Volume 43 Number 90
                    Produced: Thu Aug  5  8:32:11 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Gematria/ Ktav Ivri (2)
         [Stan Tenen, Nathan Lamm]
Hats (formerly the Streimel discussion)
         [Ira L. Jacobson]
Kohen sign
         [Stan Tenen]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Tue, 03 Aug 2004 13:19:47 -0400
Subject: Re: Gematria/ Ktav Ivri

At 05:04 PM 8/2/04, <MPoppers@...> wrote:

>In M-J V43#78, NLamm replied:
>> > 1. It's entirely possible- likely, even- that k'sav Ivri was the
>>original Hebrew. Hey and Chet look nothing like each other in that
>>alphabet. <
>[Poppers:]As was recently noted on another forum, see the last section of 
>http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/en_pamphlet9.html.  Also see 

The problem is that Ksav Ivri, while the original notation for the
Hebrew language, is entirely different from Meruba Ashuris.

There is no doubt that Ksav Ivri was used for all open, common,
commercial, and civil purposes.  This is no different than the use of
Egyptian in Egypt, Babylonian in Babylon, and Amerenglish in New York.

Meruba Ashuris was only used as a means of recording Torah, and things
directly related to Torah, and was never -- until the time of the
Babylonian Exile -- used for, or confused with, Ksav Ivri.

For details on this, have a look at R. Nosson Scherman's Appendix to
Munk's "Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet" (Artscroll).  I hold with this

Here are a few key quotes.

The following paragraphs are from the middle of p. 234 (C):

      "The final opinion is that of R' Shimon ben Elazar in the name of
R' Eliezer ben Parta in the name of R' Elazar HaModai, a view that is
elucidated by four major Amoraim, Rav, Shmuel, R'Yochanan, and R'
Ashi. (We will see below that the fact that so many sages are involved
in this opinion is significant.)  According to them, Jews never used any
script other than Ksav Ashuris for Torah and other sacred scrolls.  They
give another interpretation of R' Yose's proof-verse and offer other
verses in support of their view.  The Talmud does not give a reason for
the name Ksav Ashuris according to these sages, but it is clear that
they would explain the name as Rabbi does: it means _not_ Assyrian
script, but exalted script.

      "Teshuvos HaGeonim (responsum 358, quoted in full by Margolis
HaYam to Sanhedrin 21b) discusses the three opinions and rules that the
correct one is the third, which denies that Jews ever used Ksav Ivri.
This ruling is based on Scriptural and Talmudic proofs and, finally, on
the number of Tannaim and Amoraim associated with it.  Three Tannaim
give this opinion, including R' Elazar HaModai, who was senior to all
those who dispute him.  Furthermore, the fact that four of the greatest
Amoraim, spanning several generations, discuss this opinion is of great
significance.  One of the rules of halachic decision making is that a
position that is discussed by the preponderance of Amoraim is assumed to
be authoritative -- otherwise why would they occupy themselves with it?

      "It should be noted as well that Rambam, too, states that Ksav
Ashuris is the script that God used in giving the Torah; its name refers
not to Assyria, but to its quality (Comm. to Mishnah, Yadaim 2:5)."

>>[Lamm:]> 2. Gematria makes no appearance in Tanach, and little in Shas 
>>to how widely it's used today). It's very possibly a late introduction
>>to Judaism, influenced by Greek practice, hence the Greek name. <
>[Poppers:]We could discuss how Greek words came to be part of Rabbinic 
>Hebrew, but that discussion is tangential.  For some solid information on 
>the use of Gematria by CHaZaL, see 
>http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/kornfeld/archives/simchat1.htm; given 
>the recent discussion Nachum and I had (mostly in private) re Gen 38, he 
>may also be interested in http://www.ou.org/torah/frankel/5759/vayeshev59.htm.

I agree with Nathan Lamm.  But I'd go further.  I think it's necessary
to review all of the use of numbers in Torah.  To my knowledge, there is
no known use of gematria, and letters are not used by themselves as
numbers.  Numbers are written out by their names, verbally, throughout
Torah.  I think the translation of these number-names into numerical
equivalents should be re-examined in other cases, but that's another

There are a limited number of unique gematrias that are probably
meaningful, and intended to be so.  For example,

1) I don't think it's a coincidence, and I do think it's meaningful,
that the numerical value of Echad is 13.  The reason I believe this is
because this interpretation helps to explain many other passages, and in
particular, parts of the Introduction to the Zohar, which discusses a
13-petaled rose, with a "second layer" of 42, that is a model of
embryology.  This is the cubeoctahedral sphere-pack (12 around 1, and 42
around the 12) in the most elegant way, and it does model embryology
because the center sphere is like an embryo in the egg sac of the 12
spheres that surround it.  This arrangement also makes sense of the
triple-keterim on 9 of our letters, which have not been understood
satisfactorily since Akiba.

