The Mysterious Name

Especially mysterious is the esoteric inscription:


on the back of the parchment, which, at first glance, is unintelligible. Further, it is written upside-down. To decipher this cryptogram, we must replace every letter in it with the letter preceding it in the Alef-Beth, the letter Beth, for example, would be replaced by Alef, Shin by Resh, and so on. When we decipher the cryptogram following this method:


Kof (K) Yud (Y)
Vav (U) Heh (H)
Zayin (Z) Vav (V)
Vav (U) Heh (H)
Beth (B) Alef (A)
Mem (M) Lamed (L)
Vav (U) 1 Heh (H)
Kof (K) Yud (Y)
Samekh (S) Nun (N)
Zayin (Z) Vav (U)


we get three holy names of G‑d:


Rabbi Moses Isserlis (the ReMA) quotes the Hagahot Maimoni as the source for the custom of this inscription.

This name is translated by Rebbeinu Bachya to mean, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Supreme One under the protection of Shad‑dai will endure.”

Some authorities explain that this inscription on the back of the mezuzah is a carryover from the time when Jewish people were not allowed to have mezuzahs and did this a remembrance of the commandment.4

This series of three Names corresponds to the sequence of the Divine Names in the first verse of Shema Yisrael written in the mezuzah, “Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G‑d, the L-rd is One”. The inscription


is thus written at the top of the parchment and upside-down, so that every letter in the cryptogram is written exactly opposite its corresponding letter in the three Names of the first verse of Shema. The letter Kof, for example, is written opposite Yud, which precedes it in the Alef Beth and is the first letter of the name YHVH, etc. Since the cryptogram is written on the obverse side of the parchment, had it been written right-side up its first letter would be opposite (on the other side of the parchment) the last letter of the three Names in the verse. Thus, it is written upside-down to keep each letter opposite the one it encodes.

The Zohar states that the three Names of G‑d in the first verse of Shema signify the unity of the three Sefiroth: Chokhmah, Binah and Da’ath or Chesed, Gevurah and Tefereth within the G‑dhead. The sequence of the three Divine Names in the first verse of Shema Yisrael hints at the mysteries of creation that are expounded upon in the esoteric teachings of Kabbalah.

These 14 letters of


themselves comprise a Divine Name that is like a nickname or a pseudonym – a mere reflection of the proper name it denotes. The Zohar explains that such pseudonyms cover the true names as wings cover a bird. While they conceal the bird, the wings allow it to fly upward. In a similar way, such “secondary” names simultaneously conceal the true name and allow its influence to reach the lowest levels of Creation. Although, as explained above, the husks of evil also have to receive their nourishment from the Creator, He feeds them, so to speak, reluctantly – bechinath achoraim (turning His back on them, as it were), giving them just enough to maintain the balance necessary for the freedom of choice. This flow is channeled through a name derived from the proper Name of G‑d by substituting for its letters the “back” letters (those which precede them in the Alef-Beth) thus giving their allotted minimal sustenance to evil through the “back.” With the advent of the messianic era, the need for such names will cease, as truly “The Earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L‑rd, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah XI, 9) In the meantime, however, the presence on a mezuzah of the name


which is the channel of the life force of the forces of evil, keeps these forces in check and restricts their destructive influence.

Maaseh Merkavah – The Discipline of Chariots

Prof. Moshe Idel in his book “Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia” describes another important dimension of this esoteric name. A medieval work of Kabbalah, Perush Havdalah de-Rabbi Akivah, reveals:

“And I, the writer, have saved my life by (heeding) these warnings. I extracted from the Maaseh Merkavah (The Discipline of Chariots), from the complete books that I found which include the Name written on the mezuzah and its decipherment: KUZU BMUKSZ KUZU – its meaning as known to the men instructed in the secret lore, the Masters of Knowledge, is YHVH ELHYNU YHVH. The Yud (Y) is exchanged for a Kof (K) [the subsequent letter in the Alef-Beth] and so on. This is the meaning of the Name, and this process is known as Maaseh Merkavah.”

Maaseh Merkavah, the discipline of Chariots, is considered to be the most secret and esoteric part of Kabbalah. R. Barukh Togarmi in his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah writes:

KUZU BMUKSZ KUZU – YHVH ELHYNU YHVH: this is the secret of Merkavah.”

Moshe Idel makes an interesting observation in his book:

“In many manuscripts we find a passage that contains a pentagram, and alongside it is written: ‘This is the Maaseh Merkavah KUZU BMUKSZ KUZU’, and under these letters is written: YHVH ELHYNU YHVH.”

