Meaning of the Hebrew Letter Forms & Designs

gohebrew's picture

According to ancient kabballistic literature, both the very origin and shapes of the Hebrew language and alphabet are unique and have special significance.

Origin
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Without trying to sound chauvinistic, or holier-than-thou, Hebrew has its origin not like all other human languages, which are men-made, Hebrew is made in Heaven. Hence, it has divine aspects, higher than human intellect.

We see, simply then, that there may be things about Hebrew which are difficult to understand, but with much effort we can have a better insight into those things.

Design
======
Hebrew letter forms are attributed with many special truths or explanations, which reflect both their particular shape, their very meaning (of that letters particular name), their 'gematria' or numerical equivalent, and grammatical significance.

FOR EXAMPLE, one observation of the fact that Hebrew's origin is celestial is its direction from right-to-left. Actually, Hebrew is from left-to-right in its celestial source. This is known from the Medrash, a collection of books featuring various explanations of Biblical topics, phrases, episodes, and events. G-d showed a person a little of life above. The person noticed that writing of Hebrew below is a reflection of how it's done above. So, the opposite or reflection of left-to-right is a reflection of right-to-left.

There are two other strong indicators that the origin of Hebrew is not simply a man-made creation, but spiritual.

First, sacred Hebrew text, like the text of the Bible in Hebrew contains an unusually high percentage of "meaning-patterns" because of the Divinely inspired nature of the very text. The arrangement of its letters not only contain a surface meaning when we read the text at face value.

This special arrangement contain hidden meanings too. Books have written based on serious research discovering that this text has meanings layered beneath the face value of the words. If a certain number value is applied in a pattern between the words, like every 50 letters, then a name or word perhaps is spelled out in these increments of 50 letters. Then, we look at the subject of the text, where the name or word appears very most frequently, and we find that the topic reflects the name or word.

Similar studies were performed in other large texts in other language, such as Shakespeare, the telephone book, or Encyclopedia Britanica. However, no such patter could appear appear in a way which was a statistical impossibility. This indicates that not only is the text of the Hebrew Bible pre-arranged to include special messages, but the very letters can be used in this super-human manner.

Second, there is a computer-language-like quality to Hebrew, where the language is structured according to very fine and tight rules of logic, higher than human reasoning.
For example. Hebrew words are derived from two letter root sources, which are either doubled into a pattern of four letters, or into three letters (with a third letter added to the two letters preceding it). The meaning of the word is related to this two letter root source, with the meaning modified by the second letter, and further modified by the third letter. Verbs are simply these root sources arranged in one of seven manners. The same with adjectives and nouns. The whole system defies our thinking in that it is too perfect and logical. We understand it, we appreciate it, but we see that we would be foolish to attribute it to human intelligence.

jt_the_ninja's picture

@william: Christianity sees good and bad in individuals as well - it is the bad (sin) which makes us human, mortal, and in need of salvation (not to change this discussion too much into a theological debate). The Old Testament books of the Bible mention an actual devil on more than one occasion (need I mention the book of Job?), even if you reject the New Testament (where satan is discussed by name).

In any case, I said "offended" in a bit of a lighter way than you may have taken it; Christians these days are often told to avoid offending those of other religions. And I'd be willing to bet that you're wrong about most people knowing enough about Christianity to reject it for reasons other than other-ness.

Peace,
JT

William Berkson's picture

JT, "satan" in the book of Job plays the role of a prosecuting attorney, and is not a malevolent supernatural force promoting evil in the world. Christians read Christian doctrine into the book of Job, but it's not there. If you are interested you can read Pagels on this.

The Jewish concept of the "yetzer hara", or "bad inclination" and Christian concept of original sin are critically different. In Judaism each person has the power to make the choice between good and bad inclinations. In traditional Christianity people need Jesus to remove the stain of inborn "original sin" and further need Jesus to keep them on the right path against their innate corruption due to original sin. In Judaism there is no original sin and hence no need for a special savior.

As to the beliefs of others, I don't think you're right, but I haven't made a survey. Speaking for myself I am pretty familiar with Christian doctrine and reject it for what I think are good reasons.

gohebrew's picture

Boy, although I do like it, this is not sounding like Modern Typography 1, but Comparative Religion.

Actually, when I went to college, I attended a Comparative Religion course, given by a Southern Baptist minister at Marlboro College in Malboro, Vermont - one of the smallest accredited liberal arts colleges in the world. He proudly declared that he was gay, and the Spiritual Counselor for Linda Ronstadt, who called him every few weeks.

jupiterboy,

> From a naturalist perspective, everything is purely physical. I’ve always appreciated those systems of teaching that didn’t banish the body to the backyard like a dirty dog.

Jewish mysticism attributes as the ultimate status to achieve the union of body and soul, not the denial or destruction of body. However, the goal is supremacy of soul over body, and not how western culture often glorifies the body and mocks the soul.

gohebrew's picture

Aziz,

> Even if he/she is your enemy?!

The ultimate strength is to overpower your enemy and transform him or her into a devoted friend.

Instead of diminishing your strength, you are strengthened by joining forces.

I think if the Israelis and the Arab nations became united as "devoted friends", a new kind of culture would emerge and eventually become the dominant civilization. Those peoples are Abraham's descendants, and Western Culture is the product of Esau's and Canaan's descendants.

