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

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“Hashem protects all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.” Tehillim/Psalm 145:20

The shin begins the Hebrew word shomer in this verse, which means “to guard”, in the sense of safeguarding and protecting. The shin itself is a protection. It is written on every mazuza, the prayer scroll that is affixed to every entranceway, and on the phylacteries that are bound on the arm and placed on the forehead of the Jewish male in prayer. The shin is the symbol for G-d’s Name Shaddai, spelled shin-daled-yud, the attribute of the Holy One representing the concept of “enough” – guarding delimitations and boundaries. In a sense, it represents the gateway between the physical and spiritual worlds, the former being limited by necessity or we would have no form, and the latter being limitless and infinite. As we enter our doorways and see the mazuza, we are conscious of the Owner of this house, and by extension this world, and the One Who protects and guards us.

The form of the shin is three vavs rising like flames from a single base point. The flame is a symbol of love, as expressed in the above verse. The light of the Torah is seen as fire. In the candle flame we see three levels of light: the “dark” light around the wick, the white flame surrounding it, and the aura of the flame itself. There are three essential manifestations of love as taught by the Chassidic master, the Ba’al Shem Tov: the dark light corresponds to the love of Israel, that is, souls in physical bodies; the white light to love of Torah, and the aura to love of G-d. We can see the flickering flames of the shin as representing the mutability of all things, rising from an eternal, invariant Source.

These flames evoke the three patriarchs, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob who tower, for all generations, in spirit, character, and courage, never abandoning their foundation in G-d.

300 foxes were sent to burn the fields of the Philistines; the five letters of G-d’s Name, Elokim, when spelled in full, equal 300; there were 3,000 parables of King Solomon.

We experience the shin in “peace”, shalom, when we have complete faith that our well-being is watched over, and that we are truly loved by the One who gave us life.

Text by Louise Temple from the book "Hebrew Illuminations"