Monday, January 12, 2015

The Hebrew Alphabet per Character

A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Heb...
A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Hebrew Bible, is a scroll of parchment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ten Commandments, In SVG
The Ten Commandments, In SVG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
א   Aleph   1 (Post Biblical Numerical Value)
The root אלף ('alap) means to learn or teach, not in a very good way (Proverbs 22:25, Job 15:5, 33:33, 35:11).The identical word אלף ('alep) means to produce thousands (Psalm 144:13 only).  Derivation אלף means oxen (the connection lies perhaps in guidance or to team up). Some say this looks like the head of an ox.
ב Beth  2
The word בית (bayit) means house in the sense of a building, but also household; wife and children. This word also serves to mean House Of The Lord, or Temple. As preposition the letter means 'in'. As such it is the first letter of the Bible. The first word of the Bible comes from the name of the 20th letter: rosh.
  ג  Gimmel  3
The verb גמל (gamal) means to deal, or recompense in the sense of benefitting from. Derivation גמל (gamal) means camel. It is said that the letter reminds of a camel's neck.
ד  Daleth  4
From root דלה (dala), draw (water). The word דלת (delet) specifically denotes a swinging door of a building. Since doors most commonly opened inward, this 'thing-you-draw' is named after a going out of a house, or letting someone else in.
Other derivations are: דל (dal), door; דלה (dala), door; דלי (dali), bucket; דליות (daliyot), branch, bough.
Because a door in Bible times hinged in the upper corner, it is said that the letter daleth reminds of that.
ה    He  5
The spelling and thus the meaning of this word is uncertain. Klein spells הא (he), meaning lo! behold! Fuerst holds to הי, and thinks it's a part of the name for heth; letter 8.  As prefix this letter serves as the definite particle, the, which is used far less than our word the, and specifically when an emphasis or reference to a previous statement is made.
ו      Waw  6
The word וו (waw) means hook or peg, and is strictly reserved for the hooks/ pegs that kept the curtains of the tabernacle in place. It is said that the shape of the letter waw reminds of a hook or peg.
ז        Zayin  7
Meaning debated. The word זין does not occur in Scriptures. Klein suggests that the form of the zayin represents a hand weapon, and explains that zyn means arm, ornament, to arm, to adorn (no references to Scriptures). Fuerst goes after the assumed root זוז (zwz) of the verb זיז (ziz), moving things (like animals) and מזוזה (mezuza), doorpost. The identical root זוז (zwz) yields זיז (ziz), meaning abundance, fullness.
Another word of interest is זון (zun), to feed.
ח      Heth   8
Meaning again unknown. According to Fuerst it means fence in, destroy. Fuerst also thinks it has to do with a fence, but it could equally possible be the symbol of stacking stones.
ט       Teth   9
Klein derives from טות (twh), spin, and renders teth to knot, knot together, to twist into each other, to interweave. The letter teth indeed looks like a little vortex or spiral.
י        Yod   10
One of two regular words for hand (the other being the 11th letter). יד (yad) denotes the hand, typically not as outstretched, but rather as holding something or being a fist. The word is synonymous with power or might; to fall in one's hands. It's typical that the alphabet's smallest letter came to mean power, but perhaps it's shape reminded of a little fist.
 ךכ   Kaph  20, 500
One of two regular words for hand (the other being the 10th letter). כף (kap) denotes the hand as outstretched, asking and weak. The word basically encompasses anything that is hollow or outstretched in order to receive something: dish, plate,etc.
The letter kap is written ך when it occurs at the end of a word, and כ when it occurs at the beginning or half-way a word.
ל       Lamed  30,
The verb למד (lamad) means learn or teach. Derivative תלמיד (talmid) means scholar (hence Talmud), and derivative מלמד means ox goad. The letter lamed is said to look like such a device, and when Jesus says to Saul, "it is hard for you to kick against the goads" (Acts 26:14) He may hint at Saul's learning rather than coercion.
ם מ   Mem 40, 600
מים (mayim) means waters in the sense of a larger body (sea, ocean). It is suggested that the letter mem looks like a wave.
The letter mem is written ם when it occurs at the end of a word, and מ when it occurs at the beginning or half-way a word.
V11p133004 Torah
V11p133004 Torah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
ןנ       Nun  50, 700

