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Monday, October 21, 2013

THE HEBREW LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET: The Channels, the Categories, and the Meanings Part V






Introduction

In Part IV, the numerical value of the letters from Alef to Yod equaled the numbers One through Ten. All proceeding letters are multiples of ten, and one hundred. This only means that the individual letters are equal to that specific amount and does not mean that the other numbers do not exist.

Gematria (numerology) applies numbers of the letters thusly: The word Truth--emet or emes in Hebrew--is spelled alef, mem, tav. Emet is considered God's seal, or the seal of the Holy One. Is it no wonder that when Jesus proclaimed, " I am the Truth..." He was declaring that anyone who was sealed or marked by Him belonged to Him under that seal. This is a seal that cannot be removed because it is a seal of permanency. Truth never ceases to exist. It cannot be wiped out because it is connected to God, it is God. Kind David declared: "...the very beginning of Your word (the Torah) is truth." Psalms 119:160. This refers to the story of Creation, "In the beginning of God's creating" (Genesis 1: 1), the first three words end in tav, alef, and mem. Although, these are not in the proper order to spell emet, at the end of the six days the words, "God created [for man] to do..." is in the proper order. This indicates that Truth is attained only through effort. The sages also believe that through the examination of all the consecutive sets of three letters in the Alef-Beis, beginning with bet (the first letter of the Torah), they always add up to nine which is the mispar kattan or the digit sum of emet.

The word emet is also the acrostic of God is the Eternal King. When Moses requested a sign of assurance for the Israel, God replied, "I shall be that which I shall be," in Exodus 3:14. This is the basic truth of the covenant between the Children of Israel and God. The bond which holds, or the glue of the covenant is emet, and that emet will remain forever. This is the sentiment of Rosh Hashanah and is included in the prayers of that Feast. I realize all of this is a tad esoteric, but it expresses the methodology used by the sages to determine all the possible meanings of the words and their letters. I could write reams on the single word emet and its connection to Christ, but I shall proceed with the final letters of the alphabet.

Kaf equals Twenty

The letter Kaf is intimately tied to Jacob's achievement in wrestling with the divine. The angel wounded his thigh which represents where all his progeny would issue forth. He wrestled in the night, in the darkness, where our evil inclination dwells. The divine was the victor, and Jacob would indeed become Israel, the father of the twelve tribes. The divine used his hand, the hollow of his hand which is the meaning of the letter Kaf. This letter also changes its form when it appears at the end of a word. The right line becomes elongated instead of curving around. This is an indicator that the primitive impulses have been controlled through the divine assistance. Therefore, Jacob's primitive impulses were controlled and his progeny issued from his thigh were born with the divine spark.

The Kaf also means crown. The first crown is the crown of the priesthood, the second is the crown of kingship, the third is the crown of the Torah, and the fourth is considered the greatest of all by the sages, the crown of a good name. Even though the crown of Torah is the greatest, as expressed throughout the Talmud, and recited in the prayers of the Jew, the crown of a good name requires all the previous three. The crown atop the Menorah represents the fourth crown of a good name. Although the Menorah was not crowned the word Menorah has the same gematria as the phrase, "a surrounding golden crown." This idea is derived by God's declaration in Exodus 19: 6, "You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy people." Our walk with the Lord is profoundly important under the crowning achievement of a good name. When someone does evil things or says evil things, then tries to evangelize, the effort cannot be successful. This is why pastors who fall are considered deadly wounds to the efforts of evangelization. They taint the good name of all efforts to bring Christ to a lost people.

Lamed equals Thirty

Lamed is the tallest of the letters, the majestic letter that rises above all of the Hebrew letters. The word Yisrael, or Israel, begins with the smallest letter, Yod, and ends with the tallest, Lamed. As grand as Israel is through the final letter Lamed, the word is tempered by beginning with the letter Yod. This means that Israel may have begun in humility, but because of that grace it has risen to the heights. This is a lesson for the world. All our efforts must begin in humility.

