The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet

Jewish mystics find Divinity in the Hebrew letters.

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It's also worthwhile to note that the Hebrew language originally con­tained no vowels, though the Ayin or Aleph were sometimes utilized for that purpose. Vowel signs were developed during the second half of the first millennium C.E., but they appear neither in the Torah Scroll nor in most religious documents.

Hebrew as the Holy Tongue

In the legendary tradition known as the midrash, Jewish veneration for the Hebrew letters was fervent. The Holy Tongue was the usual designation for Hebrew, which was even deemed the language of the angels. The early rabbis regarded the letters as existing independently in a transcendent realm, and taught that when Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, he saw God designing crowns for the individual letters.

Likewise, in Talmudic commentary on the Book of Exodus, the artisan Bezalel built the Tabernacle in the wilderness because he "knew how to combine the letters with which heaven and earth were created." The sages compared such mystical wisdom to God's in creating the cosmos, and corre­spondingly, included in the Talmud an introductory lesson on the import of every Hebrew letter. Similarly, the midrashtaught that King Solomon achieved great wisdom and power through a ring inscribed with a particular, Hebrew Name of God.

For the sages, the Jewish prayers are sacred precisely because their words are composed of Hebrew letters. In keeping with this view, they declared that persons who made it their regular practice to speak Hebrew would have a special place in the afterlife.

Hebrew numerology and other tricks

Dating back to Talmudic times, the Hebrew letters have not only been celebrated as holy, but also venerated as an actual tool for spiritual mastery. Traditionally, the two most preferred techniques have been gematriyah and notarikon. In gematriyah, words with dissimilar meanings but equal numerical values (since each Hebrew letter also has a number associated with it) are probed for their hidden linkages.

In notarikon, words are broken down into sentences composed of initial letters. Thus, the first word of the Ten Commandments, ANoKhY ("I Am") alludes to the sentence Ario Nafshoy Katovit Yahovit ("I have written and given myself to you in this book").

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Edward Hoffman

Edward Hoffman is a New York-based psychologist and author of many books in the fields of Jewish mysticism, spirituality, and psychology, including The Way of Splendor and Opening the Inner Gates.