It is unclear who Yafeth's descendants are.

gohebrew's picture

Aziz,

> What about the moving shadow (no light) that is created by the light+body?! Which one is sacred? One of them, none, or both?!

This is a good question, but I think none.

gohebrew's picture

Actually, this refers to a profound discussion in Jewish Mysticism about the status of darkness.

Is darkness simply the lack of light, or an entity of itself, like evil?

An answer from the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Jzoseh Isaac, suggests that both are true, darkness is the potential of light.

This is somewhat similar to the Jewish concept of what Chistians call the "Devil".

The inclination of doing evil is intended to bring out our strengths to do good. In Talmudic lingo, this is called: "very good".

jt_the_ninja's picture

To let this topic go on its intended course, final comment relating to Christianity (although feel free to ask me outside of this thread): (a) In reference to satan in Job: yes, prosecutor, and in fact accuser, but no less tempter and deceiver. (b) If the curses at the end of the story of Adam and Eve don't speak to original sin, I don't know what does.

Back on the original topic: So if linguistic sound changes mean Hebrew spoken now isn't the same as Hebrew spoken in Abraham's day (if the term applies), does the message stay the same? Is the fault in humans? What's your opinion?

Peace,
JT

gohebrew's picture

Aziz,

> > Judaism rejects the notion to turn the cheek, but rather to kill first he who attacks you.

> Regardless of the attacker’s Religion or Race?! Or Judaism = infallibility?!

Yes. A basic rule from the Bible is that self-defence is an undesired second choice. The desired first choice is never to allow your enemy to even attack. Rather, destroy him first.

In military terms, it's called a "preemtive strike". According to Jewish law, today there would be no nuclear threat from Iran. Rather, a simple choice would be given: "Stop your threats, give up your arms, or be destroyed." Free choice, very democratic.

The Israelis did this during the Six Day War, and saw miraculous success.

William Berkson's picture

>the curses at the end of the story of Adam and Eve don’t speak to original sin, I don’t know what does.

The curses are of work, death, and pain of child birth. There is no curse of inherited sin, which has to be removed--that is the distinctive thing in Christianity. That is Saint Paul. It's not overtly in the story; it's Saint Paul's interpretation--or rather misinterpretation.

As the Encyclopedia Judaica says, in the Hebrew Bible "Satan", in so far as he becomes an individual personality, is "in no sense a rival to God." In Christianity he is a rival to God, though not a fully equal one. This is decisively different. Before you go on telling me and other Jews more about how we don't understand our Hebrew Bible (which many of us can read in the original), I suggest you read something other than the Christian interpretations.

Abraham probably didn't speak Hebrew, but Aramaic, as he came from present day Iraq, not further West, where Canaanite--the ancestor of Hebrew, I believe--was spoken. These are all related semitic languages (including Arabic) but are somewhat different. (I saw on TV that there are still Aramaic speaking villages in Iraq.)

By the way, with regard to Israel's comment that the Dead Sea Scrolls are in script similar to modern Hebrew, that is true. However, that is 1200-1300 years after Moses, and 500-600 years after the exile in (Aramaic speaking) Babylonia. So what script was written on the Tablets of the Ten Commandments is an open question.

gohebrew's picture

jt...,

> I think, though, that you really need to worry about *not* worshiping the created rather than the Creator. Creation is great, but the Creator is greater. Regardless of how you feel, I hardly think it necessary to view Hebrew as a primitive in God’s creation; after all, He excels in taking what man has made and using it to work His divine plan.

Nobody is permitted to worhip the created, but only the Creator.

Nevertheless, divine attributes are endowed in created beings.

Actually, idol worship originated from this, explains Maimonides. Divinity was attributed to created beings that displayed divine attributes, and were worshiped as a result.

However, just as caution is required in order that we not stumble where people have fell before, we also have to be as cautious to ignore G-dly truths or to recognize holiness in people or things in our zealousness to relate only to the Creator.

I think the mistaken backlash against Jewish mysticism, Chaaasidic teachings, and the holiness of tzaddikim (outstanding Torah leaders), is a good example of this error.

gohebrew's picture

jt,

> Also, as a linguist, you’re not going to get me to buy your origin of the Hebrew aleph-bet; the relation to other alphabetic forms is too strong, and in any case the Hebrew people weren’t chosen until God spoke to a man of Ur named Abra(ha)m.

I would be interested to why you think as a linguist that the origin of Hebrew is like other languages: the product of human thinking and mutual agreement of a certain people and culture.

Btw, the status of "chosen" (chosen to devote their lives to doing G-d's will) was not given to the Hebrews until much later than to the man from Ur Kasdim. Abraham and his adherents, and later his descendants, constituted a tribe. After Abraham taught Isaac, and Isaac taught Jacob, and Jacob taught his childre, only then God saw (actually, G-d foresees everything; so, at that point, it becane clear) that Abraham's descendant were worthy to this special role and title. Only after Sinai, were the Jews a nation with a task.

gohebrew's picture

jt,

> I’m a Christian, and you offended me when you claimed/insinuated that we Christians believe in a devil who is God’s equal or in some way diminishing to His power. We do not, or at least I and those of my faith do not; that is known as dualism and is rather antithetical to Christianity.

