Last week, we talked about the chemical composition of water and the symbolic meaning in Christian lore. This week, I want to include some Judaic history into the meaning of water.
One of the concepts from last week included the bond that a water molecule forms with other water molecules including the tetrahedron.
If the word tetrahedron is broken down into its root words the first part is tetra (in Greek) which means four, while the second part, -hedron means faces. A tetrahedron is therefore a solid figure with four equilateral triangles as the “faces”. (See the following link for more information including the etymology of the word, tetrahedron: http://www.allwords.com/word-tetrahedron.html. To see an example of a tetrahedron, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrahedron.)
Tetra also has significant meaning in Judaic tradition with respect to the Biblical Jewish Tetragrammaton (which means four letters). The Tetragrammaton represents the ineffable (or unpronounceable) four letter name of God. Judaic tradition holds that the four letter name of God is never pronounced—neither in private or public worship nor in the public or private reading of the Torah. Jewish reasoning is simple yet profound. It is simply showing constant reverence for the name of their Creator.
The four Hebrew letters that represent the Tetragrammaton are named Yud, Hei, Vav, Hei. They are represented in English characters as Y-H-V-H. This is rendered in Christian tradition as YaHWeH (W replaces the Hebrew V). The individual Hebrew letters are Y (which stands for ‘Yud’), H (which stands for ‘Hei’), V (which stands for “Vav’), and another H for another ‘Hei’. (For more information on the Hebrew alphabet, visit: http://www.torahtots.com/alefbet/nekudot/allabouthebrew.htm).
Rich in meaning, YHVH envelops the following essence of God as “He was, He is and He will be”. In Hebrew, “He was” is equivalent to HaYaH, “He is” is equivalent to HoVeH, and “He will be” is equivalent to YiHYeH. In each instance of these three Hebrew words, one of the original letters of the Tetragrammaton is missing. However, once all three words are presented together, God’s full essence (key to the four letters) is one, it is complete.
In Christian tradition, this remains true for the concept of the Trinity. “God is one. God is three. God is called the Trinity.” And in saying that, we have come full circle—from the Christian meaning of water, to the tetrahedrical water bond, to the essence of God as one in the Tetragrammaton, to the Christian belief that God is one in three.
A book called The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet (by Rabbi Michael L. Munk; Mesorah Publications, 1983/2007) contains a plethora of information on the Hebrew alphabet. One bit of wisdom includes the meaning of ‘Hei’ in YHVH. The book explains that the ‘Hei’ “symbolizes God’s readiness to forgive penitents. God created the opportunity for a sinner to return to Him through teshuvah, or “repentance.”
Is this not the same meaning that water takes on in Christianity, through the use of water in the Sacrament of Baptism?
All these symbols and meanings show that there is much more to water than meets the eye.
Next week, we’ll finish up our thoughts on water with rich symbolism in life, Christianity and Judaism. See you then!