What Does The Lettering On Darth Vader’s Chest Plate Mean In Star Wars?

One can find various photos online of Vader’s chest panel, and those are indeed Hebrew characters. The inscription has been well-known to “Star Wars” fans going back many years, and several enterprising fans have claimed to know what it means. A web forum from way back in 1997 contained a post from someone calling themselves Anat who claimed to know what the Hebrew lettering might have meant. The post is a transcribed conversation between two fans who sussed out the lettering for themselves, while Anat corrected their assumption. The popular translation, based on that post — and still cited to this day — was “His deeds will not be forgiven until he merits.” It was pointed out that Vader’s Hebrew was of an ancient Biblical syntax and not modern Hebrew. Is it a prayer? A passage from the Old Testament?

Feeding the Hebrew lettering (מעשיו לא יסלחו, עד שיגיע) into Google Translate, however, gets a slightly different phrasing: “My actions didn’t go away until they came.” 

Forgiven deeds? Actions that go away? There is a note of atonement and absolution in the inscription. It seems, however, that those words are not part of any sort of Yom Kippur prayers or any other Jewish rite for that matter. 

To add to the mystery, several of the characters are written upside-down. No scholars appear to have contributed thoughts as to what it may mean in terms of translation, symbolism, or even numerology. The upside-down letters have led some to posit that the Hebrew lettering is merely jibberish. Indeed, it’s entirely likely that the makers of Darth Vader’s suit merely wanted lettering that looked alien, and copied a few random phrases out of a book, thinking that Hebrew looked otherwordly enough, especially with random upside-down letters. 

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