We live every second of the day by the grace of God, quite literally! The Hebrew word CHeiN means “grace.” It is spelled CHet-Nun ( ח נ ). When those letters are physically “added together” they form the shape of the letter Tav ( ת ). The Nun becomes the left leg of the letter and the CHet becomes the top and the right leg (Be'Ibey HaNachal).
The gematria of CHet is 8 and
the gematria of Nun is 50. The product of 8 x 50 = 400, which is the
gematria of Tav. In Hebrew, letters like this have a special
relationship. Not only is their physical form related, but their
mathematic form is related as well.
To see how their relationship really connects, we will present a Midrash that will show us the power of the Tav.
In Midrash Otiyot d’Rabbi Akiva (the 2nd Nusach following the Krakow and Amsterdam versions), right in the beginning Rabbi Akiva brings the following: “When God desired to create the universe, immediately all the letters of the Aleph Bet came down and stood before God, each saying before Him, “Create the universe using me”. The first letter to come forth before God was the Tav, who said before Him, “Master of the Universe, [may it be] Your will to create the universe with me, for with me You will give the Torah to Israel through Moses," as it says (Deut. 33:4), 'תּוֹרָה צִוָּה לָנוּ מֹשֶׁה וְגוֹ – The Torah that Moses commanded us etc.”
God responded and said, ‘No. For I am going to use you to make a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and moan in order to destroy them from the world in the future". As it says (Ezekiel 9:4) "And God said to him, Pass though the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark a sign on the foreheads of the men who sigh and moan for all the abominations that are done within it." ’1
What does "וְהִתְוִיתָ תָּו – and mark a sign" mean? This teaches that at the time that God decreed a decree of justice on Jerusalem to destroy it [at the end of the First Temple], He called to the Angel of Death (others say to the Angel Gabriel) and told the Angel, “Go first to Jerusalem, and choose from among there the righteous and the wicked. And for every righteous person that is within [Jerusalem], write a Tav of ink on his forehead; Tav [meaning] Tichyeh (he will live), so that he will survive. And for every wicked person that is there, write a Tav of blood on his forehead, Tav [meaning] Tamut (he will die).”
[This is why it specifically uses the word "תָּו" for a "sign" (and not, say, the word אוֹת, the more common word for sign), for it literally meant use the letter Tav.]
And how is the Tav different from all the other letters? To teach you that the Torah saves a person from all types of troubles.2
At that time [when God instructed the Angel to write Tav], the Attribute of Justice arose before God and she said before Him, “Master of the Universe, even the righteous within [Jerusalem] should have written on their foreheads a Tav in blood, Tav [meaning] Tamut, so that they be destroyed together with the wicked!” God responded and said to her, “Why?” She replied before Him, “Because they did not reprove your children with words of chastisement, and they didn’t say to them: "Don’t sin, and don’t do things that are repulsive, things that aren’t proper, things that are not meant to be done".” God responded and said to her, “It is revealed and well known before Me, that were [the righteous] to reprove [the wicked], [the wicked] wouldn’t have listened.” The Attribute of Justice replied and she said before Him, “Master of the Universe, even though [the wicked] would not have listened to [the reproof] from [the righteous], it is [the righteous’ responsibility] to reprove [the wicked]!” Immediately God was silent, and considered all the righteous of that generation that were in Jerusalem as wicked.
At that time, six angels of destruction were sent on Jerusalem and they destroyed the men within. As it says (Ezekiel 9:2) “And behold, six men were coming from the direction of the Upper Gate that faces northward, each man with his sledgehammer in his hand; but one man among them was clothed in linen, with a scribe’s slate hanging from his belt. They came and they stood by the Copper Altar.” … And these are the six “men” that were sent on Jerusalem: Anger, Wrath, Rage, Destroyer, Desolation, Destruction, and each had a double-edged sword in his hand as it says “each man with his sledgehammer in his hand.” [According to the Sefer Livnat HaSapir, there were six (actual) men that were sent on Jerusalem to destroy it: Nebo, Master of Knives, Captain of the Guard, Nergal, Sarezzer, Sorcerer Supreme (Jeremiah 39:3)3. Each had a double-edged sword in their hand, and the one among them that was wearing linen was Gabriel, and the slate at his waist was the instruments of Judgment.]
