Contemplating Hebrew Letters | Resh




    And when the time came for [Rebecca] to give birth, behold! There were twins in her womb. The first one emerged red, entirely like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. After that his brother emerged with his hand grasping on to the heel of Esau; so he called his name Jacob. . . . The lads grew up and Esau became one who knows hunting, a man of the field; but Jacob was a wholesome man, abiding in tents. Isaac loved Esau for he ate of his venison, but Rebecca loved Jacob.

Genesis 25:24–28

The matriarch Rebecca is one of the most highly developed female characters in the Bible, and she’s also one of the most powerful. Discovered at a young age by Abraham’s servant Eliezer, she’s recognized immediately as the destined mate for Isaac. Because of her intuitive kindness, Rebecca draws water for Eliezer and his camels before even being asked—for this, Eliezer offers to bring her back to Canaan to become the wife of Isaac. She immediately accepts and leaves her home, even though she’s barely out of childhood and has never met Isaac.

The one characteristic that follows Rebecca throughout her life is her amazing sense of clarity. From the moment she sees Eliezer, she knows what to do; and when she first sees Isaac in the distance, after a long journey, she immediately senses who he is—not just another stranger encountered along the way, but her life partner.

After she and Isaac are married, Rebecca is barren for 20 years. When she finally does conceive, she has a difficult pregnancy and seeks out the reason for her troubles. She asks God directly why she’s in so much pain, and He replies that she’s carrying twins who are at war with one another even in the womb. This rivalry, she’s told, will last as long as they live, but in the end the younger twin will triumph over the older one. Rebecca will keep this information to herself for years, but ultimately it will guide her behavior as a mother and become the basis for her future actions.

As the boys grow up, Esau, the elder, becomes a brute of a man, interested in hunting, women, and food; whereas Jacob, the younger, is more domesticated, bookish, and kind. Rebecca knows that although Isaac favors Esau, Jacob is the one who is destined to be the next in line spiritually; so when her husband is ready to pass on the blessing of the firstborn, which holds enormous spiritual power, Rebecca creates an elaborate scheme that changes history. She convinces Jacob to lie to his blind father, dress up in Esau’s clothing, bring him venison as his brother would, and trick Isaac into giving him the blessing that will establish him as the dominant patriarch of his generation.

We’re told that Rebecca does this not just because she favors one son over the other, but because she knows in no uncertain terms what should happen—that is, what is fair and right according to the prophecy she’s received. Rebecca does all she can to actively change destiny, to act with confidence and ensure that Jacob is blessed. In this way, she makes sure that the prophecy she hears when she’s pregnant is fulfilled, and that the line of righteous men continues with Jacob.


The letter Resh represents the rosh, the head. Rebecca is able to think logically and clearly and come up with solid, useful plans to do what’s best for her family. After she secures the birthright for Jacob, she is able to see that Esau is violent enough to potentially kill his brother when he finds out what has happened, and she devises a plan in which Jacob goes to live with her brother Laban (where, incidentally, he will meet his future wives, Rachel and Leah).

Although her circumstances are difficult and she has to play one son against the other and deceive her husband, Rebecca knows with complete certainty what needs to happen in order for everyone to fulfill their true destiny.

The Resh comes to those in need of clarity. Life is confusing, and often many paths compete for the taking. There is often more than one way to go, but from time to time we need to make definite, binding decisions.

Clarity need not be achieved only through prophecy—you can gain the ultimate knowledge all by yourself. But however you attain it, once something is clear in your mind, in the front of your consciousness, be careful not to waver from it.

Learn from Rebecca that you can change what seems to be set in stone. Your lot in life need not be the one given to you at birth— you need only be sure of yourself, and you can become whatever you need to be.


Contemplating Hebrew Letters | Qoph


rvpx Nk
(Bird’s Nest)


If a bird’s nest happens to be before you on the road, on any tree, or on the ground—young birds or eggs—and the mother is roosting on the young birds or the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and will prolong your days.


Deuteronomy 22:6–7

This passage is one of 18 laws concerning the protecting of animals in the Bible. Among others, the Bible instructs us not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk (which has evolved over time into the Jewish concept of kashrut, a system in which meat and milk are not to be eaten together at all), not to kill a mother and her offspring on the same day, and to help lift up an animal that may have collapsed from exhaustion on the road.

Although humans are given dominion over the animals in Genesis, we’re also given the responsibility to care for and treat them as fellow creations of God. This tension between our accountability toward animals and our power over them is the source of many difficult questions. But what’s clear from this passage is that we must first and foremost be sensitive to the nature of those that are consumed or otherwise used for our purposes.

By sending away the mother bird before taking her eggs or chicks, we accomplish several things: (1) We take into consideration the fact that animals are attached to their young and will suffer if they’re separated from them—so by sending the bird away, she won’t see her eggs taken, and the blow will be softened; (2) by not taking the bird along with her eggs as food, we help to preserve the species, ensuring that the breeding animal survives (environmentalists call this “sustainability”); (3) by exerting our responsibility toward animals before our power over them, we remind ourselves what’s more important; and (4) we set an example of compassion for our own lives.

Now if sending away the mother bird is so important that it will lead to a long life for the one who performs the deed, just think how important it is to treat other people with such sensitivity. The emotional, practical, philosophical, and personal implications of this commandment are stunning: In performing (or merely understanding) such a small act, we can help ease the pain of the world, preserve the earth, put our power into place, and deepen our capacity for compassion and kindness to others.

The Kuf is first and foremost a letter of kedusha, holiness. The verb lekadesh means “to sanctify” or “make holy,” suggesting that holiness is something to be actively achieved.

Look at how the letter itself is shaped: The character reaches down below the line as if descending into the “lower world” of earth from the “higher world” of spirituality. This teaches us that we can sanctify our lives, and infuse our existence with meaning and purpose, by seeking to elevate our daily actions and by having the consciousness of a higher purpose behind everything we do.


The Kuf card is a signal of compassion. Look beyond the surface of your actions and consider the fact that as humans, we’re not all that matters in this world. The principle of kindness to animals teaches us the great lesson of being kind to everyone, from helpless infants to victims of crime to homeless families to the elderly.

Take a moment to envision the mother bird and her eggs. Put yourself in her position and consider her animal perspective. Now use your gift of human reasoning and power to perform an act of holiness.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Tzaddi (Tzaddik)


Myhvla Mlx
Tzelem Elohim
(In the Image of God)


    So God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.


