BHBW – THE ALEPH-BET IYYAR 5783 / 2023
GIMMEL – DALET
Don’t underestimate kindness,
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
~ Mark Twain
As we saw with the first word of the Torah, Breisheet – בראשית – ‘In the beginning,’ the letter Bet is the letter of beginnings. The Gimmel steps forward from Bet, like a person leaving the house, the bayit, to take action. It is the letter representing g’milut chasadim – גמילות חסדים – acts of lovingkindness.
THE SHAPE OF THE GIMMEL
The letter is comprised of a Zayin and a Yod, which resembles a foot stepping forward.
The Gimmel is moving forward to the Dalet. A ‘dal’ means a poor, or weak person.
So the two letters well illustrate one who has more means, be they monetary, physical, mental or spiritual, reaching out to help the less fortunate in true acts of love and kindness.
Interestingly, the value of the Zayin is 7 and that of the Yod 10. Together they make 17, which is the numerical value of the word Tov – good. The acts of g’milut chasadim truly are good and help to spread the light and warmth of goodness in the world.
The Gimmel is the first letter to be crowned with three tagin. It doesn’t mean it is more important, or valuable, than the other letters but the ‘crown’ is to remind us that there are three crowns to be had – the crown of kingship, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of Torah. As we see with the Israelites, the first two are specifically appointed roles and are generally passed down through the generations, but the third was given by God to all who were standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, and who do throughout the generations. It can be worn by every person who applies Torah to his life and is kind and giving.
THE NUMBER AND NAME OF THE GIMMEL
The positional and numerical value of Gimmel is 3. The great Sage, Shimon HaTzaddik (Simon the Righteous) taught that there were three pillars on which the world stood:
The Torah, Avodah (work and worship) and G’milut Chasadim (deeds of lovingkindness).
The three work together like the legs of a three-legged stool. Remove one and the stool cannot stand.
The number three is very significant in the Bible. For example: our three forefathers – Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov; three parts of Tanach, the Hebrew Bible – Torah, Neviim (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings); three prophets returned from Galut (exile) in Babylon – Nehemiah, Ezra, and Daniel; three strands of a cord that cannot be broken – e.g., God, Torah, and Israel.
The root of the word Gimmel is gamal – a camel! A camel symbolizes a journey through a desert – comparable to a journey through life. It carries burdens but also stores the water of life (like the Word of God) in its hump. The Word and acts of love and kindness are essential in order to exist in the ‘desert’ of life.
Interestingly, the word gamal is mentioned three times in the Torah – all concerning the meeting of Yitzchak and Rivkah (Isaac and Rebecca). It is worth noting that the first time ahavah – love, is mentioned in the Torah is in connection with their relationship.
- Rivkah waters the camels of Avraham’s servant. Her great act of kindness, reflecting that of Avraham, was a witness to him ensuring that she was the one intended to be Yitzchak’s bride.
- Yitzchak was outside praying in the fields and saw the camels approaching. He discerned that they were bringing his bashert, his Divinely intended one, to him.
- Rivkah fell from her camel when she saw Yitzchak approaching and discerned that this was her intended soulmate.
Gamal also means ‘bridge’ in Aramaic – the shape of a camel’s hump. A bridge is a means of connection. We can trust our Father God to make the connections that are meaningful in our lives. Life itself is describes a “a narrow bridge” leading from this world to the next. Rebbe Nachman comments that the main thing to remember as we cross it is that our lives are in the hands of a loving and faithful G-d and, therefore, not to fear! With the Aleph and Bet – Emunah and Bitachon – faith and trust, we have no need to fear anything in this world.
GILA – spontaneous joy! When we learn Torah – the foundation of the Word of God , and absorb it into our minds and hearts and then walk in its ways, we derive great joy from giving. There are many words for happiness and joy in Hebrew – such as Simcha, joy from a blessing, and Rina, joy expressed in song. Even Sasson, a joy that, as Mendel Kalmonson beautifully describes in his book ‘People of the Word’,”… is a bittersweet joy that is tinged with sadness, such as when a parent walks his or her child down the aisle.”
Gila is that spontaneous, inner joy that arises when one encounters beauty and experiences a deep gratitude for being alive. When one can sing with Madeleine L’Engle:
I love, I love, I love
Music and stars, sunshine and moonshine.
