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Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter
Number 34 - 10 May 2006
Copyright 2006 Meru Foundation
Edited by Levanah Tenen


Here is a quote fromYehuda haLevi, a 12th century Spanish rabbi, philosopher, and sage.

  "As it is said in the Torah '. . . and whatever Adam called each living thing, (that remained) its name (forever).(Gen. 2: 19)' That is to say, that the animal was right and befitting to its given name, and that its given name was harmonious with the behaviour of the animal and its applied nature."
(from "Al Kuzari," Ch. 4, Lesson 25, translation D. Gil)

If each Hebrew letter has an intrinsic, natural meaning, then Yehuda HaLevi's words are more than just a good story. We have shared many explorations of Hebrew words in past issues of eTORUS. Here, Stan reports on an extraordinary new finding that connects a primary Hebrew word-root, real-world observations of nature, and one of the most important geometric forms in our research.

(c)2006 Stan Tenen

I have something really elegant, beautiful, and in its small way, quite spectacular to report.

I came upon this reference in the May-June 2006 issue of American Scientist, the Sigma Xi science honor society magazine, in an article titled "Group Decision Making in Honey Bee Swarms", by Seely, Visscher, and Passino. (American Scientist subscription information is available at http://www.americanscientist.org/.)

Look at the poster at http://www.meru.org/Newsletter/BEE1.C.FLAT.28apr06.pdf . The graphic at the upper left (adapted from figure 3 of the above article) shows how a honeybee communicates the location of flowers with nectar to other honeybees. The bee makes a so-called "waggle dance" in order to point to the direction of the food, and provide a measure of its distance.

As the poster shows, what the honeybee scout does is exactly what I'm proposing for the Hebrew alphabet, except in 2-D instead of 3-D.

The graphic of the waggle dance is just a "2-lobed" version of the torus knot with the central "waggling column".

This central column is where our thumb goes in the "tefillin" hand model. It is our pointer, and it is the bee's pointer.

Here we have an example from a very simple part of the animal kingdom of the use of exactly the same sort of gesture-language we are proposing for the Hebrew letter-gestures, based on exactly the same elements -- the sun, a tree, and flowers.

For us, of course, the sun is the source of our mind. The tree is our spinal column. And the flowers are pointed to by, and thus are in, our hands.

The bee uses the same model as we use. But the bee doesn't have intelligence like ours. Thus, the model must be intrinsic, even to small creatures like bees.

And there's more. Our theory requires that the idiomatic meaning of Hebrew words derive in some reasonable way from the functional meaning of the word as spelled out by reading it as an acronym, letter by letter.

The root word for "honeybee" in Hebrew is based on the letters D-B-R (Dalet-Bet-Resh). It's the common name, "Devorah", or "Debra".

The "D" refers to dividing something.

The "B" literally means "in" or "with", and

The "R" literally means "head", "headwater", or "heading".

So, the Hebrew word means something like "A piece of (a small division of) 'in a heading'". In other words, "picking a direction".

Hebrew names for creatures and other things are based on their function and this fits perfectly. For example, the letters that spell the Hebrew word "horse" literally mean "to sustain and carry" (Samek-Vav-Samek).

So, a honeybee is a D-B-R.

And there is still more.

I've been struggling with this word-root for the past 20 years, because it has two primary meanings, which seem to have nothing to do with each other. Until a few weeks ago, I hadn't a clue as to how it could be that the root D-B-R means both "honeybee" and "word".

Now, here's a bit more from the dictionary.

The Hebrew word D-B-R, vowelized to be pronounced "Dee-bear", means literally, "speak".

The Hebrew word D-B-R, vowelized to be pronounced "Dah-Bear", means literally, "word".

The Hebrew word D-B-R, vowelized to be pronounced "Devorah", means literally, "speaker". (In this case, the "h" at the end indicates it's a feminine speaker -- which of course, a "scout" honeybee is.)

The Hebrew word D-B-R-im means "words", and is one of the books of the Bible (Deuteronomy). (The "-im" suffix is the masculine plural suffix.)

D, of course, is the letter Dalet, and it means "to divide" or "to disperse" or "to dispense." In the sense of words and letters, it means "to parse" or "to pick".

B is the first letter of Genesis, and represents a housing -- in this case, indicating the "bit" of what is to follow.

R is the second letter of Genesis, and represents a head, a headwater, or, in this case, a heading. (The honeybees take their "headings", their directions, from the scouts' waggle dance.)

So, D-B-R is "to parse a unit of direction", or, in better English, "to pick a direction".

And finally, of course, in Hebrew, the Ten Commandments are the "Ten Devarim" i.e., the "Ten Directions" (so to speak).

The behavior of honeybees was of major interest in the ancient world, because their well-being is essential to agriculture.

The waggle dance of the honeybee can be observed with the naked eye. After all, we can easily see honeybees, and when they dance, they dance against the symmetrical background of the honeycomb, just as the "waggling flame" dances inside the tetrahedral "meeting tent" in our 3-D model. In fact, the honeycomb itself _is_ the hex map on a 2-torus [see the poster at http://www.meru.org/Posters/hextorus.html], and a 2-D "triangle" version of our 3-D "tetrahedron-meeting tent" [see archive poster at http://www.meru.org/Posters/ColorLightinTent.html].

So if the waggle dance is good enough for bees, why shouldn't it be good enough for us to find our way by the same means? It seems to me that this is one natural, non-miraculous element that may have gone into the realization of the universal nature of hand gestures.

And further, since honeybees can't intellectually _know_ to do this waggle dance (as I mentioned above), their behavior must be intrinsic. In this sense, the honeybee "waggle dance" is a perfect embodiment of "the shape of information". [For more on the “shape of information” as I mean it here, see http://www.meru.org/Noetic/ShapeofInfo2002.html.]

Stan Tenen
May, 2006
Sharon, MA

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