The letter AYIN

The Hebrew letter Ayin means eye and correspondingly, the Ayin has to do with vision and bringing forth lights that are hidden. Ayin teaches us to see beyond and relates to time. It is the aspect of the visionary, to see not just what is happening in front of us, but to envision beyond that – to know one’s direction 5, 10, 100 years ahead and beyond. The pronunciation of the Ayin is also very significant – it is often mispronounced as a silent letter similar to the Aleph, however Ayin’s correct sound is a guttural throat sound which stimulates the thyroid gland.

Ayin is included in a great number of words associated with time (עת – time,   שעה – hours,  עתיד – future,   עבר – past,   רגע – moment, עוד – until, עד – eternity) and vision. As an example, my kabbalah teacher told a story once of his grandfather as a very old man, out in the yard of the family house, moving large rocks, clearing the land, creating a garden and planting trees. My teacher asked – “Why was my grandfather planting those trees? He was too old and they would not mature in time to feed him.” It was because he was planting them for the next generation ahead, beyond himself. That is vision. It teaches us to understand the cause and effect in our lives- how past actions lead to future outcomes, and how to think for the future.

Ayin implores us to open our eyes, to see beyond the physical. The Ayin is meant to take us from dark to light. It urges us to break through the walls of limitations in order to see what is not yet visible to us.

"It [the land of Israel] is the land which G-d your Gd seeks; the eyes of G-d your G-d are always [looking] at it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." The yearly cycle, from beginning to end ("end enwedged in beginning"), alludes to "the endless cycle," the secret of the letter samech, as explained above. Divine Providence, the "eyes" of G-d in control of the cycle, is the secret of the following letter, ayin which means "eye." Though the primary revelation of supernatural Providence is in the Land of Israel, the Jew in-exile is commanded to create something of its sanctity in each of his Diaspora stations by recognizing Divine Providence wherever he is.


Upon entering the Land of Israel, the second city to be conquered by Joshua was Ai, spelled ayin-yod, an abbreviated form of ayin (ayin-yod-nun, the nun falls) "the Eye." Jericho, the first city to be conquered, comes from the Hebrew word reiach, the sense of smell. In Chassidut we are taught that the origin of the sense of smell is in keter, the superconscious sensitivity directing the motivation of Will. The Hebrew word for "the land," eretz, derives from the word ratzon, "will," as our Sages teach: "Why is it called eretz? Because it wills to do the Will of its Creator." Sight is the first conscious sense, corresponding to the sefirah of chochmah, "wisdom." In the conquest of Jericho, Achan - related to the word ayin [the kaf of Achan equals in gematria the full spelling of the yod (yod-vav-dalet) of ayin, 20] - coveted forbidden booty. The tragic result was the initial defeat of Israel in the battle of "the Eye." Coveting is the spiritual blemish of the sight of the eye. Only when the sin of coveting was rectified was "the Eye" given to the Jewish People. Upon the initial defeat, Joshua fell on his face in despair but was commanded by G-d: "Rise, sanctify the people.... There is an accursed thing in your midst, Israel; you shall not be able to rise before your enemies until you remove it from your midst." Joshua was told to "rise" though the people were unable to "rise." This alludes to the secret of the two concentric circles of the letter samech: the outer, static circle supporting the fall of the nun, and the inner, dynamic circle directed, ultimately, by the Divine Providence of the ayin. 

The full spelling of the letter ayin equals 130 or 5 times 26, 26 being the value of the Name Havayah. In Kabbalah this phenomenon is understood to mean that the eye possesses five Divine powers. The right eye possesses five states of kindness, whereas the left eye possesses five states of severity or might. In Psalms we find two verses in relation to G-d's Providence over man. One verse states: "The Eye of G-d is on those who fear Him." The other states: "The Eyes of G-d are on the." The attribute of fear of G-d refers to the consciousness of the sefirah of malchut, "kingdom," likened to the woman of valor, "the woman who fears G-d, she shall be praised." Malchut is constructed and directed by the five "mights," the secret of the left eye of G-d. For this reason, in the verse "the Eye of G-d is on those who fear Him," "Eye" is in the singular, referring to the left eye alone. In the "male figure," corresponding to the six emotive attributes of the heart, Providence reflects the balance of both the five kindness together with the five mights of G-d. So, in the verse "The Eyes of G-d are on the tzadikim," "Eyes" appear in the plural form, referring to both the right and left Eyes of Gd. 


We are further taught in Chassidut that the singular eye of the first verse possesses a hidden reference to the "ever-open eye" of keter, the superconscious. Here the singular is the secret of "all right," as "there is no left in the Ancient One, all is right." The fear of G-d which is the vessel in the soul to contain and reveal this most concealed and supernal level of Providence, is the awe in face of the awareness of the Transcendent Light of G-d, permeating each point of reality, as taught in the secret of the letter samekh.

In the Divine service of the soul these three levels of Providence correspond to the three stages of service: submission, separation, and sweetening, as taught by the Ba'al Shem Tov. All relate to his most fundamental and all inclusive teaching in regard to "particular Divine Providence." The initial experience that even the minutest of one's deeds is observed and recorded Above brings one to a state of submission and fear of the Kingdom of Heaven, whose Law and Order control the universe. One then experiences the Eyes of G-d lovingly watching over and guarding each one of his children Israel. This brings one to sense the existential separation of the holy from the profane, the righteous from the unrighteous, and to identify with the good. Finally one experiences the Infinite Eye of G-d directing every created being to its ultimate fulfillment of purpose in Creation, thereby bringing all Creation to realize its Divine Purpose. Here, one's awe itself is in the face of the revelation of G-d's Infinite Love for all ("all is right"). This is the secret of sweetening.

Ayin sees the world and the ways of the world – both the planetary way and the way of the mundane and materialistic world. The way of Ayin – the way of the world – was meant to be the way of planet Earth – the way of nature – the way of the Natural Laws and natural frameworks. Contrarily, the way of the world has, at times, deviated from what is decent and honest and has fallen into the web of greed, or has been seduced by the outer appearance or by the rush towards what is only a material lust. That is why Ayin contains the way of the “civilized” world of building castles in the air, as well as the way of Earth, of growing things that are based on natural templates.

Therefore, Ayin is a lens that magnifies or reduces, in the way of Earth or in the way of the world.


Ayin can relate to the vanities of the world, which mostly constitute a tower of cards for the temporary life, but, at the same time, it has in it the potential for seeing the template of reality as it is, and on a higher level even the template of the unseen reality. Ayin can see the past from the present and, at times, even the future.