Lamed's connection with Learning and Teaching is not connected with the temporal, but with those ideas that come from the heart. It is also interesting to note that the root word Learn does not appear in scripture until Deuteronomy 4:10. This indicates that Learning comes from the Torah and not from anything else in the world. Lamed lies at the very center, the heart of the Alef-Beis, which also indicates the goal of learning the Torah is to penetrate the heart, become a part of our center, a part of our emotional and spiritual selves, "These words . . . shall be on your heart," Deuteronomy 6: 6.

Mem equals Forty

The letter Mem is so tied with water that it becomes part of the ebb and flow of our lives. The word for water, Mayim, begins and ends with the letter Mem. Moses and the Messiah are tied to Mem. This letter has two ways in which it is written. One is the open Mem which stands for the revealed, and the other is closed Mem--looking much like a box--which stands for the concealed. According to tradition, Moses tried to reveal the infinite Torah, but man was not capable of perceiving that level of knowledge. Moses hid it within the subtleties of the Torah, in the feasts, and the Hebrew letters. Glimpses were revealed in the prophecies of the coming Messiah, the gematria, the positions of the letters and the words, but, most importantly, in the framework of the Torah. The four-source theory shows an astounding lack of understanding in the way the Torah was put together. The adherents cannot imagine that Moses, a single man, produced such a beautiful work within the forty days that he consulted, learned, and was infused with the grace of understanding this knowledge while he stood face-to-face with God on Mt. Sinai. He also had forty years to complete the writing of the Torah, which was handed over to Joshua when the Israelites completed their forty years of penance and entered the Promised Land. Can you imagine coming face-to-face with God for forty years and then removed from the earth to be in God's presence in Heaven? What a thought?!

The concealed Torah was left to the Messiah to reveal to the world. And did He ever. Wow! Christ proclaimed three unbelievable and profound things to the world: First, that He is the Truth, the way, and the life (John 14: 6); Second, that the Temple would be destroyed and He would raise it up in three days (John 2:19); Third, that we must eat His body and drink His blood in perpetuity (Matthew 26:26). These three things were revelations of the concealed Torah, things that were impossible to the twelve Apostles, or any Jew. These things continue to remain impossible to a sinful world. The further that some Protestant sects move away from the original Church, the more they reject these three declarations. In society at large, more and more people are rejecting Christianity and Judaism, and rejecting God for a virulent form of atheism, proving that only those who believe are capable of understanding the depth of these revelations and how they connect us to the hidden Torah.

The number Forty is the amount of time necessary for the ripening process to flower, to produce fruit: Forty days Moses spent on the mountain immersing himself in the Torah before he descended with the tablets given by God; the Book of Proverbs begins with an enlarged Mem indicating that King Solomon fasted and prayed for forty days before writing it; forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the desert before coming into the Promised Land; and for forty days Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray before revealing His purpose by reading the passage from Isaiah 61: 1,2 (Luke 4:18-19).

Nun equals Fifty

Nun appears in two forms, also. The first is the bent Nun symbolizing God sitting on His Throne, and the second is the elongated version denoting continuity. The elongated version also represents the angels standing before God's throne, rising before their Creator, the Holy One. Nun also means the Soul who will testify before God on Judgment Day, and will reveal, without hesitation, every sin, every dark spot and blemish. The Soul is likened to a Candle that lights up all the dark corners and plumbs the depths of man's thought to be revealed before God. When the Soul is a resident of a body on earth it is attached and restrained like the bent Nun, but once it is released by death it rises like the straight Nun, like the angels standing before God on His throne.

After Moses died, it was the son of Nun who led the new nation of Israel into the Promised Land.

Samek equals Sixty

Samek as the number sixty comes to embody a large portion of one hundred and as such represents abundance and completeness. Like Vav that equals six which represents the number of days the universe was created, sixty also is a form of completion. The letter begins such words as Siddur, the Hebrew prayerbook; Sukkah, the booth or hut which is a shelter; Sefer, which means book; Sohirah, which means shield. Each of these items represent a container of some sort, or of sustenance and protection. These things can be of support to us, to help us through the dangers of our life on earth.

