Contemplating Hebrew Letters || Tav (or Tau)


vhbv vht
Tohu U’Vohu
(Vast Nothingness)*


    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a vast nothingness, with darkness upon the surface of the deep, and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.


Genesis 1:1-3


    *The words Tohu U’Vohu have no clear literal English translation. The phrase has been rendered as “astonishingly empty,” “unformed and void,” “formless and empty,” and “horrendous emptiness,” among others. “Vast nothingness” is our original translation.


    Have you ever wondered what the world was like before there was a world? How did the trees get here, or the mountains, or the sea? In every religion, there are myths and stories to explain the creation of the world, and in science there is the theory of evolution as well, but no one can ever know for sure how we came into existence.


    In this passage, the explanation is as follows: In the beginning of time there was simply nothing at all. There was a void, a black hole, stillness . . . and then God decided to start something new—to create a world and populate it, and to see what we might do with it.


    In Kabala, this nothingness is called Ein Sof(“Without End”) and is considered to be another name for God. According to the Zohar, in the beginning there was only God—and still today there is only God because we’re all made up of tiny fragments of His being, even though we have our own form. Kabalists believe that the state of nothingness, of primordial chaos, is a state that lasts throughout eternity. When we die our bodies become, in a sense, the same nothingness—we disintegrate and become formless and empty, just like the Tohu U’Vohuthat existed before there was a world in which our souls could be clothed in bodies. And so we go through an endless cycle of “nothingness” and “being” from life to life, throughout eternity.


    If there is one thing we learn from the Torah, it is that there are no clear beginnings or endings to any story. Historical accounts reverberate in the present day, and single letters can change the way a whole book is read. Even in the first lines of Genesis we see that the mystery is profound and eternal. Notice that in Verse 2, there is a mention of water, but water was only created on the second day. Or was it? We don’t know. This is to teach us to question assumptions and take nothing for granted.


    Chaos will become order because that is the natural tendency of the world, just as the vast nothingness turned into an enormous universe filled with amazing creations. But in order to make sense of the senseless, to make order out of chaos, we have to put our energy into understanding it all, questioning and rethinking all of our assumption.


    The Tav is the last letter of the aleph-bet and the first letter of the word Torah. Torah is the beginning of knowledge, the first explanation for life and human action, the first family and national saga. The end, therefore, is nothing but a beginning. We know by now that this is true: The end of nothingness is existence, and the end of existence is nothingness—and the completion of every stage in life leads us to the next stage. Global creation and the creation of ourselves are both eternal processes.


    The Tav comes to balance the Aleph. Although it also comes at the beginning of a new stage or the end of an old one, the Tav asks us to consider the uncertainty at hand rather than the solution or action to be taken. Chaos and order are part of the same process, and each are necessary to the other.


    This card encourages you to meditate on the vast nothingness, the emptiness of a world before there is night and day, light and darkness, earth and sea. Remember, we’re all part of this mystical state of mind, so let go of your assumptions and your earthly perspective. Allow yourself to experience the chaos of transition before you turn your energy toward the next stage of your life. The end is only the beginning.

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