Letter after letter

We already referred to this section’s subject at the very beginning of the previous one in passing, but we’ll now expand upon it in the context of traditional non-Kabbalistic sources, earlier Kabbalists, and Ramchal’s own works.

Since, as Ramchal indicates here, the supernal Lights must enter into the mystical realm of letters before they can (actually) bring about (physical) actions (Petach 18), we’d first need to explore the significance of the Hebrew letters before going on to explain the other subjects brought up in this section.

Yet (as Ramchal points out there), we’re taught that “the Heavens were fashioned through God’s word” (Psalms 33:6) and we’re told elsewhere that “the world was created through ten utterances” (Pirkei Avot 5:1), so it seems that the word is the basic unit. But since, as Ramchal explains, speech only exists in (the context of) letters, we’d obviously have to start off with letters. The truth is that we’re likewise taught that the heavens and earth were in fact created by the letters of the Aleph-Bet at bottom (Berachot 55a), so there’s actually no contradiction [1].

Several early works stressed the significance of the letters, including Otiyot d’Rebbe Akiva, the Aleph-Bet of Ben-Sirah, Sefer Yetzirah, the Heichalot writings, Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, Sefer Temunah, Shiur Koma, Sefer haYashar, Sefer Raziel HaMalachSefer Bahir, and others. And the Zohar even made the point that the letters written in the Torah are reflections of the “heavenly letters” (2:228; cf. 3:220). So we’ll explore some of the statements made in Sefer Yetzirah, Sefer Bahir, Pardes Rimonim, Eitz Chaim, and the Zohar, specifically before we touch on Ramchal’s own.


[1]       Also see Menachot 29b which speaks of this world having been created with the letter he and The World to Come having been created with the letter yod.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org


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