5. The Hebrew Aleph-Bet AV – Tet and Yod


You, imprisoned in the shells in which society, state, church, school, economy, public opinion, and your own pride have stuck you – indirect one among indirect ones, break through your shells, become direct…have [ good and true ] contact.

~ Martin Buber, in What Is to Be Done?  1919


The letter Tet has its own unique shape. It has two heads. The left head and leg are in the shape of a Zayin, which is adorned with three crownlets or tagin. The right side is curved down into the center of the letter.

The letter Tet first appears in the Bible in the verse: “And G-d saw all that He had made and  behold, it was good – tov –  טוב.  With the letter’s right side pointing inwards, it conveys the suggestion that goodness often is hidden in the world, and often also in people. We know, too, that although G-d fills the universe, His  manifest Presence is hidden. Only by the seeking of our souls, the opening of our hearts, and the yielding of our minds, do we find Him. So, too, it is with the goodness in the world and in one another. 

The numerical value of Tet is 9. Nine symbolizes the fulness of the potential within,  which will be expressed in the next letter, Yod, with its value of 10. We can compare the nine months of pregnancy, which are a preparation for the birthing and revelation of all the potential and wonder of new life.

The value of the word ‘Tov’ is 17.  Tet = 9; Vav = 6; Bet = 2. Another word with the value of 17 is egoz,  אגוז  – meaning nut! The fruit, the ‘good’ of the nut is concealed within the tough shell. The soul is also encased within the ’shell’ of the body., and our minds can be encased by engrained patterns of thought that are tough to break through.  In order to allow all the glowing potential within to shine forth, we need to work at cracking open the shells that conceal the hidden truth, beauty, and goodness – in the world, in others, and in ourselves.

 Shells that encase a person’s mind can take many forms – doubt, fear, jealousy, insecurity, resentment, pride, etc.  – all the negative thoughts and patterns that block, or hinder, the ‘tov’ from being expressed. 

The shape of Tet is like that of a cup or a vessel that is capable of containing goodness and blessing. The Sages of Israel teach that the only vessel capable of receiving blessing is that of Shalom – Peace. The peace that is found in, and received from, HaShem. As it says in the Birkat HaKohanim – the Priestly Blessing: “And He shall grant you peace.” To the degree that one first is blessed with peace does one become even more a ‘vessel’ to receive additional blessings directly from G-d. Thus, the more we work toward maintaining our own inner peace, and work together with others towards true peace wherever our Father places us in the world, the more blessings He will pour into our “vessels.”


The numerical value of Tet is 9. Nine represents the qualities of Truth and Eternity. This is reflected in the phenomenon unique to the number nine. All multiples of nine remain equal in their reduced value. For example:     3 x 9 = 27; 2 + 7 = 9.       5 x 9 = 45; 4 + 5 = 9.

The reduced value of Truth – Emet – Aleph, Mem, Tav is nine. ( 1 + 40 + 400 = 441 = 9 ).

Other ‘eternal’ words: Brit – Covenant  (612 = 9), Light – Ohr (207 = 9), and Shabbat! (702 = 9).

Interestingly, when beginning at the inner point of Tet, the letter unfolds and spirals upward,  but , if one starts at the top and goes down, the shape of the Tet can also be compared to a snake coiling into itself. Also interesting is that the numerical value of snake – Nachash (50 + 8 + 300) equals that of Mashiach! (40 + 300 + 8) = 358

The innate characteristics of the snake is to mislead and lie. The Hebrew word nachash  also has the meaning of to ‘guess’ or to use ‘false imaginings’ rather than those of transparency and truth. One can think of Pharaoh, with his cobra headdress and the tricks of his court magicians. The word ‘staff’  – mateh – also contains the letter Tet. מטה .

And Aaron’s staff swallowed up those of the magicians.  

We know that at the Final Redemption, Messiah will fully overcome the lies and evil of the Snake. He will bring clarity to all the confusion and chaos in the world. He will bring atonement for false judgment and sin and the truth and “…knowledge of G-d will cover the earth as the waters cover the seabed.” Then, all the concealed Divine potential in the world and in a person’s soul will blossom into fruition. 


Tet also begins the Hebrew word tiul – טיולto tour or travel. The great Hassidic teacher Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was noted as saying: “Each person is destined from on High to be in a particular time at a particular place. When you have occasion to travel ( in accord with G-d’s will ) it is for your own good.”  We can remember the example of how Abraham was called by G-d to leave his country and people, and to “go forth “ into the country G-d would reveal to him. The great Jewish/Israeli author Martin Buber also commented: “Every journey has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware.” I might personally add, as many visitors and Olim (immigrants) have discovered, that this is particularly true in Israel, where our Father’s purposes and blessings, and new revelations and understanding are only revealed once a person is physically in the Land. 

In connection with the Tet in mateh – staff. Each of the twelve tribal leaders of Israel had a staff of authority, indicating that their power and guidance came only from G-d. Of interest, the Choshen, the breastplate of the High Priest, had twelve precious stones, representing the 12 tribes.  Whenever he served in the Tabernacle or Temple, the High Priest carried this close to his heart as a visible sign of G-d’s care and guidance of His people and of their connection and dependence upon Him.

