The Hebrew Alphabet -
The Letter Aleph (א)

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The Letter Aleph (א)

The letter Aleph is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet and therefore it is a natural place to start if you are interested in learning the Hebrew language. The letter Aleph is actually the source of the Greek letter Alpha, as you can see by the similarities in the two letters’ names, and the English letter “A,” is therefore ultimately derived from Aleph, as well. The letter Aleph is one of the most important and noteworthy letters in the Hebrew alphabet for a number of reasons, some spiritual and some practical.

Since the letter Aleph is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, it therefore symbolizes oneness and unity. In Judaism, it is often associated with the oneness of monotheism. Every letter in the Hebrew alphabet also has a numerical value, so naturally, the numerical value assigned to Aleph is one. You may see this most commonly when the Hebrew year is written out. So, for example, the year 5771 – תשע”א, has an Aleph in it, which represents the one. According to some Rabbinic Jewish folklore, despite the fact that the Aleph is the first letter in the alphabet, there is actually an element of humility to the letter which is why despite being the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, it is not the first letter in the Hebrew Bible (the next letter, Beit, is). According to the tale, the letter was thus rewarded for its humility with having the honor of being the first letter in the Ten Commandments.

The root of the word Aleph is also connected to many other words in the Hebrew language. The world “eleph,” for example, means a thousand. The word “aluf,” which also comes from the same root, means a (military) “general,” or a “champion.” We thus see that despite the fact that the letter Aleph only has a small numerical value of one, it also has connotations of greatness.

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