Monday, November 16, 2009

The Letter Yud

This tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is distinctive for its petite size. The yud dangles in the air, half the size of the other letters. Perhaps the letter looks like this to remind us to look up toward the Heavens in order to understand what is important in life. Yud, along with the letters hey and vav, is one of the letters that form the name of God. Indeed, yud in a name may indicate a special relationship with the divine (as in Yehoshua / Joshua).

Like many of the letters previously discussed, the numeric value of yud is significant. Yud represents ten. Ten is the first of the two digit numbers and represents a completeness in the process of counting. The wholeness of the number ten, and thus the letter yud, is exemplified by the Ten Commandments, the Ten Sephirot, and numerous other groupings of ten in Jewish tradition.

Since ten represents the next interval in counting, it can also be seen as symbolic of the future. From that vantage point it is not surprising that the letter yud, when used as a prefix in Hebrew verb conjugation, represents the third person future (masculine).

The name yud is similar to the Hebrew word yad, which means hand. A person’s hand seems a small and powerless part of the body, and yet it is with the help of one’s hands that a person performs most of his/her activities in this world. The yud, like the yad, is small but powerful.

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.