The verb נון means propagate, increase. Derivative נין means offspring, posterity. The letter is often said to mean and resemble a fish, but the word nun is not used as such in the Bible. In stead, the word for fish comes from another verb which means multiply, increase: דגה (daga).
The letter nun is written ן when it occurs at the end of a word, and נ when it occurs at the beginning or half-way a word.
ס      Samech  60
The verb סמך (samak) means lean upon, support, uphold. It is the verb that is used in the phrase "laying on of hands."
ע      Ayin  70
The word עין (ayin) means eye in all regular senses, but also as means of expression (knowledge, character, etc). The word עין (ayin) means spring or fountain. The eye is one of four bodily "fountains," the other three being mouth, skin and urethra (and only the mouth is not supposed to produce water outwardly). Transpiration releases the body of excessive heat; urine evaluates toxins, and the eye produces water commonly when grief or pain is processed. All have to do with cleansing or purification.
פף     Pe  80 ,800
The word פה (peh) means mouth, but is often synonymous with speech. With a little good will one may recognize a face with a mouth in the shape of this letter. The letter peh is written ף when it occurs at the end of a word, and ף when it occurs at the beginning or half-way a word.
ץצ  Tsadhe Tsadiq  90 , 900
Klein derives from the verb צוד (sud), to hunt, and states that צדי means fish hook (no Biblical occurrence). Another name for this letter is צדיק (saddiq), just, righteous. The letter tsadhe is written ץ when it occurs at the end of a word, and צ when it occurs at the beginning or half-way a word.
ק     Qoph  - 100
This word occurs in Scriptures only as תקופה (tequpa), meaning a coming around, or circuit of space or time. Klein reports that the root verb קוף (qwp) covers a circular motion and that it also serves to denote the ear of an axe or needle, or the back of the head. BDB relates it to נקף (naqap), go around, compass. An amusing other use of this name is as קוף (qop), meaning ape (1 Kings 10:22); probably a loan word.
ר     Resh  - 200
The very common word ראשׁ (rosh) basically means head, but is used to indicate whatever leads or comes first: captain, summit, cap stone. Preceded by the particle beth and in the form ראשׁית (reshit), first, beginning, best, it is the first word of the Bible: בראשׁית Breshit, meaning In the beginning.
The word ראשׁ is also used to indicate a certain plant (called head) that yields poison: (rosh), gall, venom. HAW and BDB note that this usage is always figurative: Deuteronomy 32:32, Psalm 69:21.
A third usage of this word is ראשׁ (resh), poverty, from the root רושׁ (rush), be poor.
שׂ  Sin  שׁ  Shin - 300
As derivation from the verb שׁנן (shanan), sharpen, the word שׁן (shen) means tooth or ivory. Both the verb and the noun are used primarily in a literal sense: sharpening of swords and arrows, but sometimes figuratively: the sharpening of one's tongue (saying sharp, mean words) or the sharpening of one's mind (Deuteronomy 6:7). The noun is famous for its part in the lex talionis, the law of retaliation; a soul or a soul, an eye for an eye (16th letter), a tooth for a tooth (21st letter), a hand for a hand (10th letter), a foot for a foot, a branding for a branding, a stripe for a stripe (Exodus 21:24). The letter thanks its name perhaps to its looking like a row of teeth.
ת Taw  - 400
תו (taw) means mark, and its verb תוה (tawa), scribble, limit, is probably derived from the noun. HAW suggests that the more ancient form of this letter looked like an X, a shape which lends itself easily as a general mark. The word תאוה (ta'awa) means boundary (that which is marked). The verb תוה (tawa) is used only once in the meaning of pain or wound (Psalm 78:41).
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