I am sorry if I offended you. It is not my intention. I simply am presenting some ideas, based upon my understand.

I learned that Catholicism presents Divinity as a duality, where G-d's dominion is sub-divided, with certain G-dly powers allocated to other entities besides to G-d, such as the Devil, Jesus, Mother Mary etc.

This form of Christianity is rejected by traditional Judaism, explains Maimonides, as "avodah zora".

I know Christianity has many sects, and there are nuances between them.

If the form of Christianity which you adhere to rejects dualism, and embraces pure monotheism, great. We have even more in common.

gohebrew's picture

jt,

> Oh, and if there’s no direction in heaven, then there can’t be any right, can there? Right is defined in opposition to left. Limitation of human language, I guess. Just had to say something about that, as a left-handed person (who admires Ehud).

The concept of "Right" here is not defined by the opposite of right. Rather, "Right" here refers to those qualities which are inherent and unique to it.

I'm also a lefty. I found this difficult to swallow at first. It was a little like male chauvinism... But I got over it.

William Berkson's picture

Israel, Christianity tries to have it both ways. God is both three--plus the heavenly powers of the devil, etc.--and one. Thus you will find both dualistic thinking, and stuff that looks very like polytheism to Jewish eyes, and the claim that they are strict monotheists. In the eyes of both Jews and Muslims, Christianity compromised monotheism.

I think early on the Sages thought Christianity was polytheistic. But by the time you get to Nachmanides (Ramban) he simply says that the doctrines are incoherent, which is probably the soundest view.

But my problem with this thread is that I think your comments on the Hebrew letters, such as the midrash about the chet and hey, are really religion, and don't have that much to do with letters.

I ought to resist the temptation to post, but as I am very interested in both letters and religion, it's pretty tempting :)

gohebrew's picture

William B.,

> Jewish mysticism is not adhered to by all Jews, including Orthodox Jews. I am not Orthodox, but you can be Orthodox and reject Jewish mysticism...

Although William you are clearly have a broad base of knowledge, but I beg to very firmly disagree with you.

The most basic belief of Judaism is in the absolute unity of G-d with one Torah, one People, and one Land.

This means that the teachings of the Torah (not the Torah scroll, but the entire body of Torah knowledge) can not be divided into: "this part I fathom, I accept", and the esoteric part "this part I can not fathom, I reject".

No Orthodox Jew, or even an intelligent less-observant Jew, can reject Jewish mysticism. The Vilna Gaon is universally accepted leader of non-Chassidic Orthodox Jewry. He himself was a great kabbalist. He rules for all generations that one could not be a rabbi who rules on matters of halacha without having a thoriygh understanding of the kabbalistic implications of his rulings. If non-Chassidic Jews rejected Jewish mysticism, then there would be no way to fulfill the Vilna Gaon's ruling.

> and also the distinctive doctrines of Chassidic Judaism.

All Chassidic sects follow the teachings of Jewish mysticism, known as Chassidus, or in particular Chabad Chassidus.

The Chassidus developed in depth by the Lubavitcher Rebbes are not on a plane by themselves, subject to be accepted or rejected, like flavors of ice cream.

For example, among the Satmar branch of Chassidism, Chabad Chassidus is regularly studies. The Kausenberger Rebbes, like most other Chassidic leaders, learn it too, though not as in depth as the Satmar Chassidim. I can cite many examples.

Among non-Orthodox or non-observant Jews, there is a very high rate (99.9%) lacking in background in knowing well Torah observances and lifestyles.

I think that this is why Chabad Houses have had unbelievable success in reaching out to many non-Orthodox or non-observant Jews, and even to non-Jews, and after calmly and presenting Judaism is a positive limelight, the response is not rejection, but acceptance. All people relate to kindness, good deeds, morality, and decency. (Chabad's secret formula for success.)

gohebrew's picture

WB,

> Christianity has the most adherents of any religion, but it remains true that most people in the world know about Christianity and reject it for what they think are good reasons.

I believe Islam is the largest, Christianity is in the middle, and poor little Judaism is in last place, puffing, with aching legs, and thirsty.

> I am not Orthodox, but you can be Orthodox and reject Jewish mysticism, and also the distinctive doctrines of Chassidic Judaism.

With all due respect, this is untrue. No Torah giant would advance this idea. Jewish mysticism was never banished from mainstream Judaism. There were times it was discouraged from study, except by those well versed in Jewish law, married, with children, and of a certain age.

I'm sorry to say there is not a single statement that hints of this. It is merely a view of some non-Orthodox Jews based on misunderstanding, like the notion that Chaasidic Jews make love through holes in sheets to avoid physical contact between husband and wife. When you know little, anything is believable!

gohebrew's picture

WB,

> but in fact most Jews do not agree with it.

This really is not your fault, but this statement is untrue.

There are many Jews who feel very uncomfortable about certain beliefs of Lubavitchers. This is a "political" or "theocratic" issue, but has nothing at all to do with the body of Jewish mysticsm which the leaders of Lubavitch advanced.

When Lubavitchers introduced the "Tefillin Campaign" in the late sixties there was a similar upheaval. How could you urge another non-religious Jew to wrap Tefillin if he didn't do the ritual washing beforehand?

