search
Biblical Gematria was a system of formal mathematics.

# #2. The Letters of the Lord: The letter Aleph.

Image of 'Model of a Man Plowing'. ca. 1981–1885 B.C. Placed in the public domain by the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Welcome back to my gematria blog and Shabbat Shalom.

In this special series of blog articles at the Times of Israel we’re analyzing the gematria of Bereshith (Genesis) 1-2. I’ve published all the calculations for the first two chapters on Shematria (click HERE), but in these articles we’re going through them letter by letter and we’re going to look more deeply at how the math was constructed with the ancient system.

Today we’re going to look at the theme of the Aleph. I’m writing this on the 1st April, April Fools day, which is more than appropriate for the Alephs, because in Hermetic Qabalah the Tarot card for the Aleph is attributed to the Trump Card of the Fool. This is the second letter of the alphabet that is described by the verses of Bereshith, and this verse covers 1:3-5, which is the creation of the day and the light and the darkness and the night.

The Seven Palaces. Colour Key for the Holy Name: Yod: purple (220). Heh: yellow (217). Vav: Pink (480). Heh: Green (93).

The value of the Beth (2) in the previous verses has been split into two 1’s for the day and night. These two alephs are assigned to two of the Seven Palaces, coming underneath the Palace of the Beth to the left and right side. Because there are two Alephs for the light and the darkness, the Rabbis say that Aleph is never less than Beth, and we see that statement is literally true on the Seven Palaces. The Aleph on the left hand side represents the day and the light, and the Aleph on the right hand side represents the night and the darkness.

The Aleph has the value of 1 with the main biblical gematria cipher, and the standard cipher. With the reversal cipher it has the value of 100 (swapping out with the qoph), and with the Genesis order cipher it has the value of 2, being the second letter described by Brashith 1-2.

The letter Aleph comes from a pictogram of the head of an Ox, perhaps because two oxen were used with a plough. Though Beth begins the narration, Aleph is the first letter out that is part of the Holy Name when we see it distributed on the Seven Palaces. It is part of the letters of the first Heh of YHVH. The original name of the letter is thought to be: eleph – אלף (111) which means ‘cattle’, but also ‘leader’ or ‘teacher’.

The first sum for the Aleph, which described the making of the light comes to the total of 500, which is half of the value of the Aleph when it is written large.

Genesis 1:3-5:
ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי אור
And said Elohim “Let there be light”, and there was light.

There is a notariqon from this using multiplication:
ו × א × י × א × ו × א = 360
which invokes circles again (this sum first appears in 1:2).
With gematria we have:
500 = אלהים אור אור (b.g)
I note again for new readers that only the value of the nouns were used in this system of Ancient Hebrew mathematics, so we discard the words: “And said”, as well as “let there be” and “and there was” from the sum leaving only: Elohim + light + light. When there is a doubling up of a word like this it is a blessing. The word ברך ‘baruch’ in the ancient system indicated a multiplication by 2, which is why on Shabbat, the blessed day, it is said that a double portion of grace comes to the world.

The next sum in 1:4 uses two words that indicate division by 2. Division and multiplication tend to be by 2 or by 10, and this aspect of the system probably derives from ancient Egyptian mathematics. The words indicating division in 1:4 are ויבדל (and divided) and בין (between) and this latter word with the prefix vav also. There is also a bit of a riddle included. This line is the first instance of the word טוב (good). If we list the letters attributed to the verses where the word טוב appears, we have the sum:
aleph + shin + daleth + heh + vav + zayin + teth + nun + samekh + ayin + peh = 295.
295 is a gate number for the Aleph (by day and for light):

And note how the gate values of the two alephs, when added to the central gate of the palace of the Resh sum to the value of the large Aleph:
295 + 253 + 452 = 1,000.
And much light can be shed on this matter from a careful reading of the Zohar. Or better still, consult a proper Mekubbal (teacher of Kabbalah). I’m not one of those. I’m simply a researcher and cryptographer who fell down a very interesting Jewish rabbit hole. So back to Bereshith!

Genesis 1:4:
וירא אלהים את האור כי טוב ויבדל אלהים בין האור ובין החשך
And saw Elohim the light because good and divided Elohim between the light and between the darkness.

And from this we have the notariqon with the reversal cipher:
ו א א ה כ ט ו א ב ה ו ה = 930
which is 31 × 10 × 3 and is related to the last Heh of the Holy Name. The gematria is:
אלהים + האור + טוב (315) + 43 + 106 + 36 = 500
and this is highly satisfactory as this 500 plus the 500 from the previous verse gives us 1,000.

The last sum of from Genesis 1:5:
אלהים לאור ולחשך א = 391
which is a sum that appears in the first part of Genesis 1:11 and in the first part of Genesis 25:34 (where Esau despised his birthright). I’m not sure what significance this number may have had to the ancients, as it doesn’t turn up on the palaces and its not divisible by 31 or something like that, but I note it is a combination of 360 (degrees in a circle) + אל (God).

In the next article of the series, we’ll be looking at the connection of the Gimel with the Heavens, so have fun and stay tuned for more numerical honey!

Author News – My book “Behold! The Art and Practice of Gematria” will be published on the 31st October 2023 by Aeon Books. You can take a peek at the new front cover HERE.