Illuminated Hebrew Letter Series - Lamed
Illuminated Lamed - by Adam Rhine
Watercolor on Paper

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“To make known to all mankind, Your mighty deeds, and the splendor of Your glorious kingdom.” Tehillim/Psalm 145:12

The literal meaning of the letter Lamed is “to learn” or “to teach”. In this verse it begins the word l’hodiya, “to make known”. It is the only letter in the alphabet that ascends above the line, reaching up to the yud at its summit. This represents the aspiring heart that reaches up to receive the seed (yud) of wisdom from above. The Hebrew word for heart, leiv, also begins with a lamed, and this is the vessel into which consciousness is drawn to gestate. Our sages refer to the lamed as “a tower soaring in the air”. In the study of Torah this alludes to our desire to grasp inner spiritual truth, transcending our earthbound nature and constantly aspiring to uplift ourselves and “make known…Your mighty deeds”. These deeds express themselves in the physical world when we perform acts of kindness and emulate G-d’s ways. In this way we create a relationship between our inner and outer spiritual life, coming close to the divine Source in holiness and service, drawing heaven into earth and earth into heaven.

The numerical value of Lamed is 30. In the Midrash (rabbinical commentary), it is said that when a person reaches this age they can begin influencing the world. Up until then they are preparing by building their knowledge and character. There are 30 days in the month; 30 categories of tzaddikim in the world-to-come, and 30 generations from Abraham to the destruction of the first Temple.

TheTorah ends with a lamed, the last letter in the word “Israel”. We all have the potential to reach this holy land inside, and make known the glory of G-d in this world. May we stand tall like the lamed, and strive for understanding every day of our lives. May we cultivate the wisdom of the heart, so our thoughts, speech and actions make this world a “glorious kingdom”.

Text by Louise Temple from the book "Hebrew Illuminations"