Jewish Names & Numbers
Complex systems of letter and number substitution yield names for God that have been used for magical and supernatural ends.
Modernman is still affected by the belief that given names are vessels for the souland that character can be manipulated through the use of names. For Jews themost important names in any period were and still are the names of God, whichwere associated with the forces of good. It is for this reason that the mainthrust of amuletic development was through incantations and formulae based onpermutations of the names of God and the angels.
Theinvocation of names for assistance became prominent in post-talmudic times.Although many angels were called upon to intercede for man, the names of Godwere of primary importance and power.
Themost awesome and well-known name was the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrewletters forming the ineffable name. All other names were intended to act as substitutesfor the most powerful name, which should not be used lightly. The Bible tellsus how even the High Priest prepared and cleansed himself before uttering theawesome name, and he did so only on the Day of Atonement.
In orderto increase the mysterious effect of amulets and charms, a number of methodswere used in the computation and derivation of the names. Every letter of the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet has a numerical equivalent. Through the method of gematria,every letter of a word can be reduced to its numerical value and explainedby another word of the same value, but with no other obvious relationship.
The reductioncan be simply aleph=one, bet=two,and so on. The process can also be more elaborate and confusingthrough the use of mispar katan--smallnumbers, i.e., reducing every number to its simplest unit. Through this methodthe letter yod, ordinarily ten, would equal one (1+0), kuf, ordinarily100, would equal one (1+0+0), lamed, ordinarily 30, would equal three (3+0),shin, ordinarily 300, would also equal three (3+0+0), and so on.
Themethods of serugin and notarikon are methods of abbreviation. Throughthe use of either initial or final letters of one or several words, new wordsare formed.
Forexample, you may find the words emet and shema on an amulet;literally they mean "truth" and "hear." However, emet isequal to the final letters of Genesis 2:3 (bara elohim la'asot), andshema is derived from the initial letters of Isaiah 40:20 (seu
maromainehem), meaning "raise your eyes on high."
Temurahis a method of substituting or transposing letters in order to replace theoriginal word with an artificial equivalent. The temurah method has a number ofsubcategories.
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