Although it is not too clear from the title whether this guide was written by or for The Complete Idiot, I will be honest; my credentials for writing this post are dismal. I am a techie type who discovered my intuitive side only months ago, and right after that I tried to analyze everything I knew about intuition to death before I realized you cannot get it that way. To really succeed at Gematria, someone must have a high Intuitive Intelligence Quotient (IIQ), because once you are done with all the calculating, the real trick will be relying on your intuition to make meaningful interpretations. I am still at an early stage of evolving my intuitive skills, so what I have to offer you is mostly a primer on calculations and then mention some resources that can help with the interpretation. In short, I am about to give you a rocket booster ride into the realm of Gematria, but once you get there, you will have to fly by the seat of your pants. It is recommended that you enlarge the image on your screen to see Hebrew letters more clearly. Ready? “Three, Two, One, Liftoff!”
The Idiot’s Guide to Using Transliteration for Gematria
We all know the Hebrew word for peace is Shalom (שָׁלוֹם) and is easily recognizable to us who are not Hebrew scholars by what we call the transliteration “Shalom”. The transliteration is an English word replicating the sound of the Hebrew word. Now, we all know by the hearing of the ear that the beginning of this word has a wet “sh” sound (as in shoe). We also know that in simple Gematria we use a system of numbers assigned to each Hebrew letter, and then we add up the numbers obtained from each letter in a word to get a sum. If you did not know this, then your AII (analytical intelligence quotient) has just doubled. We also know that the vowels are generally not counted, at least not in simple Gematria.
What you might not know is that the “o” is Shalom is a letter-vowel and is counted, whereas the “a” is a non-letter vowel which is not counted. If you read Hebrew, you would know this already. But let us assume you do not. So now we are in a quandary; how do we, who are not Hebrew scholars, know when an English vowel in an English transliteration of a Hebrew word is counted or not. This is the fun part; here, the answer is very simple – you don’t.
That is why transliteration is usually unreliable for Gematria. If you not yet convinced, then let us try this. Assume you did not know that the sound of the word Shalom began with a Hebrew letter represented as the “sh” sound (as in shoe). If you are like me (God have mercy), you have a 50% probability of mistaking the Hebrew letter represented by “sh” for two Hebrew letters represented by “s” and “h”. These two letters would have different number values than the one letter that sounded like “sh”. And so if you are still like me (God have mercy and grace), then by the flip of the coin you could easily get the number value of “s” + “h”, instead of the number value for “sh”.
Now, it has generally been shown that intuitives (who are opposite my original undeveloped personality as a techie) can guess their way through to the right answer, but usually no more than about 70% of the time. People have their personal systems for doing this. It works for them… usually 70% of the time. Different books and different teachers also have personal systems of doing this. However, unless we want to be limited to admiring their conclusions from the sidelines instead of understanding how to make these calculations ourselves correctly every time, we need to agree on a standard system that is foolproof. That is where I come in. I may or may not be the Complete Idiot, time will tell if that is true, but I am good at foolproof. The exception is when I fall into the trap of fooling myself by being too analytical, but that is a story for another post. And so I will apply my skills at being foolproof for your benefit, although time will tell if that is also true.
The Idiot’s Guide to a Standard System of Doing Gematria
Believe it or not, there are at least two standard systems that are completely useless for the Complete Idiot who only has at his (or her) disposal a normal computer keyboard. These are international phonetic systems that use complex symbols like è, ã, ĵ, ƌ, Ɔ, Ǝ, Ʒ, and ƽ. They often have no easily recognizable relation to the sound of the Hebrew word. I do not know about you, but they are not on my keyboard. And if we were somehow able to find these symbols somewhere in our software, it would be easier to just learn Hebrew than to use these. Actually that is not a bad option, learning Hebrew, but going down that path is time-consuming and this Complete Idiot’s Guide is trying to work around that.
So what is the solution that is so foolproof? It is the table below.
