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Why are letters called stones in Kabbalah?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

  

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In the Kabbalistic book Sefer Yetzirah (4:16) says that “Two stones build two houses.” This is understood to be a metaphor for letters and words. Just as houses are built of stones, so too words, which house ideas, are built of letters. Two letters build two homes, since two letters can create two words.

That is the obvious parallel between stones and letters.

But there is a deeper explanation, based on the idea that the human being is a miniature world. And just as the world is made up of four elements: human, animal, vegetable and mineral, so too every person contains within himself the human version of these four elements.

The human, animal and vegetable in man refers to his intellect and emotions, which are alive and experience growth. Mineral, which is not “alive” and does not grow, corresponds to human speech, or specifically the “letters,” i.e., words of speech. In comparison to intellect and emotion, words are “dead” like stones. They have no life of their own, they cannot change, etc.

Paradoxically, letters—the inferior element in man—have the capacity to elevate their superiors: intellect and emotion.

When you’re angry and you speak, you get angrier. When you love something and you talk about it, you love it more. When you understand something and you speak about it you understand it better. That’s why Jewish custom is to say the words of prayer and Torah, not just to think them, since the letters and words have a special power. They have the capacity to house the revelation of G-d’s light.

Letters are also called horses (see Habakkuk 3:8). Just as a horse can take its rider to a place he can’t get to on his own, so too the letters of the Torah elevate the soul to a place that it cannot reach with its own powers.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Kabbalistic
(adj.) Pertaining to Kabbalah—Jewish mysticism.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.