Warning: this article will neither teach you Judaism, nor the Hebrew Language. Instead, the purpose is to give you a brief overview of the Hebrew Alphabet.
According to the Jewish Holy Scriptures, God spoke to Moses in Hebrew. The Sefer Yetzirah says that the Letters of the Hebrew alphabet were used to create the Universe. Hebrew remains the sacred language of Judaism. Where do these Characters come from?
The actual Alef-Bet (so-called after the first two Letters) was borrowed by the Ancient Hebrews from their seafaring neighbors, the Phoenicians, who developed it to document business transactions. The Phoenician Alphabet is virtually the ancestor of all Western alphabets, including the Roman, used in English, the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russian and several other Slavic tongues, and of course the Greek alphabet.
The names for the Hebrew characters reference to parts of the body and objects of the daily life peculiar to the desert environment, the name of each of which began with the very sound the letter indicated. The Names of the Letters are each from a Word that began with the sound of the Letter. These Names, as well as the order of the Letters, are at least four thousand years old. They were certainly in use by the Time of King Solomon.
The Biblical account is quite different, of course. When God created the Universe using a language. When God spoke to man he used the same language. It is said that when God spoke to the first man, Adam, who Named the animals using the same language. Adam then taught it to his wife Eve and their children. His children then taught it to their children and down through the generations until the Tower of Babel, at which time God came down and confused their languages. Genesis, in the Legend of the Tower of Babel, states that before the Flood there was only one language, and that God spoke to the Angels, saying,
“Come, let us descend and confuse their language, so that one will not understand the language of his companion.”
Of course, the events relating to the Tower of Babel would have occurred around 3,000 B.CE, the same time that the Sumerian and Egyptian cultures arose. The Hebrews, Sumerians and Egyptians all used the same style of pictographic writing.
When the Jewish people returned from Babylonian Exile, led by Ezra the Scribe in about the fifth century B.C.E., the Square Script, a distinctive descendent from the Jewish Aramaic Script used in the re-established Israel, became the preferred Alef Bet.. It was eventually adopted officially for the writing of Torah scrolls, still used today. An older version survives in handwritten Hebrew. It is fascinating to this writer that Ezra, Lao Tze, Confucius, Pythagoras, and Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha all lived around the same Time.
There are Twenty-Two Letters in the Hebrew Alef Bet, all consonants. There are no Capital Letters; however, the Five Letters Kaf, Mim, Nun, Peh, and Tzaddi all have special final forms. Although there are no Vowel Letters, the Letters Ayin or Aleph were sometimes utilized for that purpose. Vowel signs appeared about a Thousand Years after Rabbi Akiva , but they appear neither in the Torah Scrolls, nor in most religious documents, magazines or newspapers. Aleph was originally a glottal stop, and Ayin was a gutteral sound that is still preserved in Modern Arabic. Nowadays, both are silent except in certain dialects of Modern Hebrew. Hebrew, of course, like all other Semitic Languages, is written from right to left. Vowels are indicated by “Nikkud” (“pointing”), underneath or to the left of the Letter. n addition, the Letter Vav, currently like English “V”, which was originally pronounced like English “W”, can also sound like English “Oh” or “OO”.
Why are the Hebrew Letters so very important to Western Mysticism and Metaphysics? Hebrew letters are not only Holy, but also venerated as an actual tool for Spiritual Mastery and Enlightenment.
Traditionally, the two most preferred techniques of alalyzing the Alef Bet have been Gematria and Notarikon. In Gematria, since every Letter has a numerical value, words with unrelated meanings but equal numerical values are often found to have Secret links. In Notarikon, words are broken down into sentences composed of initial letters. An example of Notarikon, in modern English, might be “GOD=Good Overcomes.Demons”. Knowledge of the Meaning of each Hebrew Letter is also an important Key to Understanding the Tree of Life. More on all of this will be shared with you very soon. For the purpose of this series of articles, we will take the assumption that God created the Univarse using the Hebrew Alef Bet as a literal Truth. When studying Metaphysics, it helps to suspend disbelief and skepticism from Time to Time to aid in the learning process.