Genesis 1:27

This is the first of two descriptions given in Genesis for the creation of humankind at the beginning of the world. In the second (Gen. 2:18ff), man is created first, and then God forms woman by taking a piece of the man’s “side” (the Hebrew word is tzela, traditionally translated as “rib”) and creating a whole new being. In this original description, however, man and woman are created at one time. Some say that they’re created as a single body, and later each “side” is separated from the other to produce the two individual people we know as Adam and Eve. Others say that they were created as separate bodies, but simultaneously and with completely equal status.

Whichever of the two versions of the human-creation story you choose to believe, what’s essential to understand is that humanity was created in the Image of God (be’tzelem Elohim), and that means that men and women have a purpose on this earth unlike any other creature formed in the first week of existence. Humankind was designed not just to be fruitful and multiply, as every animal is, but to dominate over nature and to explore their inherent powers. What separates us from the plants and animals is that we have within us a spark of Divinity that, if we’re lucky, we can train ourselves to see and develop.

Trying to access that part of ourselves that’s Godlike, the part that strives to make the world a better place and improve our personal traits, is the essential act of Kabala. By working toward recognizing our original holiness, our connection to the Divine source of creation, we begin to journey toward Tikkun Olam (the Healing of the World), which is the ultimate goal of our lives.

A Tzaddik is a righteous person, someone who makes it a priority to bring good things into the world, to give charity, and to give of themselves. You become a Tzaddik by first and foremost learning to connect with the fact that you were created Be’tzelem, in the Image. Once you internalize the fact that you contain within you an essential holiness, a purpose in life, you’ll begin to see that everyone else also has this spark.

You cannot mistreat people—or be racist, judgmental, or cruel to your fellow human beings—if you truly believe that each and every one of us is created in the image of holiness.

To understand that the first person was actually a single man/woman unit, and that every person in the whole of history stems from this original being, is to understand that we’re all truly created equal. Not only must we treat others with respect, we must also learn to treat ourselves with respect, striving to heal the often-ruptured world within ourselves as well as the outside world.


The Tzaddik helps to boost self-confidence. In times of doubt, when we question our personal values and take a cold, hard look at our lives in search of a deeper purpose, it’s crucial to remember our origins: We’re all made in the Image, we’re all righteous people, or Tzaddikim.

Your body itself is holy, just as your soul is. Treat yourself with respect, as you would any holy object: Eat well, breathe, sleep, meditate, be creative, do good for the less fortunate. Only once you can relate to yourself as unique and holy will you truly see others the same way.

It is said that saving one life is like saving the entire world, and killing one person is like destroying the planet. This stems from the idea that in the beginning there was only one person who contained the most vital spark of life that will exist in every person throughout history.

Remember that we’re all linked together in this world, and we’re all crucial to its survival. Without any one of us, the world would be incomplete.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Peh




     And the Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he did not let the Children of Israel go . . .


Exodus 9:35

The story of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt is one of the most poignant tales of freedom in all of human history. Their harsh ruler, the Pharaoh, refuses to let them leave the country despite a series of plagues that the God of the Hebrews sends upon him. After every plague descends—blood, frogs, lice, swarms of wild beasts, epidemic, boils, hail, locusts, and complete darkness—Moses turns to the Pharaoh and asks him to “let my people go.”

Nine times out of ten, the Pharaoh nearly relents, but at the last minute he “hardens his heart” and refuses. Only when the Plague of the Firstborn is carried out and the eldest son of every Egyptian household, including the Pharaoh’s, is killed at midnight, does he finally give in and tell Moses to take the people and all their belongings and leave.

Throughout history we’ve seen what evil the human heart is capable of—from the Pharaoh to Adolf Hitler to Osama bin Laden, there have been people who do things most of us cannot even fathom. Nevertheless, those people do exist, and they teach us a lesson: Sometimes we have to see the worst in life before we can start rising up again to create a better world.

We also see this, to a lesser extent, in our own lives. Sometimes we must sink to our lowest levels of behavior before we start to improve. Addicts, for example, often need a near-death experience to compel them toward rehabilitation; and people who are grieving for a personal loss must often experience a deep sense of depression before they can begin the healing process. The same thing happened to the Pharaoh—he needed to experience the harshest personal tragedy (the loss of his son) in order to recognize how many children had already died at his hand.

Peh is the word for “mouth” in Hebrew. Spelled the same way, but with a different pronunciation (“poh”), the word also means “here.” These two words and concepts are integrally linked: To speak is to be present, to be in the moment and consciously communicative. The Pharaoh needed to open his heart in order to open his mouth and give permission to let the people go—he needed to speak from the place of experience, from the present, from “here.”

There’s a famous rabbinic legend that says that when babies are in their mothers’ wombs, they’re endowed with all the knowledge in the world. When they’re born, however, an angel taps them on the upper lip, creating the indent there underneath the nose, and they instantly forget everything. The process of life, then, is one of slowly relearning and remembering things that we knew from the very start of our lives.

The Pharaoh also needed to go through a process of reconnecting with his lost humanity, finally accepting the fact that he wasn’t an immortal god, but was subject to plagues just like every other Egyptian. And when he finally did come to realize this, to rediscover some of his inner morality, he was able to harness the power of speech (a distinctly human quality) to let the Jews go.


The Peh represents the incredible power of speech in our lives. Speaking is the catalyst for all action, and for any significant change in the world. To use our mouths, the ability that separates us from other life forms, is to be at our most powerful.

Look carefully at the shape of the Peh: Inside the black lines that form the letter, in the white space, there is a Bet. The Bet, as we’ve seen, is the first letter of the Torah, but it also represents looking at things from different angles. That the two letters are mystically intertwined teaches us a great lesson: Before we open our mouths to speak, we need to consider the bigger picture. Knowing that there’s always another layer of truth to consider will help us communicate most effectively in life.

We say that “actions speak louder than words,” but sometimes only words can lead us to profound action.

This card encourages you to soften your heart, open your mouth, and reclaim the knowledge that was given to you before you took your first breath. When you’ve accomplished those things, you can change the world.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Ayin


kjxy tdki
Akedat Yitzchak
(The Binding of Isaac)


     Then Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “Father . . .” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the offering?” And Abraham said, “God will seek out for Himself the lamb for the offering, my son.’” And the two of them went together. They arrived at the place of which God had spoken to him; Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood; he bound Isaac, his son, and he placed him on the altar atop the wood.


Genesis 22:7–9

Most of the interpretations regarding the Binding of Isaac focus on the actions of Abraham, who had been previously tested nine times by God and who’s considered the hero of the story. Because he was able to pass this final test, willingly preparing himself to sacrifice his beloved son (who was born when he was 100 years old and his wife was 90, after many years of infertility and struggle), Abraham is considered the paradigm of faith, willing to give up everything he’d lived for in order to fulfill the word of God.