You likely are familiar with the Hebrew greeting “Mazel Tov!” pronounced when happily blessing someone on a joyful occasion such as a wedding, the birth of a baby, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah . When reducing the value of the letters of Mazal (30 + 7 + 49) and Tov (2 + 6 + 9) we get 77 + 17 = 94; and 9 + 4 =12. A reminder that all the “luck”, goodness and blessing that comes to His people is a result of the connection we have with our Father in Heaven.

More beautiful TET words:

Ta’am –  טעם – Taste.  In Israel, ta’am  means the taste of food, the taste in clothing, furnishings…any kind of taste. 

Ta’hor ve’tamei –  טהור וטמאי –  Pure and impure; in matters of spiritual observance.

Techina –  טכינה – Delicious sauce/paste made from sesame seeds that is great in a falafel and as a dip with veges. 

Tekia –  טקיה – A blast of the shofar that can send shivers down your spine! 




The Yod is the smallest of the Hebrew letters, and is the only one suspended in midair, Although it is small in size, it is probably the most ‘powerful.’ It is the starting point of all the letters, and, as we know, it is the initial letter of the ineffable name of G-d, Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei – YHVH.  

There is a Hebrew saying, “He who is [or feels] small is big and he who is [or feels] big is small.” The Yod reminds us that, rather than trying to puff oneself up to seem great or special, true greatness comes in subduing one’s Ego as much as possible. 

The name of the Yod means ‘hand’ – yad. Another meaning of the word is ‘place.’ We find an example of this in the name of the renowned Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem – Yad v’eShem, which means ‘A Place and a Name.’

Just as the Yod is suspended, the earth itself, and the planets and stars, hang suspended in space and only remain in place due to the sustaining and powerful Hand of the Creator. Our lives are sustained in the same way. We depend on His care and provision and we can boast in nothing else.  In the Hebrew Birkat Ha’Mazon – Grace After Meals, one statement is: “You open Your hand and satisfy every living being with favor.” 

Thus, when we open our hand to offer help, charity, friendship, encouragement, etc., to another we are emulating our Great Giver. 

The Hebrew word for Jews is Yehudim – the root of which is hodiah – to give thanks. The word contains the root letters of yod-vav-dalet. Just like the small, suspended Yod, Israel is considered the “smallest” people and nation among the great, well ‘grounded’ nations of the world. Israel can only give thanks for her continued existence, as a nation and a people, to the One who brought her into being and in Whom she trusts. 

Another interesting meaning of yad/hand is found in the Hebrew idiom: “The ability of the hand of one’s mind to grasp.” Just as physically one stretches out one’s arm in order for the hand to take hold something, so must the ‘hand’ of the mind reach past its boundaries in order to grasp a new idea. The great medieval commentator, Rashi, states: “The Yod refers to thought” – the grasping of an idea or the thought and intention of an act about to be performed. The words we speak or write and the actions we take all originate with a thought. 

A lovely word derived from yad is yadid (m) or yadidah (f) meaning a close friend. It is formed  by using the word for hand twice – ידיד.  One extends one’s hand and two hands join in a bond of friendship. 


The numerical value of the Yod is 10. Ten is universally accepted as the basis of the number system, maybe because we count on our ten fingers. In the Torah, however, ten is considered a very holy number. In the very beginning, G-d created the universe with ten utterances. 

Other significant tens are:     The ten essential limbs of the body

The ten plagues in Egypt.    The ten Words (Commandments) given at Sinai

The ten generations from Adam to Noah, and then from Noah to Abraham

There are ten synonyms for prayer and for song, and for teshuvah (repentance) in Hebrew.

There are ten key songs sung throughout biblical history. 

Ten people are called “man of G-d” in the Tanach.  

Abraham faced ten trials and Joshua fought ten battles. 

There were ten miracles in the Holy Temple 

Culminating the ten days of repentance after Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur falls on the tenth of Tishrei. During the Yom Kippur services at the Temple, the High Priest would proclaim the Holy Name of G-d, Y-H-V-H, before the people ten times.

More beautiful YOD words:

Yam –   ים  – Sea (pronounce yahm) E.g. Yam Ha’Melach ( the Salt or Dead Sea in Israel)

Yerusha –  ירושה – Inheritance, In Pirkei Avot it says: “Commit yourself to the study of Torah, for it cannot be treated as your yerusha.” Torah is a precious gift from our Father in Heaven, but a gift must be opened and investigated before its contents are enjoyed and valued.

Yerushalaim –  ירושלים  – Jerusalem! The eternal capital of Israel, containing in its name both Yerusha and Shalem (whole) and Shalom (peace).

Yishar Koach! – ישר כח! – Well done! May you go from strength to strength. Literally means “May your strength be firm.”

Ye’hi’yeh tov! –  יהיה טוב!  – it’ll turn out OK. Literally, ‘It’ll be good.’

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