In The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi Lord Vader's chestplate was marked with three lines of letters. The letters appear to be Hebrew. They have attracted a great amount of fan interest, and much correspondence.
Several commentators have attempted to read and interpret the inscriptions. Unfortunately I know very little about the Hebrew language, and thus (at present) I cannot offer my own analysis. My inability presents me with a dilemma: I can't write an assessment myself, but if I do not maintain a page about this subject then some of this site's readers assume that I am unaware of the subject's existence and importance. At the very least, a tentative web page is useful to stimulate debate between fans who might be able to contribute more insight.
I've decided to use this page to present verbatim quotations from correspondents who are interested in the chestplate who are more knowledgable in Hebrew. Images of Lord Vader's chestplate may be found in my pages about the exhibitions of costumes.
|Lord Vader's chestplate as seen in the exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, 2003.|
on the roleplaying forums of
and several STAR WARS forums)
quotes private correspondence with his friend, Tsel
(forwarded on 8 April 2005).
He has interpreted Vader's chestplate markings
as abbreviated references to Hebrew scripture.
It's a play on a section of Exodus 16
and “The Doctrine of Charity”
from the Arcana Coelestia (AC).
Put into Hebrew form.
Specifically this phrase:
AC 8393 “Repentance of the mouth and not of the life is not repentance. Sins are not forgiven through repentance of the mouth, but through repentance of the life.”
It then goes on to say:
AC 8393 “Sins are continually being forgiven man by the Lord, for He is mercy itself; but sins adhere to the man, however much he may suppose that they have been forgiven, nor are they removed from him except through a life according to the commands of faith. So far as he lives according to these commands, so far his sins are removed; and so far as they are removed, so far they have been forgiven. For by the Lord man is withheld from evil, and is held in good; and he is so far able to be withheld from evil in the other life, as in the life of the body he has resisted evil; and he is so far able to be held in good then, as in the life of the body he has done what is good from affection. This shows what the forgiveness of sins is, and whence it is. He who believes that sins are forgiven in any other way, is much mistaken.”
Isaac Rehberg contributed the following observations on 7 January 2004.
Looking at the jpeg of Vader's chestplate on your site, it appears that it very well could be Hebrew. Admittedly, the alphabet used for Basic in Star Wars looks similar to a simplified/stylized Hebrew. However, the letters on Vader's chestplate (especially the top and bottom lines) look much more like Hebrew than SW Basic. From right to left (Hebrew is read right to left), the letters appear to be:
[all of line two is unreadable]
Ayin, Dalet, Shin, Zayin, Chet, Hey, Aleph
[all of line two is unreadable]
Ayin, Dalet, Shin, Zayin, Chet, Hey, Aleph
I don't know if anyone has pointed this out to you before. The letters I pointed out are pretty clear with the exception of the two alephs. For what it's worth.
Responding to the images presented on this web site, William Salter has written:
Regarding the lettering on this item, the lowest of the three is a
contrived label using HEBREW lettering!
(From right-to-left, it bears 'ayin-dalet shin-zayin-kaf-he )
The first two letters "AD" is a prepostion roughly meaning "until"
The second is a contrived nonsense word, "shidRAH" --meaning "spinal column" --is spelt shin-dalet-resh-he; the two middle letters can readily be corrupted into zayin-kaf by altering a couple of strokes.
The upper two labels appear contrived altogether, though lettering plates seen in SW bear random Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Armenian and no doubt other characters.
Please trust me on the Hebrew, I happen to be Jewish and have occasion to use it often.
