Illuminated Hebrew Letter Series - Vav
Illuminated Vav - by Adam Rhine
Watercolor on Paper, 12" x 12"

For more information about this painting, email the artist at adam@hebrewart.com
“And of Your wondrous works, the people shall speak, and Your greatness they shall relate.” Tehillim/Psalm 145:6

Vav means “and” when placed at the beginning of a word. The first vav found in the Torah is in the opening line of the Book of Bereshet (see the letter beit) where we read, “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.” We learn that the very first time a letter or word is found in the holy Torah, that is its spiritual headquarters, so to speak. Here vav’s essential purpose is to join spirit and matter, heaven and earth, body and soul. Standing upright like a person or a pillar, its hook-like shape connects concepts, or spiritual domains together. It is also one of the four letters of the tetragrammaton, G-d's Holy Name.

The numerical value of vav mirrors the manifestation of the six days of creation, the descent, as it were, of spirit into matter. The Talmud consists of six “orders” each containing the tractates that deal with a specific area of Torah law. In the central prayer of Judaism, the Shema, there are six Hebrew words in the first sentence: “Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One”. There are six directions in space to which we turn, on the high holiday of Succot, to wave the four species that symbolize the unification of G-d’s Name: north, south, east, west, up and down.

Just as the holy letter vav unites both words and worlds, may we humans, standing unique amongst created beings, comprehend the underlying connection between all of creation, and the ceaseless exchange between spirit and matter, soul and body.

Text by Louise Temple from the book "Hebrew Illuminations"