Of course, this is one of the most morally problematic stories of the Bible, and generations of philosophers have struggled with whether Abraham succeeded or failed as a person regarding his willingness to kill an innocent man who was also his son. But whether or not this was an act of pure faith or a mistake, in the end Isaac wasn’t destined to die, and God stopped Abraham from actually slaughtering his son seconds before the act was accomplished. The test was to evaluate Abraham’s devotion, to prove to the world that he was a man willing to do anything and everything for his God.

But what of Isaac? He was 37 years old when this happened, hardly an ignorant child. Why isn’t this considered to be a test of Isaac’s faith rather than his father’s? After all, being willing to sacrifice your own life is surely as significant as being willing to take the life of another.

Commentators say that when Abraham, Isaac, and their two servants set out on the morning of the Binding, only Abraham knew the true nature of their outing. But as they approached the mountain, Abraham saw a cloud signaling the presence of God, and soon Isaac did, too. The other two men didn’t see the cloud, so Abraham asked them to wait below with the donkey while father and son ascended to the spot where the sacrifice was to be made—understanding that he and Isaac were on a different spiritual level than the other two.

In the dialogue above, which takes place as they walk up the mountain, Isaac comes to realize what’s truly going to happen. He knows that the presence of the cloud implies a holy intention, and he knows that if he and his father were truly going to sacrifice a lamb, they’d need the animal in hand to do so. And as Abraham implies that God will provide the lamb, his son fully understands that he is the one who’s meant to die on the altar. Even so, Isaac continues walking with his father, and he allows himself to be bound.

As a 37-year-old man, he would have been easily able to run away or overpower his ederly father, yet Isaac complies with this situation completely, willingly helping his father fulfill their destiny. Just as Isaac possessed the ability to see the holy cloud of God, he was also able to see into the future, and he knew that his legacy would not end that day on the mountain.

Isaac was able to comply because he had as much faith (though of a different sort) as his father. This is why the Binding wasn’t as much of a “test” for Isaac as it was for his father. Abraham believed that he was going to have to kill his son, and the test was to see if he’d go ahead with it, despite his love for Isaac. But Isaac knew in the deepest parts of himself that this was only a test—he wasn’t destined to become a martyr.

The Hebrew word Ayin means “eye.” And the letter represents not just sight, but spiritual insight, the ability to “see” beyond the black-and-white details of the moment to the larger picture.

Later in his life, Isaac goes blind. Some say that the process began here, when the tears of his father and of the angels above fell into his own eyes—just before God stopped Abraham’s hand from bringing the knife to his son’s throat. Whatever the source of Isaac’s blindness, it’s significant that the forefather who’s connected most to sight literally cannot see by the later years of his life. In other words, Isaac teaches us that the most important things to recognize in life are the things we can only see inside.


The Ayin card comes to you in times of trial and questioning. We’re all tested in various ways each and every day, and we must find ways to pass those tests and trust our insight.

In order to become a kabalist, you must learn to develop and trust your sixth sense and to see the light even in the darkness. This is the light that Isaac notices when he lies bound on an altar, and it’s the same light he perceives when his eyes no longer function.

Trust what you see, both inside and out. Others may not be able to witness the cloud of glory or to understand the complexities of our daily trials, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Nun




     These are the generations of Noah—Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God.


Genesis 6:9

Ten generations existed between Adam and Eve and Noah—yet by the time his story begins to be told in the Bible, society hasn’t advanced very far. The world has quickly evolved into a sorry state of affairs, as people are known for stealing, cheating, and being violent and sexually immoral. But Noah was righteous, so when God decided that the entire world needed to be destroyed through an enormous flood and then re-created all over again, He saved only Noah and his family.

Much has been said about the qualification “in his generations.” Some say that it means Noah was the only truly good person in all ten generations of existence. Others say that it’s less positive: Noah may have been good compared to all of his neighbors, but put him in a different time and place, and he wouldn’t have been described in the same way. One interpretation makes the comparison of a silver coin amid a pot of copper coins: Compared to the copper coins, the silver shines, but put the silver next to a gold coin, and there’s no mistaking which one is more valuable.

Noah differs from other great figures in biblical history in that he doesn’t question or argue with God. When God comes to him and says that He intends to destroy the whole evil world but will save him and his family through the ark, Noah doesn’t ask why, nor does he try to change God’s mind or stop the destruction from happening. Instead, he takes down the exact measurements and instructions on how to build the ark and how many animals to take with him, and he prepares himself to do as he’s told.

In contrast, years later, Abraham will be told that the city of Sodom will be destroyed because of the immorality that existed there, and he’ll bargain with God, trying to at least save the few good people who lived among the bad. Noah’s silence here is just as controversial as his description of being righteous “in his generations.” On the one hand, he’s obedient and full of faith in the will of God; on the other, he doesn’t exert the human will and ability to negotiate, interpret, and speak for oneself with which he was endowed at birth, and this is a disappointment.

It’s always difficult to know when to be strong and silent and when to get up and fight for your case, especially when situations call for one and not the other. Whether or not Noah approached his circumstances “correctly” is not the issue—the important thing to know is that he “walked with God,” he lived his life with a sense of purpose, knowing that there was a higher force guiding his life. This was what separated him from the rest of his society, making him worthy of the ark and of being the father of the new generations, the new beginning for the world.

Once the flood abated and the world began to function again, God made a covenant with Noah. He sent a rainbow in the sky and promised to never destroy the world at such a total capacity ever again. In turn, he established what we now know as the Noahide Laws, the seven guidelines for moral behavior that came long before the Ten Commandments.

These laws (do not murder, do not commit idolatry, do not steal, do not commit incest, do not cut meat from a living animal, do not be blasphemous, and do not bear false witness in court) apply to all of humanity, regardless of age, race, or religion. The fact that our basic laws of moral behavior are named after Noah tells us something very important: Being righteous, even if there will be others in future generations who will far exceed our righteousness, is worthy of creating a whole new world.


The Nun card comes to teach us the Spiritual Theory of Relativity: Everything is relative. We see things one way, based on our life experiences, but others with their different experiences see the opposite point of view. Right and wrong are subjective categories that change all the time.

Although we cannot stand for injustice, and we must all strive to maintain the most basic principles of morality and fairness, we cannot entirely judge others according to our own standards.