In using this table, it will help to note that there are three t’s in foreign language work … translation, transliteration, and transcription. The “translation” is obviously the English meaning of the foreign word. This only applies, of course, if you speak English (which is also the native language of the Complete Idiot). The “transliteration” as we discussed above is what the foreign word sounds like, when the sounds are expressed in English. The “transcription” is the substitution of precise symbols for the foreign letters in a word. By precise I mean that there is a single, unique transcription symbol assigned to each individual Hebrew letter. Transcription has thus become our hope and salvation from eternal ambiguity.
|The Complete Idiot’s Transcriptions for Simple Gematria|
|a, ah ay, e,|
|eh, ee, oo|
|3||ג||Gimmel||g (as in gas)||g|
|וּ||Vav Sharug||Long u (as in tune)||u|
|וֹ||Vav Holam||Long o (as in open)||o|
|8||ח||Chet||ch (as in bach)||ch|
|10||י||Yod||y (as in yes)||y|
|י.||Yod Tsere||Long e (as in key)||e|
|י||Yod Hirig||Long I (as in site)||i|
|(at end of word)|
|כ||Chaf||ch (as in bach)||kh|
|a, ah ay, e,|
|eh, ee, oo|
|90||צ||Tsade||ts (as in nuts)||ts|
|100||ק||Qof||q (as in queen)||q|
|200||ר||Resh||r (as in rush)||r|
|20||ך||Khof sofit||ch (as in bach)||KH|
|90||ץ||Tsade sofit||ts (as in nuts)||TS|
|* But slightly more guttural ** Slightly rolled like the French r|
We are going to take the EZ route and avoid a lot of extra details about this table. Sufficed to say, the table is like standard Gematria tables you would find anywhere (where there are techie’s like me). The first four columns are from information you would find anywhere in books and online. Column I is the numerical value assigned to each letter. Column II is the Hebrew letter. Column III is the English name for the Hebrew letter, so if we are talking about a ת we can refer to it as a Tav. The transliteration in Column IV tells us how the letter sounds. Note, these are in italics to make sure we do not confuse them with transcription symbols we are going to use to replace the Hebrew letters for the purpose of counting.
The transcription symbols are in Column V. I made them up for The Complete Idiot’s Guide so that each Hebrew letter has a unique symbol. There is nothing exotic about these transcription symbols. You can find them on the keyboard. I took the liberty of using superscripts and underlines in order to designate which sound corresponds to a symbol when there are complicated situations in English where there might be more than one sound for the English letter. So u represents a long u sound (as in tune) instead of a short u sound (as in mud).
This u is the transcription symbol for one of the three variants of the Vav family, which all have a numerical value of 6. This variant is the “Vav Shurug” which has the privilege of being one of four Hebrew letters that are letter-vowels. Each time you see the Vav Sharug (וּ) which looks like a regular Vav holding a camera, you can transliterate it as u.
I use a superscripted symbol “sh” to distinguish the Shin (שׁ) with the “sh” sound from the symbol “s” for Sin (שׂ) with the “s” sound. I have a Complete Idiot’s trick for remembering which of these two look-alike Hebrew letters is the Sin … the Sin has a dot on the left because sin is not right.
There are two strong and silent type letters. These are Alef (numerical value 1) and Ayin (numerical value 70). By themselves they are silent, but they are strong because when non-letter vowels are attached to them they carry the sound of the vowel. Thus, (א) is silent while (אָ), (אַ), (אֵ), (אֶ), (אֽ) and (אֻ) take on the vowels associated with the vowel points underneath the letter, which correspond to the vowel sounds a, ah, ay, e, ee, and oo. We will ignore the vowel points in this post. If there is an interest, we will cover them in a possible future post … “The More Complete Idiot’s Guide”.
For now, simply note that Aleph (א) is transcribed in The Complete Idiot’s Guide as “@”. The “@” is a common English symbol that has no sound and appears on the standard keyboard. Likewise, the Ayin (ע) is transcribed as “&”.
There is a moral in the silent letters. We should all spend time becoming silent like the Aleph and the Ayin, so that the divine presence can add just the right vowels to our spirits.
