28. THE HEBREW LANGUAGE
Giving a name to animals or objects implies establishing a power over them. If we have, for example, four different herbs, which we have not named, we cannot really use them, because we would not be able to tell which is which. However, when we know them and are able to call one mint, the second thyme, the third coriander and the fourth parsley, then we can use them for cooking and improving the flavour of our food. Without naming the herbs, we would not know what to use. When a new talented actor comes to Hollywood and some agent decides to take him or her on to make a new star, the first thing the agent would usually do is giving the future star a new name. There are at least two reasons for this, one obvious, the other rather occult: with the new, usually exotically sounding name, the actor starts afresh on building the new career, but by giving the new name to his charge the agent also gains control over the career and indeed, often over the whole life of the star.
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. (Gen 11:1)
And the LORD
said, Behold, the people is one, and they have
all one language; and
begin to do: and now nothing will be
restrained from them, which they
imagined to do.
Gustav Doré: Confusion of Languages
Hebrew is a mathematical language. Without its letters having their numerical equivalents, it would just be another profane language, and there would be no Kabbalah. The Bible tells us that there was only one common language that all people living on the earth spoke since the time of Adam. When the tower was being built, God confounded their language so that they could no longer understand each other. Of course that this is symbolic and that there were many languages on Earth even then. However, what it means to the Kabbalist is that only those people who were worthy of it were from then on able to speak this sacred language, and the rest of the people developed other languages, in which they were no longer able to pass on the meaning hidden behind the numerical code. Adam, who was therefore able to name “all the animals of the land, the birds of the sky and the fish of the water”, knew this code. It is with this language and this code that the wise man, the Kabbalist, will reveal the enigma of being.
THE 22 LETTERS
The Hebrew language has twenty-two letters, all of them are consonants, there are no vowels. There are three Mother letters, seven Double letters and twelve single letters.
THE THREE MOTHER LETTERS
THE SEVEN DOUBLE LETTERS
THE TWELVE SINGLE LETTERS
Aleph, being the first of the Mother letters is the leader and master of all the letters. It is the prime factor in the combinations and constellations of letters that form the very elements of creation, for all existence was created with the spiritual forms represented by the Divine letters. Aleph denotes God’s oneness. Aleph denotes God’s sovereignty. Aleph denotes God’s infiniteness. Its numerical value is one; it represents the One, the unique, the invisible. This implies to live in absolute monotheism, because there is but one God and He alone is timeless, changeless; there is no other God, but He. He is absolutely unique in all existence and beyond comparison with anything else. All the attributes, attitudes, moods, all flow from the unified purpose and existence, which is beyond our comprehension. His many multifarious manifestations are like a myriad of different colours, emanating from a single ray of light through a prism. The graphic form of Aleph is like two Yods, separated by a Vav, which means a link between the upper world and the lower world, as in the axiom: as above, so below.
Vav in Hebrew is the conjunction and, it means a linkage between two things. When we look at the letter Aleph, we see the two Yods and the Vav that separates and also joins them. The two Yods have a numerical value of 10 each, Vav is 6; added together the total value of Aleph is 26, the same as the ineffable Divine Name Yod, He Vav, He. This means that:
In Aleph, the whole of Creation begins, while the key letter is Yod.
The letter Aleph has more meanings. We could say that the two Yods represent the world above and the world below, while the Vav stands for man, who is the intermediary between both worlds. On the first day (understand: period) of Creation:
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Gen 1:2)
On the second day:
And God said: Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
As we see, initially there is no distinction between the upper and the lower waters, but on the second day God makes the division and the firmament (Vav) appears. Traditionally, the waters above are the waters of joy, because they are close to the Creator. The waters below are the waters of bitterness, because there is a distance.
Michelangelo Buonarroti: God Dividing the Waters (Fresco - Sistine Chapel)
DIVIDING THE WATERS
The most obvious quality of water is its liquidity. It is a primary representation of the fluid state. The spiritual counterparts very closely relates to its property of being a fluid. The difference between solid and liquid is change. If all matter in the world was in a solid state, no liquid, no gasses, there would be no change at all, the world would be an airless, solid and rigid block. For change to take place there must exist both the solid and the fluid state. Fluidity alone would result in a lack of permanence, lack of predictability, as fluid will not hold any shape or configuration. Water, the prototype fluid, is the one substance that primarily represents change and instability.
