Chapter

Within Mem/Returning Forward

Elliot R. Wolfson

in Alef, Mem, Tau

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780520246195
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520932319 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520246195.003.0004
Within Mem/Returning Forward

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The letter mem signifies repetition of difference, remarking the beginning, for the beginning. The letter especially in its final or closed form, which is close in appearance to a square, is typically associated in kabbalistic texts with the divine potency that conveys both the mystery of teshuvah, repentance, literally, return, and the secret of yovel, the jubilee that heralds the messianic redemption. The essence of mem relates to the masculine, iqqar ha-mem hu ha-zakhar, it follows that the closed mem, which is depicted as masculine, discloses the symbolic nature of the letter. The open mem, which comprises male and female, is a sign of the fertile womb because it contains both male and female. The gender metamorphosis is conveyed in the midrashic gloss of mem as mayyim, that is, the watery texture of the womb renders it necessary for the woman to be warmed by man.

Keywords: kabbalistic texts; mem; gender metamorphosis; mayyim; bahiric text

Chapter.  9192 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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