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Aleph Tav: Ethics and Morés in the Torah


Let us begin our review with a bit of usage of the Aleph-Tav as described in the Strong’s Concordance.

Eth (אֵת) (Strong’s H853); properly, self (but generally used to point out more definitely the object of a verb or preposition, such as even or namely):—[as such unrepresented in English].

Eth (אֵת) (Strong’s H854); properly, nearness (used only as a preposition or an adverb), near; hence, generally, with, by, at, among, etc.:—against, among, before, by, for, from, in(-to), (out) of, or with.

Eth (אֵת) (Strong’s H855); of uncertain derivation; a hoe or other digging implement:—coulter, plowshare.

The Aleph (א)

The Tav (ת)

The Aleph (א)

Originally, the Ox Head and the symbol of strength and authority.

The Aleph (א)

Strong's Hebrew Dictionary

  1. אֶלֶף aleph

properly, the same as H504; hence (the ox's head being the first letter of the alphabet, and this eventually used as a numeral) a thousand:—thousand.

The Tav (ת)

The mark of Salvation. In its earliest form, it is the striking of two lines. We will see below in Yechezq’el (Ezekiel) 9:4, that this is not conjecture or subject to speculation; rather it is expressly established in the passage below, where the language is in the Hebrew (וְהִתְוִיתָ תָּו) [v’ha’tavi’ah tav], i.e., “set a mark”.

Yechezq’el (Ezekiel) 9:1-2
HE cried also in my ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. 2 And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lies toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.

Yechezq’el (Ezekiel) 9:3-4
And the glory of the Elohai of Yashar’el was gone up from the Keruv, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; 4 And Yahuah said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Yerushalayim, and set a Tav (וְהִתְוִיתָ תָּו) [v’ha’tavi’ah tav], upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations s that be done in the midst thereof.

Yechezq’el (Ezekiel) 9:5-6
And to the others he said in my hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: 6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the Tav; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.

Yet we see other examples of striking twice – the act of making the Tav – even upon the doorposts in Mitsrayim.

Shemoth (Exodus) 12:21-23
Then Mosheh called for all the elders of Yashar’el, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the Pecach. 22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it (טָבַל) (tabal) in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. 23 For Yahuah will pass through to smite ־אתthe Mitsriym; and when he sees ־אתthe blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, Yahuah will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

And although it is not expressly given, this mark which causes death to Passover is indicated as early as the life of Qayin (Cain).

Bere’shiyth (Genesis) 4:13-15 
And Qayin said unto El־Yahuah, My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from your face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that everyone that finds me shall slay me. 15 And Yahuah said unto him, Therefore whosoever slays Qayin, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And Yahuah set a mark upon Qayin, lest any finding him should kill him.

The Aleph-Tav (את)

Now we see that this combination comes together to form this combination of strength and power, yet the mark of salvation and the sign which causes death to pass over.

Chizayon (Revelation) 1:8
I am the (א) Aleph and the (ת) Tav, the beginning and the ending, says Yahuah Elohiym, which is, and which was, and which is to come, Yahuah Tseva’oth.

Chizayon (Revelation) 1:10-11
I was in the Ruach on the day of Yahuah, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a shofar, 11 Saying, I am the (א) Aleph and the (ת) Tav, the first and the last:

Chizayon (Revelation) 22:13-14 
I am the (א) Aleph and the (ת) Tav, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life and may enter in through the gates into the city.

But before we get to far astray, let’s see if we can circle back to tie all of this together to again discuss ethics and mores and they are set forth in scripture.

Ethics and Morés

Ethics, according to Merriam-Webster, are the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group professional ethics; a guiding philosophy; a set of moral issues or aspects, consciousness of moral importance (such as rightness). Ethics are what a person should do.

Morés, according to Merriam-Webster, are the fixed binding customs of a particular group, its habits, or manners.  Mores are what people do.

The Aleph-Vav-Tav (אוֹת)

When the Aleph-Tav is interrupted with the nail – the vav - the word is spelled Aleph-Vav-Tav. Oth (אוֹת) (Strong's H226) probably from H225 (אוּת) (in the sense of appearing); a signal (literally or figuratively), as a flag, beacon, monument, omen, prodigy, evidence, etc., mark, miracle, ensign, or token.

The sign is literally the Aleph-Tav marked with a nail!

Mattithyahu (Matthew) 24:30-31 
And then the sign of the Son of A’dam shall appear in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of A’dam coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a shofar, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The Tsaddiy-Vav-Hey (צוֹה)

Enter the word Tsavah, Tsaddiy-Vav-Hey. Tsavah (צָוָה) (Strong’s H6680) is a primitive root and is generally construed as meaning to constitute, enjoin, to appoint, for bid, to charge, to command or to put or set in order.

Bere’shiyth (Genesis) 2:16-17
And Yahuah Elohiym commanded (tsavah) the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.

It is therefore possible to say any one of the following:

And Yahuah Elohiym constituted . . .

And Yahuah Elohiym enjoined . . .

And Yahuah Elohiym appointed . . .

However, that is not the end of the story:

The Mitsvah


When the Mem is added as a prefix to the Tsaddiy-Vav-Tav (tsavah) we find the word m’tsavah (מִצְוָה), meaning literally from the command (from the tsavah), which Strong’s (H4687) describes as a command, whether human or divine (collectively, the Law): that which was commanded, commandment, law, ordinance, or precept.

I emboldened the word precept because it holds the source of this word m’tsavah (which in modern Hebrew is often pronounced Mitsvah).

The Precept


When the Mem is removed as a prefix to the Tsaddiy-Vav-Hey, and the Hey is removed, we find the word Tsav, spelled Tsaddiy-Vav (צַו). Strong’s tells us that this word (H6673) is from H6680 (again, Tsavah) and is generally construed to mean an injunction, a commandment, or a precept.

A precept, according to Merriam-Webster is a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action.

An ethic, according to Merriam-Webster, is a principle of conduct governing an individual or a group.

We see therefore, that a precept is a principle as a general rule of action, and an ethic is a principle of conduct governing an individual or group. Conceptually, they are all but identical.

Yesha`yahu (Isaiah) 28:10
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

כִּי צַו לָצָו צַו לָצָו קַו לָקָו קַו לָקָו זְעֵיר שָׁם זְעֵיר שָׁם׃

Now, Yesha`yahu is telling us that an ethic is ethic upon ethic, line upon line, here a little, there a little. How is it that we should know of these precepts?

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 29:29
The secrets of Yahuah Elohaynu are given to his children and their sons forever and ever, that they may observe ־אתevery word of the Torah.

So, when we look generally at these words, rather than spending our time studying the discussions of Maimonides and his 613 mitsvoth, let us simply look at the words and see if we can glean understanding,

The Precept (tsav)

The Command (tsavah)

The Commandment (mitsvah)

We therefore can see that at the root of the mitsvoth are precepts – principles of conduct or ethics.

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