There are 12 Tribes in the House of Israel. In the rules of gematria (numerical value of Hebrew letters), we can always add 1 to the total to make a connection to another word. Playing on this idea we can add 1 to 12 and we reach 13, the value of echad (אחד), the word for "one" or "unity." In other words, when the 12 tribes are connected to their spiritual leader, the 13th (Yoseph), they are united and there is love (אהבה, also the gematria of 13).
A long story, but worth the read!
When I first did the cover, I did it without the Hebrew letters in the background. My friend and study partner Jeff Lefever also happens to be a world class professional artist http://lefeverphotography.com/. We worked together teaching at the Art Institute of Laguna Beach. He actually was the first person to encourage me to study Hebrew.
I was a professor of Greek philosophy and the Greek language was my passion. I had no knowledge or interest in Hebrew. He said to me, "Hebrew is very powerful." Those words entered my heart and soul, and so I borrowed a Kabbalah book from him that had beautiful quotes about Jewish spiritual life from all different sources. This was the beginning of my journey to the Torah. So here we are sixteen years later and Jeff and I have begun studying together each week, and I am sharing with him what I have learned, and he is sharing with me his wonderful insights like the one in the previous blog post.
So that is all an introduction to the story of the cover of Genesis Revealed. When I finished the cover, I showed it to Jeff (it didn't have the Hebrew letters then) and he said it looked very scientific. He said you are choosing an image of reason, but where is the faith element? Basically, the same point he made to me sixteen years ago. I loved the cover as it was. It is funny how when someone makes a comment how it can change your entire perception. Now it seemed cold and scientific to me. So I said, "OK Jeff, you are the artist, no you need to fix it."
He was kind enought to share his talent and time for the book and he gave me a version with the Hebrew letters. It was nice, but the letters he chose didn't really inspire me. (Jeff himself is now just beginning to study Hebrew language himself.) I was also concerned because God created the world with the Hebrew letters and the letters one chooses have therefore great power. I thought "What if Jeff chose the wrong letters?" (Forgive my tredpidation dear friend and lack of faith.)
So I was leaning against Jeff's version, but my wife insisted we use it. So I went with her intuition and took a leap of faith (still against my will). Then last night Jeff sent me the final version, and for whatever reason the arrangement of the letters changed, and I saw something absolutely miraculous. At the center of the book cover is the Hebrew letter ה (heh). This is the letter that is used to represent God in Hebrew. Next to the heh on each side is the letter mem and the letter shin. This spells Moshe (Moses), the prophet who brought us the Book of Genesis, the first of the Five Books of Moses. I didn't have to worry about which letters Jeff would choose, because God did it for him.
My friend Jeff and I were studying this teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement.
"Shall a man conceal himself in hidden places and I will not to see him?" (Jeremiah 23:24). The Baal Shem Tov interpreted this verse thus: Should "a man conceal himself in hidden places and I" - i.e., he retains his ego, his "I" - then, says G‑d, "I will not see him."
Jeff made a very interesting point. He said that this explains why in Genesis God says to Adam, “where are you?” God obviously knows where Adam is. God knows everything. However, when man is caught in his ego he blocks Godliness from entering into him in a certain way. God says “where are you?” not because He doesn’t see man, but because man doesn’t see God at that moment.