The "Vav" in Jacob’s Name
Out of the hundreds of times in the Bible where the name of Jacob appears, there are five passages in which an unusual spelling of his name is given. The first is found in Leviticus 26:42 which, according to an ancient thirteenth-century Jewish commentary, offers a clue toward the understanding of an end-time prophecy presented in the text. The English translation of the verse says: "Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember: and I will remember the land" (Leviticus 26:42).
Normally, the Hebrew word for Jacob is spelled :yod ; ayin ; koph ; beit [ cfgh ] But in this verse, Jacob is spelled with an extra letter between the koph ~ and beit ~ [ cufgh ] – the mysterious vav‘! The other four passages appear in Jeremiah. In each case the context is the same – Jacob will be redeemed: "Thus saith the L-RD; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof’ (Jeremiah 30:18). "Thus saith the L-RD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and If I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; "Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them" (Jeremiah 33:25,26). "But fear not thou, 0 my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, 0 Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid" (Jeremiah 46:27). "The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the L-RD of hosts is his name" (Jeremiah 51:19).
Why would Jacob be spelled in this particular way? Did Moses and Jeremiah misspell his name? Did some scribe make a mistake? Or did G-d place a cryptic code in these verses to help Israel understand the timing of its fulfillment. In each case, the context points to the revival of the nation in the latter days – when the Messiah (typified by the vav,) comes to Jacob.
The Meaning of Vav
The vav, with a numerical value of six denotes physical completion, redemption and transformation. Jewish scholars say, "The physical world was completed in (6) days and…The Jewish nation is complete, self-contained, unique; that is why number six is so prominent in the its growth to nationhood." Also, the letter vav is the prefix of conjunction; it unites manifold, even opposing concepts. It is the link connecting heaven and earth. Its form is that of a hook, as indeed its name (VAV) means hook. The vav links words and phrases to form sentences; it joins sentences into paragraphs and chapters; it connects one chapter to another; and even unites books.
In the name Yahveh, spelled YHVH ~ the vav appears between two hays. . The hay is symbolic of the Divine Name. In Hebrew writings, it is sometimes used as an abbreviation for G-d. Hay, meaning "breath," points to the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit.) The vav is the letter for man who was created on the sixth day. The vav demonstrates a relationship between G-d and man. In the Divine Name, it refers to the Messiah, the G-d-man. The yod in the name of YHVH represents the hand of G-d the attribute that shows His handiwork in the creation of all things.
The importance of the vav can be seen in the fall of Adam. When Moses wrote about the "generations of the heavens and the earth" in Genesis 2:4, the Hebrew word, for "generations" is spelled with two vavs, but after the fall of Adam, when that same word is used the second time, "This is the book of the generations of Adam…." (Genesis 5:1), the Hebrew spelling leaves out the second vav. The term translated "generations" is shown thereafter with this defective spelling throughout the writings of Moses, Joshua and Judges – until we come to Ruth 4:18-22, "Now these are the generations of Pharez … and Jesse begat David." The generations listed here present the lineage of Yahshua Ha Mashiach – the One Who will restore the missing vav! Therefore, the vav is returned to the toledot "generations" in this passage.
A Thirteenth-Century Explanation
The vav ‘is an important letter. Therefore, we should take special note when it appears in the name of Jacob. In a thirteenth-century commentary, Rabbi Judah had the following to say about the unusual vav that appears in the name of Jacob in Leviticus 26:42 and also in Jeremiah, He says: "Tradition agrees when the community of Israel was exiled from its home, the letters of the Divine Name became, if one may say so, separated, the hay flying apart from the vav. We can thus understand the sentence, I was dumb with silence’ (Psalm 39:3), as through the separation of the vav from the hay, there was no Voice, and thus Utterance was silenced." According to this ancient rabbinical concept by Rabbi Judah, the letters of the Divine Name are related to the story of Jewish exile. Of the four letters in the name of YHVH, the vav, representing both the Chosen People and their Messiah, became separated from the Divine Presence, ascribed to the hay, around the time of their exile. The hay, meaning "breath," also stands for the Holy Spirit. This Divine Presence once stood like a column of fire and smoke above the Tabernacle, and later over Solomon’s Temple. We are told that the day will come when the vav~ (the Messiah) will rejoin the hay ~ (the Holy Spirit) and revive their relationship with Israel. The numerical values of the letters (hay = 5 and vav = 6) combine to reveal the time when this resuscitation will occur: "She therefore lies in the dust all the day of the hay, that is, the whole of the fifth thousand (although they were already in exile before the beginning of the fifth thousand, which is symbolized by the hay; and when the sixth thousand, which is symbolized by the vav, begins, the vav~ will resuscitate the hay…. The vav will ascend to the yod [the first Hebrew letter in the name of YHVH] and redescend to the hay. The vav will be multiplied into the hay … when it will raise the exiles from the dust."
In this statement we are told that the letters predict a time when Jewish people will begin to rise from the dust of exile and return to their Promised Land. Messiah, as seen in the vav, has ascended to the yod , which stands for the right hand of G-d, until it is time to descend again to the hay. Indeed, though the traditional rabbis do not recognize Yahshua as the Messiah that is exactly what has happened. Yahshua has ascended to the right hand of the Father. We now await His return. Rabbi Judah suggests a date for raising the exiles from the dust, which is seen in the following statement: "At every sixty years of the six thousand the hay will mount a stage higher, acquiring greater strength. And after six hundred years of the sixth thousand [5600 i.e., 1840] there will be opened the gates of wisdom above and the fountains of wisdom below, and the world will make preparations to enter on the seventh thousand as man makes preparations on the sixth day of the week, when the sun is about to set."