Oh, if one could always feel this warm love,
This mystery, this excitement,
This glory of the infinite possibilities of life!
More beautiful Gimmel words:
Gadol – גדול – Great
Gibor – גיבור – Hero
Geulah – גאולה – Redemption
Gan Eden – גן עדן – Garden of Eden
THE LETTER DALET
The doors to the world [of your true] Self are few but precious.
If you have a deep scar, that is a door.
If you have an old, old, story, that is a door.
If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it,
that is a door.
If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.
~ Clarissa P. Estes
THE SHAPE OF THE DALET
The Dalet is formed with two Vavs – a horizontal one that can represent a roof; the vertical one can represent a wall of a house.
Together they depict a man bent over in humility before G-d. When we bow before Him in awe and humility He becomes our protection and support.
THE NAME AND NUMBER OF THE DALET
The word Dalet is from the word ‘delet ‘meaning door. A door is an opening into a house through which people may enter. In reference to an arrogant person, G-d says: “I and he cannot dwell together.” This indicates that those who may enter His House will have humility – humble hearts and spirits. One who, like the ‘dal’ – the poor person, knows he has nothing of his own and gratefully receives from the rich person – gimmel. Ultimately, all that we have – including our very beings and strength to accomplish anything, comes from Avinu Sh’be’Shamaiyim – our Father in Heaven; our Source and Head of the House. Wonderfully, when we humble ourselves before Him, He raises us up to a place where we can joyfully exalt Him. “I will exalt Thee O LORD; for Thou hast lifted me up.” (Psalm 30:1 – A Psalm, a Song, at the dedication of the house of David).
The positional and numerical value of Dalet is 4. The number four is intrinsically represented in life. initially our four ima’ot, the mothers of our faith – Sarah, Rivka (Rebecca), Rachel and Leah,
There are four directions, North, South, East, and West; four elements of creation: earth, water, air, and fire; and in Nature: man, animal, vegetable, and mineral.
The four letters of G-d’s holy Name – Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh. All 22 letters of the Aleph Bet are composed with the Yod, Heh, and Vav.
The four basic levels of Torah interpretation:
- Pshat – the literal meaning of the text 2. Remez – allusions or hints 3. Drash – allegory and 4. Sod – the secret, hidden meaning.
In Israel’s story there are four Exiles, related to the four kingdoms represented in Daniel’s vision of the huge statue: I. Head of gold – Babylon 2. Silver upper torso – Persia 3. Brass lower trunk – Greece 4. Legs of iron with feet of a mixture of iron and clay – Rome; a mixture of Constantine and Mohammed; pride resulting in religious wars for physical dominance and a quenching of the individual’s spirit and soul, which is his or her place of connection with the SpIrit of God.
The last is the longest exile and the spirit underlying the darkness is nothingness, emptiness. Its aim is the disconnection of everything from the true G-d and His light. It says, Maybe there is a “God” but He is totally removed from a person’s personal life – there can be no intimate relationship with Him.
Connecting with Gimmel again – the Hebrew word for exile is Galut and what ends Galut is Geulah – redemption. Praise G-d we now are in the stages of the Final Redemption of all the earth, when all will have true knowledge of G-d and, with Devikut, will cleave to Him in love, humility, and awe.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, in ‘The Book of Letters,’ presents an interesting concept regarding the Dalet meaning door and the number four. He describes four doors that are a progression that draws us closer to G-d.
First door Dal – דל – Poor
Even the house of a poor man can be a palace when it is filled with love and kindness and the Presence of G-d.
Second door Dam – דם- Blood
When in slavery in Egypt, it was the blood on the doorposts of our homes that was the sign to show that we had faith in the G-d of Israel, and He brought us out, and to Himself, with His mighty hand and outstretched arm.
Third door Dah – דע – Know
Above many arks – in which Torah scrolls are housed in synagogues, is written: Dah lifnei Mi ahah ohmed. Know before Whom you stand. Treasure the knowledge (da’at) you have of G-d and continue to learn from His Word.
Fourth door Devikut- דביקות – cleaving
Binding yourself to G-d. To be glued so tightly to Him that He is never absent from your life – not even for a moment.
Beautiful Dalet words:
Dodi – דודי – Beloved
Devikut – דביקות – cleaving to G-d (sticking like glue, devek)
Ditzah – דיצה – expressing joy before the LORD in dance
Derech – דרך – way