It's known that many Greek temples were designed architecturally so that
their proportions reflected the numerical value of the name of the Greek
god that they were dedicated to.  So, in the later Greek tradition,
gematria was made use of in certain cases.

I also don't think it's a coincidence that the gematria of Avraham is
248 (I think this bears on the discussion as to whether Avraham knew and
observed the mitzvot).

There are a fair number of other _particular_ examples, where the
numerical value of a name or word carries additional information that is
consistent with the root meaning of the word.  But in general, ad-hoc
gematria, and the vast majority of gematria, takes away information,
rather than adds it.  When you add digits together, you reduce the
information.  This may be a helpful memory aid, but it doesn't preserve
accurate meaning, and doesn't always carry any meaning per se.

>>[Lamm:]> In Sephard Ashurit, a chet has a solid top. In "Ari" Ashuris, a 
>>ches is
>>a vav and a zayin (the main difference between "Ari" and Ashkenaz
>>Ashuris is that most "zayins" in the latter get turned into "vav"s in
>>the former). <
>[Poppers:] Which means that ARYL (or his disciples) may have had another 
>explanation for the derivation quoted by SHimelstein as sourced in TY 
>Shabbos.  I can live with that :-).

Actually, all of the variations on Meruba Ashuris memorialize vital
qualities of their common source.  But each was produced in a slightly
different cultural context, which led to a slightly different embodiment
of the fundamental principles behind the letter.

_IF_ my work is valid, _THEN_ the source of all of the letters is in a
model human hand, in the form of a ribbon bound on the hand (a kind of
"Ur-tefillin strap").  When one looks at this model hand, held in one's
hand, and makes a gesture that carries the natural meaning of the name
of the letter, one sees in outline the rabbinic form of the shape of the
Meruba Ashuris letter.

This model hand reconciles Chet and He, in a very simple way.  When the
model is held vertically as it's worn on the hand (so as to frame one's
head like a window, which is the meaning of the word "He"), the top and
left vertical are separated by the thumb.  But when one views this exact
same model worn on the hand, horizontally in an outstretching gesture
consistent with the meaning of "encompassment" or "perimeter" (the
meaning of the word "Chet"), because of the different angle, the thumb
no longer separates the top bar and the vertical, and the model appears
in outline to take the shape of a Chet.

Both He and Chet are forms of boundaries, or frames.  In the case of He,
the frame is like a window, opening between inside and outside.  (And
this is what the gesture that displays this shape records.)  In the case
of the Chet, the frame is a perimeter -- a fenced field if you will (the
dictionary definition for Chet), and it occurs in a gesture that
encompasses the person making the gesture, just as if it were a
perimeter, boundary, or fenced field surrounding the person.

_If_ what I'm proposing is correct, then all of the discussions of the
letters by our sages revolve around and are attempting to describe the
same thing, and account for its qualities.  What I'm proposing appears
to offer a simple explanation for the whole gamut of commentary.  But of
course, I'm not to be the judge of this.  If anyone is interested, I can
send you "who holds by this", and sufficient material for you to ask
more questions, until you're either satisfied, or reject the thesis.


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Tue, 3 Aug 2004 11:03:50 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Gematria/ Ktav Ivri

--- Stan Tenen <meru1@...> wrote:

> Meruba Ashuris was only used as a means of recording Torah, and things
> directly related to Torah, and was never -- until the time of the
> Babylonian Exile -- used for, or confused with, Ksav Ivri.

What we call "Ktav Ashuri" is, simply, the Aramaic Alphabet. It was
widely used for Aramaic by many non-Jews. Therefore, any theories about
"Ashuri" meaning anything other than "Assyrian" have no basis.

If what you mean by "Meruba Ashuris" are modern STaM letters (in various
forms), they are exactly that- (relatively) modern, developed from older
Ashuri letters. A Sefer Torah written with thin Hebrew "block" letters
is valid.

> rules that the correct one is the third, which denies that Jews ever
> used Ksav Ivri.  This ruling is based on Scriptural and Talmudic
> proofs and, finally, on the number of Tannaim and Amoraim associated
> with it.

This is simply wrong. There are many artifacts from the era of the First
Bayit written in Ktav Ivri. A seal of Baruch ben Neriyah himself has
been found, and it's in Ktav Ivri.

> particular, parts of the Introduction to the Zohar, which discusses a
> 13-petaled rose, with a "second layer" of 42,

Well, the Zohar was written, at the earliest, in the Talmudic Era, when
Gematria was already in use. So the presence of Gematria in Kabbalah
doesn't neccesarily speak to its antiquity.

