||Kabbalistic Midrash on the names of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Two versions or portions of the same exist: Version A introduces the various letters as contending with each other for the honor of forming the beginning of creation (bereshit). It is based upon Gen. R. i. and Cant. R. on v. 11, according to which Aleph complained before G-d that Bet was preferred to it, but was assured that the Torah of Sinai, the object of creation, would begin with Aleph (Anoki = I am); it, however, varies from the Midrash Rabbot. The letters, beginning with the last, Tav, and ending with Bet, all assert their claim to priority. First Tav, as being the initial letter of Torah: it is told that it will be the mark on the forehead of the wicked (Ezek. ix. 4, Shab. 55a). Then Shin, as the initial letter of Shem (שם "the Name") and Shaddai ("Almighty"), puts in its claim: it is told that it is also the first letter of sheker (שקר "falsehood"). Resh as the initial letter of rosh (ראש "the beginning of thy word is truth," Ps. cxix. 160) and of Rahum (רחום "the Merciful One") next makes its demands; but it is told that rosh or Resh also occurs in evil things (Num. xiv. 4, Dan. ii. 32, Heb.) and is the initial also of resh'a (רשע "wickedness"). Next comes koph, as the beginning of kadosh (קדש "holy"); but it is also the first letter of kelalah ("curse"). So all the rest complain; each having some claim, which is, however, at once refuted, until Beth, the initial letter of berakah ("blessing" and "praise"), is chosen. Whereupon Aleph is asked by the Most High why it alone showed modesty in not complaining; and it is assured that it is the chief of all letters, denoting the oneness of G-d, and that it shall have its place at the beginning of the Sinaitic revelation. This competition is followed by a haggadic explanation of the form of the various letters and by interpretations of the different compositions of the alphabet: AT BSH, AHS BT'A, and AL BM.
Version B of "Otiot shel Rebbe Akiva" is a compilation of allegoric and mystic Haggadahs suggested by the names of the various letters, the component consonants being used as acrostics (notarikon). Thus Aleph, (אמת למד פיך = אלף "Thy mouth learned truth") suggests truth, praise of G-d, faithfulness (אמונה emunah), or the creative Word of G-d (imrah) or G-d Himself as Aleph, Prince and Prime of all existence; at this point chapters from mystic lore on Metatron-Enoch, etc., are inserted. Bet (here named after the Arabic form Be) suggests house (בית bayit), blessing (ברכה berakah), contemplation (binah), which is prized as superior to the study of the Law. Gimel suggests gemilut hasadim (חסד benevolence), especially G-d's benevolence, and the rain (geshem) of G-d's mercy and His majesty in the heavens. Daled (Arabic, instead of the Hebrew form Dalet) suggests care for the poor (דל dal). He recalls G-d's name, so does Vaw (see Shab. 104a), Zayin the key of sustenance (זן zan) in G-d's hand (also Shab. 104a), and a chapter follows on Zerubbabel at the unlocking of the graves for the resurrection. Here follows a chapter on Hell and Paradise continued in Het = het = sin; Tet suggests טיט tit, the clay of earth, and hence, resurrection; Yod (יד "the hand") suggests the reward of the righteous; Kaph (כף "hollow of the hand" - "palm"), the clapping of hands, and the congregation of Israel (כנסת keneset) led by Metatron to Eden. Lamed recalls leb (לב "the heart"); Mem, the mysteries of the merkabah (מרכבה "the heavenly chariot") and G-d's kingdom (מלכות malkut); Nun, ner, "the light (נר ner) of G-d is the soul of man" (Prov. xx. 27, Heb.); Samek, "G-d sustaineth (סומך somek) the falling" (Ps. cxlv. 14, Heb.), or Israel, the Sanctuary or the Torah, inasmuch as the word samek has several different meanings. Ayin (עין "the eye") suggests the Torah as light for the eye; Pe recalls פה peh, the mouth, as man's holy organ of speech and praise; Zade suggests Moses as צדיק Zaddik the righteous; Koph, also Moses as the one who circumvented the stratagems of Pharaoh. Resh suggests G-d as the ראש rosh, the head of all; Shin, the breaking of the teeth (שן shen) of the wicked (Ps. iii. 8, Heb.) and Tav the insatiable desire of man (תאוה taawah) unless he devotes himself to the Torah, the Law.
Rebbe Akiva's authorship, is claimed by the writers of both versions, who begin their compositions with the words, "R. Akiba hath said." The justification for this pseudonymous title was found in the fact that, according to the Talmud (Men. 29b), Moses was told on Sinai that the ornamental crown of each letter of the Torah would be made the object of halakic interpretation by Akiba ben Joseph, and that according to Gen. R. i., he and R. Eliezer as youths already knew how to derive higher meaning from the double form of the letters.