Echoes of Elul Day 7: Hebrew Letters

Risè Kirbo

I don’t know Hebrew. Not the words, not the alphabet, not the punctuation. But when I see the written words in a prayerbook or on a screen, something happens to me.

My grandparents were Orthodox. They had newspapers in their home written entirely in Hebrew. A Jewish calander from the kosher butcher hung in their kitchen. It had some Hebrew words on it. God was pictured seated wearing striped robes and with a long white flowing beard just like my grandfather. I thought my grandfather was God.

This was likely my first experience seeing Hebrew letters. And, perhaps, it represents a time in my life where I was cherished, protected, and safe. Seeing the ancient structure of the letters feels like a healing balm to me. They soothe and strengthen me in an indescribable way.

I don’t want to learn Hebrew. I don’t want to know the translation of what I see in an academic sense. I don’t want to wrestle with meaning and argue with my beliefs. I just want to be carried on a visual journey of dancing lines, curving shapes and dashes and dots that take me back to that place of peace and calm in my grandmother’s kitchen.

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