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    Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Science
  • Torah
  • A Great Light
  • Color

  • Color

    The word "color" (tzeva, ) is even more infrequent than "light" in the Bible. It does not appear at all in the Pentateuch, and only four times in the Prophets and Writings. As opposed to its appearance as a word, it appears as a root not infrequently when prefixed by an alef, giving the word for "finger" (, etzba). The most important verse referring to a "finger" is:

    And the magicians said to Pharaoh, "It is the finger of G-dů."15

    The "finger of G-d" refers to the plague of lice in Egypt. This was the third plague, corresponding to the sefirah of hod (since the ten plagues corresponded to the sefirot in ascending order).

    Although, as we said above, color relates to Ima, the sefirah of binah, we are taught in the Zohar that "binah is manifest as far as hod." Thus, color originates in binah (Ima) but its position in the heart is that of hod, which corresponds to the plague of lice and "the finger of G-d."

    What is the significance of the alef prefixed to tzeva? As a verb, tz-b-a () means "to vote," "indicate," "point," or "identify." As the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught, the primary "object" we must identify is Mashiach (the Messiah). In the Bible there are cases where a light beam shone on a person in order to identify him as the one appointed for his task. Light, in this context, is the analogy for G-d. This direct light identifies Mashiach. Color, the reflecting light, is our vote and appointment, fulfilling the liturgical phrase, "His Kingship they willingly accepted upon themselves.16" This is our acceptance of the King, the actualization of the potential that is the inner meaning of tzeva. So, the alef in front of tzeva is the alef of or (). In this sense, the word etzba ("finger") is a composite of the words or ("light") and tzeva ("color"). Rabbi Yitzchak Luria relates composites to maaseh merkavah, "the work of the chariot," or here, "intricate construction."

    If etzba is a composite, perhaps we can further elucidate the word tzeva as a composite also. Indeed, current color theory defines a color by three measurements: hue, brightness, and saturation. In Hebrew these are tzeva (, "hue"), behirut (, "brightness") and otzma (, "saturation" or "value"). Further on, we will discuss each of these measurements.

    To sum up, the word etzba is the only word in the Pentateuch which appears with tzeva () as a root. The word etzba itself alludes to or and etzeva ("light" and "color"), as an abbreviation for or, tzeva, behirut, and otzma.

    Letter of the word etzbaInitial of the wordType of light
    or"light"direct light
    tzeva"hue"color: reflected light

    15. Exodus 8:15.
    16. First blessing after the recitation of the Shema in the evening service.

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