The Book of Letters: A Mystical Alef-bait

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9780060649005: The Book of Letters: A Mystical Alef-bait

In calligraphy by the author. Folktales about and exploration of the mystical meanings of the Hebrew Alphabet. Open the old prayerbook-like pages of The Book of Letters and you will enter a special world of sacred tradition and religious feeling. More than just symbols, all twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet overflow with meanings and personalities of their own. Rabbi Kushner draws from ancient Judaic sources, weaving Talmudic commentary, Hasidic folktales, and Kabbalistic mysteries around the letters. Each letter is illuminated and, together with the comments, is presented in the author s original calligraphy, recalling the look and feel of ancient medieval manuscripts.

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Review:

The Book of Letters: A Mystical Alef-Bait is written in English, but the format is classically Talmudic. The book opens from right to left, ending on the page where most readers are accustomed to beginning. Lawrence Kushner, a Massachusetts rabbi whose writings have helped restore a mystical dimension to popular Judaism in America, wrote The Book of Letters in beautiful calligraphy that is reproduced on every page of this finely bound edition. The text does not so much analyze or explain the letters of the Hebrew alphabet as play with them, teasing their forms and functions for hints of their significance. Noting that aleph, the unpronounceable first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is also the first letter of the names of the first man (Adam), the first Jew (Abraham), and the herald of the last man (Elijah), as well as the first letter of the first commandment, Kushner notes that "The most basic words there are begin with the most primal sound there is." The Book of Letters is full of seriously playful insights like this. It's a marvelous guide to meditation, a primer for students of Hebrew calligraphy, and a fun introduction to learning Hebrew. --Michael Joseph Gross

From the Back Cover:

A book which is in love with Jewish letters. It gives us a feeling which the Kabbalists always knew that the letters of the alphabet are not just letters but symbols of our history, of our philosophy, and of the life of the Jewish people. In this respect this book is unique.
Isaac Bashevis Singer

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