13. Hebrew AlephBet – TAV – Sivan

The name Israel stands for Shir-El, the Song of God. 

There are those who go beyond the boundaries of Israel to sing a song of humanity. 

They aspire towards humanity’s general goal and look towards its higher perfection.

~ Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook

THE SHAPE AND MEANING OF THE TAV

 Kol haKavod! Well done! 

We have arrived at the last letter of the Aleph Bet – the amazing, richly significant, TAV. The letter carries the meaning of  a mark or a seal. Being the final letter the Tav, as it were, sets a seal on the Aleph Bet. It also is the final letter of the important word Emet – אמת – Truth. Truth is said to be the seal of God. 

The three letters that spell Emet are the final letters of the three last words in the account of Creation: Barah Elohim la’assot  – ברא אלהים לעשות– God created to do, or make. 

The three letters span the Aleph Bet as they are set in the beginning, middle, and end. 

The Aleph is the letter of the One infinite Source of all; the letter of Light – ohrאור and Faith – emunahאמונה. 

From this awareness and faith flow the living waters – the Mayim Chayim  – מיים היים – of the Mem and the spirit of Messiah, Mashiachמשיח. This fountain of Divine wisdom brings ever deepening revelation and understanding of the ‘treasure house’ of the Torah – תורה. This knowledge then serves to return one again, and more closely in simple faith, to the infinite Aleph. 

The shape of the Tav is a Dalet, on the right, joined to a Nun. The two letters are the root of the word din –  דין – judgment. They also spell the name of Dan, the last in the formation of the twelve tribes as they travelled through the wilderness. During Jacob’s final blessing of his sons, he said over Dan: “Dan shall judge his people as the one (or first) of the tribes of Israel.” The ‘one’ here is considered that he would be guided by the One – God Above , or in accord with the first, leading tribe of Yehudah, Judah.  In the construction of the Tabernacle we find a connection between the two tribes. The two main craftsmen were were Bezalel, from the tribe of Judah, and Oholiav, from the tribe of Dan. 

Jacob concludes Dan’s blessing with the words, “To Your salvation I hope, LORD (Adonai).” This is the only time God’s Name appears in Jacob’s blessing of the tribes.

Interestingly, in the Hebrew we find the letters in the center of the four letters. א-דנ-י.

Adonai is the Master of the Universe and the one, true Judge. 

TORAH, TEFILAH, TESHUVAH,  TIKKUN OLAM

Powerful Tav words! The Torah is seen as a reflection or emanation of Divine Light, conceptualized in the Golden Menorah in the Holy Place. The Torah is a record of the first time God spoke with all His people, who were gathered together at Mount Sinai. And yet, through the Torah – HIs living and eternal Word, it is believed that the souls of all who come to know Him were standing there too. God speaks to His people, through His Word and by His Spirit, and because we are created in His image, as speaking beings with a God-breathed spirit, we are given the capacity to speak to Him too. We are given the precious gift of Tefilahתפילה, Prayer.

There are.of course, many forms of prayer. Intimate, personal prayer, called hitbodedut in Hebrew, from the root boded – alone; and group or communal prayer often using a Prayer Book – a Siddur in Hebrew, from the root seder, order. In Judaism the Psalms –Tehilimתהילים, are seen as a special and powerful means of prayer; particularly when prayed in cases of healing and deliverance from problems. They also are valued as vehicles for praise and song. 

Another great gift we, as children of God, have been given is that of Teshuvahתשוהה, repentance, from the root Shuv – return. A special prayer is added in the High Holy Day services on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in which the congregation calls out in unison that three spiritual activities can cancel a harsh judgment (Din –  דין ) one might have incurred. They are Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah  – Repentance, Prayer, and giving Charity. 

(Note: In English Tzedakah also begins with a T, but in Hebrew the first letter is a Tzaddi!).