The only thing I need to tell you before we hit the ground running by doing some honest to goodness Gematria, is that five Hebrew letters … Kaf, Mem, Nun, Pey, and Tsade … have letter forms that look different when they are at the end of a word. They are called “final ending forms” and have the name “sofit” after their regular names. A Mem looks like מ but a Mem sofit looks like ם. They both sound like “m”. In simple Gematria the sofit letters take on the same number values as their regular counterparts. We will now do some simple calculations.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Calculating Gematria
Let us look at the Hebrew word Shalom again. Shalom is a transliteration of the Hebrew word שָׁלוֹם. Note that the Hebrew letters are written from right to left so that the Shin with vowel point (שָׁ) is the first letter of the word. This Shin has a vowel point at the bottom that adds the vowel after it that sounds like “ah” as in mamma. It corresponds to the “a’’ in Shalom. We have not stopped ignoring vowel points, just mentioning them here so we aware that they exist (otherwise how would we know we were ignoring them).
This Hebrew word Shalom has four letters. The first letter, we already have discussed, is “Shin” with vowel point (שָׁ) which transcribes as “sh” and has a numerical value 300. The second letter is a “Lamed” (ל) which transcribes as “l” and has a numerical value 30. The third letter is “Vav Holam” (וֹ) which looks like a regular Vav with a toupee. He is a very handsome bloke. In fact, he is pronounced as a long “o” as in (guess what) bloke; and this then transcribes as the symbol “o” and has a numerical value 6. It is underlined to differentiate it from the short “o” as in mom. (The short “o” is used in other words as a non-letter vowel, which we are still ignoring.)
Our simple method thus transcribes the Hebrew word שָׁלוֹם (written from right to left) to the transcribed word shloM (written from left to right). Each of these four letters has a number value corresponding to 300, 30, 6, and 40, respectively. In a tabular form, we can sum these numbers to get the simple Gematria result of 376:
M + 40
This takes up a lot of space so we will express this calculation using a string of numbers separated by hyphens, remembering that these are and not subtraction signs. The string looks like (300-30-6-40). We will express this calculation as (300-30-6-40) = 376.
We can write a full and concise report of this Gematria process for Shalom in the format:
Peace שָׁלוֹם Shalom shloM (300-30-6-40) = 376
Generically, this format would be:
Translation Hebrew Word Transliteration Transcription (Numerical Values) = Total
Next, let us try the word for God in Genesis chapter 1, Elohim. The transliteration alone will not really help use here to calculate Gematria because there are English letters “e, o, and i” in Elohim that may be Hebrew letters, letter-vowels or vowel points. We really need to see the word in the Hebrew to figure this out. If we tried to use an English/Hebrew dictionary to look up God, we would see a list of words for God. Two of them end in the “m” sound as a result of a “Mem sofit”. If we are somewhat familiar with Hebrew we might make the right choice by selecting the word אֱלֹהִים instead of הַשֵּׁם
(Hashem, The Name). However, this being “The Complete Idiot’s Guide” we have to assume that someone named Murphy will pick הַשֵּׁם. Since I do foolproof, I must stop Murphy from making this fatal mistake. I will do this by instead using a parallel Hebrew/English bible and find the Hebrew word for God in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God (Elohim אֱלֹהִים) created the heavens and the earth”. Now we can do our concise report:
God אֱלֹהִים Elohim @lheM (1-30-5-10-40) = 86
- There is a vowel point “ ֺ “ near the top left of the Lamed ל that produces the non-letter vowel “o” (in this case , a long “o” as in open) in the transliteration; but it is excluded from the transcription for the simple method.
- The third of the four letter-vowels, “Yod Tsera” which is written in the table as “ י.”, partly superimposes on the Hey ה so that the dot is under the Hey הִי. This indicates that there is a long “e” sound (as in eat) after the Hey. This is transcribed as e.
- The Aleph is transcribed as “@”. It has a vowel point underneath it which gives it the sound of a short “e” as in elbow, which we are not going to worry about. Just be aware that it is there so the Aleph is not silent, otherwise the word would have been transliterated as ‘lohim.
