ANAGRAM (Greek, ἀνὰ = "over again," and γράμμα = "letter"):
By: Isaac Broydé
The letters of a word so transposed as to make a different word or phrase. The use of anagrams by the Jews dates back to the remotest antiquity. Several occur in the Bible; for example: ("And Noah found grace," Gen. vi. 8), where is probably employed because of its being the Anagram of ("He took away my birthright, and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing," ibid. xxvii. 36); ("A garland instead of ashes," Is. lxi. 3); ("Let all my enemies return and be ashamed suddenly," Ps. vi. 11); ("And his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow," I Chron. iv. 9).
In the Talmudic and Midrashic literature, anagrams became a system of Biblical interpretation, called (inversions). Eleazar of Modi'in introduced it in explaining the word (Gen. xlix. 4) by the transposition of its letters. But this system, applicable originally only to the transposition of the letters, was gradually extended to simple transpositions of the words. Jewish literature, and especially the Jewish poetry of the Arabic epoch, imitating the Arabic poets, who had a predilection for anagrams, offers many examples: ("If you mock my sickness, I will tender you my cheeks"), Judah ha-Levi, "Diwan," ed. Brody, ii. 149; ("And she amasses corn and plenty of food for a time of scarcity and famine"), Alḥarizi, "Taḥkemoni," ed. Kaminka, p. 49).
The golden age for anagrams began with the Cabala. The Platonists had strange notions as to the influence of anagrammatic virtues, particularly of anagrams evolved from names of persons. It is not surprising, therefore, that the cabalists, like all the Neoplatonists, pretended to discover occult qualities in proper names and in their anagrams. Thus, most amulets are based upon the transposition of letters (compare "Raziel ha-Malak," p. 62). Cabalists explain, for instance, the custom of reciting some Mishnah paragraphs on the anniversary of the death of relatives (Jahrzeit), by pointing out that (Mishnah) contains the letters of (soul). Nearly all the cabalistic writings give rules for composing anagrams, which are called temurah (change).