The Wonder of the Aleph Bet – REISH

God puts tzaddikim in this world to testify to the fact that He exists.’ 


The Reish needs to be written very carefully. If the corner at the top right is not clearly rounded it will look like a Dalet – ד. If the ‘roof’ of the letter is too short, it will resemble a Vav ו -. If the downward stroke is too long, it will look like  a final Caf – ך. 

The meaning of Reish is related to rosh – head. It can be seen as the shape of the back of the head in profile, and is compared to a man bowing, or bent over in servitude. It is a positive posture when one bows to God to accept the yoke of His Kingdom and to be devoted to His service. It also is positive to be yielded to healthy societal norms. The downward stroke can be seen as the connection of the head to the backbone. To manage the demands of life and society one needs to have a strong backbone supported by a strong head – to have strength of conviction, clarity of thought, and determination. It is said that physical poverty and/or servitude to a dictatorial leader, like slavery, weakens a person’s “backbone” and causes one to lose possession of  one’s power to make decisions and the ability to act according to one’s convictions. Even tikkun olam – the power to act in accord with the will of God to bring healing and rectification to the world, can be hampered. One needs to learn in order to gain knowledge and wisdom (chochmah – חוכמה). The Baal Shem Tov teaches that, although being “clever” in a worldly sense, without connection to God or Torah, has negative implications, nevertheless it is healthy for a person to have a “good head” in order to manage life effectively in the world. 


The head is the control center and gives instruction and direction to the rest of the body. 

It also feels the pain, desires, and needs of the body. A Jewish teacher or leader can be referred to as Rabbi or Rebbe – רבי. The Hebrew letters are an acronym for Rosh B’nei Yisrael – Head of the Children of Israel. It is recognized that there is a Rebbe in every generation, a true tzaddik, who is that era’s spiritual leader. A Rebbe has the knowledge, wisdom and understanding to teach and give direction to those in his community. Just as the eyes are situated in the head, he has the ability to see more than a lone, questioning individual is able to. Similar to the physical head of a body, he is able to feel and respond to the needs of his people. It is said that God puts tzaddikim in this world to testify to the fact that He exists. 

Moses is considered to be the first Rebbe of the people of Israel. Other famous tzaddikim who were known as Rebbe are Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, the compiler of the Mishnah, and the Rambam – Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides.  The Rambam was a Spanish rabbi, physician, and philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. His family was expelled from Cordoba, Spain, for refusing to convert to Islam and he later became the revered head of the large Jewish community in Egypt (many of whom had fled the persecution of the Crusaders in then Palestine). Inscribed on his tomb in Tiberias, Israel, are the words ‘From Moses to Moses arose none like Moses.’                                                                                     


Reish is the 20th letter of the 22 letters of the AlephBet and yet it is also referred to as the ‘beginning of the three end letters”- which carry significant importance. It’s numerical value of 200, is midpoint between the first letter Aleph (1) and the final letter Tav (400).

Interestingly, the numerical value of the word da’at (knowledge) is 67, and of binah (understanding) is 474; together totaling 541- the numerical value of Yisrael (Israel).  Among the tribes of Israel, Issachar were considered to be the wisest in the knowledge of Torah in general and it is recorded:

“And from the children of Issachar were those that knew the understanding of times, to know what Israel aught to do, their heads [leaders in the Sanhedrin] were two hundred.”

Sages therefore conclude: “If there is no da’at (knowledge), there is no binah (understanding) of what Israel ought to do.”

More beautiful Reish words:

Refuah shleimah –  רפואה שלימה – May you have a complete recovery.  “I heard your daughter is ill. May she have a refuah shleimah!”

Rega! -רגע! – Wait a moment! Often heard in Israel, especially on busses asking the driver to wait for a passenger to get off.

Rikudim –  ריקודים – Israeli dancing. Rikudim is the regular Hebrew word for dancing, but it is mostly synonymous with Israeli folk dances such as the Hora, U’shavtem Mayim, etc.

Rechilut –  רכילות – Gossip. Tale-bearing or speaking badly of someone is considered Lashon Ha’Ra – evil talk, which is considered one of the most grievous sins.

Rachamim – רחמים – Mercy. One of the most beautiful qualities of God. What would we do without His tender mercy and forgiveness?

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