Shin is the twenty-first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Shin (also written as “Sin” or “Sheen”) has the same sound as “sh” as in “shy”. Every line in Psalm 119:161-168 starts with this letter. Shin looks like this:
Shin is one of the most important letters in the Hebrew aleph-bet for several reasons.
First, Orthodox Jews hang a mezuzah on the right doorpost of their front entrances. This decorative case contains a small scroll with a prayer on it and whenever someone goes out or comes in, they touch the mezuzah to remember the prayer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” The letter Shin is engraved on all mezuzahs to represent 1) “El Shaddai”, a name for God which means “God Almighty”, 2) “Shema”, the prayer written on the scroll, and 3) “Shomer”, which means protection.
Second, God has written His name on His city, Jerusalem. An arial photograph of the Holy City reveals three valleys that create the shape of the letter Shin. God Almighty wasn’t kidding when He said, “In Jerusalem, I will put my Name forever.” (2 Kings 21:4)
And third, God has embedded His name in every human heart. The shape of the letter Shin mimics the structure of the human heart: the lower, larger left ventricle (which supplies the full body) and the smaller right ventricle (which supplies the lungs) are positioned like the lines of the letter Shin.
Shin looks a bit like a flame and that’s no accident. The Hebrew word for “fire” is made up of the letters Aleph + Shin. God’s presence in the Old Testament was often seen as a flame. A burning bush drew Moses’ attention and a pillar of fire led the Israelites through the desert. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, He descended on the mountain with flames, smoke and thunder. The Israelites celebrated that day every year with a holy feast called Pentecost.
Fifteen hundred years later, to the day, the Holy Spirit descended on believers with tongues of fire and the church was born. Fire purifies, burns off the dross, and provides heat and light.
One last thing: When the temple priests would give the Hebrew Priestly Blessing at the end of the service, they would lift their hands and make the sign of Shin while reciting, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Num. 6:24-26)
As a child, Leonard Nimoy went to synagogue services with his grandfather. He was intrigued by this sign of “shalom” or peace. As Dr. Spock, Nimoy implemented the gesture on Star Trek to mean “live long and prosper”.
Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with W.