4. The Hebrew Aleph-Bet TAMMUZ – Zayin and Chet

Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for [ mental, physical, and spiritual ] health!

~ Carl Jung

THE SHAPE AND NAME OF THE ZAYIN

The letter Zayin is in the shape of a Vav whose head extends in both directions ’crowning’ the letter, as it were.

In the Torah, the Zayin is given three tagin or crowns. There are seven Hebrew letters that are given three tagin – Shin – ש  , Ayin – ע , Tet – ט , Nun – נ , Zayin – ז , Gimmel, –  ג and Tzaddi – .צ .  Each of the tagin can resemble a small Zayin and, in fact, the Sages also refer to them as ‘zayins.’. This emphasis seems to highlight both the importance of the letter Zayin and its numerical value of seven. 

Zayin is a ‘masculine’ letter – Zachar means male or the masculine gender, while Nekavah means female or the feminine gender. In fact the Zayin and Nun together spell the word Zan which means ‘gender’ or ‘species.’  Zan also means “to sustain,” as we see in the Birkat HaMazon – the Blessings after Meals. “Blessed are You, O Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who provides [for and sustains] everything (ha’zan et ha’kol.)” Interestingly the word ha’zan is the seventh word in the Hebrew blessing.

Zayin is the letter of Remembering – Zechor. It is important to remember and learn from the past in order to live and celebrate today. In Israel, the day before we celebrate the joy of Israel’s Independence Day, we have Yom HaZicharon – Memorial Day, when all who lost their lives in the establishment and upbuilding of the Land are remembered. 

There are many significant “remembrances” in Judaism:

Zecher tzaddik le’vracha.  The memory of a righteous person is a blessing. 

Zecher y’tziat Mitzraim.  Remember the Exodus from Egypt. 

Even Zecher Amalek!  Remember the enemy Amalek!

And, especially, Z’chor et Yom Ha’Shabbat,   Remember the Sabbath Day. 

The word Zayin also means a weapon, particularly a sword – the prototype weapon of war. Conflict is unavoidable in physical reality. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh points out that “…although it does not initially seem so, conflict – like all natural phenomena, is purposeful and constructive.  …While seen superficially, the inherent conflict within the world appears to be the “law of the jungle” or the “survival of the fittest.” In truth, all wrestling within nature is controlled by the Divine [will.]”

Our Father G-d is, after all, in control of all Creation; and His will is only for the best for all His creatures, and all His children. We see in the struggles that Ya’akov / Jacob endured, which culminated in the wrestling with the “angel,” that it was only after the conflict that he could stand up and become who he was destined to be, and received the name Israel.

 THE NUMBER AND MEANING OF THE ZAYIN

Yes, the numerical value of Zayin is 7. Seven is particularly important in the Torah, and in general. 

Shabbat shines with a special holiness as the seventh day after the six regular working days. Every week is a complete, self contained, G-d designed cycle. 

Rabbi Ginsburgh describes how, on a level plane,  “…seven is the number of ‘maximal compactness’ – six equal objects perfectly surround a seventh in the middle.” 

As an illustration, these are seven five shekel coins that I arranged.

At jewish weddings, the bride circles the groom seven times. At the ceremony, seven blessings are recited for the couple. The celebration is continued for seven days with special meals and a repetition of the blessings. Other important sevens mentioned in the Torah are the seven species or fruits of Israel, the seven seas, and the seven heavens.

Throughout the biblical calendar, the cycle of seven repeats itself in spirals of time – of days, weeks, months, years, and even millennia. For example, the seven weeks of counting the Omer between Peach and Shavuot; The three major pilgrimage festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot all fall within seven months – from Nissan to Tishrei. The Shmitah, or agricultural Sabbatical year, is the culmination of a seven year cycle. After forty-nine years came the Jubilee year, when, biblically, land was returned to its owner. 

The Sages reckon that after the consummation of the six thousand years of this world and the Messianic era, will come the “Day that is all Shabbat” – peace and harmony for eternity in the World to Come. 

