Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Letter Samach



Samach is one of the less commonly used letters of the Hebrew alphabet. As its name suggests, the samach makes an “ssss” sound, which is also produced by the letter sin (to be introduced in a future Twebrew Treat). In fact, masoretic grammar rules allow the samach and the sin to be used interchangeably.

The name of the letter, samach is related to the word li'smoch, which means to support. It is interesting to note that the previous letter, nun, was left out of the Ashrei prayer because of its relationship with the word nophail, falling. The line in Ashrei relating to the samach is “Somaich Ah’doh’nai L’chol Ha’nophlim, God supports those who are falling.”

Samach is the first letter of the word saviv, which means surrounding. (Sivivon is the Hebrew word for a dreidel or spinning top played with on Chanukah) The roundness of the letter alludes to protection, like the gates of a city protect those within.

The numeric value of samach is 60.

Bibliographical acknowledgment: The Wisdom In The Hebrew Alphabet: The Sacred Letters as a Guide to Jewish Deed and Thought. By Rabbi Michael L. Munk, Mesorah Publications, 1983.

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