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Saturday, January 11, 2020

Introduction to the Aleph-Beit, based on the Zohar

Introduction to the Aleph-Beit, based on the Zohar[1]

Aleph: “the first and the head of all letters, and My uniqueness will be expressed only through you. And you will be the first of all numbers, and all unity of disparate entities will be through you.” [Aleph has the numerical value of 1 and also stands for the Aluphoh Shel Olam, the Master of the World, Hashem.] 

Beit: “initial letter of the word Bracha, blessing, and with it the Holy One is blessed both above and below… the first letter of creation.” [Beit, the second letter, stands for Bayit, home. Midrash Tanchuma teaches that G-d created the world because He desired a dwelling place in the lower realms. The Talmud teaches that Alef Beit together stand for Aluf Binah (learn understanding).]

Gimmel: Gmilut Chassadim, acts of loving kindness.

Dalet: Dal (poor) [Gimmel and Dalet must not become separated from one another.]

Heh: Concealed within the name of Hashem, the Tetragrammaton. They represent feminine qualities. The first Heh in Hashem’s name represents Binah, understanding, and the second Malchut, kingship.  [The letter Heh also is tied to the concept of pregnancy, as it is the first letter in the Hebrew word for it, Herayon.]

Vav: Also concealed in Hashem’s name, representing the six male emotional attributes (Chesed, kindness, through Yesod, foundation). [The Vav, which literally means a "hook," grammatically is a letter that connects and transforms. A Vav preceding a word usually means "and." If that word is a verb, the Vav can transform it from past tense to future tense, or vice-versa.]

Zayin: The Sabbath, the seventh day, and the verse, “Zachor, Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” Zayin also means “weapon.”

Chet: Cheit, sin. [Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, in the opening pages of Likutei Moharan, explains that Chet is Chiut (vitality)]

Tet: “Tov veYashar Hashem,” God is good and fair. This good must remain hidden until the World to Come. Teviah, sinking. Also forms the word Chet, sin, when together with the letter Chet. [Tet also means snake in Aramaic, which represents desire, as well as physicality in general.]

Yud: Beginning of Hashem’s Holy Name. Yud symbolizes the male intellectual attribute of Chochmah, wisdom. [Yud represents spirituality. It is simply a dot on the page. The Heavens are said to have been created with the letter Yud. ]

Caf: Kissei HaKavod, the Throne of Glory, and represents Hashem’s Kavod, glory, in general. Also the first letter of Kliyah, destruction. Numerical equivalent of two Yud’s, “representing the Jew’s service of G-d, by which he elicits a corresponding response.” [Caf is also the first letter of the word Keter, crown, which in Kabbalah is connected to those aspects of the soul that are above intellect: Emunah (faith), Ta'anug (pleasure), and Ratzon (desire). Caf also means the palm of the hand, or a spoon, both of which are slightly bent in order to serve as a receptacle, a Kli (which is also with the letter Caf).]

Lamed: Second letter of the word Melech, King. [Lamed also means Limmud, study. The Lamed is particularly connected with the Oral Torah, the part of the Torah which was never intended to be written down, but instead was transmitted orally from teacher to student.

Mem: Melech, King. [Mem also stands for Mayim, water, and has the numerical value of 40; the minimum size of a kosher Mikveh. Em (Alef Mem), means "mother."]

Nun: Norah Tehilot, Na’avah Tehillah, awesome to praise, inspiring song; Nefillah, fall. [Nun also means "fish" in Aramaic, and, along with the Heh, also represents the Divine attribute of Malchut, kingship]

Samech: Somech Noflim, supporting those that are falling [Its shape is a circle, and stands for the different highs and lows of life.]

Ayin: Anavah, humility. Avon, transgression. [Ayin means "eye," as well as "well," "fountain," "spring." The eye is known as the "window to the soul," shedding light on a person's inner dimension. Similarly, a wellspring represents the revelation of the hidden, inner spiritual aspects of the earth, its deeper waters.]

Peh: Pedut, redemption; Pesha, deliberate transgression. [Peh literally means "mouth."] 

Tzadi: Tzaddik, saint (comprised of a Yud and a bent Nun, representing male and female, and also represents a servant of Hashem engaged in prayer)

Kuf: [Kuf is the first letter of Kadosh, holy. Kof literally means monkey, representing unholiness, Klippah, which imitates the holy.]

Reish: [Rosh, head; but also Rash, (poor), Rasha, evil person; Kuf and Resh together spell Kar, cold]

Shin: First letter of the Holy Name, Sh-D-Y, and associated with the three Patriarchs. Together with Reish and Kuf forms Sheker. Kesher means “knot.” [Esh, Alef Shin, means "fire."]

Tav: Concluding letter of Emet, truth. Used to mark the foreheads of mean of faith who had fulfilled the Torah from Aleph to Tav, beginning to end. The tav was also used to mark the head of wicked and punished by death. Final letter of Mavet, death.

Caf Sofit: Third letter of the word, Melech, king [The Caf Sophit is "a long straight letter, indicat[es] that one who succeeds in bending his primitive impulses and controlling them... (Munk)]

Mem Sofit: [While the regular "open" Mem is connected to the revealed aspects of Creation and of the Torah, the Mem Sofit is "sealed," representing that which is hidden and concealed. It is also a reference the final redeemer Mashiach, while the regular Mem is a reference to the first redeemer, Moshe.]

Nun Sofit: [While the regular Nun is bent, the final Nun is an unbounded straight line, reaching even below the "resting place" of the regular letters. (Ginsburgh) The final Nun represents Mashiach's ability to infuse even the lowliest of realms with G-dliness. The final Nun also has the shape of an extended vav, which stands for uprightness.]

Peh Sofit: [The final Peh symbolizes a mouth that is wide open. Similar to the final Nun, the long downward "leg" of the final Peh appears to represent Mashiach's ability to infuse even the lowliest of realms with the revelation of G-dliness.]

Tzadi Sofit: the Tzadik Sofit represents the Ba'al Teshuvah.  It represents someone who went far below in order to then climb back up. Moshe, "bent" in humility, is the quintessential Tzadik. The Tzadi Sofit, the "end Tzadik," is a reference to Mashiach. Mashiach will elevate even the lowest of realms. When Mashiach comes, even Tzadikim will do Teshuvah.

[1]  Zohar I, 2b ff. Selections translated and annotated by Moshe Miller, Fiftieth Gate Publications and Seminars, pp. 75 – 84. Information that is in brackets [ ], is based on other sources. 

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