More beautiful Zayin words:

Zera – is a seed. Our lives here can be seen as a seed in which we are inserting all the life and potential we can and then sow it for the eternal future. 

Zaken – an old man with a white zakan (beard) is to be honored and respected; as is a Z’keinah – an old woman with white hair. 

Zman – Time 

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THE LETTER CHET

THE SHAPE AND NAME OF THE CHET

Most people, in particular those who have seen the classic film “Fiddler on the Roof,” are familiar with the word “Le’Chaim!” – “To Life!” Chet, together with the letter Yod make the word Chai – Life – חי. Chaim is a popular boy’s name. Chaim Topol, who played Tevya in “Fiddler on the Roof,” is an example. Chava, the Hebrew name of humankind’s first mother – Eve, is a popular name for girls. 

The shape of the Chet is like a physical doorframe or a gateway to the spiritual realm. 

In the Torah the Chet is written in the shape of a Vav and a Zayin joined together by a sharp ‘bridge’ or pointed roof. In order to maintain a balance in life, and to maintain our inner well being, an important factor is our relationship with others. This is illustrated in the Vav of connection, Our relationship with time – how we balance the past, present, and future, is illustrated by the Zayin, the letter that begins the word Zman– time. This emphasizes the need to be in sync with G-d’s time, which is set in the biblical calendar. 

 

To create the sound of the letter – as in the ch in Bach, requires a rough sound, as if clearing one’s throat! Life can sometimes be rough! There always is a duality in life – rough and smooth, good and bad, light and darkness, truth and lies – everything has a flip side; including our character traits. As we have often mentioned – the aim is to find the balance between one extreme and the other. 

Lawrence Kushner points out, in his “Book of Letters,” that many conflicting word pairs begin with a Chet, such as:

Chassid – a pious person   and Chait – sin

Chaim – life and   Chavel – birth pangs 

Chavurah – a group of people joined together to accomplish a holy task, like prayer or Torah Study, and Chilul – a desecration that drives people apart

Chuppah – a marriage canopy and Churban – devastation.

Following the weekly Torah Cycle readings,  when we reach the end of a book of the Torah we proclaim CHAZAK CHAZAK!  –חזק! חזק! Be strong! Be strong! 

Be strong to take the truth of the Word to heart and to keep learning!

THE NUMBER AND MEANING OF THE CHET

The value of Chet is eight.  The horizontal eight is a symbol of Infinity.

The eighth day is special in the Hebrew calendar and Jewish life cycle. It is the day of a baby boy’s brit milah – circumcision,. The festival of Chanukah is celebrated for eight days. The joyous day of SImchat Torah falls after the seven days of Sukkot. 

It is considered that when entering the spirit of Shabbat  –  the seventh day, we receive an extra soul in order to contain the extra blessing of the taste of the World to Come that Shabbat brings. A taste of the Eighth Day, as it were, when the Kingdom of G-d will be fully established and every day will be like a Shabbat – filled and flowing with the fullness of peace, love, and the joy of His Presence. 

In physical, three-dimensional space the number 8 appears as a number of vertices, or corner points, of a cube. Twelve lines join the corners and it has six sides. These dimensions – 8+12+6, total 26 – the number of HaShem’s name – Yod, Hei, Vav, Hei.

A cube can, therefore, be viewed as an illustration of the Divine Presence in physical reality.  Eight can be compared to the 7 heavens and the 1 earth. When viewing a cube from outside, seven points are visible and one is always concealed. The seven encompass the concealed point, just as the physical realm is encompassed by the spiritual realm and the Presence of G-d. 

More beautiful Chet words:

 חן, חסד, ורחמים –  Chen, Chessed, ve’Rachamim  – Grace, Loving kindess and Mercy!

Three loving attributes of our Father G-d. We could not endure life without these qualities. He shines His grace, loving kindness, and HIS mercy upon us every day. 

The Ancient Greeks who desecrated the Holy Temple – G-d’s House in Jerusalem, did not believe in a world that was run by G-d and was filled with His Presence. The 8 days of Chanukah –   חנכה – celebrate these vary facts!

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