the sages of Israel, we believe that because the Bible was written by
God, it holds meanings at many levels: the story level, the application
level, the symbolic level, and the hidden level. Sometimes there are
incredible lessons to be learned by simply studying the usage of Hebrew
letters in the text or the structure of Hebrew words. Of course, we
believe this deeper meaning is worthless if one does not believe what
the text actually says, so emphasis is always placed accordingly.
ancient Hebrew thought, the letter Mem symbolizes water. In fact, its
name is derived from the Hebrew word for water, mayim. The
connection of Mem to water is very significant given the other concepts
with which the letter is interconnected.
Each Hebrew letter has a numerical value. The value of Mem is 40. This
is significant in several ways:
The number 40 appears numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments
connected to the concepts cleansing or refining. Two such examples are
the flood of Noah and the temptation of Jesus. Furthermore, many of
these accounts that mention 40 are closely associated with water. Noah's
flood was a massive cleansing by water, and Jesus' temptation took place
immediately after he was baptized in the Jordan river.
The Mikvah, or Hebrew ritual immersion must contain at least 40 sa'ahs
of water (about 200 gallons) to be a mikvah. Thus the number 40 and
the concept of water again connect the idea of cleansing intimately
to the letter Mem.
Womb and a Tomb
Mem is already associated with water and cleansing, but the depth of
symbolism goes even further. In both Jewish and Christian understanding,
immersion/baptism is a place of death and rebirth. Our old self dies,
and our we are born again, clean and renewed. As if this simple symbolism
were not enough, the letter Mem literally illustrates this
are two forms of the letter Mem, one used at the beginning or middle
of words (open), and one only used to end a word (closed).