OK, now it is your turn. Complete the report for Bereshit which is the first word of the bible. See answer key which is hiding below the three examples.
Practice Example 1
In the beginning בְּרֵאשִׁית Bereshit br@shet (_-_ _ _-_-_ _ _-_ _-_ _ _) = _ _ _
Practice Example 2
Blessed בָּרוּךּ Baruch bruKH (_-_ _ _-_-_ _) = _ _ _
Practice Example 3
The Tetragrammaton יהוה Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey yhvh (_ _-_ _-_-_ _) = _ _
Practice Example 1: (2-200-1-300-10-400) = 913
Practice Example 2: (2-200-6-20) = 228
Practice Example 3: (10-30-6-30) = 76
Now since I am writing this “Complete Idiot’s Guide” and also do foolproof, this is not going to be merely a lecture which you read on your smart phone while you walk the dog into a puddle. Try this three-problem practice test by filling in the blanks. The answer key is below … somewhere.
- The Hebrew word for king is pronounced Melech. It is written in Hebrew as מֱלֶךּ. We can calculate and report this as King מֱלֶךּ Melech __ __ __ ( _ – _ – _ – ) = _ _ The transcription is __ __ __.
- The Hebrew word for man is pronounced Adam. It is written in Hebrew as אָﬢׇם. We can calculate and report this as King אָﬢׇם Adam __ __ __ (_ – _ – _ _ ) = _ _ The transcription is __ __ __.
- The lucky number in Hebrew means life and is pronounced Chai as in the toast “L’Chaim” (to life). Chai in Hebrew is ח׳.We can calculate and report this as _____ ח׳ _ _ _ _ _ _ ( _ – _ ) = _ _ The transcription is _ _
- mlKH King מֱלֶךּ Melech mlKH (40-30-20) = 90
- @dM @dM (1-4-30) = 35
- chi Life ח׳ Chai chi (8-10) = 18.
For people who are very familiar with Hebrew, it is much less complicated to go directly from the Hebrew letters to their corresponding numerical values. For those who are not, a simple and precise method of transcription has been demonstrated. People now have the option of either using their own personal systems or giving the Complete Idiot’s Guide a test ride. For those of you who are wondering why I did not use subscripts too, it is because I am saving subscripts for the vowel points. Thus Shalom with vowel points will look like shaloM with a subscript “a” as in allure. Melech would be meleKH. I have thus created an English-language-based simulation of Hebrew.
If anyone wants to learn how to make Hebrew letters appear on your screen, then find the symbols in Microsoft Word for “David” script. This is not a real typing font, but symbols that you enter one at a time. It is a little tricky to use. A brief tutorial might be an idea for “The More Complete Idiot’s Guide”.
An application of Gematria is demonstrated in an example from the Talmud discussing how Daniel the Prophet decoded God’s handwriting on the wall in the bible (found in Daniel, Chapter 5). This following account in the Bible and Talmud will help us appreciate the interpretive value of Gematria. According to the Babylonian Talmud, the cryptic warning to King Belshazzar written on the wall by the finger of God, was written in Gematria:
“But what can the phrase, they could not read the writing, mean [on the view of R. Simeon, who asserts that this writing was not changed]? — Rab said: The passage was written in Gematria:17 Y-T-T. Y-T-T. ‘A-D-K. P-U-G-H-M-T.18 How did he interpret it to them? — As M-N-A. M-N-A. T-K-L. U-F-R-S-Y-N.19 — ‘Mene’, God has numbered thy kingdom and brought it to an end. ‘Tekel’, thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting. ‘Peres’, thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. Samuel said: [It was written thus:] M-M-T-U-S. N-N-K-AsF-Y. ‘A-‘A-L-R-N.20 R. Johanan said: [It was written:] A-N-M. A-N-M. L-K-T-N-Y-S-R-F-U;21 while R. Ashi says: It was written: N-M-A. N-M-A. K-T-L. F-U-R-S-Y-N.22” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 22a:17-22)1.”
