[Note:  This lessonwriter likes to spell Qabala the Cabala way — with a “c”.]

The Literal Cabala is divided up into four primary techniques:Gematria, Temurah, Notarikon, and Aik Bekar. All four use the Hebrew alphabet to decipher mystical meaning in Judaism’s sacred texts, most importantly the Torah. Gematria is primarily the practice of Hebrew numerology, and is discussed in the previous lesson. This lesson will concentrate on explaining the techniques of Temurah and Notarikon. Although both of these techniques are probably far more ancient, the first extant reference to their systems was made in the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) and other Cabala literature of the 12th and 13th century medieval Jewish mystics.


The word “temurah,” like most Hebrew words, has several different meanings.It is primarily translated as “permutation”, “wages”, and “compensation”. The first meaning is the most significant in a Cabalistic sense. Temurah is a technique used for the permutation of letters, where the letters in a word or phrase are exchanged with other letters, usually according to a precise rule. Temurah is similar in form to anagrams, where you take a word such as “Elvis” and shuffle its letters to get another word like “Levis.”

There are almost as many methods of temurah as there are combinations of the alphabet, but once the basic principle is understood it is not hard to understand them all. Here is an example:

Split the Hebrew alphabet into two equal halves, and place one half under the other:























This method is called Athbash (AThBSh), after the four letters on the right of the block (remember, Hebrew is read from right to left). Using this method of temurah, we would replace a ‘T’ with an ‘N’, an ‘M’ with an ‘I’, a ‘G’ with an ‘R’, and so forth. The other variations of temurah are composed by sliding the bottom row of letters down into a third row, or looping it around with the first letter of the second row, etc. Sliding Athbash one place to the right, for instance, will give us Ashbar (AShBR), and sliding to the right once again will give us Arbaq (ARBQ). From these systems we might take any Hebrew word or phrase, permute the letters, and reach a word or phrase with a different meaning, believed by Cabalists to be related to the original word or phrase as in gematria.

You might recognize temurah as the technique from the Shem ha Mephoresh lesson which was used by the ancient Hebrews to permute the 72 Names of God and its Angels. One other example of this system from the Bible is in Jeremiah25:26 (KJV) which reads:

“And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.”

The name Sheshach given here, more properly spelled Sheshakh, is a rather obscure term, occurring only one other place in the Bible. When you permute the letters using the system of Athbash, however, it gives us the word BBL,or Babel. Take this into consideration with the other biblical reference to “Sheshach” and suddenly the former verse’s meaning becomes clear:

“How is Sheshach taken! and how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! How is Babylon become all astonishment among the nations!” (Jeremiah 51:41,KJV)

Here we see an early example of temurah’s ability to encipher and decipher coded text, as well as provide expanded meaning for the Cabala student.


Notarikon is much simpler than temurah, being merely the use of acronyms,as in “MADD” for “Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” where the first letters of each word in a phrase are used to form another word. Probably due to its simplicity it is one of the more popular techniques of Literal Cabala. An important example of notarikon is the spoken phrase, “Ah-tah Gee-boor Lih-oh-lahm Ah-doh-nye” which is Hebrew for “Thou art great, forever, my Lord”. The notarikon for this phrase is AGLA (Ah-glah), the first word used in forming the Sign of the Cross in the Catechumen lessons. Another example is the word “Amen”,which is a notarikon of the spoken Hebrew phrase “Al Melech Neh-eh-mahn”,which translated means “God is our faithful King.” Yet another interesting example of notarikon is from the New Testament at the crucifixion of Yeshua,when Pontius Pilate composed an epitaph to be hung on a sign above Yeshua’s head on the cross, which drew protests from the Jewish authorities. In John19:19-22 (KJV) it explains:

“And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was,Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews.

“This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

“Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am the King of the Jews.

“Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.”

There is a good reason the Jewish leadership did not like Pilate’s sign,which is revealed when you analyze the phrase “Yeshua of Nazareth King of the Jews” in the original Hebrew, using the technique of notarikon. The original Hebrew for this phrase reads “Ha Yehudim v’Melech Ha Nazarei Yeshua”, which read from right to left reveals the acronym of YHVH, the Tetragrammaton,or holy name of God. This sign identified Yeshua as no less than the God of the Jews. This would have been extremely offensive to the Jewish leadership of Yeshua’s day, and explains why they wanted it changed. That Pontius refused to change the sign probably suggests he either meant to incite the anger of the Jews by “blaspheming” their God, or that he meant to proclaim Yeshua’s divinity even though he was forced to crucify him. We’ll probably never know which it really was.


Please send your answers to the Mystery School with the subject line: “Int. Qabala Temnot from ___________ (your spiritual name)”

1.  What are the four systems of Literal Cabala?

2.  Which Cabala text first outlined the systems of gematria, temurah, and notarikon?

3.  Fill in the blanks: Temurah is a technique used for the ____________of letters, where the letters in a word or phrase are _____________ with other letters, usually according to a precise _________.

4.  Please name one example of the technique of temurah.

5.  True or False: Notarikon is the use of anagrams.

6.  Please name two examples of the technique of notarikon.

7.  Advanced Research Assignment:  Based on what you have learned,find one example of temurah or notarikon in the Bible, Kabbalah, or other literature.

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