The translation of Lord Vader's chestplate was occasionally discussed on the public newsgroup
0n 19 August 1997 this contribution was posted to the newsgroup by
Being an obedient Newbie (‘What is thy bidding my mater’) I’ve read the FAQ (July 30th) and came across the following: > 26. What does the Hebrew lettering on Darth Vader's chest-plate mean? >Answer: The chest-plate can be seen at >http://www.umr.edu/~hanlon/picpage.htm Of course I rushed to explore that site!! Hebrew lettering on "Papa" ’s chest-plate !? [ If my *real* father knew who I soo fondly call "papa" ;) ] >The readers of rec.arts.sf.starwars.misc have been researching this topic. Hope I wont be 'flamed' for bringing it all up again, but I think I have a - ‘significant contribution’, that may shed some light on this matter….. Especially as Hebrew is my first language! >The readers believe that it is indeed Hebrew lettering. Indeed it is… >Some possible translations are "until he won" >(where 'won' means a prize or money as opposed to a victory) Well, roughly… > or "until a return" Incorrect !!! >David Fleischer recently wrote in saying that - >The first line may be "Or, and his works", Not entirely correct. > the second may be "which will move", ????????????????????????????????????? >and the third may be "until he has won". Well, this IS true - ‘from a certain point of view’ :) These lines (which, together form ONE sentence BTW), are written in an ancient (Or ‘Biblical’ if you like) Style / Syntax, as opposed to Modern Hebrew Syntax. In Hebrew (Like in many other languages, both modern and ancient), Words often have several ‘meanings’ - (Regardless of the style, grammar, or syntax in which they are used). These are then defined according to the context of the sentence . Therefore, translating these lines can be tricky….. With that in mind ;) I would suggest the following translation: The First Line - (Phonetically pronounced - ‘Ein Maasav’) Means - ‘His deeds (and not ‘works’) will not’ The Second Line - this is a difficult one: To begin with it is placed up-side down! + I think it is partially covered (i.e. the letters are partially ‘cut’), + I think it is misspelled as well… (That is if I guessed it right in the first place!) Anyhow, IMHO, this line means - ‘Be forgiven’ (Phonetically pronounced - ‘Nisslachim’) And The Third Line (Phonetically pronounced - ‘Aad shezacha’) Means - ‘Until he merits’ (and not ‘won’) Put together, the sentence reads - ‘His deeds will not be forgiven, until he merits’ Which, not only makes MUCH more sense (IMHO), but also sounds very familiar. I know I’ve herd it before, but for the life of me I just cannot remember where… At first I thought it may be part of the prayers or hymns of the Jewish - ‘Day of Atonement’ service. I’ve look it up (read the whole thing) and it’s not in there. Then I thought it might be mentioned in the holy scriptures - in one of the books that deals with repentant - ‘Palms’ / ‘Proverbs’ / ‘Ecclesiastes’..… (May be the book of prophets as well?) As I’m not orthodox - my knowledge of the old testament does not go beyond ‘basic’ (in Jewish terms). My knowledge of the new testament is probably less then ‘basic’ - Anyone out there care to have a go? It just might be in there ( in an English version of course! ) I’m currently researching these venues. I haven’t found anything yet..… But you’ll be the first to know if I do! [ BTW, someone at work was very impressed with my - ‘religious devotion’ - If only they knew :D ] The more interesting aspect of this ‘mystery chest-plate’ is - Who put it there? And why? Is it meant to be part of the story? Or just an anecdote? Another related issue is the ‘upside-down’ line / word... In the ‘Kabala’ (=Jewish mysticism) words are very powerful. Perhaps placing a word upside-down can reverse its meaning? (I’m not an expert in 'Kabala' either). If this is the case, does the chest-plate convey some kind of prophecy or 'curse' placed by - say - Yoda, or Ben - only to be 'reversed' by our beloved Palpy? (Wild speculation..…) Or may be it’s just a fluke? May be the costume department just got it wrong, by mistake? ;) [Someone that knew nothing of the ‘hidden meaning’ - in these odd Hebrew symbols (regarding them as just an ‘exotic font’) accidentally placed it upside-down…..] Coincidence? I think not! In any case - food for thought….. -anat ‘Our childhoods never end... They simply move on’ [English Poem]