A quick look at most any Hebrew AlefBet chart will show that there are numbers associated with each letter. The numbers 1-9 are assigned to AELF through TAV, 10-90 (by 10s) are assigned to YOD through PEI, and 100-400 (by 100s) are assigned to the last four letters (KOF, RESH, SHIN, and TAV). The associates of letters and numbers can be used as memory aids and show some rather interesting relationships.
In the Passover song, ‘ECHAD MI YODEA’, 6 stands for the number of the orders of the Mishnah). Six is the letter VAV in Hebrew, which can be represented by a hook, and thus figuratively a connection. There were six days of creation before the seventh day of rest. There are six ALEFs in the first verse of the Torah. In a three dimensional world, there are six directions (left, right, up, down, forward, back). There are six letters in the first word of the Torah (BERESHIT spelled with Hebrew letters). The serafim (fiery angels) of the Isaiah 6 vision had six wings. And of course, a star of David has six points.
“ECHAD MI YODEA”, the Passover song, also refers to 8 as the days of the BRIT MILAH, or circumcision. Eight is associated with the Hebrew letter CHET. There are eight days of Chanukah. There are eight corners to a cube. Eight is often seen as the “beyond”, since seven represents the week, the the eighth day is one day beyond the norm. Ezekiels temple has eight steps leading to it (Ezekiel 40:31-37). King David was the eighty son of his father Jesse (Yishai). The word CHAI is CHET-YOD, meaning “life”, and is very commonly used in Hebrew jewelry. CHET is also associated with CHATA (sin) and CHEN (grace).
The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet is TAV, and it has a value of 400. There were 400 men of Esau (Genesis 32:6), 400 men of David (I Samuel 25) and 400 years of exile in Egypt (Genesis 15:13). Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah, in which he buried Sarah, for 400 pieces of silver. Just as the Hebrew alphabet begis with ALEPH and ends with the letter TAV, so does the word “EMET”, meaning truth. King David declare “The very beginning of your word is truth” in Psalms 119:160. Another interesting mnemonic is that the Ten Commandments begin with ALEPH, the Mishnah begins with MEM and the Gemara begins with TAV (spelling again EMET or truth).
Another number that occurs frequently in scripture and life is 10, and it is associated with the letter YOD (or some say YUD), the smallest of all letters. According to Jewish interpretation, the world was created with 10 divine utterances, and of course 10 is mostly associated withe 10 commandments. Ten things were created on the first day, there were 10 generations from Adam to Noah and from Noah to Abraham. The Rabbis enumerate the 10 trials of Abraham and the Kabblah identifies 10 sefirot (spheres or spiritual forces). There are 10 cardinal songs identified in the Hebrew Bible. There were 10 plagues in Egypt. Yom Kipur is on the 10th day of Tishrei, giving 10 days for repentance. Humans have 10 fingers, resulting in the base-10 decimal system. Yod also acts as a vowel in Hebrew, and words can sometimes be spelled with or without it (the full or defective spelling). The letter YOD was removed from Sarah’s name (SARAI to SARAH), but later returned to lengthen a name, changing HOSEHA to YOHOSUA.
So you thought learning the alphabet was simple? It can be – but there is much more hidden behind those letters!