Noah wasn’t perfect, we’re not perfect, and the world we live in isn’t perfect. This card asks that you accept yourself and then look for ways to improve your behavior. Accept the world, but don’t sit by and wait for it to fall apart when you can be active and help make it a better place.

A blind man can’t be expected to paint landscapes of a world he’s never seen, so know that you can only judge yourself according to your own abilities and circumstances.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Mem




     When the Pharaoh’s cavalry came with his chariots and horsemen into the sea and God turned back the waters of the sea upon them, the Children of Israel walked on the dry land amid the sea. Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took her drum in her hand, and all the women went forth with drums and with dances. Miriam spoke up to them, “Sing to God, for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea.”


Exodus 15:19–21

Miriam is one of the first female leaders in history, and specifically one of the first leaders of women. The scene described above takes place as the Jews are running out of Egypt to escape slavery, with Moses as their leader. When they come to the banks of the water and see the Pharaoh’s army gaining on them in the distance, Moses performs the miracle of splitting the sea, and they’re able to run on dry land. But when the last of the Jews has reached safety, the seas close back up, drowning the Pharaoh and all of his men and horses. When the people see this miraculous sight and realize that they’ve been saved yet again, they break out in song, and Miriam leads the women in their own unique celebration.

Miriam is called the “brother of Aaron” here to emphasize that even before their youngest brother, Moses, the epitome of prophecy, was born, Miriam herself had prophetic ability. In fact, some commentators say that it was Miriam who was responsible for Moses’ birth in the first place. We know that she was the one to watch over his wicker basket on the banks of the Nile when the Pharaoh’s daughter found him there, thus ensuring his safety—but did you know that without her there would have been no baby at all?

Miriam was six years old when her parents separated. The Pharaoh had decreed that all male babies born into Hebrew families would be thrown into the river to drown, whereas female babies could live. This was to ensure that the Pharaoh would remain a stronger dictator with less opposition.

Jochebed and Amram (along with many other couples) separated rather than take the risk of creating a child who would be condemned to a cruel death. Yet Miriam convinced her parents to remarry, arguing that the Pharaoh may have decreed against the boys, but by giving in to fear, Jochebed and Amram were in fact preventing even girls from being born. Furthermore, she’d seen into the future, and she knew before he was even conceived that Moses would be the savior of their people.

So it’s because of his big sister that Moses was born, that he didn’t drown in the river, and that he was adopted into the house of the Pharaoh, where he gained the leadership skills he’d need to become the leader of the Exodus.

Because of her unique gift of intuition from such an early age, Miriam was well loved among her people. And because she advocated that females take control of the situation, encouraging young wives to defy the Pharaoh’s decree and continue to build their families, she’s associated with the women’s movement in its earliest stages. Feminists today place a Cup for Miriam alongside Elijah’s at the Passover Seder table, symbolizing the many different kinds of salvation that exist for many different kinds of people.

The letter Mem is often associated with water (mayyim), and it’s no coincidence that as they traveled in the desert, the Jewish people were accompanied by a miraculous wandering well of water given to them in the merit of Miriam’s actions. When she died, the well dried up, signifying her crucial contribution to the sustenance of a desperate people.

Miriam represents the life force that drives us all. In the same way that we need water to live, we need to be able to rejoice in the miracles of life, singing and dancing when good things happen to us; but we also need to persevere in the difficult times, pressing on with life in the most dire of circumstances. These are the lessons that we, women and men alike, can learn from Miriam the Prophetess.


The Mem card represents leadership. As a small child, Miriam recognized her own definition of justice and stood up for her family’s rights, thus making the best of a bad situation and ultimately helping to resolve it. We all have an element of leadership within us, even as small children. The key is to recognize our potential and claim it.

Whether it’s leading people in song during a difficult time or providing the equivalent of much-needed water in the desert, there’s always a way to take charge and help improve the lives of others. Use this card to meditate on the ways in which you could better realize your leadership potential in any aspect of your life.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Lamed




    Laban had two daughters. The name of the older one was Leah and the name of the younger one was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were tender, while Rachel was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance . . .


Genesis 29:16-17

When Jacob first saw Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, he instantly fell in love with her. So much so, in fact, that he agreed to work for Laban for seven years in order to marry her. As the story goes, Jacob was so taken with Rachel that those years went by as if they were minutes.

But on their wedding night, Leah, the older daughter, is sent to the wedding canopy in Rachel’s place. In the morning, Jacob realizes that he’s wed the wrong sister and confronts Laban. But what was done was done, so Jacob agrees to work another seven years in order to marry his true love. For the rest of their lives, the two sisters vie for Jacob’s attention, raising a family that reflects their rivalry, despite the ultimate good that comes of it.

Deception is a big factor in this story: Not only does Laban trick Jacob, but Rachel also tricks him by giving her sister the secret signals that she and Jacob had made up in advance of the wedding so Leah wouldn’t be embarrassed. And Leah also agrees to go through with the deception.

Commentators say that when Jacob woke up in the morning, he first confronted Leah, asking how she could have lied and pretended to be her sister. Leah responded that she’d acted much like her new husband, who once lied to his own father and pretended to be his evil twin brother, Esau, in order to get the blessing of the firstborn. With that reality as the basis for their marriage, it’s no wonder that this love triangle is one of the most famous in history!

Leah is described as having had “tender” eyes—in other words, she’s the less attractive of the sisters. While some biblical scholars say this description indicates that she was cross-eyed, others note that her eyes were damaged from excessive weeping, to the point where her vision was impaired.

Why was Leah crying so much, even before she met and married Jacob and entered her less-than-perfect relationship? According to kabalistic sources, Leah was predestined to marry Esau, and Rachel to marry Jacob; the two couples were then meant to produce 12 sons, each of whom would become the head of a tribe that would together comprise the Jewish nation. Leah, who knew that Esau was a man of the field who wouldn’t follow his destiny, cried constantly over the fact that she wouldn’t be able to fulfill her part in the history of her people as a result.

When Jacob meets Rachel, he’s instantly smitten, not only because she’s so beautiful, but because their match was “meant to be.” When he marries Leah, he must work very hard to come to terms with the lies he’s told in his life and the way they’ve all reconfigured the neat, orderly family saga as it was intended.

Leah is the one who best understands this situation, and although she’ll suffer as the wife who’s known to all as “second choice,” she’s comforted by being able to fulfill her destiny after all. By marrying Jacob and having six sons with him, she manages to become a matriarch after all.