Lubavitchers have never been phased by controversy. The use it to generate greater publicity.

gohebrew's picture

WB and JT,

> The Jewish concept of the “yetzer hara”, or “bad inclination” and Christian concept of original sin are critically different.

I think that there is a subtle point that it being ignire. According to Jewish mysticsm, this bad inclination is actually a hidden form of good. When we overcome the bad inclination, we bring out an inner strength. As a result, our inclination to good is greater. As a result, we desire to good to a greater degree.

Hence, the subjection of this evil force has a good intent. It wants us to fail in its call, and do what's right instead.

gohebrew's picture

JT,

> If the curses at the end of the story of Adam and Eve don’t speak to original sin, I don’t know what does.

Again, original sin is a Christian concept; it has no place in Judaism.

Judaism considers procreation and marital relations as beautiful, purposeful, and even holy.

How many people are screwed up because of this false belief. How many sins have been generated out of quilt for basic human emotions.

If Christianity would reform itself again, it would just shuck this one out.

gohebrew's picture

JT,

> So if linguistic sound changes mean Hebrew spoken now isn’t the same as Hebrew spoken in Abraham’s day (if the term applies), does the message stay the same? Is the fault in humans? What’s your opinion?

First, the main discussion is design, not sound: the share of Hebrew letters, not the Hebrew language.

Second, I unaware that Abraham spoke Hebrew then.

Third, do you refer to modern Hebrew spoken by Israelis and others, or Yeshiva Hebrew, spoken and/oe learned from the siddur, Jewish prayerbook, chaters of Mishna, Psalms, or Bible?

Sound is related to the meaning of the shapes of Hebrew letters, as discussed in Jewish mystical literature. The shape and movement of the mouth is the basis for particular shapes and sounds of Hebrew letters.

Does this exist is other languages as well?

gohebrew's picture

> he becomes an individual personality

There is a concept or two of a non-internal "yetzer hora", where certain acts in nature are attributed to the samech-mehm, or Satan, this powerfil angel, accusers, judge etc.

For example, mainly Sephardic Jews say certain good things, like many children, good health, or much wealth, should not be spoken about at length, "al tiftach peh lesatan" - not to open up Satan's mouth (to accuse and awaken G-d to test us).

There is a famous tale about how Rabbi Israel the holy Baal Shem Tov was born. The Satan dressed as a tramp, carrying a bag of personal belongings, visit the Baal Shem Tov's father on the Sabbath, when carrying articles is forbidden. G-d wanted to test his hospitality with this guest, the Satan dressed as a tramp. This guest was rude and obnoxious, but his father still welcomed him kindly and patiently, no matter how the tramp tried to rile him. In the end, Satan blessed his father to have a special son, who turned out to be the Baal Shem Tov.

david h's picture

> like the notion that Chaasidic Jews make love...

Better to ask Dr. Ruth Westheimer about this notion :^) :^)

William Berkson's picture

Israel, according to the Wikipedia article on major religions Christianity is by a wide margin the religion with the most adherents, not Islam.

You can read an extensive list of Orthodox who criticize Jewish mysticism, some of whom reject the authority of the Zohar, including today, here in the wikipedia article on Kabbalah.

I won't comment further, as these matters are so complicated, and it would be out of place here. Also I'm saving my efforts for my blog over at RJ.org .

gohebrew's picture

William,

> But my problem with this thread is that I think your comments on the Hebrew letters, such as the midrash about the chet and hey, are really religion, and don’t have that much to do with letters.

My view is that the religion element can not be separated from design issues when discussions of Hebrew shapes are made.

I think that there is a strong artistic validity to analyzing the shapes of Hebrew letters, such as the openings in the chet and hei. I think that you do not relate because of your non-traditional leanings, and that these concepts are rooted in Medrash or Kabballah. I don't think that you can be truly objective.

When I show links between how we say the Hebrew letters and their shapes, you really will protest.

The truth is that this is a fascinating topic, even though we have digressed to issues of religion a lot. Its against my better sense, but I am more against censorship.

gohebrew's picture

> Israel, according to the Wikipedia article on major religions Christianity is by a wide margin the religion with the most adherents, not Islam.

I'll check it out. It won't be the first time I'm incorrect.

> You can read an extensive list of Orthodox who criticize Jewish mysticism, some of whom reject the authority of the Zohar, including today, here in the wikipedia article on Kabbalah.

I'll check it out too. This sounds unbelievable. If they quote some rabbi in Denver, and people who reject cholav yisroel, I just say: nebach. (poor shnook)

> I won’t comment further, as these matters are so complicated, and it would be out of place here. Also I’m saving my efforts for my blog over at RJ.org .

What's that?

gohebrew's picture

David,

> > like the notion that Chaasidic Jews make love...

> Better to ask Dr. Ruth Westheimer about this notion :^) :^)

Do you have a web address or link?

Maybe, she says that it's just "projection", because reform jews have such sad sex lives, they project such things on the chassidim to try to prevent their people from checking out chassidism.

This reminds me of when this chassidic rabbi had a feminist as a guest for the Sabbath. She ranted and raved all through the meal about how women are equal to men. The rabbi just looked at her and commented very calmly: "I know men had a circumcision where a small piece was cut off; but you insisted to get a circumcision too, and that a very big piece get cut off."

