The Hebrew Letters: Lamed

Aspiration – Contemplation of the Heart

In The “Letters of Rabbi Akiva,” the full spelling of the letter lamed (lamed-mem-dalet) is read as short for the phrase: “a heart that understands knowledge” (lev meivin da’at). The numerical value of this phrase (608) equals “heart” (32) times “Eve” (19), i.e. “the heart of Eve.”

In his commentary on the story of the Garden of Eden, the original episode of mankind, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra states that Adam is the secret of the brain; Eve, the secret of the heart; the snake, the secret of the liver. In Kabbalah andChassidut these fundamental correspondences are developed and explained in depth.

Adam and Eve, male and female, are the prototype spiritual forces of giving and receiving. The marital union and gift of male to female relates to the secret of knowledge, as is said: “And Adam knew his wife Eve.” For this reason Adam and Eve are often seen to represent teacher and pupil. The teacher contracts his intellect into a point (yud) in order to convey his teaching to his student, whereas the student nullifies his previous levels of conception to become a fitting vessel for the new, wondrous teachings of his teacher.

In particular, the form of the lamed represents the aspiration of the truly devoted pupil to learn from the mouth of the teacher. The literal meaning of the letter lamed is “to learn” (or “teach”). The seed of wisdom, alluded to by the letteryud, descends from the brain (Adam) to impregnate the full consciousness of the heart (Eve). The heart aspires (upwardly) to receive this point of insight from the brain. This is the secret of the form of the letter lamed, the heart ascending in aspiration to conceive and comprehend (“understand knowledge”) the point of wisdom, the yud situated at the top of the letter lamed.

Our Sages refer to the lamed as “a tower soaring in air.” Three hundred laws relate to the secret of this “flying tower.” In our study of Torah, the “flying tower” is the expression of our love and devotion to the teachings of the Torah, our aspiration to conceive its inner truth, lifting us above the “gravity barrier” of earthly preoccupation. We are told that the Ba’al Shem Tov would place the palm of his hand on the heart of a Jewish child and bless him to be a “warm Jew.” The palm, the power to actualize potential, becomes manifest – at the inner spiritual level – in the “will [crown, keter] of the heart” to conceive and unite with God’s Will, the teachings of Torah. The lamed, the heart, aspires upwardly and connects to the yud of Divine insight. This is reflected in the form of the letter lamed, a kaf reaching upward to a yud. This is also the secret of the spiritual sequence hinted at in the letters of the word keli, “vessel” (kaf-lamed-yud): the power to actualize potential (the palm [kaf] of the Ba’al Shem Tov), manifest in the aspiration of the heart [lamed] reaching upward to conceive the secret of Divine wisdom [yud]. Throughout Torah the heart symbolizes the primary concept of vessel, the secret of Eve.


FORM

vav – whose head (yud) looks downward – on a kaf.
“A tower soaring in air.”
The only letter ascending above the line.

Worlds:

 

  • A three-stage rocket ship soaring into outer space.
  • Man’s aspiration to understand the universe.

Souls:

 

  • A heart of a wise man ascending to comprehend the wisdom of God.
  • Learning in order to teach, learning in order to do.

Divinity:

 

  • Divine inspiration; the higher Shechinah.
  • Prophetic imagination breaking through the limitations of rational intellect.

 


NAME

To learn; to teach.

Worlds:

 

  • The power to direct and control the animal instinct.
  • Learning secular skills; empirical knowledge.

Souls:

 

  • The yearning of the soul to learn Torah.
  • Rectification of the power of imagination.
  • Simultaneously learning in order to teach and learning in order to do.

Divinity:

 

  • Learning about the Essence of God.
  • Creating new heavens and earth.

 


NUMBER

Thirty

Worlds:

 

  • Thirty days of the month.
  • “Malchut” is acquired through thirty attributes.
  • Thirty-shekel value of an adult woman.
  • The menstrual cycle.

Souls:

 

  • The thirty tzadikim in whose merit the world stands.
  • Thirty generations from Abraham to the destruction of the First Temple.

Divinity:

 

  • Thirty levels of Kingship.
  • Thirty categories of tzadikim in the World to Come.

 

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