Leah is the consummate example of a woman of valor—someone who suffers for her ideals, yet is unwavering in her faith and devotion. Throughout her long life with Jacob, the two develop a bond that in the end is stronger and more enduring than the bond that exists between him and Rachel. Because they had to conquer their anger at one another, and because her love for him was unreturned for so long (despite the family they were building together), Leah and Jacob represent a mature, adult relationship that deepens and blossoms with time. In the end, it is Leah who is buried next to Jacob when she dies, and it is Leah’s children who will fulfill the more substantial roles in history as the heads of the Messianic line and the Priestly class.


The Lamed is the tallest letter of the alephbet, stretching far into the upper realms. It is the letter that spells the word “lamed”, meaning “learn” or “teach.” Therefore, the Lamed represents a higher, spiritual form of knowledge.

The Kabala says that Leah represents the upper world of the Shekina (God’s feminine form) revealed, whereas Rachel represents the lower world of the Shekina in exile. With this in mind, we can see another interpretation of Leah’s “tender eyes”: If eyes are the window into the soul, then Leah’s soul is one that recognizes her own suffering. She’s seen her path in life and taken control of it, changing the circumstances of her life in order to put things into place. Leah is clearly in charge of her own destiny—she’s the one who reveals it.

The Lamed card comes to reflect the inner knowledge of Leah. Accept yourself and realize that any shortcomings you may think you have are, in essence, your strongest attributes. When you come to truly understand and accept your destiny, you’ll find ways to make it happen.

Reach up and look deep into the windows of your own soul—there you’ll find the tools you need to make your dreams a reality.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Kaph



    “But My servant Caleb, because a different spirit was with him and he followed Me wholeheartedly, I shall bring him to the Land to which he came, and his offspring shall possess it.”

Numbers 14:24

After the great Exodus from Egypt, Moses led the Hebrew people to the Promised Land. But as they neared the border, the people became frightened and anxious. To ease their fears, Moses sent a delegation of spies, one from each tribe, to scout out the land and bring back a report to reassure the former slaves. The spies spent 40 days in the Land and came back with a difficult report: It was indeed full of milk and honey, but it was also filled with enemies of gigantic proportions—“We were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes!” they say (Num. 13:33).

When the people hear this report so soon after leaving Egypt, they’re devastated. They can’t understand why they must suffer so much, and wonder if they should go back to Egypt rather than face a future of war with an insurmountable enemy. But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, have a different perspective.

Caleb assures the people that they can conquer the enemies and the land; in fact, he tells them that the land is “very, very good,” and that because they have God on their side, they have nothing to worry about. But the people don’t listen to him.

When God hears of this event, He is enraged. After everything He’s done to free the people from slavery and bring them to their own land, they still have little faith in their ability to move forward. So He decrees that except for Caleb and Joshua, who have seen things as they really are, no one from the original generation that escaped from Egypt will be allowed to enter the Promised Land. Instead, this will be the beginning of 40 years of wandering in the desert, one year for every day the spies spent in the Land, and only when those 40 years pass and the first generation dies out will the younger generation be allowed to enter it.

What makes Caleb say “We can surely do it!” (Num. 13:30) when everyone else is clearly giving up hope? What distinguishes him and Joshua from the other spies and the rest of the people?

The spies say that “we were like grasshoppers in our eyes” when they describe the giants living in the land and the way they looked in comparison. That is to say, they perceived hemselves as grasshoppers, insignificant and weak when compared to the inhabitants of the land. But that doesn’t mean that they were so much smaller—it means that they’d lost their confidence, that they imagined themselves to be inferior, and that they saw the challenges ahead as impossible to overcome.

This happened because for years and years these people had suffered as slaves in Egypt, and they still felt like slaves: weak, small, and frightened by the big, strong taskmaster. The spies were, in a way, projecting their slave mentality onto the report they gave, and because the people were immersed in the same mentality, they believed it.

Caleb, on the other hand, had already gone beyond this mentality and was ready to accept the new realities of freedom and independence. Unfortunately, it would take 40 years of emotional work and psychological healing for the rest of the people to catch up with him.


Caph is considered to be a letter of actualization. Like the crown (Keter) that symbolizes ultimate human power (koach), the Caph represents an understanding of human potential and the realization of that potential.

Caph is also the first letter of the word kavana, an important term in Kabala. Kavana means “intention,” or the energy with which you try to accomplish things. The outcome of your efforts is entirely bound up with your intention. Caleb had good intentions, and he tried to make others see what he saw. For that pure intent, he was rewarded with being able to enter into the Promised Land while everyone else was not.

Just as Caleb was able to see a different reality, and express his confidence in that reality, this card points to the fact that you should strive to look at things from a wider perspective, and not be hampered by your past.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Teth (“tet”)






    And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning the sixth day.

Genesis 1:31

    At the end of the initial days of the creation, God looks at what He made and “saw that it was good” every time. But on the last day, after He has created humankind, and the world is in its final form, ready to function on its own, He declares it “very good.” Many commentators point to the fact that although the world would still be a “good” place without human beings, with them, the world can fulfill its ultimate potential. Once humankind was created, the world became a “very good” place, in which anything could happen.

    We don’t often appreciate the world we live in and the mundane realities of our lives. Air to breathe, food to eat, soil to walk on, and sunlight to give us energy are all taken for granted. More important, not only do we take for granted the natural world around us and the daily miracles of life on Earth, but we get so caught up in our warped perception of things that the planet can often seem like a place filled with negative energy.

    Take one look at a baby, and you’ll remember what an amazing place our world is. The infant sees everything as new and wonderful, filled with bursting colors, sounds, and smells—it notices things we can barely perceive. This is the way the world must have looked to God on the sixth day of creation. By affirming its essential goodness, He encourages us to see the world afresh every day, rather than to take it for granted.

    The Tet is the ninth letter of the alphabet, and its character is drawn as a nearly closed structure with a protected inner part. This represents the nine months of pregnancy, the state of being expectant and filled with excitement, wonder, and awareness about the miraculous happenings of nature. It also symbolizes actualization, the coming to fruition of the process of conception: birth, a new life, and the creation of a whole new world, a personal universe.

    Tov, goodness, is our natural state of being. As infants we’re inherently good, linked only to nature. It’s only when we grow up and distance ourselves from our inborn goodness that we forget to appreciate the little miracles of everyday life.

    This declaration from the beginning of time teaches us to be thankful for the world we live in right now, rather than waiting until we’re old and fragile and looking back on our lives. We should strive to look at the world as if it’s being created anew every day.


    The Tet card brings you to a state of appreciation for what you have in this world.

    Do you only see what you don’t have, such as the things you want to possess and the status you want to achieve? Or do you know that your life and your surrounding are tov me’od, very good?