The sages teach that the use of simanim, or study and memory aids, while learning the Torah helps the student acquire the knowledge necessary to complete, sustain, and protect each student as he goes out into the world. The best known devices are:
  • Gematria or numerical equivalents.
  • Acronyms and end letters--like the acronym used to remember the ten plagues was made by using the first letter of each plague, not unlike one of many I used in my college classes. For instance, the one I used in my biology class to remember the phases of cell division: In Paris My Ass Tingles, which translates as; interphase, prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase.
  • Alphabetical acrostics--like the first day of Passover falls on the same day of the week as the ninth of Av (darkest day of the year, Tisha B'Av), or the second day of Passover falls on the same day as Shavuos (Feast of the First Fruits, or, to the Christian, Pentecost).
  • Proverbs, parables, allegories--allusions to a deeper meaning such as the second letter in Abraham's name, Bet, begins the word for morning. The sages determine that Abraham established the morning prayer. Issac's second letter begins the word for afternoon therefore he instituted the afternoon prayer, and Jacob initiated the evening prayer. Of course, the prayer itself determines the time of day, too, and the scriptures make references to the times of day.
  • Notarikon, or contractions.
  • Catchwords.
  • Grouping and totaling of concepts--laws that are similar are grouped together like the four categories of damages, the thirty-nine categories of forbidden labor on the Sabbath, etc.

Ayin equals Seventy

Ayin, being the mutual seeing, or seeing eye-to-eye, became the ultimate goal for every Jew. Their greatest aspiration was to see eye-to-eye with God (Isaiah 52: 8). Moses appointed seventy elders to be the eyes of the community, and to help him judge in legal matters. These elders were given the grace of prophesy in order to help them judge with God's eyes. (Numbers 11:24-25) Vision is critical to understanding, but it can either lose its way through temptation or be a reflection of the universe. In Exodus 25: 8, "They shall build me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell in their midst." The scripture does not say in its midst, but in their midst. Therefore, the Shekinah dwells within the people. When they would look into each other's eyes they would see the Shekinah dwelling there. They would also see their reflection in the other's eyes, and pray that what they would see would be good, that they would see the Shekinah reflected in their image.

The number Seventy is crucial to understanding Spirituality. Seventy represents the turning points in the nation Israel's history. After the Flood, Seventy nations descended from Noah; Seventy languages emerged at the Tower of Babel; Seventy people came with Jacob to Egypt.

Pei equals Eighty

Pei, the letter of speech and silence, represents the mouth of man. He can either pray and sing the praises of His Creator, and study the Torah, or he can be silent in order to listen and learn. The mouth is also the organ that can utter evil commands, gossip, or lie. It has always been interesting to me that Martin Luther wanted to get rid of the Book of James, which has to do with the Power of Words and the Tongue. Could it be that he felt guilt by using words to break faith with the Church? And for placing too much emphasis on the phrase, Faith Alone, which does not exist in the scripture? Ignoring the traditions and the authority of the Church, he placed everything on his phrase, and it gave him the permission he sought to leave the Church where he had chafed under its authority. Instead of staying within the Church, and appealing to the powers above him about the uncontrolled purchase of indulgences, to seek justice, like the parable of The Widow and the Judge, he allowed the princes of Germany to appeal to his ego, and so, he left, and caused a schism, which is forbidden in the scripture, 1 Corinthians 12:25.

Tzadi equals Ninety

There are also two forms of the Tzadi; the bent and the straight tail. The bent represents the Tzaddick, the righteous one, and the erect Tzaddick comes in the straight tail. The bent is used at the beginning and in the middle of a word, while the erect one is used at the end. Righteousness is divine and human, and the righteous may suffer at the hands of the wicked, but because of his humility, represented by the bent letter, he will inherit his due in the next world.

Kuf equals One Hundred

Kuf is the fulfillment of the cycle, therefore complete and perfected, represented in the word Hakafa, which means cycle, and Kedushah, which means holiness. The letter dwells in both worlds of the old and the new, bridging them and challenging them to make peace with the change. Jesus bridges the old and the new, fulfilling the cycle and perfecting it with His sacrifice and resurrection. The present cycle will be completed upon His return and the transformation of the universe under His physical rule. The following letter, Resh, which means beginning or head begins the next cycle.

