The letter LAMED
Lamed, the 12th letter of the Hebrew Alphabet is the symbol of learning. It is translated literally as the word for learning and also staff or goad. It is located at the center of the aleph-beith and represents the heart Lev לב; in kabbalah learning is mostly done with the heart and soul, not just the mind. The Lamed indicates that spiritual learning is the heart of human existence. Man’s course in life is to learn and express spiritual teachings and practice with every breath of life.
Lamed reaches higher than any of the other Hebrew letters, like a lighthouse high in the air. The shape of the lammed is an undulating movement, and the lamed represents constant organic movement, constant change. Lamed is the lightning strike of energy descending down the two sides of the Tree of Life. Lamed teaches us to learn from everything in life. After one has governed their tendencies in Kaf and no longer has the blockages of the ego interfering, they can begin to learn the spiritual perfection of their own self, and to learn the laws, will, and ways of the Creator. This is the process of learning to align with the will of the Creator.
In The "Letters of Rabbi Akiva," the full spelling of the letter lamed (lamed-mem-dalet) is read as short for the phrase: "a heart that understands knowledge" (lev meivin da'at). The numerical value of this phrase (608) equals "heart" (32) times "Eve" (19), i.e. "the heart of Eve."
In his commentary on the story of the Garden of Eden, the original episode of mankind, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra states that Adam is the secret of the brain; Eve, the secret of the heart; the snake, the secret of the liver. In Kabbalah and Chassidut these fundamental correspondences are developed and explained in depth.
Adam and Eve, male and female, are the prototype spiritual forces of giving and receiving. The marital union and gift of male to female relates to the secret of knowledge, as is said: "And Adam knew his wife Eve." For this reason Adam and Eve are often seen to represent teacher and pupil. The teacher contracts his intellect into a point (yud) in order to convey his teaching to his student, whereas the student nullifies his previous levels of conception to become a fitting vessel for the new, wondrous teachings of his teacher.
In particular, the form of the lamed represents the aspiration of the truly devoted pupil to learn from the mouth of the teacher. The literal meaning of the letter lamed is "to learn" (or "teach"). The seed of wisdom, alluded to by the letter yod, descends from the brain (Adam) to impregnate the full consciousness of the heart (Eve). The heart aspires (upwardly) to receive this point of insight from the brain. This is the secret of the form of the letter lamed, the heart ascending in aspiration to conceive and comprehend ("understand knowledge") the point of wisdom, the yod situated at the top of the letter lamed.
Our Sages refer to the lamed as "a tower soaring in air." Three hundred laws relate to the secret of this "flying tower." In our study of Torah, the "flying tower" is the expression of our love and devotion to the teachings of the Torah, our aspiration to conceive its inner truth, lifting us above the "gravity barrier" of earthly preoccupation. We are told that the Ba'al Shem Tov would place the palm of his hand on the heart of a Jewish child and bless him to be a "warm Jew." The palm, the power to actualize potential, becomes manifest - at the inner spiritual level - in the "will [crown, keter] of the heart" to conceive and unite with G-d's Will, the teachings of Torah. The lamed, the heart, aspires upwardly and connects to the yod of Divine insight. This is reflected in the form of the letter lamed, a kaf reaching upward to a yod. This is also the secret of the spiritual sequence hinted at in the letters of the word keli, "vessel" (kaf-lamed-yod): the power to actualize potential (the palm [kaf] of the Ba'al Shem Tov), manifest in the aspiration of the heart [lamed] reaching upward to conceive the secret of Divine wisdom [yod]. Throughout Torah the heart symbolizes the primary concept of vessel, the secret of Eve.
Lamed teaches us, first of all, to learn (Limud) and that without learning (Lemida) there is no progress at any level. Lamed teaches us that the best way to learn is to teach others what we have learned ourselves, and thus it gives itself, and of itself, and receives power from the giving (Latet) for the sake of giving (and not for the sake of receiving in return). The giving of Lamed is a true giving, which is based on trust – the giving of not taking.
The letter Lamed is connected to development and progression, which obligates shedding and knowing how to refuse – knowing how to say no, even if it is not the acceptable thing to do. This constitutes learning without preconditions and the choice to be loyal to the path of truth.
Learning is also connected to the training of our systems, and in training there is a possibility of polishing the abilities: to think, to perceive, to translate, to process, to do, to fulfill and to start anew.
Is there a price to learning? Learning without a price is not learning but rather a momentary or passing experience. The price of learning is usually connected to the shedding* of the things that block the next elevation of learning, which are usually connected to things that have been previously learned.