She blushed, and was quiet for the rest of the meal.

FeeltheKern's picture

I would like to suggest that gohebrew and guiyong are the same person, part of a viral extension of the "Punkt" concept for TypeCon this year. Regardless, it's really entertaining, keep it coming. Maybe the next character could be one of those handwriting personality analyst types? Perhaps there could also be a Murder Mystery style competition to find out who the man/woman behind the curtain is: I suggest Matthew Carter with a butter knife.

gohebrew's picture

William,

> You can read an extensive list of Orthodox who criticize Jewish mysticism, some of whom reject the authority of the Zohar, including today, here in the wikipedia article on Kabbalah.

I checked it out. Thank you for the embedded links. A real time saver.

Only a few rabbis from long ago opposed Jewish mysticism, but this opposition subsided together with non-Lurianic kabballah.

Only one well-known Modern Orthodox rabbi expressed his opposition; his opinion was never taken seriously.

Everyone includes Jewish mysticism in traditional Judaism. In fact, our concept of G-d and the purpose of fulfilling the Torah is derived from Jewish mysticism. Without it, we sound as if we just don't know.

gohebrew's picture

Feetthekern,

I am not guiyong, although we were seen together on THAT day sharing a peanut butter sandwich in Battery Park. She ate most of it, so I went to a nearby kosher restaurant afterwards. Good fries!

It was actually Thomas Pinney, holding the meat-cleaver. If you noticed, Carter's butter knife had butter on ot, and he crumbs on his upper lip. The meat-cleaver had blood on it! And he had a guilty look on his face.

Can you guess which day it was?

jt_the_ninja's picture

Wow, a lot of posts in a row.

So I'm not Catholic; I'm Christian. And original sin has nothing to do with sex unless you're Constantine. But we're off that subject, so let's get back to letterforms.

It's actually pretty easy to trace the lineage from pictoral-initial systems like hieroglyphics to the Hebrew characters. The general idea is that, as an outgrowth of ideographic/logographic systems, characters came to stand for the initial sound of the words they depicted. Aleph, for instance, and not to pick on this thread, is believed to come from a depiction of an ox: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleph
Of course, the exact histories are obscure and uncertain, but historical records give linguists good clues as to the origin of writing systems where the language is known.

This goes back to my point about God being greater than physical limitations; if He wants to put special meaning behind writing, He'll work it out. There's nowhere in Scripture where God teaches Moses the aleph-bet for writing the Torah; it's the message that counts. That's what makes hidden meanings all the more miraculous.

On another note, gohebrew, you said the following:
"Sound is related to the meaning of the shapes of Hebrew letters, as discussed in Jewish mystical literature. The shape and movement of the mouth is the basis for particular shapes and sounds of Hebrew letters. Does this exist is other languages as well?"

Yes, it is known to happen, although I don't really think Hebrew falls into this category. Writing systems where letterforms are based on phonetics are called featural codes. The prime example here is the Korean writing system, Hangeul (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangeul). Each character that represents a sound does so based on phonetic criteria, or so they say.

Of course, this story is contested as well, but that's another story. In any case, Hangeul is hardly Hebrew.

By the way, have you read about the possibility that the numerical values of Hebrew letters given for a description of a vessel (For us, it's I Kings 7:24) shows that the ancient Israelites actually had a very close approximation of the value of pi, the ratio of a circle's diameter to it's circumference? I find that incredibly cool.

Peace,
JT

AzizMostafa's picture

> I think if the Israelis and the Arab nations became united as “devoted friends”, a new kind of culture would emerge and eventually become the dominant civilization.

You have to differentiate between Arabs who love the WhiteHouse
and Houses in other Corners of the world from Arabs who love the BlackStone placed at one of the corners of KAABA (the House of Worship)
that was set up by Abraham in Mecca.

Before Islam, when Arab tribes differed as who would put the Black Stone back in its place after rebuilding the House of Worship in Mecca, they agreed to let the first person to enter KAABA to judge between them.

And the grandson of Arbaraham (Mohammed) came in.

Mohammed asked the tribes to bring him a piece of cloth and then step by step:
1. placed the black stone in the mid of that piece of the cloth
2. asked the heads of the tribes to collectively hold that piece of the cloth,
3. took up the black stone and put back it in its place.

That's what+why KisSinger wants them to forget:
http://wolfhowling.blogspot.com/2008/02/kissinger-on-iraq-afghanistan-ir...

Sadly most Arabs+Mulims — out of ignorance — are after democracy:
http://www.zackvision.com/weblog/2003/02/muslim-population.html

> Free choice, very democratic?!
Haveanly Religions are above ungodly Democracy.

AzizMostafa's picture

> Stop your threats, give up your arms, or be destroyed.

> Stop your threats, Forget your arms, and Fear the Destroyer,
the All-Compeller, the All-Magnanimous

AzizMostafa's picture

>... like the notion that Chaasidic Jews make love through holes in sheets to avoid physical contact between husband and wife

GoHebrew, Is there a deeper physical contact between husband and wife than pentration?!