    Creation is not something that happened just once, at the beginning of time. Every breath is a new creation, every second is the start of a new existence. Losing sight of that is losing out on the good in our lives. So this card asks that you see the world through the eyes of a baby, and appreciate goodness.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Heh





(“Here I Am”)

    Moses was shepherding the sheep of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; he guided the sheep far into the wilderness, and he arrived at the Mountain of God, toward Horeb. An angel of God appeared to him in a blaze of fire amid the bush. He saw, and behold! The bush was burning in the fire but the bush was not consumed. Moses thought, “I will turn aside now and look at this great sight—why will the bush be not burned?” God saw that he had turned aside to see; and God called out to him from amid the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” and he replied, “Here I am!”

Exodus 3:1–4

    The episode of the burning bush signifies the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt simply because it is the event that makes Moses into a prophet, completing his personal transition. Moses went from being an orphaned infant (when his mother put him in a basket in the Nile river to save him from Pharaoh’s evil decree against all male Hebrew babies), to a prince (having been adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in the palace), to a shepherd (when he becomes aware of his true identity and runs away from Egypt, joining Jethro in Midian and marrying his daughter), to finally becoming the great leader we know—the liberator—at this moment in the wilderness.

    Just as he had to go through many transitions and changes in his life before he was ready to fulfill his destiny of freeing the Jewish people from slavery, Moses’ prophecy itself has several stages: (1) He goes out into the wilderness; (2) he sees an angel; (3) he notices that the bush is on fire but is not consumed, and (4) only then does the voice of God make itself heard. And when God speaks to Moses, He has to say his name twice, so that Moses will be sure that what he’s hearing is real, and not just a figment of his imagination.

    After all of these stages of increasing awareness, Moses replies, simply, “Hinneni” (“Here I am”), the same word used by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in their times of prophecy.

    The direct reply may seem startling—after all, God obviously knows that Moses is “there” or He would not have revealed Himself. But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense: Moses needed to make sure that this was real— he needed to look in the direction of the bush; clarify what was happening; hear his name being called; and affirm that, yes, he was ready to receive the message that would now be sent to him, and would accomplish the task that would soon be set out before him. His whole life has been a slow building-up to this point: where he could acknowledge his own powers and answer God directly, entering into a dialogue with Him that would not only change the course of history, but change the prophet’s own life completely.

    Bible commentators point out that the spot on which the burning bush appeared to Moses was actually the same spot on which the Torah would be given many years later—Mt. Sinai. The fact that Moses’ first awakening to his role as a prophet and his most important task in that role happened on the same spot is not accidental. Just as Moses needed to acknowledge his place in this epic story, so will every single one of his followers need to acknowledge themselves at the giving of the Torah and the Revelation that comes along with it.

    The letter Heh corresponds to the number five, which is also the number of physical senses we’re given at birth: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. But there’s a sixth sense, too: the one we associate with spirituality, which can only be accomplished on our own, through our own journeys to new levels of awareness and emotional depth. This is the sixth sense that Moses acknowledges at the burning bush, and it is that sense that will help him through all the trials and tribulations of leading a people out of slavery and into freedom.

    In order to reach that sixth sense, we learn from the word Hinneni, we must first master the original five senses, getting to know ourselves in our literal, physical states and eventually learning how to get beyond that limited world to the miraculous world that lies above and beyond.


    The Heh card comes to you at moments of transition and significant personal growth. You may be moving from one phase of your life into another, reaching a certain landmark age or accomplishment, or simply be in the process of maturation and deepening. You’ve gone as far as you can go according to your limited physical understanding of one phase, and you’re on the brink of developing your own sixth sense.

    Take the time to understand where you’ve been and how your whole life has brought you to this point in time and place in the world. Nothing is accidental—after all, the same mountain on which Moses sees the burning bush is the same place where Abraham bound Isaac and where the Torah was given. So don’t take even the slightest details for granted.

    Know that by answering the call, by being present in the moment of transition and being able to say “Hinneni”, you’re accomplishing more than you ever have before.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Daleth (“dalet “)





(To Cleave)

    And God said, “It is not good that man be alone; I will make him a helper corresponding to him”. . . So God cast a deep sleep upon the man and he slept; and he took one of his sides and He filled in flesh in its place. Then God fashioned the side that He had taken from the man into a woman, and He brought her to the man, and the man said, “This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This shall be called Woman, for from man was she taken.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:18, 21–24

    Adam, the first man, was given the task of naming all the plants and animals of the earth. In the process, he realized that every animal had a mating partner, yet he was alone in the world. None of the animals seemed to make a match for him, and none of them had the powers of reason or language with which he’d been blessed.

    Eventually, Adam became saddened by this fact, so God created Woman. At first, Adam was so taken aback by this creature, a human being literally made from a part of him and obviously meant to be his partner in life, that he couldn’t find the right name for her. Instead, he used the term this to describe his new helper!

    The Woman represented a new reality for Adam. Although he possessed the ability to name the animals almost immediately and instinctively, when faced with another human being he became somewhat speechless. The Woman, in other words, presented the challenge for Adam of being faced with an equal partner.

    In fact, the phrase ezer kenegdo (translated here as “a helper corresponding to him”) literally means “a helper in opposition to him.” This isn’t meant to be taken negatively; rather, when two people who are really meant to be together are united, they help each other by challenging one another—by rendering the other speechless in a way—so that they learn a new way of relating to the world, and thereby come into themselves as fully aware adults.

    Soon, the Woman we later know as Eve (Chava in Hebrew) will eat from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the couple will be banished from the Garden of Eden as a result, setting in motion the long history of mankind—one that’s filled with strife and pain as well as pleasure. But here, in these first moments of her creation, Adam realizes that their union is something that will never happen in the same way again. Men and women will mate, but they will never again be created from the same flesh and bones, and Adam recognizes this very clearly.

    The Hebrew verb LeDavek means “to cleave,” to hold onto something tightly. Just as two people literally become one in the sexual act, they also become one emotionally and spiritually when they unite as life partners and decide to create a new family unit together. To do this with a full heart, they have to leave behind their first home, their primary connections to their parents and siblings, and put this new person before all of them. This sort of tight bond needs to be taken very seriously and done with incredible intent—in other words, in order to form a real and lasting marriage, you have to cleave to one another unlike you have to anyone else before.

    The letter Dalet, however, is not one of closing off but rather openness. Notice its shape: a vertical line and short horizontal line at the top. The character is shaped with two open sides, illustrating the sort of wide-open willingness you need to possess in order to find that partner to whom you’ll want to cleave.