Idel brings another testimony to this from R. Joseph Gikatilla, who writes:

“Know that the letters of the Honorable Name, whose secret is YHVH, are exchanged by combining them with the letters that follow the letters of the Name. This is the secret of the Merkavah, and you must be aroused concerning the great matter contained therein.


In the Akkadian language the words “nazazu” – to stand, and “manzazu” – doorpost, which linguists relate to the Hebrew “mezuzah”, have a common root with another Akkadian word, “mazaztu” or “mazaltu” – a standing star. They relate these words to other Semitic words, which denote a star, constellation or fortune: the Aramaic “mazla” and the Hebrew and Phoenician “mazal”. The etymological connection between the words mezuzah and mazal may be traced in other Semitic languages. While the linguistic connection is not apparent in biblical Hebrew, the mezuzah parchment in fact reveals a hidden connection to Jewish astrology.

The lunar month has, on average, 28 days5, corresponding to the 28 “camps” of the Divine Presence. Each camp of the moon has exactly 23 hours 21 minutes and 50 seconds. The 28 camps of the Divine Presence correspond to the 28 places in Ecclesiastes where the word “time” is mentioned. These 28 times in Ecclesiastes are divided into two groups, one of 14 good times and one of 14 evil times. The 14 good times come from the 14 letters of three Names of G‑d:


One of the methods of letter permutations used in Kabbalah entails substituting every letter with the one preceding it in the Alef Beth. If we perform such substitution on the three Names written above we get the following:


According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, the 14 evil times in Ecclesiastes originate from these 14 letters. See Table 2 on page 80. A careful eye will recognize in this sequence of letters the mysterious inscription on the mezuzah. The 28 camps of the Divine Presence are alluded to in the word mezuzoth, the only grammatical form of the word mezuzah found in the Pentateuch. The ‘small gematria 6 ’of the word mezuzoth is equal to 28. We might suggest that the fact that the letters KUZU BMUKSZ KUZU are written upside-down can be interpreted as a way of deflecting evil influences, warding off bad times – sort of reversing the tide. Thus it may be said that the mezuzah plays the role of an astrological “shield”.


A time to be born

and a time to die.

A time to plant

and a time to uproot.

A time to kill

and a time to heal.

A time to wreck

and a time to build.

A time to weep

and a time to laugh.

A time of mourning

and a time of dancing.

A time to throw stones

and a time to hoard stones.

A time to embrace

and a time to shun.

A time to seek

and a time to lose.

A time to safeguard

and a time to discard.

A time to tear

and a time to sew.

A time to be still

and a time to speak.

A time to love

and a time to hate.

A time of war

and a time of peace.

Table 1

We find a similar concept in the story of Purim. The word Purim means lots. The evil Haman, who was, as the Sages tell us, an accomplished sorcerer, threw lots to determine the most astrologically unfavorable time for Jews. The lot came out on month of Adar. The yartzeit (date of passing) of Moses is on the seventh of Adar. This convinced Haman that it was the best day to attack the Jews, since their mazal (astrological influence) was, he thought, at its weakest.7

Seed Y a time to be born K a time to die
  H a time to plant U a time to uproot
Life V a time to heal Z a time to kill
  H a time to build U a time to wreck
Wealth E a time to hoard stones B a time to throw stones
  L a time to seek M a time to lose
Grace H a time to embrace U a time to shun
  Y a time to safeguard K a time to discard
Wisdom N a time to be still S a time to speak
  U a time to sew Z a time to tear
Peace Y a time of peace K a time of war
  H a time to love U a time to hate
Dominance V a time of dancing Z a time of mourning
  H a time to laugh U a time to weep

Table 2

Rabbeinu Bachya warns us,

You should contemplate the significance of the fact that the Divine [Name] Tetragrammaton is written in the inside of the mezuzah and the name Shad-dai (Almighty) is written on the outside. This arrangement counteracts the foreign opinion that the success of a home is dependent upon the influence of the stars that control this lower world... However, it is known that this kind of thinking is erroneous. The moments and times of the day are under control of G‑d, as David said,

My times are in your hand. (Psalms XXXI, 16).

Accordingly, the commandment of the mezuzah has been given to us to teach us that the success of the home depends solely on the One Who brought us out of Egypt and on the Name Shad-dai (Almighty), which indicates that He controls and prevails over the power of the constellations. He can nullify them and revert them to nothingness, and He can certainly diminish their power. The Sages alluded to this thought in their statement regarding Abraham: ‘G‑d said, I have created My world with the letter Heh, and with the letter Heh I nullify the power of your constellation [which hitherto denied you children].”