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The Shema is the essential statement of Jewish faith, "Hear O' Israel, Havayah is our God, Havayah is One." The first word of the Shema, "hear" (שְׁמַע , shema), has 3 letters, which can be permuted in six different ways. Each of these permutations alludes to either part of a verse or to a Rabbinical idiom. Let us write these out:
שמע – "Raise your eyes upwards" (שְׂאוּ מְרוֹם עֵינֵיכֶם ), a phrase from Isaiah 40:26.
שעמ – "A flame rising on its own" (שַׁלְהֶבֶת עוֹלָה מְאֵלֵיהַ ), a Rabbinic idiom from Shabbat 21a (see also Rashi to Exodus 27:20).
מעש – "Who has ascended to the heavens?" (מִי עָלָה שָׁמַיִם ), a phrase from Proverbs 30:4.
משע – "The Place of the World" (מְקוֹמוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם ), a Rabbinic connotation for the Creator. See in length in the article on our website.
עשמ – "Above all You have placed Your abode" (עֶלְיוֹן שַׂמְתָּ מְעוֹנֶךָ ), a phrase from Psalms 91:9.
עמש – "The yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven" (עוֹל מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם ), a Rabbinic idiom specifically related to the intent of the Shema, i.e., taking on the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. See Berachot 13a.
Now, let us further explore this topic by introducing Kabbalistic permutation theory.
Kabbalistic Permutation Theory
Kabbalistic writings discuss the secrets of permutation,1 or, as we would call it in more modern terms, permutation theory. The goal of Kabbalistic permutation theory is to correctly correspond any three elements, let us call them a, b, and c, to the six emotivesefirot, from loving-kindness to foundation.
Given 3 distinct elements, a, b, and c, clearly, there are six possible permutations: abc, acb, bca, bac, cab, cba. Using a very basic mathematical transformation rule,2 these six permutations correspond to the six attributes of the heart in the following manner:
This is the bare-bones correspondence and is very straightforward. However, now let us note that given any three terms, their identification as a, b, and c is not arbitrary. Rather, Kabbalistic permutation theory requires that the three terms correctly correspond to the three intellectual sefirot: wisdom (a), understanding (b), and knowledge (c).
Correctly identifying which of the three terms corresponds to which of the intellectualsefirot is the crux of the issue and requires that one have a great deal of experience with this topic (i.e., having studied how this is done for many 3-letter roots) and a great deal of Kabbalistic intuition (something that obviously cannot be taught).3
The Idioms and the Sefirot
Returning to the first word of the Shema, שמע , our first step is to identify to which of the three intellectual sefirot each letter of the word corresponds. Based on our teachings elsewhere, the correspondence is:
מ – wisdom
ש – understanding
ע – knowledge
Which gives us the following chart,
1. See our Hebrew volume Sod Hashem Leyerei’av, pp. ??? for a more in depth explanation of this topic.
2. It is left for the reader to find the rule for this transformation. Once the rule is found, notice that it parallels the left hand and right hand rules in vector algebra. More specifically, the transformation used for loving-kindness, might, and beauty corresponds to the left-hand rule, resulting in a negative z-axis vector, indicating that these 3 sefirot are pointed inwards. The transformation for victory, acknowledgment, and foundation corresponds to the right-hand rule, resulting in a positive z-axis vector and indicating that these 3 sefirot point outwards.
3. Now, let us rewrite the above correspondence using more traditional Kabbalistic notation. For a, b, and c we use the three unique letters of God’s essential Name,Havayah, י (yud), ה (hei), and ו (vav), which themselves correspond to wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, respectively. In addition, we will now note the correspondence of the letters י , ה , and ו , to the sefirot as well, including the three heads of the sefirah of crown.
the unknowable head
the head of nothingness
the head of patience