    The first union is like the ultimate yin/ yang dichotomy: Adam and Eve are made of the same materials, yet they’re opposites. They complete one another and form a whole new unit from which the rest of the world will be born, yet they are, from the very beginning, extremely different people with different approaches to life. Although they didn’t face the same challenges we do today (they only had one another to choose from, whereas we have thousands of potential mates from which to choose!), they’re still our first model of being open enough to one person to close ourselves off from the rest.


    The Dalet card represents paradox in relationship. Just as Eve was both the ultimate partner for Adam and the cause of his lifetime of suffering, our spiritual endeavors are both what bring us closer to our ultimate fulfillment and what keeps us up at night wondering what the meaning of life is.

    Deveikut, the act of cleaving, is not just used in terms of romantic relationships. Lovers cleave to one another, yes, but individuals also cleave to support networks, and souls cleave to a higher force that sustains them in darker times. And it’s often the person or idea with which we have the most difficult time that teaches us the greatest of lessons.

    Focus on the open side of the Dalet and allow yourself to be open to dependence. You’ll always be your unique self, although you may often fear losing that self by being absorbed into another person’s life. Just know that the relationships you enter, if you’re open to them sufficiently, have the power to create whole new worlds.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Gimmel





(The Stranger)

    When a stranger dwells among you in your land, do not taunt him. The stranger who dwells with you shall be like a native among you, and you shall love him like yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:33–34

    The Old Testament repeats the theme of “love thy neighbor” many times, reminding us of our own times as “strangers in a strange land” so that we’ll be more sensitive to others in repressed or minority status. Because of your own history of enslavement, whether literal or figurative, you should know how it feels to be out of your element, and make an effort to include and accept those peoples who are different from you but who dwell in your midst.

    Although the time the Jews spent in Egypt was one of oppression, slavery, and humiliation, there was also a sense of having settled there, for better or worse. In fact, when Moses led the Jews out of Egypt and began the journey toward the Promised Land and liberation, half of the former slaves chose to stay behind, because to them, a familiar reality, even a horrible one, seemed better than the unknown. Even those who left with Moses at one point panicked in the face of the difficult journey and wondered if maybe they would have been better off back in Egypt, where at least they knew their routines.

    In a way, this desire to return to slavery makes sense—after so many years of living in one harsh reality, it’s an enormous task to change one’s mind-set to that of a free people. This is why we must be kind to the stranger, to encourage him to adapt to his new environment rather than returning to a damaging past. And even if the stranger is just “passing through” and not necessarily joining our specific community, we should encourage him to get the most out of his journey while he’s on it.

    The word Ger is usually translated as “convert,” and the verb form, Lagor, means “to dwell.” In this passage, we see that a Ger is not only someone who has officially converted into a new society or religion, but also a stranger, a foreigner who lives among a new set of people and customs. We’ve all been Gers at one point or another: We’ve moved to a new city, left home to go off to college, been transferred for work, traveled in faraway countries, or simply changed the way we look at the world, so we’ve all become converts of sorts along the way.

    To some extent, this “strangeness,” the definition of a “stranger in a strange land” is essential to Kabala. It may seem odd that this phrase is used in a positive way in traditional texts. But when you look at it from a kabalistic angle, it makes perfect sense: Sometimes you need to lose yourself in order to find yourself, sometimes you need chaos in order to show you the path to order and enlightenment, and sometimes you need to take the road less traveled in order to find the right path for you.


    The Gimmel comes to you when you’re suffering from improper judgment. You’re either feeling judged or are judging others unfairly, whether you realize it or not. You may feel like an outsider at work, in social gatherings, or spiritually. Conversely, you may feel too much like an insider, so much so that you don’t accept anyone outside of your immediate circle.

    The challenge is one of identity: We all have to strike a fine balance between knowing who we are and where we’ve come from, and accepting the Other in our lives as equally valid. This is certainly not an easy task. Knowing oneself is hard enough; accepting the Other is sometimes nearly impossible.

    Open yourself to new and different experiences: Hear the stories of the people you encounter on your life’s journey and appreciate where they’ve been, and share your own stories of exile and redemption. Only by opening to others and accepting them will you enlarge your worldview and be totally at peace with your own life.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Beth (“Bet”)



lbb ldgm

Migdal Bavel

(Tower of Babel)

    The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose. And it came to pass, when they migrated from the east they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them in fire.” And the brick served them as stone, and the lime served them as mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed across the whole earth.”

Genesis 11:1–9

    As children, we’re taught that the “Tower of Babel” story is a fable used to explain why we humans speak so many different languages and why we live in so many different corners of the world. We’re not often told the more sophisticated truth, which is that after the people built their famous tower (imagining that they could reach the heavens and from there rage against God), they were punished with the very thing they sought to avoid: dispersion throughout the world, as well as different languages.

    This dispersion is considered a punishment, for now the people who once were of “common purpose” are many different peoples, filled with differences and conflicts—a state of affairs that will lead to unrest beyond anything they’d imagined.

    The people of this early generation (the one following the first destruction of the world through the great flood, which we read about in the story of Noah) sought to use their unity of purpose against God instead of finding ways to use that gift for the good. They didn’t appreciate the gift of Oneness they’d been given, so they were punished with the very opposite state of affairs: They’d now face the challenge of having to learn to understand one another linguistically, culturally, and even geographically before they could accomplish anything as a group. They were reduced to a tower of babble—no one could understand a word anyone else said— and confusion (the Hebrew word mebubal means “confused”).

    Today, we know no other reality than one of diversity and cultural dissonance. But at the beginning of time, we were One. This Oneness, which is also a sign of closeness to God, was not able to withstand even a relatively short period of human history. The rest of time would be a gradual coming together again, a journey of Tikkun Olam (Healing the World) that would take thousands of years to achieve.

    In our 21st-century world, we’re just beginning to experience the spiritual repair, the Tikkun, for the Tower of Babel. Today we’re a global society; we understand each other’s languages; and we deal with one another on political, economic, and social levels all the time. The world is still in disrepair, but it’s getting a little better every day.

    The letter Bet, which corresponds to the number two, is also the first letter of the Torah. This is to teach us that nothing is ever as apparent as we’d like it to be. Starting the Torah with Bet instead of Aleph suggests that it’s important to always look at two sides of every picture—and never take anything for granted. We must see things from both the spiritual and material angles, from the black and white perspectives, and from as many points of view as possible.

