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

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“Hashem supports all the fallen ones, and straightens all the bent.” Tehillim/Psalm 145:14

Samech is a complete circle, a metaphor for Hashem, the One who has no beginning and no end. All growth and evolution proceeds in spiraling cycles, as expressed in the symbol for infinity. Samech is an inclusive space, an enclosure that supports us, the divine embrace. The Sukkah, the temporary dwelling that we are commanded to reside in on the holiday of Succos, begins with a samech. It represents the or makif, the transcendent surrounding light that protected the Jewish people in the wilderness, described in the Torah as “clouds of glory”. The chuppah, or wedding canopy, is also described as or makif, as is the ritual of the bride circling the groom seven times. In a sense, the samech is the deep containment of holy intimacy.The wedding ring also conveys this in the union between two souls.

The emphasis samech has on its “center” is like the Mishkan the “Tabernacle” in the desert around which the twelve tribes of Israel encamped and traveled on their journey through the desert. The Holy Temple was the center of religious life in Jerusalem, just as Jerusalem is now the center of Jewish identity throughout the world.

60 is the numerical symbol of an all-inclusive state; 60 ten thousands – 600,000 – souls left Egypt in the Exodus; sleep is one sixtieth of death; dream is one sixtieth of prophecy; Shabbat is one sixtieth of the world-to-come; honey is one sixtieth of manna; there are 60 tractates in the Oral Torah and 60 letters in the priestly blessing.

As we focus on samech may we feel deeply at home in that place within that we call our center, breathing in the life-force that sustains us moment to moment, surrounded by the loving embrace of our Creator.

Text by Louise Temple from the book "Hebrew Illuminations"