1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart!
3 They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways.
4 You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently.
5 Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments.
7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly!
Hebrew reads from right to left so as you look at the Hebrew words notice that each line of the stanza begins with Aleph. What does ALEPH mean to the Jews? English does not attach much meaning to the letters and the spelling of words or the root of words but Hebrew does so we will begin our study by looking at what Aleph means to the Hebrews. Aleph is the father of the alphabet. It is the first letter of 22 total letters.
ALEPH is a silent letter that represents the breath of G-d. Aleph is added to the root of other words to give them life or breath. Aleph is a letter formed by two Yuds that are joined by a diagonal vav. The Yud and Vav are also letters of the alphabet and we will come to them later. The letter Yud , the tenth letter of the alphabet, represents a hook and is the first letter of the name of G-d YHVH. The hook represents the hidden parts of G-d. The letter Yud does not touch the base and is the only letter that just hangs above the rest. The upper Yud represents the higher waters and the lower Yud represents the lower waters with the Vav at an angle representing humility and is the firmament between them.
Water is first mentioned in Genesis where the Spirit of G-d hovered over the surface of the water before G-d spoke creation into being. Before creation, then, the higher and lower waters were not separated but were joined as one. This would be eternity where all things are perfect and united. On the second day G-d separated the two waters by stretching the firmament between them.
The upper water in Hebrew is seen as the water of joy from being close to G-d while the lower water is bitter water experienced from being separated and far from G-d. The two are joined together by the Vav where we can see the G-d and man nature of Yeshua (Jesus) in the joining together of the divinity (upper) and the earthly (lower) in the humble (bowed over) letter Vav that is the sixth letter of the alphabet which represents man who was created on the sixth day. Jewish schollars will see this as the humility of the TORAH but Christians see all of TORAH pointing toward Yeshua.
There are many words for G-d or His names, such as El, Adonai, and Abba, that begin with the letter Aleph. In the Hebrew Scriptures G-d is found in His names while in the New Testament the writers used "Our Father" most of the time because the Gentile readers did not know the Hebrew names as well.
LOVE or Ahava is spelled Aleph Hey Vav Hey using three letters to make up a four letter word. The two word root spelled Hey Vav means to give with an Aleph added to give the word life and breath turning it to LOVE. Love is the heart of worship and the heart of the truth of TORAH. The heart of Hebrew understanding is found in the giving or charity that connects man with G-d. The act of giving opens up the connection and Aleph is seen in exactly this way. This is why giving and sacrifices have been a central part of Hebrew worship since Abraham. Today Jews see prayer as the "giving" that replaced the sacrifices and the act of giving to the poor and to others as the outpouring of the heart that separates them from this world into the divine.
The Hebrew alphabet is also the Hebrew number system and Aleph is the first letter and also the number one. Numerically then, ALEPH is one and represents the first of countable numbers that counts something from nothing. G-d is one and this represents the absolute unity of G-d and that there is none other besides Him. The original picture symbolism for ALEPH was the ox head that represented strength and leadership.
When we study scriptures the first occurrence of something carries great significance. One represents G-d the Father seen in unity for it is the only number that divides completely into all other numbers. I AM is the first person, singular of the verb TO BE. As the first letter of the alphabet we place a great significance on the meaning of the letter. It is the father of the alphabet. In Ancient Hebrew this first letter of the 22 found in the alphabet was pictured as an Ox head which stood for the strength and leadership. In the early 2nd century B.C. Jewish scholars noted that there were 22 letters which was also the number of generations from Adam to Jacob who became Israel and is also the number of books in the Jewish canon of Scriptures. All of this points to the undeniable fact that Torah or Scriptures comes from G-d and not from man as our wisdom and strength could never create something as detailed and mathematically perfect as this over thousands of years.
Ten Commandments (Decalogue)
The Ten Commandments begin with the letter Aleph in the word Anochithat begins the verse " I AM G-d your G-d who has taken you out of the land of Egypt."In the giving of the TORAH, or LAW, G-d set foot from the upper water onto the firmament and gave the Decalogue or ten words (Ten Commandments) as a statement of His connection to man. G-d came from above and Moses came from below and the two met on the mountain. The TORAH then is seen as the connecting Vav that came from that union.
When we think of the Law (Torah) our attention goes to the mountain in Exodus 20 when G-d gave Israel the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 19:8 we read that ALL Israel said that “all that the Lord has spoken we will do” which is seen by Hebrews as a commitment of their free will to G-d. They said this before He gave them the Law. Torah, then is more than just the commandments but is a commitment to seeking and knowing His will and putting that into action.
Hebrew teaching calls the statements on the mountain the Ten Words or the Decalogue. All societies have similar standards in their beliefs and make up what has been place in our conscience by G-d. In all Hebrew theology finds 613 actual commands in the Scriptures but the heart of them all is found in the ten. They are given as instruction to reveal to us our selfish nature and to lift us up or separate us from the ordinary things of this world into a life given to G-d in service and in worship and greatfulness to Him.
In the Ten Commandments we find two sections with five words in each. The words on the first tablet which speak of our relationship with G-d match with the words on the second tablet that speak of our relationship with each other. The words all are spoken by G-d to Moses formed by His hand in love. On the first tablet G-d tells us that He is our G-d and that we are to have nothing that comes between us that we worship more than Him. We are to reverence His name and give Him the glory. Jesus began the disciples prayer with Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. G-d’s name is represented in the letter ALAPH in the Yud and Vav that make up YHVH, which is His name. Hebrews call the four letter word “HaShem” which means the name. To us it is translated LORD. The fourth word of the commandments speaks of honoring the Sabbath which is to say that all of the days belong to G-d but on one we shall rest from our occupations and activities that consume us daily and give our attention to Him. The fifth command to honor parents seems like it should be on the other tablet in the relationship with man side but this is actually a transition to the second tablet where we learn that gratefulness and thanksgiving is seen in honoring in our actions. Our love for our earthly father reflects our love for our heavenly father and that is why Jesus used the word Aba or daddy in his prayer.