    This is the lesson of Babel: To think that we as a human population can band together to change the forces of nature or to rebel against higher forces over which we have no control is the ultimate hubris. For this mistake, we needed to be separated and given different languages and spaces, to be spread about in such an extreme way that we long for the way things used to be, and to try to repair that damage so that we can one day become united for good.


    The Bet card comes to you in times of conflict. You’re seeing things in one way when you need to be looking at the situation from any number of alternate angles. Consider the question at hand from different perspectives, putting yourself in the opposite position and thinking about the various ways in which you can be proactive instead of merely reactive.

    Meditate on the story of the Tower of Babel. Imagine the heat of anger that prompted those people to build a mammoth tower.

Now breathe . . . and imagine how the world might have been had we not assumed that our strength and power could literally climb into the heavens and change the force of nature.

Nothing is as simple as we first assume; instead, life is a complicated web of perspectives and priorities. You can only find peace when you see things from many angles and then come to understand your own heart more truly.

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Aleph






    And God said to Abram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.”

Genesis 12:1–2

    With these words begins the long journey of Abraham, the father of monotheism and the first Jew, through arduous deserts and foreign lands toward the discovery of a new faith and a new way of relating to God.

    Much has been said about why Abraham, of all people, was chosen for this task. The answer lies here: Beyond everything he later experiences, Abraham is first and foremost willing to take on this initial adventure, to leave behind all that is familiar to him—his country, his family, and his home—and begin again.

    You’ll notice that in this passage, Abraham’s name is spelled “Abram.” That’s because this story takes place before he’s truly proven himself, when he’s still in his original state of mind. Abram must go through a series of trials and tribulations before God endows him with the holy letter Heh, signifying his close connection to the Divine. Abram’s wife, Sarai, will also be renamed along the way, becoming Sarah, the first of the four matriarchs.

    The Hebrew term Lech Lecha, which are the opening words of the passage, literally means “you go.” In this instance, however, it’s used in the figurative sense—Abram is instructed not just to get up and go, but to “go for yourself” or “go toward yourself.”

    In other words, this passage reflects something much deeper than a physical movement into the unknown. The real journey is an inner one: Abram must leave behind his comfortable way of life, which is full of assumptions, and look deeper into his heart to discover what lies beneath. He must disrupt his routine in order to find something much greater—that is, the deeper truths of life.

    In kabalistic terms, this is the real greatness of the patriarch. He is the first to illuminate the path of self-discovery and “find himself.” It’s an active journey, one filled with many life-threatening risks and tests along the way, but it’s perhaps the most rewarding of all. It’s the journey that results in a new name, and a whole new life.




    The appearance of the Aleph card may be a sign that you’re unsure as to where your life is headed and that you want to know which direction to take. The Aleph, the first letter of the alphabet, comes at the start of a new adventure or at the end of an old cycle.

    Focus on the energy of Abraham in order to begin again, as if from scratch. Envision leaving everything behind and walking day by day into new spiritual and emotional territory. You know not what lies ahead, nor which direction is correct, but the journey is yours for the taking.

    Know that changing your life, and the lives of generations to come, begins with the very first step you take with faith in yourself and inner resolve.

The Laughing Gnostic — David Bowie and the Occult

What is art? What is rock music? It’s difficult to describe its codes, gestures, aestethics and its perception for the most part it is something that must be experienced, and only as an expression of culture — it being in a constant movement of restlessness and mirroring all graspable parts of society. How can the feverish emptiness of endlessly repeated ecstasy be transformed into something that can be felt and understood, something heard and seen and be purchased? After all, music is not only qualified through the consciousness of its creator but also through the states of mind created by its perceptors.  […]

Read more here:

Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Tav (or Tau)


vhbv vht
Tohu U’Vohu
(Vast Nothingness)*


    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a vast nothingness, with darkness upon the surface of the deep, and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.


Genesis 1:1-3


    *The words Tohu U’Vohu have no clear literal English translation. The phrase has been rendered as “astonishingly empty,” “unformed and void,” “formless and empty,” and “horrendous emptiness,” among others. “Vast nothingness” is our original translation.


    Have you ever wondered what the world was like before there was a world? How did the trees get here, or the mountains, or the sea? In every religion, there are myths and stories to explain the creation of the world, and in science there is the theory of evolution as well, but no one can ever know for sure how we came into existence.


    In this passage, the explanation is as follows: In the beginning of time there was simply nothing at all. There was a void, a black hole, stillness . . . and then God decided to start something new—to create a world and populate it, and to see what we might do with it.


    In Kabala, this nothingness is called Ein Sof(“Without End”) and is considered to be another name for God. According to the Zohar, in the beginning there was only God—and still today there is only God because we’re all made up of tiny fragments of His being, even though we have our own form. Kabalists believe that the state of nothingness, of primordial chaos, is a state that lasts throughout eternity. When we die our bodies become, in a sense, the same nothingness—we disintegrate and become formless and empty, just like the Tohu U’Vohuthat existed before there was a world in which our souls could be clothed in bodies. And so we go through an endless cycle of “nothingness” and “being” from life to life, throughout eternity.


    If there is one thing we learn from the Torah, it is that there are no clear beginnings or endings to any story. Historical accounts reverberate in the present day, and single letters can change the way a whole book is read. Even in the first lines of Genesis we see that the mystery is profound and eternal. Notice that in Verse 2, there is a mention of water, but water was only created on the second day. Or was it? We don’t know. This is to teach us to question assumptions and take nothing for granted.


    Chaos will become order because that is the natural tendency of the world, just as the vast nothingness turned into an enormous universe filled with amazing creations. But in order to make sense of the senseless, to make order out of chaos, we have to put our energy into understanding it all, questioning and rethinking all of our assumption.


    The Tav is the last letter of the aleph-bet and the first letter of the word Torah. Torah is the beginning of knowledge, the first explanation for life and human action, the first family and national saga. The end, therefore, is nothing but a beginning. We know by now that this is true: The end of nothingness is existence, and the end of existence is nothingness—and the completion of every stage in life leads us to the next stage. Global creation and the creation of ourselves are both eternal processes.


    The Tav comes to balance the Aleph. Although it also comes at the beginning of a new stage or the end of an old one, the Tav asks us to consider the uncertainty at hand rather than the solution or action to be taken. Chaos and order are part of the same process, and each are necessary to the other.


    This card encourages you to meditate on the vast nothingness, the emptiness of a world before there is night and day, light and darkness, earth and sea. Remember, we’re all part of this mystical state of mind, so let go of your assumptions and your earthly perspective. Allow yourself to experience the chaos of transition before you turn your energy toward the next stage of your life. The end is only the beginning.