In the following segment from a novel by Voyen Koreis, The Fools’ Pilgrimage (Booksplendour Publishing, 2007), the Magician initiates the main hero, the Fool, instructing him into the secrets of true magic, which uses forces concealed behind the natural phenomena:
The Magician held the sword in his right hand by its sharp end, and supporting the blade by the palm of his left hand, he offered the handle to the Fool, who accepted it. He returned to the cube and took the golden chalice, lifting it up in his cupped hands.
- This is the chalice, a vessel used for preserving liquids, the watery element. As opposed to the masculine sword - air, the chalice - water, is feminine in its nature. What is the general perception of femininity?
- It is said to be the weaker sex.
- Do you believe this to be true?
- That depends on how we define strength and weakness.
- You certainly are no fool. Femininity indeed appears weak, soft, gentle and liquid, but this is only an illusion. You can have a sword forged out of the best hardened steel, but if you try it on a stone, it will soon be blunted or even broken, without leaving more then a few scratches on its surface. Yet the same stone will in time be eroded by water, through its patience and endurance. Such is femininity, liquid, fragile, faint, transparent and weak, but only in its appearance. In reality it is stronger then any solids, because it cannot be compressed, broken, bent or torn apart. Imagine that you are piercing the surface of water with this sword. What happens?
- Nothing much, the water takes it in, it closes around it.
- And when you pull out the sword?
- Nothing again, except maybe a few ripples.
- You see? The wound that you have inflicted with your sword is instantly healed, which proves that femininity is in fact invulnerable. Air may be stormy, keen, threatening, while water is quiet and inconspicuous, it calmly flows, it searches, and it always finds its own level. But underneath the surface it is vivid and it is always capable of a decisive action. Just look at this chalice! It is empty, it is clean and immaculate, it passively invites someone to fill it up. When we do fill it up, what happens? Forthwith it becomes active, it determines what future shape its new contents will take.
- I never thought of it in this way, but you are right, of course.
- What you hear are the words of wisdom, and they are like a rare wine. Let’s now pretend that you come to me with this chalice in your hands, and that you want to have a taste of the wine that I have to offer. However, you have already tasted other brands of wine before this one, and some of it is still left in your cup. In fact, the chalice you hand to me is half full. What can I give you?
- You can only give me half of your acquired wisdom.
- The chalice will be overflowing before you have received it all. But that’s not all; whatever you will have gained from me would be mixed with some wine, maybe a very cheap brand that you have brought with you from elsewhere. The original taste of the fine wine I would offer you would forever be lost to you! What conclusion can you draw from this parallel?
- That anyone who wants to learn wisdom should come to the place of learning with an empty cup.
- Empty and clean. If there is any grime left in it, it will hopelessly contaminate anything that’s poured into it. I especially want you to remember this important lesson. Now, take this cup and look after it well!
Life consists of change and permanence. A living thing is constantly changing, yet it retains its identity. Water dissolves the nutrients, transports them to the various parts of the body and does the same with the body’s wastes. All Creation contains two essential spiritual opposites: permanence and change, represented physically by solid and liquid, earth and water. As we have seen, in Genesis (1:2), “The earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
In outlining the six days of Creation, the scriptures are not attempting to provide us with a scientific description of how the world came into being; it is concerned with placing spiritual man in perspective to the rest of the Creation and tells him how to relate to the rest of the Universe. The water mentioned in the first day of Creation refers to the fluid state of the Universe. Before creation, there was no change, the Creator dwells on a realm above time. In the last book of the Old Testament he says:
For I am the Lord, I change not. (Malachi, 3:6)
The first ingredient of Creation is change. The created Universe would be a dynamic entity, change alone leads to chaos. The earth was formless and chaotic; chaos can lead to either good or evil. It was out of this chaotic state that the possibility of evil came into being. ... “and darkness was over the face of the deep.” It is the spiritual darkness that is referred to here; it extended over the deep part of the water, which was not influenced by God’s spirit. In order that the change takes place in harmony with the purpose of the Creator, it would have to be controlled constantly by the Creator.