Yaronimus-Maximus's picture

i didn't read the entire thread, i'm sorry, it's too long, but i wanted to say several things.

on the archeological meening of the letter aleph:
first discoveries of hebrew's origin came out of an archeological dig in "Serabit el-Khadim", located at the sinai peninsula. a few "hieroglyphs" written on the walls of a cave belonged to a script we call proto sinaitic or proto canaanitic, which was influenced by the egyptian hierogliphs. the inscription said "to baalat", which meens a kind of sacrificial to "baalat", the feminin version the canaanite god baal.

letter aleph, as we know it, was a representation of a the first syllabel of the word "ox" (or in canaanite and ancient hebrew - "aluf", which also means strength).
the letter "bet" represents the first syllabel of the word "house" (or in hebrew "bait") and it's proto sinaitic origin is really shaped like the floorplan of the Hebrew nomad's tent found in archeological digs.

therefor, by the Jeff Benner's lecture, the hebrew word for father - "av" which is composed of two letters - "aleph" and "bet", have a symbolic meaning. it is the "strength of the house".

i really recommend on jeff benner's site containing a free audio lecture about the ancient hebrew letters, and much more info.

Yaronimus-Maximus's picture

jt_the_ninja said:
"There’s nowhere in Scripture where God teaches Moses the aleph-bet for writing the Torah; it’s the message that counts. That’s what makes hidden meanings all the more miraculous."

i'm an etheist, but it seems very logical to me that the torah or ten comandments were given oraly from god to moses to the people and priests. i've searched in the bible and it says nothing about god giving the entire torah book to moses (and nothing about god dictating it to moses). in Exodus 31:18 god gives the ten commandments and other commandments to moses. by this, he actualy teaches him a "torah", which also means "doctrine". it's reasonable to think that all of the torah books, which has too much errors, was written by scribes and not given to moses by god. think, if you would have a book about your future, wouldn't you make some changes? there are too many evidences of corrupt priests of the temple. they were closest to the book of books and read it (and also read it to the people), and still continued to mess with god. it doesm't make sense.

only when the commandments were given to moses by god, he gives moses "two tablets of testimony made of stone", written in god's "finger". so there is no real depiction what was written in those tablets, and in what language. it may be a simple contract between the people of israel and god, it may be the ten commandments, it may be the entire torah, and it may be "the catcher in the rye" by j.d.salinger.
we just don't know.

we don't know how literate were the people of israel in this time (wether you call it fact, or legend like i do). maybe moses could be literate because he was raised as an egyptian prince. were the tablets written in egyptian hieroglyphs?

jt_the_ninja's picture

Hey I just had a thought that relates to typography too...do you think there should be a way to make Hebrew fonts display lengthened characters that sometimes appear to make lines even length and to preserve traditional line breaking? How does all that figure into the form of the character?

Peace,
JT

gohebrew's picture

Yaronmius-Maximus,

> the torah or ten comandments were given oraly from god to moses to the people and priests. i’ve searched in the bible and it says nothing about god giving the entire torah book to moses (and nothing about god dictating it to moses). in Exodus 31:18 god gives the ten commandments and other commandments to moses.

According to Jewish tradition (I guess that its recorded then un the Midrash), Moses transcribed the second set of the Ten Commandments in Heaven before he descended down a second time Mt. Sinai. The first set of the Ten Commandments were also transcribed and miraculously engraved in Heaven prior to Moses' first descent down Mt. Sinai.

According to Jewish tradition (I guess that its recorded then in the Midrash), Moses transcribed the orally-given instructions of the Torah in thirteen copies of scrolls, given to each tribe, and one copy was preserved in the portable ark.

The entire Torah existed only in the form of oral discussions. Many of them existed before the times of Mt. Sinai, among the Levites and the scholars of the various tribes. Josepf for example studied these oral discussions with his father, Jacob. Similarly, even earlier, Isaac went to study in the Shem and Aver's school. Likewise, certain kabbalistic-like teachings were given in book-like form to Abraham from an angel. Even much earlier, Adam was given a text in a book-like form from another angel.

Many generations later, much od this was transcribed first in the Mishnah, and later in the Talmud and other post Talmudic hand-written books, as detailed by Maimonides. Kabbalistic literature was first transcribed in the the very unclear Zohar, but most explanations remained unwritten.

So, clearly the origins of Hebrew preceded the scholarly discoveries mentioned earlier.

Although these are great discoveries and fascinating theories, in the end these ancient statements from Jewish tradition always prove to be accurate, although it sometimes takes some time.

Like Darwinism, the end of these non-traditional theories is just a chapter in history.

William Berkson's picture

According to this account in the old Jewish Encyclopedia, the pen-written Aramaic script didn't exist until the fourth or fifth century BCE. Hence it couldn't have been used, with understanding, on the tablets that Moshe got at Mt. Sinai.

Further, the article cites the fact that the Talmud itself (San. 21a) ascribes the introduction of the Aramaic (called Ashurit, Assyrian) script for writing the Torah to Ezra, seven or eight hundred years after Moshe. Hence it is very unlikely that the quotation from Avot 5 that I mentioned earlier, which says that God created 'the script, the stylus, the tablets' was referring specifically to the square script you are discussing. The Sages were quite aware that the original Hebrew script was quite different from the then-used square script, which we still use today.

