The Hebrew Letter NUN – Cheshvan

BHBW – THE ALEPH-BET                            CHESHVAN 5784  / 2023

  NUN

If there is a prophet among you, 
I, the LORD, will make Myself known to him in a vision. 
I will speak with him in a dream.

Numbers 12:6 

THE SHAPE AND MEANING OF THE NUN

The letter Nun, like the Mem, has two forms. At the start or within a word it has a bent shape and at the end of a word it is extended downward in a straight line. In Torah script both forms have three tagin or crownlets.

In Hebrew the word nun (pronounced noon) means rule or reign and is related to kingship.

Positionally Nun is the fourteenth letter of the Aleph-Bet. The numerical value of David, who is the ‘root’ of the eternal kingdom of Israel, is 14. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh,in The Hebrew Letters, comments: “The heir to King David is Mashiach ben David,of whom it is said; לפני שמש ינון שמו –  As long as the duration of the sun, his name shall rule.”

The initial ‘bowing’ Nun depicts a humble servant and the final ‘redemptive’ Nun depicts a scepter of a reigning king.

The wonderful Hebrew word Ne’eman –  נאמן, meaning faithful, begins and ends with a Nun. The last three letters form the word Amen.  Amen is an acronym for El Melech Ne’eman – G-d Faithful King! And to that we can say “Amen!” 

Hinting at the coming of Messiah, the Hebrew letters of “faithful servant” – eved ne’eman ,  עבד נאמן  permute to spell adam b’anan אדם בענן –  ‘man in the cloud.’ As in the wonderful vision of Daniel (7:13-14).

Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before Him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom,  that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him:  his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,  and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

He will literally be bringing the glory of Heaven to Earth. 

A GREAT FISH

Nun in Aramaic means ‘fish.’ The letter follows the letter Mem, which is related to water – mayim –  the natural habitat for fish. Fish are considered ‘egoless’ as they lack the self awareness of land animals that live in exposed areas and need to be constantly alert for predators. InJewish literature, holy tzaddikim – those who are righteous and pure and live humble, hidden lives,  are compared to fish. However, at times one may be called by G-d to reveal themselves openly for the sake of His kingdom purposes. This is why Moses, who was pulled from the water and who is referred to as “the most humble man on earth,” is also called the “Great Fish” – Dag Gadol. Interestingly, his former, faithful disciple and servant, who chosen by G-d to be his successor , was Joshua ben Nun.

The renowned and influential Spanish Torah commentator Moses ben Maimon (1138-1204), who is commonly called Maimonides – or by the acronym Rambam, was also a notable physician and served as the personal physician of Saladin – the Sultan of Egypt and Syria. He also wrote an immense compendium – The Code of Jewish Law, which concludes, in the final section The Law of Kings, with a description of the coming of Mashiach when “…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, like water covers the sea.”  Holiness will prevail and the negative attributes of the Ego – pride, anger, rebellion, violence and wars will no longer hold sway, and goodness, purity, peace, and joy will fill the hearts of all.

THE NUMBER OF NUN – 50

The numerical value of Nun is the royal, Jubilee number of fifty. In biblical times slaves were freed and land was reverted to its original owners. The Jubilee year is thus noted as one for freedom – a returning to one’s true existential place. At the age of fifty one is considered wise and able to give counsel – to help others find their true “place”

Interestingly, there are fifty references to the Exodus in the Torah. There are also fifty days of the Omer, which we count between Passover and Shavuot. This marks the journey between Redemption and Revelation. Life is a journey and we should always be learning, growing and moving forward. 

In Jewish writings reference is made to the Fifty Gates of Understanding. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh describes: “ At the end of the book of Job [who was a wise and learned man], G-d confronts Job with fifty queries into the nature of Creation. Awestruck and unable to respond to these queries, Job is impressed by G-d that he is unable to fathom the mystery of Divine Providence in relation to the fate of man. These fifty queries into the mysteries of Nature correspond to the fifty gates of understanding.”

Just as Job was severely tested, so do we all face tests and challenges in life; which brings us to another word that begins and ends with a Nun –  Nisayon!

“Tests and trials in life are an indication of inner strength, not weakness, they are G-d’s way of letting us know we are ready for the next level.”

This encouraging quote is found in the book People of the Word by Mendel Kalmenson and Zalman Abraham.

Our journey can also be described as a ladder or staircase that spirals upward and, although at times, when facing a test or challenge, we may slip a few, or even many, rungs backward, the important thing is to not give up but to keep pressing forward, one step at a time. 

In English we associate the word “test” with being judged for approval. In Judaism, however,  Kalmenson and Abraham describe how “…a test is not meant to assess or establish the current qualities of the one being tested; rather it is meant to elicit and evoke the dormant strengths and unique talents that lie within!” 

A root of the word nisayon is nes, which has the meanings of ‘raise up,’ ‘a banner,’and ‘a miracle!’ A miracle implies the raising of the natural to the supernatural. G-d is with us, and is found within, every challenge we face and, when we look to Him in faith, He gives us the understanding and strength we need in order to surpass our own “natural” limitations. May we keep persevering onward and upward through the “gates” that we may more brightly shine His glory wherever He places us. 

More beautiful Nun words:

Niflah / Niflaot –  נפלאות / נפלא – wonder / wonders. In modern Hebrew one can also describe something as Niflah!  – Wonderful!

Neshama -נשמה – Soul … Lawrence Kushner describes the soul as a ‘soulbird’ – a songbird that always longs to fly with songs of praise to the radiant Shechinah Presence of G-d. 

Niggun – ניגון –  Our souls, hearts, and spirits respond to music.  A niggun is a wordless melody sung, or played on an instrument, to G-d. Having no words it can be repeated over and over until our spirits soar to great spiritual heights. 

Nekayvah –  נקבה – Feminine. In Hebrew nouns have either a masculine (zechar) or feminine gender. Both the soul and the Shechinah/Ruach HaKodesh are feminine.

Nitzotz–  ניצוץ – Spark  The soul is compared to a ‘spark’ or a ner – candle that shines within each one. Some shine brightly, some barely flicker; but the spark can never be extinguished.

 Navi /  navuah –  נבואה / נביא- prophet / prophecy. One whose Ego is fully subdued and who speaks for G-d.

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