The two tablets connect. How? I am your G-d connects with no murder seen in the letter ALEPH that G-d is sovereign over all the earth and it is only G-d that gives and takes away life. The letter ALEPH is often spoken of as the breath of G-d as the letter has no sound by itself until connected to the rest of the letters. In the commandments we find then that G-d is seen in His glory in the actions and integrity and character of His creation.
The second command to have no other god or idol before Him is matched with adultery on the second tablet showing us how faithfulness and fidelity are demonstrated in marriage elevating it above the animal nature of the flesh.
The third commandment to honor the name of the Lord is matched with not stealing on the second tablet. This speaks of putting G-d’s name and His reputation above mine found in my actions dedicated to His will and not mine. Stealing is taking something that was not given to me by G-d. Paul taught that the person who stole needed to become the opposite in heart which was that of a giver. Charity then is at the heart of this commandment.
The fourth command to honor the Sabbath is matched with not bearing false witness speaks of justice and the absolute truth that is found in our testimony. More than an other thing it has been the keeping of the Sabbath by the Jews that have kept them separated from the world around them and allowed them to continue to exist until this day when G-d has once again restored them to the land of Israel. It is a testimony to G-d’s covenant and to the Hebrew commitment to Him.
The firth commandment on the G-d side is to honor father and mother is matched with not coveting on the second tablet revealing to us that gratefulness and honor and respect leads to actions that put the needs of others before ours.
In the daily prayer called the SHEMA, that is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:4, we read “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our G-d is one LORD: 5And thou shalt love the LORD thy G-d with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Jesus when challenged to summarize the law quoted from this prayer representing the first tablet of the law. He then added that the second, which represents the second tablet of the law, was to love your neighbor as yourself.
Love in Hebrew is the word Ahava (hbha) which is made up of three letters (Aleph – Hei and Vav). The root word is Hey – Vav (hb) meaning “to give”. This is an action word and adding the prefix Aleph to the word gives it life and breath turning it into “I give”. In Hebrew culture the word love is defined in the act of giving. It is by giving of our self that we open up the pathway to connect to G-d and to each other. Paul wrote in John 3:16 that “G-d so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.” It was this act of giving that opened the door for the world to connect to Him. For us to open the other side of the door we must also give or love and that is not found in a belief or a creed but in the action of giving our life to Yeshua and letting Him reign in our priorities and our actions.
Christian emphasis on knowing that we are not saved by our works and the replacement theology of over 1500 years that rejects anything Jewish combine to let the church drift into the liberal and selfish doctrines of this present age that focus on me and my needs and my thoughts and forgets all about connecting with others in the actions that come from the love of G-d that make up the testimony of our life. Keep this in mind as we review the words of this Psalm.
This is just part of what we can learn by digging into the language and the meaning of the Hebrew letters. I personally have found greater depth and inspiration from returning to study of our Jewish roots. It helps get our interpretation in line with the authors who wrote it. Did David have these things in mind as he was inspired to write the Psalm? Only G-d knows but as we go through the Psalm let us use this understanding of the letters to guide our devotions.
This has been written as a devotional. It comes from my own study and interest in the Hebrew roots of our faith since visiting Israel in 2007 and 2008. As I have read and talked with Jews, both orthodox and Messianic, I have found that they offer us a lot in discovering the depth of G-d’s revelation to us.
DEVOTIONAL - Psalm 119 ALEPH
Read the portion of the Psalm for Aleph again and then consider the prayer points below.
1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
3 They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
4 You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
5 Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.
7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!
•Living to G-d’s standards will result in a life of integrity and character.
Thank you Lord that you have taught us the way to conquering the selfish desires that drag us down into darkness. Knowing that all of creation, which includes all that we can see and into the unseen things of your universe, are in your hands we shall place no other thing or being higher in our devotion and reverence. Create in us a clean heart Lord.
•Knowing what the standards is a result of seeking Him with all our heart, mind and strength.
Thank you Lord for reaching down from heaven to touch us as we humbly bow before you and seek your face in your Word. Just as the letter ALEPH is silent until it is combined with the 21 letters of the alphabet we look to you to reveal to us your desires and perfect will for our lives through your Scriptures. Open our eyes and ears Lord that we might hear from you. Our strength comes from your leadership Lord and the battle for control of our selfish desires is waged first in our mind and then in our actions. Conform our thoughts Lord to yours as we open Scriptures. Show us the straight path that leads to joy. Our desire is to worship and serve you as you will, not because we must but because we can.
•Knowing G-d means putting into action the wisdom revealed to us.
Lord help me to love others as you have loved us by forgiving them and releasing them from the binding and defiling that keeps us apart through unforgiving, selfish hearts. Help us to walk in your way of love Lord. Give breath and life to our selfish hearts and direct our ways toward love with a pure heart. Love is from You and is demonstrated by giving of our self without desire for reward. Help us Lord to LOVE with a pure heart.
Use this sample from Psalm 119 as a template for your own study. The depth of the Hebrew language and the culture brings us closer to the One who gave us these words.