In addition you say that the Kabbalistic sources are "ancient". But according to the Encyclopedia Judaica, scholarly opinion is pretty much unanimous that the Zohar, at least, was written in the middle ages, in the 13th century, and only pseudonymously ascribed to Shimon bar Yochai of the first century. And Isaac Luria, the great Kabbalist whom you refer to, lived in the 16th century.

Your views here thus seem to be contradicted by both the Talmud and modern scholarship.

Now you are of course perfectly entitled to accept Kabbalist explanations, and say that Moses de Leon, thought to be an author of the Zohar, was channeling Shimon bar Yochai or whatever. But I am surprised that you think people here will simply accept these views of Hebrew script without discussing alternative views. If you want to convince us, you will need to address the historical record.

Also, I must say your dreadful anti-feminist story doesn't help your case.

However, in any case I would be happy to read the Kabbalistic accounts of the Hebrew letters. Can you cite the references, so we can look them up?

Yaronimus-Maximus's picture

gohebrew said:
"According to Jewish tradition (I guess that its recorded then un the Midrash), Moses transcribed the second set of the Ten Commandments in Heaven before he descended down a second time Mt. Sinai. The first set of the Ten Commandments were also transcribed and miraculously engraved in Heaven prior to Moses’ first descent down Mt. Sinai."

honorable israel:
this claim is a bit unclear to me.
if i go with your belief of the divinity of the torah (that meens - given by god), then how can midrash, mishna, and jewish traditions (which were obviously written by people) can be a religious fact?
wasn't the mishna an addition to the torah, written by people, and how can everything that is written by men be equal to the devine?
isn't believing to the mishna's man made legends more or equaly to the torah, a heresy? isn't that "worshiping the created rather than the Creator"?

jupiterboy's picture

It took this to mean that even G needs blueline proofs.

William Berkson's picture

Yaron, traditionally in Judaism the Oral Torah also has sacred status, divinely inspired though written by people.

Just checking, I see that the story that God wrote the Torah first and used it as a blueprint to create the world is already in Midrash Rabba 1:1, so it is very old, probably second century or something.

However, traditionally any such "aggadah" or legend does not have to be taken literally and believed. Traditionally, only decisions on 'halacha' the legal decisions need to be followed.

The question of the Zohar, and Jewish Mysticism, I found this link which gives an orthodox, non -Chassidic take on Kabbala.

I am Reform, so I come to it with an even more critical eye, though with curiosity and openness to learning.

gohebrew's picture

Let's clarify a basic truth unlining historical dating.

There two aspects to consider:
1) The ideas and concepts of a certain account, teaching, or belief;
2) The transciption of ideas and concepts etc.

These will likely have two dates of origin.

There are ideas and concepts of a certain account, teaching, or belief that preceded their transcription, which occurred many decades or centuries later.

When I refer to kabbalistic though, I refer not to the Zohar.

Similarly, Rabbi Judah the Prince is attributed to transcribing the Mishnah. This was first main attempt to transcribe many teachings of the Oral Law. Nobody suggests that the ideas and concepts recorded in the Mishnah are original. Nobody suggests that the ideas and concepts recorded in the Mishnah did not exist prior to this composition.

Jewish tradition suggests that the Oral Law existed at the time the Torah (the Written Law) was transmitted by G-d to Moses, as I mentioned earlier regarding Joseph reminding his father Jacob that he didn't forget the last lesson they learned together, and symbolized this by sending the specific gifts prior to their meeting.

Actually, the Oral Law existed even before this, as the Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom DovBer of Lubavitch, explains in his pamphlet "Kuntres Eitz Chayim" (recently translated in English by Kehot Publication Society www.kehotonline.com) that the Mishnah in a condensed version of older version of the Talmud (the names were obviously different, but the discussion are the same). The older Talmud is a oral explanation of an older Mishnah, a collection of laws about what to do in specific situations.

Eventhough Kumran was much later than this (the old Mishnah and old Talmud), among the Dead Sea Scrolls were found a somewhat different composition of practical laws, mimicking many of the decisions presented in the Mishnah and Talmud.

Although I am a Chassidic Jew and obviously Orthodox, I grew up with a Reform background.

Many (not all) educated Reform Jews are narrow-minded, and refuse to learn a different perspective than their own. In Orthodoxy, we learn that the more you learn, the greater you realize that you know so little, compared to the enormity of what there is to learn. Only when one accepts that there is much more to learn, can one learn more.

William, I found the story of the feminist at the Rabbi's Shabbat table not anti-feminist; maybe off-color. Clearly, it was not politically correct.

gohebrew's picture

William,

> Further, the article cites the fact that the Talmud itself (San. 21a) ascribes the introduction of the Aramaic (called Ashurit, Assyrian) script for writing the Torah to Ezra, seven or eight hundred years after Moshe.

There is a difference of opinion what "Ashurit" refers to. It is not clear that block script is Ashurit. At that time, the composition of a Torah Scroll could be done in a form of Ancient Greek as well.

> Hence it is very unlikely that the quotation from Avot 5 that I mentioned earlier, which says that God created ’the script, the stylus, the tablets’

"the script" refers to the Hebrew transcribed by Moses on the second set of Tablets;
"the stylus" refers to the egraving by G-d Himself in the first Tablets;
"the tablets" refers to the very Tablets themselves.