When the Tav heard this from the mouth of God, immediately it left God’s presence dejected.
Afterwards, the Shin came forth…”
As we see from the above Midrash, the Tav was used as a mark that either meant Tichyeh (you will live) or Tamut (you will die). Whether a person was one or the other depended on their CHet-Nun (chein/grace) determined by the CHet or CHokmah/wisdom, which was a function of their relation to God.
The root of CHeiN (grace) is CHaNaN (CHet, Nun, Nun) which means “to be graced.” The gematria of CHaNaN is 108 which is the same as the gematria of the word “half” in hebrew (חֲצִי) and also the number of cubic handbreadths in “half” the sapphire cube. If CHaNaN (“to be graced”) is “half the equation,” then what is the other half?
When the letter Nun is fully spelled out, it is Nun-Vav-Nun. The word refers to the lack of knowledge/spirituality that can only be rectified by Torah study (to receive CHet/CHokmah/wisdom)4. The gematria of Nun when fully spelled out is 50 + 6 + 50, or 106. If a person wishes “to be graced,” by God (108) they must remedy their lack of spirituality, or “NuN” (106) in a Beit Midrash or “house of study.” The letter Bet (Beit) means “house” and its gematria is 2. In other words, in order “to be graced” CHaNaN (8 + 50 + 50 = 108), one who is lacking knowledge must get themselves to a house of study where he can learn about God (NuN + Bet is 50 + 6 + 50 + 2 = 108). Therefore, half of the equation is what man must do (108) in order “to be graced” (108) by God with the other half, which is life/knowledge (108 + 108 = 216).
Rebbe Nachman says that when Esav came against Ya’acov, he brought 400 men with him, indicative of “his Tav” (which lacking knowledge/fear of God was tantamount to death and destruction). Esav's message to Ya'acov was supposed to be “you will die” (Tamut). However, Ya’acov countered Esav’s Tav (Tamut) with his own Tav (Tichyeh) which was made from grace (CHet - Nun) by virtue of his Torah study and knowledge of God. Since Ya’acov’s CHet/CHokmah (wisdom) was so much greater than Esav’s, who was completely lacking in such knowledge, he fell upon Ya’acov with hugs and kisses. Esav had only the NuN (lack of knowledge) to form his Tav.
We see this explicitly in the verses dealing with Ya’acov and Esav’s encounter. In Parashah VaYishlach 32:6, Ya’acov instructs his messengers to tell Esav, “…I have much livestock… and I am sending to tell my lord to find grace (CHeiN) in your eyes.” Besides for expressing a wish that Esav would look upon him favorably, these words were also a request that Esav let Ya’acov live. Many years earlier, Esav had vowed to kill Ya’acov in revenge for Ya’acov taking their father’s blessing (that had originally been intended for Esav). These were not empty words; their parents were so concerned for Ya’acov that they sent him to Lavan, far away from Esav, hoping that with time, Esav’s anger would abate and he would forgive his brother. Now Ya’acov was returning home, and naturally he wished to see if Esav still held a grudge. He therefore sent gifts to Esav, saying, “to find grace (CHeiN) in your eyes.” He was looking for the CHeiN, which would tell him that Tichyeh; Esav would let him live.
But the messengers returned with a report that “Esav [was] coming with 400 men” (verse 7). In response, Ya’acov became very frightened (verse 8), because the 400 showed that Esav's intent was the Tav of Tamut, “you will die.” When Ya’acov and Esav met, Esav said, “What did you intend by that whole camp that I met [on the way here]?”, to which Ya’acov replied, “To find grace (CHeiN) in my master’s eyes” (33:8). Ya’acov was saying that he was looking for CHeiN, so that the Tav would be Tichyeh.
