The Hebrew Aleph-Bet   AYIN –  Tevet

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts

Zechariah 4:6 12:6 

THE SHAPE AND MEANING OF THE AYIN

The name of the letter Ayin means eye! It’s a letter that ‘sees.’ It also carries the meaning of a spring of water (a source of tears?) as in Ayin (or Ein) Harod – the spring where Gideon selected the three hundred soldiers who would engage in the battle against the Midianite army (Judges 7:1). Of interest is that God told Gideon to whittle down the thousands of men who were with him to so few in order to avoid their becoming proud in gaining the victory. 

“And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to hand Midian over to them, otherwise Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has saved me.” (Judges 7:2)

In Aramaic the word Ayin means “Sheep.” An association we can make with ‘eye’ and ‘sheep’ is how the eyes of the sheep constantly look towards the shepherd, even as his eyes are diligently watching over them. We see in Scripture how God watches over all of His Creation. “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches over me.”  We also are told that the God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps and His eyes always are upon His Land and His people Israel, 

When Jacob was blessing the sons of Joseph in Egypt he proclaimed that it was in the Name of: The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day”  (Genesis 48:13).

We know that, as well as being the most humble of men, Moses was a shepherd before God called him to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt. And the young David was a shepherd before slaying the giant Goliath and being noticed by the then king, Saul, However, when David was 30 years old, all the tribes of Israel came to David and anointed him as king in accord with the prophet Samuel, saying, “Previously, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and in [in battle]. And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd My people Israel, and you will be a leader over Israel.’”

God confirms this with King David in 2 Samuel 7:16,

“Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’”

Most assuredly of all, our Father God promises that: “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,  In His arms He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom;  He will gently lead the nursing ewes”  (Isaiah 49:11). This is beautifully echoed in King David’s Psalm 23, “The LORD is my shepherd I shall not want.” 

The strong word “Behold” in English translations, is “See” in Hebrew – ro’eh ראה. Those who have a “good eye” will be blessed. In the teaching of Mussar there is much focus on whether one has a ‘good eye’  – עין טובה – ayin tovah, or a ‘bad eye’ – ayin ra’ah – עיןרעה. 

The eye reflects what lies in the depths of a person.  A ‘bad eye’ does not look deeper, only at the surface, the physical and superficial things, which often results in envy and having a critical, judgmental attitude. A good eye is generous and caring and looks more deeply,.It seeks the best in others, which results in giving another the benefit of the doubt. 

AYIN AND HUMILITY

Like the Aleph, Ayin is a soundless letter – it doesn’t speak of itself but carries the applicable vowel sounds. It has a silent humility expressed in the word for humble that it begins – anavah – ענוה. Emptying yourself of Ego in humility helps you become a vessel that God can fill. It also fills you with worship – avodah  עבודה – of the Master of the Universe. One then can accept the yoke – the ohl – על of the Kingdom of Heaven, which frees us for His service. The yoke of an ox is not a burden as it helps the ox fulfill its purpose in service to its master. However, the yoke of slavery does belittle and shame, as in: “We were slaves – avadim עבדיםin Egypt.” The difference lies in the attitude of the master, whether it be loving and caring or cruel and dehumanizing.

Another Ayin appears in idol worship! Avodah Zarah – עבודה זרה. We find a classic example with the worship of the Golden Calf – Egel haZahav –  עגלהזהב in the wilderness. What golden, materialistic idols are worshipped today? Interestingly, the antidote also begins with Ayin – the Torah is referred to as the Tree of Life – EtzChaim – עץחיים, and the Ten Words spoken by God at Sinai are Asseret haDibrot – עסרת הדברות.

It is worthwhile to take a deeper look at the middah, or attribute, of anavah – humility.

It is considered of such importance by Mussar teachers that it is said to be the core character trait through which all other attributes are accessed. We can therefore deduce that it’s opposite characteristic, that of pride, is what blocks the development of positive and healthy character traits. I believe this is being clearly evidenced in world leaders today. However, it bears scrutiny on every level of society, including in our own personal lives. We need to have a clear understanding of what humility is. 

Michelle Perlman and Sharon Mars in The Mussar Torah Commentary,  point out that, “Humility is not defined as being so humble that you disappear, rather, it’s about having all your character traits in balance so that the inner light of the soul shines pure and clear as originally intended.”

 As Alan Morinis puts it, “Being humble doesn’t mean being nobody; it just means being no more of a somebody than you ought to be.”

Personally, I still love Rav Kook’s definition: “Humility is associated with [gaining] spiritual perfection. …When humility effects depression, it is defective. When it is genuine it inspires joy, courage, and inner dignity.”  

When we find the right balance of humility, between self-deprecation and arrogance, our true creative, emotional, and physical selves can flourish. 

THE NUMBER OF AYIN – 70

70 root nations from Noah

70 ‘facets’ or ‘faces’ of Torah

70 souls of Israel that descended to Egypt

Numerically Gog and Magog equals 70. Symbolic of the contention between the nations and Israel. 

Rabbi David Mark explains that ‘Gog and Magog’ is not only a war at the end of days, but it’s happening all the time against Israel and those who stand with her. At the core, physically, it’s a battle over the physical Land of Israel.  Seeing the UN vehicles here in Jerusalem and throughout the land is a symbol of the spiritual war going on behind the backdrop of the physical world. 

Spiritually, it’s a war against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Each one of us is involved in some way. Our soul, that infinite spark of God breathed into us, is under constant attack by the post-modernist society and culture that raises up obstacle after obstacle to prevent us from learning and growing spiritually. Sometimes we lose and sometimes we win, but each one plays a part in a very individual as well as cosmic sense in what is unfolding. 

The onslaught of the 70 nations can be overcome by the 70 facets/faces of the Torah – the Spirit and the Word of God. The internal battles being waged against the hearts, minds and souls of people today are a result of a lack of clear truth, a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness, lack of faith and trust in God and in others.  Therefore, as well as choosing to stand with Israel, we need to be seeking more clarity and meaning, more faith and trust, and we need to be learning, doing, and speaking the truth of the Word of God. 

More beautiful AYIN words:

Adon Olam –  אדון עולם  –  “Master of the World who reigned before Creation. He was, He is, and He will be. “ The standard song sung in a synagogue to end a Shabbat or festival service. 

Gan Eden –  גן עדן –  The Garden of Eden. 

Ezra –  עזרה – Help

Ezrat Nashim –   עזרת נשים  – The woman’s section in an Orthodox synagogue, usually an upstairs gallery. 

Oneg –  ענג   –  a celebration or delight. As in Oneg Shabbat – the delight of Shabbat.  

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