Otiyot Hayyot -- Living Letters


When Yehudit Goldfarb began teaching Tai Chi more than 30 years ago, she never thought that it would bring her closer to understanding Judaism.

Yehudit had been involved in movement all her life, and as a Tai Chi instructor felt the power in the body's movements. One of the forms of Tai Chi that Yehudit practiced involved 20 separate movements, and at some point, Yehudit began to explore the possibility of 22 distinct movements based on the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

It was only during a 1979 Shavuot retreat, when Yehudit was meditating in the forest, that the thought of working with the Hebrew letters began to feel right to her. Several years later at another retreat, she found herself doing repetitive movements that she began to recognize as the letters, and slowly, the correct movement for each letter developed. Her Tai Chi class worked with her on these letters, and as the concept progressed, the class began to use these movements to create words and phrases to express themselves spiritually.

Maor HaLev

Today, Yehudit runs the Maor HaLev Center in Tzfat where she teaches beginners and advanced students alike to use the movements of the letters to express themselves in a manner that connects them with the sacred. According to the Jewish Mystical tradition, G-d used the Hebrew letters to create the world. The movement patterns of Otiyot Hayyot (Living Letters) are a physical yet meditative exercise that gives the individual a tool for spiritual growth using the Hebrew letters. The flowing, integrative movements are calming and at the same time enable the individual to tap into a vital energy that allows the conveyance of some of one's deepest and innermost feelings in a physical way.

"I do these exercises every evening to close the day," Yehudit says, "and I try to do them every morning as well, after prayer." She often "letters" different names, prayers, or sometimes a single word from the prayerbook. "The movements for the vowels correspond to the Sefirot on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life," she adds. "You can see how the movements reflect the concept that each level on the Sefirotic Tree tries to teach us." Watching these movements, one can easily visualize the teachings of the Kabbalah as they relate to understanding our inner essence and our ability to use these physical manifestations of the Holy Letters to communicate with the Divine.

Yehudit's workshops are held in her studio on an on-going basis, and she can be contacted personally to schedule workshops and teach private sessions. She can be contacted at: [email protected]