It is difficult from this passage to tell what language or code is being used for the letters in the original message. Some rabbis proposed that the original message was written in an older, pre-exilic Hebrew which no one remembered because they had neglected the Torah in which it was written; the rabbis claim this was why God allowed ancient Israeli’s enemies to carry them off to discipline them. But Daniel had access to those manuscripts because, as the Book of Daniel describes in Chapter 9, he discovered the portions of scriptures in the pre-exilic Book of Jeremiah that warned about Israel being exiled for 70 years if it backslid, and being reestablished in its land if it eventually repented. He interceded for Israel by asking for God’s forgiveness for the sins of his people.
As for the cryptic message on the wall, Daniel, by whatever decoding technique he used, deciphered this as Aramaic names for coins: “Mina, Mina, Tekel, Upharsin”. The “Mina” is a standard coin and also means “to count”. “Tekel” is a “shekel” which also means “to weigh”. And “Upharsin” is an expression meaning two “Peres”, a Peres being a coin worth a half-mina, the usage being derived from the verb peres which means “to divide”. Peres is also a word related to the word for the land of “Persia”, which at that time was occupied by two peoples, the Medes and Persians. Thus, Daniel came up with the interpretation, “MINA, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; SHEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; TWO HALF-MINA, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. (Daniel 5:25–28).
Note, it took no less than four Talmudic rabbis (Simeon, Rab, Samuel and Ashi) to try to establish the details of this passage in Daniel. This makes me feel better about my tribulations in trying to do things like Gematria on my own. Moral: I will get by with a little help from my friends, even if we disagree with each other as much as the Talmudic rabbis always did. Disagreement is a good thing, especially when you live too far away from each other like these rabbis did to have face-to -ace confrontations. I have ailing, grumpy in-laws who have recently tried the face-to-face method with each other. Not good, especially when you are already losing hair due to natural aging. I tried to make them meditate by lashing them to chairs and stuffing their mouths with apples. Alas, they ate the apples and then chewed through the lashings. Some of my Complete Idiot’s methods may need further development.
There are just two more points I need to wrap up. The first, is that some of you may be wondering why you may have seen “Yud” or “Jod” used instead of “Yod” (perhaps in some SOS posts and books and articles elsewhere). Also you may have seen “Waw” used instead of “Vav”. These are from early variations of the Hebrew language that preceded the standardization of Hebrew by Jewish Masoretic monks around the 6th century CE. It may also be complicated by the fact that when Hebrew is transliterated into some European languages (like German for instance) these languages use a “j” to represent the English “y sound” and a “w” to represent the English “v sound”.
I know that the conventions I have used represent the standard for Jewish congregations in the United States. Some orthodox Jewish groups still cling to the use of the “Ashkenazi” convention for pronunciation that they inherited from Europe that is mixed with a little Yiddish from that area. This is mostly identical to the Masoretic convention, except the ת (Tav) is called a “Sov” and is pronounced like the English “s”. Thus they pronounce the Hebrew word for Sabbath שַׁבָּת (Shbt) as Shabbos, instead of Shabbat. However, the Ashkenazi do not use the w and j for v and y.
An isolated community of Jewish people in Iraq did at one time use the w and j which is more aligned with Arabic sounds of that area. They considered themselves ethnically Arab and religiously Jewish. They were restricted from holding many kinds of jobs and had to wear yellow stars in public. Today the population of people in Iraq who declare their religion as Jewish is almost non-existent. There were five registered in Bagdad in 2013. Of the two countries which have gone to such extremes in mistreating Jews, Germany has gone through the ringer and emerged as a changed and prosperous nation. Iraq is still going through the ringer.
Iran, which tolerates its Jewish population but condemns the existence of Israel and has funded terrorists, has been economically sanctioned. Syria, which has been an intermediary in transporting weapons to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, is now a land of constant war and devastation. Russia, which has in the past supported Iranian nuclear development and supported the Syrian government in order to secure its military base in Syria, is now in an economic depression. The Gaza strip under the leadership of Hamas terrorists, which has been lobbing bombs over the border to Israel and kidnapping soldiers, is poverty stricken, partly devastated and international funding for repairs is depleted.
