I recently noticed something new about the spelling of two Hebrew words, and I thought I would share it to see if anyone else finds it interesting …
G-d’s unspeakable four-letter Hebrew name is spelled yud-hey-vav-hey, and some people believe that name, which is made of “vowel” letters, sounds like wind or like breathing.
The Hebrew word for the third-person pronoun “he” is spelled hey-vav-aleph (pronounced “hu”), and the Hebrew word for the third-person pronoun “she” is spelled hey-yud-aleph (pronounced “hee”). The first two letters of each of those words is half of the letters from G-d’s name and, just like G-d’s name, those letters make “breath sounds.” And the Aleph that’s added to the end of each word is a “silent” letter, which typically also represents a vowel and which Midrash says is the silent “almost a sound” that contained everything G-d said at Mt. Sinai. Thus, in Hebrew, the words “hu” and “hee” can remind us that the man or woman of whom we are about to speak is (1) a living, breathing image of G-d, who (2) holds intuitive knowledge of everything G-d said.
Why do I find this interesting? Because I don’t believe it is just a coincidence that can remind us that a person is an image of G-d with infinite wisdom.
“He” and “she” are terms we use to speak about a man or woman, as opposed to speaking to a man or woman. Frequently, when we speak about someone, that person is not present for the conversation. And my life experiences have demonstrated to me that we humans tend to be more careful how we speak about someone who is present to hear what we say. Perhaps that is simply because we know the person is there to refute our statements, but perhaps it is because, when someone is present, we are able to look at that person to see and remember — before we speak — that the person is an image of G-d and is wise in ways that we are not.
Imagine how different our world might be if the terms for “he” and “she” in every language provided a reminder that a person who is not present, and about whom we are preparing to speak, is an image of G-d who is full of wisdom . . .. How often might we have more patience, compassion, and respect when we talked about those who were not present to defend themselves?
I wonder …