The Torah uses numerology, a method of connecting concepts via numbers. Every Hebrew letter has a numerical value. The first letter, Aleph, has the value of one. The second letter, Beit, is two, and so on. When the letters of two words have the same value, it indicates an inner connection between them.
So if “nut” and “sin” add up to the same number, there is something in that. Which is one reason why the Code of Jewish Law (Rema, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 583:2) discourages eating nuts on Rosh Hashanah.
The problem is, they don’t add up.
The Hebrew word for nut is Egoz אגוז, whose letters add up to seventeen.
The Hebrew word for sin is Chet חטא, which adds up to eighteen.
Well, there is a possible explanation. The last letter of the word Chet is a silent Aleph. It isn’t pronounced as part of the word. So it isn’t counted. Aleph is worth one, so if you take the Aleph out of Chet, you get seventeen, not eighteen.
But that itself seems a stretch. Can you delete a letter just because it doesn’t fit in with your calculation?
Yes, in this case you can.
Silent letters are extremely rare in Hebrew. Unlike the English language, where silent letters abound in words like knee, through, tongue etc. In Hebrew, every letter is pronounced. Even the letter Aleph, that has no sound of its own, is almost always read as a vowel sound.
One of the very few exceptions is the word Chet, sin. It has a silent Aleph hiding at its end. The fact that the word for sin has a silent Aleph must be significant.
Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet, with the value of one, and is unpronounceable on its own. These attributes also apply to G-d – the One, the First, and the Ineffable. A silent Aleph represents G-d.
Of all places, where do you find this silent Aleph? At the end of a sin.
After we have done something wrong, we have a choice how to react. We can try to ignore it and pretend we didn’t do it. We can beat ourselves up for being so bad. We can make up excuses and justifications for what we did. But all of these options are unhealthy.
The right reaction to sin is to see it as an opportunity to go deeper, improve ourselves and learn how to get up again. You can find G-d after you fall, and that discovery takes you to an even deeper place than where you were before the fall.
This is the meaning of the silent Aleph in the word for sin. After every mistake we make, there is the silent voice of G-d inviting us back. Every time we stray from the path, even when we think we are far, G-d is near.
So we don’t eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah. Because the word nut equals the word sin, but only without the Aleph. And a sin that is not followed by seeking G-d, truth and deep relection… is just bad. We don’t want anything to do with that attitude. We want to find the Aleph in every fall, the lesson in every mistake, and the closeness that follows distance.
View your mistakes as doorways to growth. See your weaknesses as openings to living deeper.
Find G-d in sin. How nuts is that?
I wish you a sweet, happy and healthy new year, full of joy and many Aleph moments.
Mendel (Menachem) Bluming and Rabbi A”M and other sources