The Torah contains 40 letters [when we consider the various vowels and semi-vowels in addition to the 27 consonants including the five final letters. Even Shoshan lists 13 vowels in his abbreviated grammar. Ed.] This is because the Torah was given over a period of forty days. The Torah is alluded to in the construction of the Tabernacle, since the purpose of building the Tabernacle was to house the Holy Ark, which, in turn, contained the tablets inscribed by G‑d Himself.

Study of the Torah is something equivalent to all other virtues. The 22 basic letters of the Torah are divided into three groups, as explained in the Sefer Yetzira: the three Foundation letters, alef, mem, shin; the seven Doubles, beit, gimel, dalet, nun, pei, reish, tav; and the twelve Simple letters, hei, vav, zayin, chet, tet, yud, chaf, lamed, samech, ayin, tzadik, and kuf. Corresponding to those three groups, you will find during the construction of the Tabernacle that the holy vessels were made of three kinds of metal, gold, silver, and copper, corresponding to the three letters alef, mem, shin; the seven lamps of the candlestick corresponded to the seven letters beit, gimel, dalet, nun, pei, reish, tav. Gold, silver, and copper respectively symbolize the elements fire, air, and water…

I have found the following in the book called Ginat Egoz that gold, silver, and copper respectively symbolize the elements fire, air, and water. The main letters of these elements, water [in Hebrew, "mayim"], air ["avir"], and fire ["aish"], are the same as the three Foundation letters listed in the Sefer Yetzira. Gold is compared to fire, mercury to air, and copper to water. Mercury is also a medium, just like the wind; it does not usually perform a function in its own right.

The seven lamps of the candlestick, which shine their light toward the center-shaft, symbolize the seven heavenly bodies [i.e. the sun, the moon and the five planets that are visible to the human eye - a system believed in by astronomers in earlier days. Ed.] They symbolize the 7 letters which we called Doubles because they occur on different occasions both with and without a dagesh, or dot, in the middle. On a still higher level, they symbolize the attributes of Justice and Mercy respectively. The universe was created for the sake of Torah…

The 12 gemstones contained in the breastplate worn by the High Priest symbolize the remaining 12 consonants. It is evident that all the major parts of the Tabernacle symbolized the letters of the Hebrew alef-bet, of Torah. The universe was created for the sake of Torah, so that Torah could be observed.

The three Foundation letters correspond to the basic elements. We usually speak of four basic elements: air, water, fire and dust (earth). The element of earth, however, is included in the other three elements since it is the result of interaction of the other three elements.

The number seven, relating to the Double letters, symbolizes the number of the principal planets.

The number twelve symbolizes the twelve leaders in the physical universe, the twelve signs of the zodiac; on a still higher plane, they allude to the twelve permutations in which the letters of the Ineffable Name can be written. This name contains three letters, yud, hei, and vav, and when the four letters of the Name itself [yud, hei, vav, hei] are added, we get the number seven. When you consider the different ways that name can be written you have twelve. Three … seven … twelve … adds up to 22…

This symbolism is also found in connection with the people of Israel, the recipients of Torah. We have three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel has seven different levels of nobility: there is the ordinary Israelite, the Levite, the ordinary priest, the High Priest, the president of the Supreme Court, the leader of the nation in the absence of a king, and the king himself. The number twelve symbolizes the twelve tribes. Together this adds up to 22, i.e. the number of letters in the basic alef-bet of the Torah. This is the meaning of the verse in the Mishna, "the study of Torah is the equivalent of them all." (Mishna Pe'ah, 1:1)

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk]