight in [literally, 'upon'] G‑d"; this refers to a level that precedes divine thought. The verse continues, "He shall give you the desires of your heart"; through drawing down the holiness of Shabbat the desires of a pure heart are fulfilled - to truly serve G‑d, Amen, May it be His will.

[Translation from Bat Ayin by Jonathan Glass.]