Teshuvah, which literally means both return and answer, is a process through which a person not only returns and draws ever closer to the Creator but also returns more closely to their true nature and gains an ‘answer’ – a clearer revelation of their true purpose in life. As one grows in this understanding one becomes genuinely more compassionate and  empowered to give Tzedakah, charity, whether in financial aid or through other mitzvoth – good deeds. This process leads to Tikkun Olam – healing or repair of the world. Much healing and repair is needed in a world where selfishness overcomes caring, and hedonism – constant pursuit of wealth, comfort and pleasure, blunts people’s concern for others. However, the answer lies first in Tikkun Nefesh – the healing and rectification of the spirit within. When the Emet, truth, and Ahavah, love, of God are sealed in our hearts, and in the hearts of Israel, then the actualization of the Father’s will and His Kingdom will ripple out and bring tikkun, healing, to the world.

THE NUMBER OF TAV – 400

The numerical value of Tav is 400. There are significant biblical references to that number. The first appears in the Torah in the account of the Covenant of the Pieces – God’s first covenant with Abraham, in which He promised him the Land of Israel. Abraham was told that his descendants would be in exile for 400 years. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, in The Hebrew Letters, describes how the years actually began with the birth of Isaac and only 190 years later did Jacob and his family descend to Egypt. They remained there for 210 years. It was only for the last 86 that the Israelites were subjected to their most oppressive enslavement before they were redeemed. 

Another 400 appears in the account of Jacob’s return to the Land of Israel, after 20 years in Haran, the messengers he sent to his estranged brother Esau returned to tell him that Esau was on his way to meet him with 400 men. Interestingly, 20 is the value of the letter Caf, which ends the first half of the AlephBet, just as Tav (which is 20 squared) ends the second half. In Jewish writings, Esau is compared to Cain who in anger murdered his brother Abel – Jacob. Through Jacob’s merit of 20 years of faithful work, and his strength of character and reliance on HaShem, he prevails and Esau’s intentions are diffused. 

In another instance, Abraham makes the first purchase of land in Israel in order to bury his wife Sarah – the Cave of Machpelah. He bought it from Efron the Hittite for 400 shekels of silver. Four couples are buried in the Machpelah in Hebron – Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. 

Efron is 400 numerically, as is the Ayin Ha’rah  – the evil eye. Efron first offered the cave as a gift but actually sold it to Abraham for the highest price! 

In the seven metals of the Torah – silver, gold, copper, tin, lead, mercury, and iron, silver is considered the metal of love. It correspondsto the trait of chessed – lovingkindness, which is considered the attribute of Abraham. Abraham, as the first Hebrew, was the first to enter an intimate and loving relationship with God. A love and knowledge that he was able to share with his family and also with any that God brought across his path. 

More beautiful TAV words:

Tanach – תנך – The Hebrew Bible. The word is formed from the initials of Torahתורה, the first five books of Moses; Nevi’im – ,נביים the Prophets; and Ketuvimכתובים, the Writings. 

Talmid –  תלמיד A student, disciple. In modern Hebrew the word talmid is used in a teacher-pupil sense. Traditionally, however, it suggested a more spiritual relationship, as with a rabbi or mentor and a disciple, as described, for example, in Pirkei Avot.

Talmud -תלמוד – From the same root as student and to learn – lilmod. The Talmud is a vast anthology of Jewish wisdom, discussion, and argument concerning particulars of the laws and teachings of the Torah. 

Techiyat ha-Metim –  תחיית המתים. The resurrection of the dead. Both Judaism and Christianity believe in a physical resurrection of the dead, The Talmud says: 

“Three keys in God’s hands were given to no other agent: the key to rain, the key to childbearing, and the key to the resurrection of the dead.”

Tekia – תקיה. The long, unbroken note when blowing the Shofar. It is followed by Shevarim – broken notes, and Terua – considered ‘sobbing’ notes. During the services of the festival of Rosh HaShana 100 shofar blasts are blown. Then on Yom Kippur, ten days later, the final service ends with one loooong Tekia…signalling the completion of the High Holy Days, and the fulfillment attained. 

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