> was referring specifically to the square script you are discussing.

I am unsure of this. I don't think if we date their being used much later, preclides them being used now. Until we are forced to conclude thusly, we can logically presume that this square script was used before hand.

> The Sages were quite aware that the original Hebrew script was quite different from the then-used square script, which we still use today.

There is a discussion that a certain script for everyday use, and another script was reserved for sacred texts. You say that the square script was used for everyday use.

Perhaps, the sacred script was that which we use today in our Torah Scrolls.

The difficulty with this view, is that mosy kabbalistic analysis that I've seen presents the traditional square script.

Rabbi Yitchok Ginsburgh of the Gal Einai Institute (www.inner.org) has a fascinating book on the kabbalistic significance of the Hebrew letters, called "Hebrew Letters". He portrays the Hebrew lettersusing the script we are familiar to see in the Torah Scroll.

Others do this as well in very recent books.

Perhaps, these letter forms are in deed ancient, but were not used in books from earlier generations, because these letter forms are not supposed to made into a typeface and used for mundane or profane purposes, due to the holiness of the "taggim", the decorative symbols attached to the tops of certain Hebrew letters.

There is a great significance to these "taggim" symbols, that Moses cried when he saw Rabbi Akiva give a lesson about their significance, which he failed to comprehend. Only after G-d consoled him, that Rabbi Akiva derived these teachings from the Torah which Moses taught, did Moses stop crying.

typerror's picture

William

Step away from the ledge, now!!!!

Michael

gohebrew's picture

Let's look at a different letter form design of the shapes of two Hebrew letters, the hei and the chet, now in the popular design we see in the Torah Scroll.

Here, too, the difference between their openings are clear.

The letter on the left, the chet, has only one opening, and open towards the bottom, indicating narrow-mindedness.

The letter on the right, the hei, has two openings, both on the bottom, like the chet, and also upward, near the top, indicating open-mindedness and the desire to accept G-dliness.

gohebrew's picture

Let's look at another Hebrew word for falsehood or a lie, called "Sheker".

Sheker is made up of three letters, from right to left: 1) Shin, 2) Kuf, and 3) Reish.

These letters are for the most part "unsteady" and not solid in their design. Shin is the first unsteady letter, showing its falsehood at the beginning. Kuf is somewhat sturdy in its design, for every falsehood has some truth behind which to hide. Reish is a false-like letter, not having a solid foundation, like most lies with are clearly false at the end.

gohebrew's picture

The opposite word in meaning to "Sheker" is the Hebrew word, "Emet". Emet means truth. Like Sheker, the Hebrew word, Emet, is also made of three Hebrew letters, 1) Aleph (the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet), 2) Mehm (the middle letter of the Hebrew alphabet), and 3) Taf (the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet).

Each letter of Emet is sturdy in its design, with a strong foundation, like something truthful and long lasting.

Ley's look carefully at the letters of the word Emet.

We see the very meaning of the word, Emet, truthfulness, in the order of the Hebrew letters.

Aleph is the first Hebrew letter, indicating that truth must show its truthfulness from the beginning.

Mehm is the middle Hebrew letter, indicating that truth must always be true, throughout everything we do.

Taf is the final Hebrew letter, indicating that just as things began with the truth, and were true through and through, they too must end up being true.

gohebrew's picture

I of course do not know many other languages, but I think that these things are unique to Hebrew. Words are spelled out in a way to indicate their meaning.

Can anyone see something like this in another language.

It appears a super-human form of intelligence created the alphabet of Hebrew and its language, because these examples could not be invented by people agreeing among themselves that this word should mean this, and that word should mean that.

jupiterboy's picture

The I Ching might be one example of and elegant set of characters that hold inherent meaning based on the relationship of positive and negative space. Actually, there is a long list of magical alphabets that, to some degree, work this way. Few, I would guess, work as well for standard communication as Hebrew. You might have a look at some attempts over time and consider how well a highly motivated individual might do at creating characters that work in symbolic relation to each other.

I have a few very dear friends that spend an unreasonable amount of time creating just such esoteric sets of characters. Although I won’t comment on how successful they are as languages, they do seem to work well for a sort of journaling.

BTW, anytime two minds come together you might, technically, have a super-human intelligence.

gohebrew's picture

Can you cite an example or two of how a man-made magical language, albeit with super-human like qualities, work this way, like the two Hebrew words above, Emet and Sheker?

I don't know a lot about I Ching.

Though attributing male and female forces to words is in deed a part of the Hebrew language. Here it is in a more down-to-earth sense, that certain words are masculine, and other words are feminine. In Jewish mysticism, this is more abstract. Concepts like Chochmah (Wisdom, or the initial stage of the thought process) is masculine, as men are more creative in their thinking; while Binah (Understanding, or the analytical stage of of the thought process) is feminine, as women are more pragmatic, seeing the practical implication of a matter.

Similarly, male and female aspects of creation play an important role in understanding its dynamics. For example, the flow of influence from G-d is manly, for obvious reasons, and the ability to receive and accept it is feminine - in the sexual sense.

I believe I Ching has this form of abstract analysis, but not in the down-to-earth sense, as above.

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