Resh equals Two Hundred

This letter is fascinating in how it relates as a passageway between Heaven and Earth. If a man becomes earthbound, only seeing the mundane life, he becomes a pauper, inheriting nothing. In Deuteronomy 1:21, Moses declares, "Go up and inherit the land." Kabbalistically it can be interpreted that if a man can elevate himself spiritually he can bring blessings down to the earth, but if he is focused on earthly desires the blessings from Heaven will stop. Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Remembrance, is also considered the Day of looking back to remember the good and the bad in order to repent of them and change our ways. Without repentance the universe would cease to exist, as it is one of the seven forces that existed before creation. Repentance is the key to walking the passageway between Heaven and Earth.

Shin equals Three Hundred

The Shin is elevated among the Sacred Letters because it exists in two names for God: All-Sufficient, Unlimited One, and Peace. The ends are often illustrated in flames of holy fire. Sometimes the Shin is drawn with four heads, to represent the Ten Commandments where the three heads is formed by four frames, one on each side and two in the middle. The Divine four-headed Shin can only exist because the Shin has exterior walls. This alludes to the limitation of the mind of man in its understanding of God and His ways. The Song of Songs begins with an enlarged Shin to represent the alliance and mutual love between God and Israel.

Tav equals Four Hundred

Tav is the consummation of all the letters and the symbol of Truth and Perfection. Truth is life sustaining for there is no such things as a little falsehood. Like leaven falsehood taints the whole, even with the smallest amount. Truth is eternal for it is God's Seal. David declares, "the very beginning of Your word is truth," Psalms 119:160 (I refer to this in the introduction). Creation depends on Truth. The conversation between God and the angels before the creation of Adam in the Midrash: Bereishis Rabbah 8:5, begins:
"God, in His modesty, took counsel with the angels regarding His intention of making man. They could not agree.
The angel named Chessed [Kindness] said, 'Create man for he will perform good deeds.'
Emes [Truth] replied, 'Do not create him for he will be full of distortions.'
Tzedek [Righteousness] rejoined, 'Create human beings for they will be righteous.'
Shalom [Peace] opposed man's creation for, 'He is full with strife.'
However, the Pslamist relates this debate in Psalm 85:11, "Chessed and Emes clashed; Tzadek and Shalom came together." God is said to have cast Emes down to the earth, as expressed in Daniel 8:12, and even though the Heavenly Host believed that it would degrade Truth, damage its integrity, the Psalmist answers this accusation in the next verse of Psalm 85. Verse 12 says, "Let Emes sprout from the earth." Truth is so potent that it will prevail over all its attackers, and even flourish on earth.

The Missing Letter

There is a Talmudic legend that tells of a twenty-third letter that appeared on the tablets of the Ten Commandments, but when the tablets were broken because of the sin of the golden calf all the letters flew back up to Heaven. When the letters returned with the second set of tablets, the twenty-third letter vanished, but it will return when the world is transformed, and balance is returned through the work of the Messiah. It's called the letter of the left-side. Some Jewish mystics have conjectured that the four-headed Shin is the twenty-third letter. On the tefillin, the black box worn on the head, the three pronged Shin is on the right side, and it represent the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But on the left is a four-headed Shin, in honor of the missing letter, and it represents the four Matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. Some say the letter will only appear during the Messianic Age, and the world will be renewed with fire. The four-headed Shin is depicted with the flames of fire above its prongs to represent this missing letter. This will be the letter than will connect the Tav to the Alef and the cycle will be completed. It is the letter of all sounds, the letter of silence, the letter of the future and that which is unknown. It is the letter that the Messiah will bring into the world when He returns.

Summary

I have given you a taste of the delights of the deeper meanings of the Alef-Beis according to Jewish mystics and sages. There is, of course, much more to learn. I have only tapped the surface here. I have left it incumbent on you to seek those answers through the constant study of the scripture and through unceasing prayer. The Word of God has depths we can only begin to understand when we learn the language in which it was written.

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