In Genesis 1:2, the word Meerakhephet connotes hovering, making motion, caring for. It is very appropriate since all of God’s care for the Universe is associated with this guidance of all change and of all development. Merakhephet is in the present tense, to convey the idea that this guidance and providence is constant and continuous. Further on it is said:
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis, 1:3)
Michelangelo – God Separates Light from Darkness – Fresco, Sistine Chapel, 1511)
After his providence was established, directing and guiding all change, spirituality could be brought to the world. It is a positive force, moving the world toward its ultimate goal of perfection.
On the second day God divided the waters, separating the upper waters from the lower waters. The upper water is the male element; the lower water is the female element, the two elements of change of the original water. The concept of polarity, complementary, alludes to the concept of conception, birth and growth. Every concept of male and female would develop from the waters having the attributes of male and female.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. (Genesis 1:9)
The gathering of water is called Mikhve Maim and it is a new concept, in addition to fluidity and change, the concept of permanence and solidity. This in turn would allow the existence of life; the concept of plant life comes into existence on the third day. The Mikhve of waters represents the womb of life.
And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. (Genesis 2:5)
But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. (Genesis 2:6)
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
Nothing at all could grow until God brought water to the earth, and no life at all was possible. The Dust of the earth, like on a potter’s wheel, had to be mixed with water. Man is a combination of dust and water, of permanence and change.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:19)
This verse is all about man’s mortality. All that will be left is permanence; there will be no more change of this plane. Water represents growth and development of the world towards fulfilling God’s purpose. The Garden of Eden was watered physically and spiritually, it was an environment where man could grow and develop, according to God’s ultimate plan. The waters of Eden represent the womb of humanity; it was with these waters that God formed man from the dust of the earth. The waters were the source of the rivers, which left in man the ability to connect himself with the ultimate origin, even in his fallen state after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Paradise, and thus grow towards the Creators goal. Water represents a state of constant change, transience; this impermanence means that no evil is ineradicable and no sin unforgivable, that repentance can wash away any sin. Water represents the concept of spiritual cleansing and renewal.
THE NAMES OF DIVINITY
The name Elohim is written Aleph, Lamed, Yod, He, Yod and the final Mem, it describes his attribute of Judgment.
God’s other name, El - Aleph, Lamed, means Mercy.
Yet another name He had given Himself is Eheyie Asher Eheyie (Exo 3:14), which means: I shall be as I shall be, or timelessness.
Another name of God is Adonai, or Adonai Olam, meaning Master of the Universe. The name Adonai was used for centuries as substitute for the unpronounceable Name of God, in a similar way the word Lord is used in English. Through the constant usage it also became the word of power and as a Holy word it is not being used any more.
The word Ehad, Aleph, Cheth, Daleth, is also a name of God, it means One, the word that is derived from this root is Yehidah, oneness.
The last name I would like to mention is Shaddai, meaning Almighty, the all-powerful. The root word shadad means “to overpower” or “to destroy,” denoting the more severe aspect of God.
These are the most important names of Divinity. There also are several dozen lesser-used names of God, which we will not deal with here.
Every letter of the Hebrew alphabet serves as a channel to connect heaven and earth. The letter Aleph is seen by the Kabbalists as a ladder on the ground reaching to the heaven, as manifested in Jacob’s dream. The ladder is a symbolical vehicle, by which angels, messengers of God, ascend and descend to establish communication between the earthly and the heavenly spheres. It provides a means for man to raise himself spiritually. Man must infuse himself, his physical existence with spirituality, so that he can ascend.
Everything in the physical world has a spiritual counterpart. Every action in this world likewise reverberates in the spiritual world. The spiritual counterpart of man is his divine soul. A student of the Kabbalah does not run away from his or her physical body; these teachings tell us that we are on the earth for a purpose, that we are meant to aspire to higher goals and states of existence, and that to achieve this we are going to elevate ourselves with the earth, through our interrelationships with other human beings of the earth, but never forgetting that we are linked to the one source.
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