The letter Alef, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet has the numerical value of one. With different vowel points, the word Alef is pronounced Elef which means one thousand. In the system of gematriyah (numerology) proposed by Kabbalah the letter Alef can be assigned either the value of one or a thousand.
In Deuteronomy (Chapter 32 verse 30) we find a phrase that the Kabbalah masters take out of context and reinterpret. The phrase is: “How does one chase a thousand?” Its literal meaning in the context of the poem authored by Moses is: If you see one soldier chasing a thousand would you not ask—is God not involved? The Kabbalistic take on the phrase is: How does one see unity in diversity? How does one see how the multiplicity of events, things, relationships are all interconnected?
Yesterday , the Shalit family ,the people of Israel, Jews around the world, humanity as a whole, the trees and birds, the stones in the Western wall and the stars in heaven rejoiced at the release of Gilad Shalit. Taken captive at age 19, he was released yesterday after 1940 days.
A deal was brokered: One thousand for one.
How does one chase a thousand? There are reasons to question the decision to “trade” one life for a thousand, especially when among the thousand who are being released are masterminds and messengers of evil. What is the message that is reverberating through the creation, from heads of state to mothers of terrorists to the mountains, streams and all living things? It is the preciousness and dignity of life. The infinite value of one soul.
Jewish law has long testified to the value of a single life—it is a sacred tenant to not consider giving up one life even to save many (a person can voluntarily make that choice, but the community cannot turn over one person to save others). Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of England, sees the root of this Jewish law coming from the understanding of soul found in the mystical tradition of Judaism. Can we say that one (soul) is less infinite than a thousand (souls)?
Gilad’s Hebrew name derives from two Hebrew words—Gil (to reveal) and Ad (a witness). Gilad is a living testimony. He is being granted a new (re)lease on life because we as a people value the one. May the Palestinians take this high note and play it on all the instruments of love as they welcome home their sons and daughters. Each one of them has Gilad as a testimony to their conscience.
Praise Israel and its leaders—granting a gift to us all–the gift of welcoming home our beloved son.