In contrast, the West Bank which has been attempting to negotiate its grievances with Israel has a middle class economy and gaining recognition in the United Nations. China, which has developed economic ties with Israel in the 21st century, has a bustling 21st century economy. Perhaps the scripture still applies literally in many respects to the Jewish people, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” Genesis 12:3 The blessings to all the families of the earth is through the Messiah.
It may be that in the early phases of pre-exilic Judaism, that the j and w were used more frequently, so that the secret, sacred four-letter name of God יהוה is believed by some to have been pronounced “Jahweh”. The norm for observant Jewish people today is to not pronounce the sacred name except in theological or historical contexts, and then to use the popular pronunciation “Yahveh”, knowing that the actual pronunciation, whatever it may be, is purposely hidden to avoid using it in vain. Placing a vowel point “o” (as in own) under the first ה (Hey) would render it Yahoveh, which is close to the common alternate pronunciation used by non-Jews, “Jehovah”.
It just goes to show you that one man’s y is another man’s j. The English word for the name of the city “Jerusalem” is actually pronounced Yerushalyim in Hebrew. Many Jewish people feel odd when other cultures insist on using the j and w; after all, Hebrew is the sacred language of the Jewish people. It belongs to them. The International Phonetics Association along with other groups may be overstepping authority by trying to define it differently. It is also confusing to Jewish people when they hear j and w used in Hebrew; it would be like me telling you to write me an email at my “jahoo.com” account. If you take me literally, your email probably will not get to me.
As Anny has pointed out to me, some Dutch Jewish synagogues have used the j and w sounds for Hebrew. I think this is because of the same reason that the Germanic type languages use the j and w sounds for the letters y and w.
The second point I need in order to wrap all this up, is this. I was reluctant to provide simple guidelines to interpreting Gematria calculations because it could lead to not learning to rely enough on intuition. However, I now realize that learning just the calculations is kind of a dead end if it is not applied. So consider this information I am about to provide as a starter kit to get off the ground in making interpretations. Once you are up in the air, you still need to learn to fly by instinct. That is where I am no use to anyone yet. You will have to find more experienced mentors for this. So here is the kit. Happy hunting.
- To calculate Hebrew Gematria using software, try http://www.ridingthebeast.com/gematria-calculator/. You will have to enter the word or phrase in Hebrew. I do not recommend this over doing your own calculations, for the same reason I would not recommend skipping lessons in arithmetic before using a digital calculator, but it is available for those who want to explore this option.
- The bible is laid out nicely in Hebrew and English, with active links to Strong’s concordance for each word at http://biblehub.com. Go down to the last half of the page, select a book of the bible. You will see it in various versions and with a content interpretation. Select “Hebrew” to see the Hebrew/English parallel translation. The Hebrew can be copied and pasted into the “Gematria calculator” part of the software to do the calculations. The Bible Hub software has more options for interpretation of scriptural content than other Gematria software. This comes in handy.
- An improvement of sorts over Bible Hub that might be easier to work with and that also separates the root word from the main word, and then gives the Gematria number values of both, is at http://www.biblewheel.com/GR/GR_Database.php . This is a must see for serious Gematria researchers.
- To research interpretive meanings of various numbers, consult http://www.ridingthebeast.com/numbers/.
- To research and compare Hebrew words that total to the same number, consult http://www.biblewheel.com//GR/GR_Identities.php. This is the real gift of the starter kit. Even if you are an experienced intuitive interpreter of Gematria, you will find this valuable.
There. We did it. Hallelujah or Halleluyah! The “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gematria” is all wrapped up. If there is more interest in this subject, as I mentioned previously, I will post “The More Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gematria” in which I will demonstrate how to include the Hebrew vowel-points in transcriptions and calculations, which is very important in such things as finding the hidden significance in the names of God. I will also describe other calculation methods that are used in special circumstances. And finally, I will go into more seemingly futile details into how to make interpretations, some of which may actually be useful. ShaloM.
- Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin Folio 22a: 17-22 http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_22.html