At last we are told about the rabbinical meaning of the vav in Jacob’s name. The mathematical exercise concludes that the Jews will be raised from the dust of exile beginning in the Jewish calendar year 5600 corresponding to our calendar year 1840.
In a book entitled, The Timetables of Jewish History, by Judah Gribetz, we are told that in 1840, "Jews throughout the world anticipated that the Jewish year 5600 (1840) would mark the arrival of the Messiah. The belief is based on the statements in the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 99a) and the Zohar (1:1 17a)."
In 1840, the rabbis were so excited about the prophecy that they surmised that the Messiah might arrive to initiate the return of the exiles. But this is not exactly what the ancient commentary said. Rabbi Judah simply said that the vav’ would strengthen the hay and bring about the resuscitation of the exiles. He did not explicitly say that the Messiah Himself would arrive that year.
While considering this concept and that the festival of First Fruits might have a relationship to the resuscitation of Israel, we should note that two thousand years ago, on the observance of First Fruits, Yahshua was raised from the dead. His resurrection seemed to point to the future resurrection of Israel -which, by the way, was just beginning to blossom in 1840. Also in 1840, "Britain’s Lord Palmerston instructed his ambassador in Constantinople to pressure the Turks to allow European Jews to settle in Palestine." Furthermore, in 1840, "Judah Alkalai, the Sephardic rabbi of Semlin and early Jewish Zionist thinker wrote Shalom Yerushalayim (Peace of Jerusalem). He advocated repentance, which would be implemented by the establishment of a tithe that would be directed toward the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
The thirteenth-century prophetic commentary on Jacob’s mysterious vav’ continues with a startling observation by a rabbi named Simeon: "When the sixtieth year shall have passed over the threshold of the sixth millennium, the G-d of heaven will visit the daughter of Jacob with a preliminary remembrance. Another six and a half years will then elapse, and there will be a full remembrance of her…"
This "sixtieth year" of the Jewish calendar passed over the "threshold of the sixth millennium" in the year 2000. It is the Jewish year 5760! According to the 700 year-old prophecy, G-d will visit the "daughter" or remnant of Jacob with a "preliminary remembrance." Just what this preliminary remembrance should be is not clear. But what is clear is that it is only preliminary. It is not the final arrival of the Messiah to establish the kingdom.
That this "remembrance" should occur around the year 2000 is quite interesting. The prophetic commentary continues by saying that the following "six and a half years" will conclude with a "full remembrance." Are we being told about the Tribulation Period? The thirteenth-century rabbinical commentary explains: "Then all the nations shall combine together against the daughter of Jacob in order to drive her from the world. It is of that time that it is written: "And it is a time of trouble unto Jacob, but out of it he shall be saved" (Jeremiah 30:7)." The rabbi goes on to say: that Rome, in his opinion, will be destroyed: "…the kings of the world will assemble in the great city of Rome, and the Holy One will shower on them fire and hail and meteoric stones until they are all destroyed, with the exception of those who will not yet have arrived there." Is he hinting at the destruction of Mystery Babylon? He notes that not all kings will be destroyed. Of those remaining, he says: "These will commence anew to make other wars. From that time the Messiah will begin to declare himself, and round him there will be gathered many nations and many hosts from the uttermost ends of the earth."
Could Rabbi Simeon be talking about the "preliminary remembrance" promised for the turn of the century around A.D. 2000? Will the new millennium be introduced with "wars?" Is the rapture of Believers what he has in mind as the rabbi says, "round him the Messiah will be gathered many nations?" The return of the Jews to Israel is in view as the rabbi continues his commentary of the vav and the hay ~: "And all the children of Israel will assemble in their various places until the completion of the century. The vav’ will then join the hay ~, and then ‘they shall bring all your brethren out of all nations for an offering unto the L-RD’ (Isaiah 66:20)."
The repatriation of Jews to the land of their ancient forefathers continues to this day. But perhaps the rabbi thinks emigration will escalate after the year 2000. In his following commentary, Rabbi Simeon thinks war will be instigated by Israel’s Arab neighbors: "The children of Ishmael will at the same time rouse all the peoples of the world to come up to war against Jerusalem, as it is written, ‘For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle …’ (Zechariah 14:2), also, The kings of the earth stand up and the rulers take counsel together, against the L-RD and against his anointed’ (Psalm 2:2); and further, ‘He that sitteth in heaven laugheth, the L-RD hath them in derision’ (Psalm 2:4)."
Could he be referring to the wars that lead up to the battle of Armageddon? Of this we need not speculate. The rabbi quotes enough Scripture to convince us that he definitely has Armageddon in mind. The rabbi continues:
"Then the lesser vav, will rouse itself to unite with the hay and renew the souls that had become old, so as to rejuvenate the world, as it is written, ‘May the glory of the L-RD endure for ever, let the L-RD rejoice in his works’ (Psalm 104:31). The first part of this verse signifies that glory will attach itself to the world; the latter half that He will cause souls to descend into the world and make them into new beings, so as to join the world into one.”
Only the resurrection could be in mind as Rabbi Simeon draws his commentary toward its conclusion. All of this is posed to happen as the sixth millennium closes and the seventh millennium the great Sabbath, for which we all been longing: "Happy are those who will be left alive at the end of the sixth millennium to on the Sabbath, (that is the 7 year Sabbath) for that is the day set by the Holy One on which to effect union of souls and to cull new souls to join those that are still on earth, as it is written “And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusaleum shall be called holy, even every one that is written into life in Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 4:34)
Where did this rabbi get the notion that all of this would take place after the year 2000? He derived it from a rabbinical study on the mysterious vav written into name of Jacob in Leviticus 26:42.
Since we do not know the future, we cannot say with certainty that it will come to pass as he suggests. But we can take note that his study conforms to much of the interpretation of prophecy that is extant today.