ALEFBET - The hebrew letters sculptures, made by Gabriele Levy
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ALEFBET - The hebrew letters sculptures, made by Gabriele Levy
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  • English en
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The letter SHIN

Shin, the 21st Hebrew letter is the letter of fire and transformation. Shin literally means tooth and its shape is 3 branches of flame. These are the 3 pillars of the tree of life, reaching high like flames, purifying and changing the condition of our lives, teaching us to become aligned with the Whole of Creation. It also represents the right and left extreme opposites and the requirement to balance them by following the central pillar, the middle way.

Both the tooth and fire meanings of Shin refer to it as a process of transformation, breaking down, grinding into particles, building anew, cooking, the firing of a clay pot into a form. The whole process of transformation, healing, breaking and restoring. The fire also represents the unchangeable, the unmovable, and thus is a symbol of divine power. The spirit constantly transforms the matter, yet remains unchanged itself. Matter changes constantly, yet the spirit within does not change, so all of life is a process of learning to align with that unchangeable essence. Shin is the flame of the spirit, which we must keep always burning within us.

Finally, the Shin teaches us balance. It is composed of 3 Vavs, the 3 pillars of the tree of life. The right pillar is of kindness and mercy, the left of strict justice and truth. The world cannot continue without both, so we must balance between the two. In all aspects of life, we must find the middle way between the opposites and extremes.



The letter shin appears engraved on both sides of the head- tefilin. On the right side, the shin possesses three heads, while on the left side it possesses four heads. In Kabbalah we are taught that the three-headed shin is the shin of this world while the four- headed shin is the shin of the World to Come.




The secret of the shin is "the flame [Divine Revelation] bound to the coal [Divine Essence]." A simmering coal actually possesses an invisible flame within it, which emerges and ascends from the surface of the coal when the coal is blown upon. The three levels: coal, inner flame, and outer flame, correspond to the secret of chash-mal-mal, as will be explained in the next letter, the tav.


One of the meanings of the word shin in Hebrew is shinui, "change." The coal symbolizes changeless essence, the secret of the verse: "I am G-d, I have not changed," meaning that relative to G-d's Essence absolutely no change has occurred from before Creation to after Creation. The inner flame is the paradoxical latent presence of the power of change within the changeless. The outer flame of the shin is continuously in a state of motion and change.



As in the above-quoted verse, the changeless Essence is the secret of the Name Havayah. The power of change, as latently present within G-d’s Essence before Creation and thereafter revealed in the infinite intricacy and beauty of an everdancing flame, is the secret of the explicit Name of Creation, Elokim, the only Name of G-d which appears in the plural. The number of the letter shin, 300, unites these two Divine Names as the "flame bound to the coal." In at'bash, the Name Havayah transforms to the letters mem-tzadik-peitzadik, which total 300. The five letters of Elokim (aleph-lamed-he-yod-mem) when written in full, also equal 300.




The three heads of the shin of this world correspond to the three levels of the changeless, potential, and actual change as discussed above. In this world, the changeless is symbolized only by a black, dark coal, not as the revealed light of the flame. Nonetheless the endurance of the flame depends upon the changeless essence of the coal. In the World to Come, the changeless essence will reveal itself within the flame. This revelation of the future is the secret of the fourth head of the shin.



In the flame of a candle one sees three levels of light: the "dark light" around the wick of the candle, the white flame encompassing it, and an amorphous aura around the white flame itself. Each of these three levels of revealed light manifests a dimension contained within the invisible flame present in the coal. In general the flame symbolizes love, as is said: "as mighty as death is love...the flame of G-d." The dark light corresponds to the love of Israel, souls enclothed within physical bodies. The white light corresponds to the love of Torah. The aura corresponds to the love of G-d. These are the three essential manifestations of love as taught by the Ba'al Shem Tov. The fourth head of the shin of the future - the revelation of the essence of the coal itself - corresponds to the love of the Land of Israel and, as our Sages teach: "the Land of Israel will in the future spread to incorporate all the lands of the earth."



The letter Shin is related to wholeness (Shlemut), to the completion (Hashlama) of the task and to the state in which a person becomes the master of all his/her possibilities. The completion of the task gives the person permission to choose the service they will be making on their continued journey.




As the Tenant that resides in us is our higher consciousness, so is Shin the tenant or presence (Shekhina) that resides inside Creation. Shin is immersed in the unseen worlds – the Host.




The high consciousness that can develop inside the human complex is not an automatic part of the gift of life we have received, but a potential that can be developed by choice, and requires a longterm endeavor