Design and Sefirah

The sh’va is displayed as two dots, one on top of the other. The sh’va embodies the spiritual aspect of Gevurah1—judgment and discipline. According to the Tikkunei Zohar,2 the sh’va represents G‑d’s use of Gevurah in minimizing the moon and making it smaller than the sun.

Additionally, the positioning of one dot atop the other declares the higher point’s domination and greatness.


The numerical value of the sh’va is twenty.


According to Kabbalah,3 the sh’va is spelled shin, beis, alefשבא—and not shin, vav, alefשוא. Sh’va with a vav connotes vanity and falsehood because the word shav, falsehood, is spelled shin, vav, alef. Sh’va with a beis, however, means “to sit”—ישב.

The function of the sh’va is to separate a word into syllables and “slow down” the word’s pronunciation, as in the word בְּרֵאשִׁית—or be-rei-shis. The sh’va under the beis separates the first syllable of the word from the latter two. The sh’va’s func­tion is thus similar to the hyphen found in phonetic spellings in a dictionary.

The word sh’va gets its meaning “to sit” because it shares the same root letters with the word yosheiv, which means “sit” (or “dwell”). Therefore, when the sh’va is under a letter, it causes the letter to “sit” (or pause).

Indeed, the entire purpose of Creation was that G‑d should “sit,” so to speak — that is, to have “a dwelling place in this world.”4 Similarly, there is a Chassidic teaching which states:5 “[Since] You [G‑d] are Holy and elevated above the world, what causes You to ‘sit’ and become involved in worldly matters is that Your people praise You.”

One can say then that the reason why the sh’va is the very first vowel of the Torah is that it hints to the purpose of Creation.

Additionally, Kabbalah explains6 that G‑d created the world with the attribute of Gevurah in order to condense and contract His infinite light. Perhaps this is another reason why the first vowel of the Torah is a sh’va, as it represents Gevurah. Just as we attribute significance to the beis, the first letter of the Torah, so, too, one can attribute importance to the first vowel of the Torah, the sh’va.