Having embraced Ya’acov and reconciled with him, Esav tried to refuse the tribute, but Ya’acov responded, “No, I beg of you! If I have now found grace (CHeiN) in your eyes, then accept my tribute from me, inasmuch as I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of a Divine being, and you were appeased by me” (32:10). Perhaps we can read this verse as follows: Ya’acov responded that he had found grace (CHeiN), therefore the Tav means Tichyeh. As to why Esav’s face would look like a Divine being, that part of the verse could be read, “…accept the tribute for we met. Like seeing the face of a Divine being [was why] you were appeased by me” (the Trup supports this). Ya’acov was alluding to the Tav on his own face, which now said Tichyeh (and so retained the look of a Divine being) for he had CHeiN with the CHet/CHokhmah, and thus God let him live. Ya’acov shows us this in the next verse where he says, “…for God has been gracious to me (key CHaNaNi Elokim).” Ya’acov was alluding to the time he spent learning in the Beit Midrash of Shem and Ever (2) so his NuN (50 + 6 + 50) was whole (106 + 2 = 108). He had thus performed his half of the equation (of CHeiN). And the fact that Esav did not kill him showed that God “graced” (CHaNaNi) him with the other half (108), which made him complete (216) with his CHeiN (8 x 50), so that his Tav (400) would say Tichyeh, and he would live. This is why the Medrash quoted above states that the Torah saves from all types of troubles. Ya’acov learned Torah in the Beit Midrash of Shem and Ever, which enabled him to complete the equation; thus his Tav said Tichyeh, and he was saved.
On a still higher level, Ya'acov's words were really a prayer to the Master of the Universe that his Tav (destiny) would be Tichyeh, to live, rather than Tamut, to die, since all things ultimately come from God. This is much like Queen Esther's words to Achashverosh, which were actually a prayer to God requesting that "the 10" be hung on the gallows in the distant future, a request that only God could answer. At this level, when Esav said, “What did you intend by that whole camp that I met?” ... and Ya’acov replied, “to find grace (CHeiN) in my master’s eyes,” he is not referring to Esav at all, but to the Master of the Universe (and the divine presence in this instance) since God is the only one who can bestow grace.
Now here’s where we see the letters of God's Explicit Name as a function of every second. We live each day by the grace of God... or to put it another way... “you will live” (Tav/Tichyeh/400) each day by the grace of God. If you multiply your Tav (400) whatever it may be (with or without knowledge of God) times the number of letters in God’s Explicit Name (216) you get 86,400 (400 x 216 = 86,400) which is a very special number. It just happens to be the number of seconds in a 24 hour day5.
In other words, we live each second, of each day, by the grace of God, whose Signature is quite literally a mathematic function of each and every one of those 86,400 seconds in a 24 hour day.
You can read another of the more advanced construct here: The Marriage of the Letters
Footnote 1 - Notice the Tav’s verse and the verse that God brings are both verse 4 of their corresponding chapter. The numerical value of Tav is 400, and in Mispar Katan (which is a type of gematria where you take whatever number you get and delete the zeros to get the whole number) it becomes 4. The Tav brought a verse that is the same gematria as itself (in Mispar Katan), and God countered with a like verse.
Footnote 2 - (In Baba Batra 7b, it expounds the verse (Song of Songs 8:10) “I am a wall”, to refer to the Torah. As we see from this Medrash, the Torah saves a person from all types of troubles, just like a wall protects a person from enemies.)
Footnote 3 - This verse (Jeremiah 39:3) is a verse that has many different interpretations. It enumerates Nebuchadnezzar’s commanders and because there are different readings of the names (some are combined meaning a name, others are separate meaning ‘captain of …’), there are different interpretations of the count of his officers. Livnat HaSapir counts them as explained above, although there are many other ways of interpreting this verse.
Footnote 4 - R. Nachman / Likutay MoHaran
Footnote 5 - The earth currently completes a full 360 degree rotation every 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds. However, as we've pointed out in several posts, it hasn't always been this way. Adjusting the period of axial rotation to what it would have been under a 360 day orbit of the sun, would cause the rotation to "return" to 24 hours exactly, or something very close. NASA has actually studied the premise and concluded that the orbital dynamics of the earth were much different in the past. The study of fossil shells, and banded deposits in sandstones, show that in the past, the length of a day was considerably different. Sedimentation and shell-growth adhere to the cycle of the moon and have bands representing the lunar month. By counting them, geologists can determine the number of days in a year, and also the number of hours in a day.
A special thank you goes to Tsofiya for editing, Uri for helping to fill in the blanks pertaining to the encounter between Ya'acov and Esav and explaining the Midrash Otiyot d’Rabbi Akiva, and Lisa for pointing out the connection of CHaNaN "to be graced" (108).