Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Meaning of “Lamed”

Today’s Treat is brought to you by the Hebrew letter lamed and the number 30, as that is its value in gematria (a mystical system of understanding deeper meanings through numeric connections). The Twelfth letter of the twenty-two letter Hebrew alphabet, it shares the same sound as the English letter “L.” In its block print form (used in most printing), it is a unique letter that is easily recognizable as it stands taller than all the other letters.

Lamed is special in more than just its appearance and its common usage within words. As with many letters of the Hebrew alphabet, it also stands as a preposition when used as a pre-fix. The letter lamed represents “to” and “for” - as in giving something to the woman or doing something for the man. It is also used when discussing a location to which something or someone is heading. Another unique lamed role is its use to signal the infinitive form. Every Hebrew verbs’s most basic conjugation is its infinitive form (e.g. to speak, to act, to write), and every infinitive in Hebrew starts with the letter lamed.

So why is today’s Treat dedicated to the letter lamed and what is the significance of its connection to 30? Tonight is the annual Dinner of NJOP, the organization that brings you Jewish Treats. This year’s Dinner celebrates 30 years since NJOP was founded (as the National Jewish Outreach Program) by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald.

Thirty is considered an age by which a person has reached maturity. They hopefully have an idea of where they are going in their lives and recognize a pathway toward growing success. Lamed’s connection to the mature 30, but also the preposition “to”/”for” and the basic verb infinitive form, teaches the lesson that this is the time to look forward toward where we are going and to work harder and take action. NJOP at 30 is an experienced educational organization that has made an impact on hundreds of thousands of Jews, and, through Jewish Treats, brings positive joyous, Jewish experiences to tens of thousands more. Having achieved 30 years, now is the time for NJOP and Jewish Treats to move toward the future with vigor.

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