2363 How a Mystic Reads Torah


Kabbalah assumes that there are hidden secrets in everything. We must see things without our eyes, hear without our ears, know without our intellect. If we are able to penetrate the surface of appearances, we will discover the mysteries of creation. This is particularly true of Torah. It is often viewed by Kabbalists as the "mind of God." All we need is to learn how to decode it. 

Kabbalists use a wide variety of tools in search of hidden codes. One tool is the analytical method of gematria in which each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a numeric value. {illustration A} The first letter, aleph, has the value of one; the second letter, bet, the value of two, and so on. After yod, which equals ten, the numbers climb by tens until they reach kof, one hundred. Then they climb by hundreds to the last letter tav, four hundred.

There are a number of variations in the gematria method of decoding the Torah. Certain letters are shaped differently when they are the final letters of words. In their new contour they can receive a different numerical value. Another variation is to exchange the first letter of the alphabet, aleph, with the last, tav; then the second, bet, with the second to last, shin, and so forth. This is called the atbash method (aleph-tav-bet-shin), and any letter can be switched with its corresponding pair.

  Obviously, these substitutions completely alter words and meanings of statements.

Most important, every word itself is a code for something else. As we saw above, garden can mean earth, water can mean the Divine Presence, Eden can mean mother. Kabbalists are enormously creative in their attempts to break the mystical codes. They feel that each teaching is drawn from another level of reality. 

Thus, it is understood that the Torah contains all of the wisdom of creation. Every time a new code is broken, we discover something we had not known before. Therefore, many complex methods have been used in this process to give us a magnifying glass so that we can explore the cosmic tapestry fiber by fiber.