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To my mind, this one is the toughest one yet. It is supremely difficult to grasp the concept of being first, i.e. without reference to anything else. That is because a first is always discussed within a framework in which its appearance is primary or in the context of that which precedes or succeeds it. It is not surprising therefore that the only word we have to associate with this concept, rishon, comes from the most basic human feature, the head, a connection made by the 12th-13th century figure, Rabbi David Kimhi. This link, which probably comes from the fact that the head is the most prominent part of the body and the one that helps us distinguish human beings from one another, alternatively, because the head is what emerges first at birth, helps us make some sense out of the concept in the most tangible way possible. It is no wonder then that G-d identifies Himself as the first (Isaiah 44:6). That is to say the ultimate first is G-d, and He is of course as far from our comprehension as ever.

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Yonatan Milevsky PhD, is an author and lecturer. His book on Jewish natural law theory was recently published by Brill. He teaches at TanenbaumCHAT in Canada.