|א||Alef||I shall teach you||a'ah leff khah|
|ג||Gimmel||He compensates||goh mell|
|ד||Dalet||the impoverished||dah leem|
|Why does the left foot of the Gimmel face the Dalet?||ג ד|
|It is the nature of the kind to seek out the poor.|
|Why does the leg of the Dalet stand next to the Gimmel?|
|To show how the poor reach out to the helper.|
|Why does the face of the Dalet turn away from the Gimmel?|
To teach that charity should be performed in secret so as not to shame the recipient.
|ה||Heh||Letters in||The second, third, and fourth letters of the
|ז||Zayin||He sustains you||zahn|
|ח||Chet (ḥet)||He grants grace||choh nayn|
|ט||Tet||He is good to you||tohv|
|י||Yod||He gives you an inheritance||yoh reesh|
|ך ,כ||Kaf †||He places a crown on your head||koh tehr
|ל||Lammed||in the World to Come||l'oh lahm
If you behave this way, the Almighty will sustain you, be gracious to you, be good to you, give you an inheritance, and place a crown on your head in the World to Come.
|ם ,מ||Mem †||
One Mem is open at the bottom and one is closed
|ן ,נ||Nun † (noon)||the Fallen||noh fleem|
|Why is one Nun bent around but one stands?||נ ן|
If a person is faithful – ne'eman – to
Samekh Nun ‡ – soh mehkh noh fleem
Supports the fallen (a phrase from the Prayer Book).
|ע||Ayin||the poor||ah nee eem|
Samekh Ayin – see mah neem ah seh
Another lesson: Make symbols / Make indexes
(to help you study the Torah).
|ף ,פ||Peh †||
One Peh is curved inward and one is open
Peh Ayin ‡ – poh kay ahkh eev reem
G-d opens the eyes of the blind (a blessing in the Prayer Book).
|ץ ,צ||Tsadik † §||A righteous person||tsah deek|
|Why is one Tsadik curved but one is straight?||צ ץ|
If a person is righteous when bent by adversity, they will surely be righteous when relieved.
Koof Tsadik ‡ – kayts
End of the Exile (elsewhere in the Talmud).
• Why does the Koof precede the Reish so that the Reish faces away from the Koof?
The Holy One, blessed be He,** says, "I can't look at a wicked person."
• Why does the Koof have a leg next to the Reish?
The Holy One, blessed be He, says, "If a wicked person repents, I attach (koh shehr) a crown to him similar to mine."
• Why does the Koof have a detached leg?
A wicked person has an opportunity to bend under and turn towards the letter Koof – a holy person.
• On the other hand, Koof – holiness – has two openings given that the leg is both detached from the roof of the letter, and also the Koof's leg doesn't seal the bottom of the letter.
A person who decides to slip away from holiness – the Almighty lets him.
Shin is the first letter of the Hebrew word 'falsehood'.
Also, the word for falsehood – shekker – consists of three adjacent letters, Shin, Koof, and Reish.
Tav is the last letter of the Hebrew word 'truth' – eh met.
The previous letters of this word are Alef, the first letter of the alphabet, and Mem, a middle letter of the alphabet.
Because falsehood is common, truth is uncommon. [One has to search the entire
• Why do the Hebrew letters for 'falsehood' each rest on one point, but the Hebrew letters for 'truth' each have a firm foundation?
To teach us that lies are shaky, but truth endures.
* Hebrew is read from right to left.
This first table is based on: Wikipedia. "Hebrew alphabet." Retrieved 10 Dec 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_alphabet
* The lessons in the second table are based on the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat: 104a. ††
† The second character is the form of the letter which is used at the end of a word.
‡ Reverse the alphabetical order of these pairs of letters.
a) Read the Samekh before the Nun.
b) Read the Peh before the Ayin.
But reading these two letters in alphabetical order becomes, "His eyes are open" (eh NAWV p'koo KHOT). Since
c) Read the Koof before the Tsadik.
§ Ordinarily, you will see the name 'tsadi' associated with this letter. However, recent generations, living close to Messianic times, have been using the Hebrew word tsadik, which means "righteous person," as the name of this letter. This letter tsadik is especially associated with the transition from Exile to the state of redemption during the Messianic age (see Tana d'Vei Eliyahu).
** The Holy One, blessed be He - a typical Hebrew expression for
†† For another English rendition, see: Abraham Cohen. 1949, 1995. Everyman's Talmud: The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages. New York: Schocken Books, 1975, 1995. pp.