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Bethsheba Ashe
Biblical Gematria was a system of formal mathematics.

#13 The Letters of the Lord: the letter Kaph

Copyright Bethsheba Ashe (2013)
Copyright Bethsheba Ashe (2013)

Shabbat Shalom! In this special series of blog articles at the Times of Israel we’re analyzing the gematria of Bereishit (Genesis) 1-2. I’ve published all the calculations for the first two chapters on Shematria (click here). The second chapter is currently under review. In these articles we’re going through the alphabet letter by letter in respect of the verses, and we’re looking more deeply at how the math was constructed within the ancient formal system.

Starting after the letter Kaph which has the value of 20, all the verses of Genesis 2 describe the letters which were used during the mornings and days of creation. These follow the letters described in Genesis 1 for the evenings and nights of creation. See my former article for a recap on this point, and for an explanation of why the Name of God is not used until this point. The verses which describe the themes and properties of the letter Kaph are Genesis 2:4-6, and they should be considered alongside the verses of the letter Beth (Genesis 1:1-2) because God didn’t separate the day and the night from one another until the verses of the aleph (Genesis 1:3-5. So let’s recap (and see my article here for an in-depth look at the verses of the Beth):

Beth (2): In the Beginning created Elohim the Heavens and the Earth. And the Earth was formless and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep and the spirit Elohim hovered upon the face of the waters.

Kaph (20): This is the account of the heavens and the earth in the day of their creation, in the day that made YHWH Elohim earth and heavens. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for YHWH Elohim had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

This isn’t the beginning of a different creation story from a different source. This is simply the second part of the creation narrative which the scribe began in Genesis 1:1. The Beth and the Kaph are part of a unity, outside of the divisions into logical opposites which frame the rest of creation: There is the spirit of Elohim (represented by the Beth) and there are the primordial waters of creation (represented by the Kaph). In 2:6 there is notariqon which underlines this point; וימ הוא כפה, which means: and the sea is a Kaph.

The origin of the Kaph most likely comes from the hieroglyph D28 which is:

D28In ancient Egypt the sign (ka) meant spirit, soul or essence [of a being]. It’s part of logograms that mean divine, and the name of the God Nehebkau, who was the serpent God of the Dead that granted the ka to the soul. One can deduce the life-giving properties from water by simple observation. The dead dry out, whilst if any amount of water is left standing it will produce life of some sort sooner or later. Water as a vehicle of the Ka is an elementary association. 

In biblical hebrew, the word כף kaph or כפה can mean the palm or hollow of the hand, sometimes the sole of the foot, and palm branch. The former likely because of the picture of the hands of the creator, the later because of the rate at which palms take up water. They are thirsty trees. The theme of Genesis 2:6 of a primordial mist rising from the earth elevates and rarifies the idea of life giving water into its most spiritual archetypal form.

Water is often the medium through which blessings are conferred. It may be that the sign of the hands in connection with water as a spiritual medium was connected with the mayim achronin – the ritual washing of the fingers after a meal. I recommend the fascinating and very thorough book “Secrets of the Last Waters” by Efraim Palvanov for more information on the significance of this Mitzvot in Judaism. According to Efraim, the Talmud concludes that this ritual is an obligation even in the midst of a war! I learned from his excellent essay that it was said: “forgoing mayim rishonim leads to eating pork meat, forgoing mayim achronim kills the soul” and a great many other interesting things that stopped me in my tracks and made me think deeply of the symbolism in connection with Genesis 1-2 and the Merkabah.

Concerning the gematria of the verses of the Kaph, the first verse can be counted whole for a total of 2800 from 50 letters with the reversal cipher. However, I think all three verses are intended to be calculated as one sum, just as the notariqon of all three verses is intended to be calculated as one sum. The calculation contains a subtraction indicated by the על which is applied to the prior word.

אלה תולדות השמים והארץ בהבראם ביום עשות יהוה אלהים ארץ ושמים׃
This is the account of the heavens and the earth in the day of their creation, in the day that YHVH Elohim earth and heavens.
וכל שיח השדה טרם יהיה בארץ וכל עשב השדה טרם יצמח כי לא המטיר יהוה אלהים על הארץ ואדם אין לעבד את האדמה׃
Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for YHVH Elohim had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.
ואד יעלה מן הארץ והשקה את כל פני האדמה׃
But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

The calculation contains no mnemonic words, however we add the aleph in reference to “the day of their creation” which is the first day. When you see such a phase in the Tanakh you can be sure you are intended to add the day referenced. An actual example can be found in Ezekiel who refers to the day of the creation of man, so be sure to add the Vav in that calculation because the Adam was made on the sixth day.

א השמים והארץ יהוה אלהים ארץ ושמים שיח השדה יהיה בארץ עשב השדה יהוה – אלהים + הארץ ואדם האדמה ואד הארץ פני האדמה = 2200

(All three verses via notariqon)
א ת ה ו ב ב ע י א א ו ו ש ה ט י ב ו ע ה ט י כ ל ה י א ע ה ו א ל א ה ו י מ ה ו א כ פ ה = 600 (b.g)

I can’t help thinking about the fact that blessings always involve the twos; 2, 20, 200, 220, 2000, 2200. The Torah begins with the verses of the Beth, and then there is an expansion by 10 for the Kaph which is 20, and the last letter is another expansion; Resh for 200, and of course the word for blessing is ברך which indicates a multiplication by 2 in this formal system, but would sum 222 if it were valid to count it (which it is not). And of course there is the sum of the first word itself; בראשית is 220 ordinarily but is 2000 via iteration; ב בר ברא בראש בראשי בראשית.

It reminds me of the Kabbalistic philosophy of the three expansions of nothing before creation; the ain, the ain soph, and the ain soph aur:
אין אין סוף אין סוף אור = 682
which is אל x 22, and when divided by 217 gives the approximate for pi 3.142857.

If we are to lay out the values of the alphabet in a linear fashion as they come out during the evenings and the mornings of creation, they would look like this;
2, 20, 1, 30, 3, 40, 4, 50, 5, 60, 6, 70, 7, 80, 8, 90, 9, 100, 10, 200,
which also appears to be about expansion.

In any case, there is a great deal more to the letter Kaph than we might first expect and it is something which requires meditation upon. Wishing you a blessed Shabbat, that’s all for now. Stay tuned for more numerical honey from Moses and the first Temple – next time we’ll be looking at the letter Lamed and the soul; the neshamah and the nephesh!

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To learn more about the formal system of biblical gematria, be sure to pre-order my book ‘Behold! The Art and Practice of Gematria‘ – published by Aeon Books on October 31st, and available while stocks last.  Visit Shematria for more information.

About the Author
Bethsheba Ashe is a fifty two year old tea-drinking cryptographer who broke the gematria ciphers to the Bible and the Book of the Law. She is the author of two books on Biblical Hermeneutics; "Behold: The Art and Practice of Gematria" and "Chariot: An Essay on Bereshit and the Merkabah." She is the creator of the popular ‘Shematria’ online calculator, and inventor of the Galay writing script. Currently she lives in Pennsylvania and is creating an open-world VR Island adventure game with her boyfriend, two cats and a cockatoo, but she says she owes all her success to Tetley.
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