> spheres that surround it.  This arrangement also makes sense of the
> triple-keterim on 9 of our letters, which have not been understood
> satisfactorily since Akiba.

Nine? Don't you mean seven? (Or do you include the final forms?) In any
event, the crowns are not found on even all forms of STaM writing, let
alone older forms of Ktav Ashuri. What exactly is meant by the story of
Moshe and Akiba can be explained in a number of ways. One might include
actual crowns on letters, but not the ones we're used to thinking of
with that word (on seven/nine letters), as they didn't exist in the
times of the Gemara- more like lines at the letters' edges.

Nachum Lamm


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Tue, 03 Aug 2004 17:49:32 +0300
Subject: Re: Hats (formerly the Streimel discussion)

Stan Tenen <meru1@...> stated the following on Fri, 23 Jul 2004
07:46:37 -0400:

      The first word of Torah, B'reshit, can be understood to be based
      not only on the word "reshit," beginning, but also on the word

This is a perfect example of popular etymology.  The alef is actually
part of the root and could not be dropped to form another word from the
same root.

      a woven network.  Wearing an appropriately woven piece of headgear
      would symbolize that a person had internalized this weaving.

Even if there were some linguistic connection between bereishit and
reshet, why would there be significance to a connection between the
first word of the Torah and (what could be understood as a description
of) the High Priest's head-covering?  The logic escapes me once again.
As the understanding of what it means to internalize weaving.

Incidentally, I presume that Stan is indeed aware of the difficulty in
translating bereishit as "in the beginning."

      Wherever the streimel came from, I think the appropriateness of
      wearing it goes back to an echo of this idea, that what one puts
      on one's head provides a view of what's in one's head.  I'm pretty
      certain that this is the Kabbalistic significance of wearing big
      hats, even if the current construction style is only symbolic of
      this memory.

Could anyone find the existence of such a "Kabbalistic significance of
wearing big hats"?

IRA L. JACOBSON         


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Tue, 03 Aug 2004 17:55:25 -0400
Subject: Re: Kohen sign

>From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
><snip> So
>Aharon's Y chromosome haplotype would be shared by most men who had a
>common paternal line ancestor with Aharon within about 1500 years before
>him.  This includes not just kohanim, but all of the sons of Yaakov, as
>well as Esav, Ishmael, Lot, Moab, Ammon, and, for all we know, many
>ancestors of the Southern and Central Italians, Hungarians, Iraqi Kurds,
>and Armenians. In the case of the Lembas though, the simplest
>explanation is that they are indeed, as they claim, descended from Jews
>who migrated from Yemen about 1000 years ago.

This is very interesting.  It might be significant, and it might tie in
with new findings (tree-ring data and historical references, or the lack
thereof, world-wide), that strongly suggest that the Krakatoa volcano in
Java erupted with such enormous force ca. 535 CE, that in the temperate
zones world-wide, there was no summer sun for 1 to 3 years.

This is discussed in David Keyes' book, "Catastrophe."  As I recall, he
mentions that 100 years or so prior to this date, a Jewish kingdom was
established in what is now Yemen.  His theory, and the evidence he
provides, indicates that the great earthen dam that collected water from
the Arabian desert and enabled it to be available for agriculture in
Yemen, was breached and destroyed because of torrential rains in the
area due to the wild change in weather patterns, due to the eruption of
the volcano.

If this is so, it could explain or lend some understanding to a number
of important events in Jewish history.

The period from approximately the early 500's to the early 600's is when
(my better educated friends tell me) the Geonim reported, or alluded to,
their not having received the full tradition from the Savora'im, who had
completed Gemara for about half of the Mishna. (This in itself is worthy
of discussion.  I'm not an expert in this, so what I'm saying here is
likely partly in error, and certainly missing a lot of details.)

Those fleeing Yemen would naturally have migrated to places like Sura
and Pumbedita, Alexandria if it was functioning at the time, and on to
-- and this is what ties in with Mike Gerver's posting above -- southern
and central Italy, Hungary, Iraq , and Armenia.  (Iraq, of course, would
include Sura and Pumbedita.)

I have a few Jewish history timeline references in my library, and they
all show a scarcity of good documentation during the same time period,
with many uncertainties and current differences of opinion as to the
facts and details.

If anyone knows about this, and/or is interested in pursuing it a bit,
I'd appreciate hearing from you, privately or on m-j.

Meru Foundation   http://www.meru.org   <meru1@...>
POB 503, Sharon, MA 02067 USA   Voice: 781-784-8902  eFax: 253-663-9273


End of Volume 43 Issue 90