The Hebrew word for altar is
Mem, Vav, Vet, Chet. (read right to left)
Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a meaning, and if you string those meanings together, you can understand what the word truly means.
Mem means – water with no boundaries, chaos.
Vav means – “and”, hook, nail
Vet (also Bet) – means tent, house, enclosure
Chet means – fence, separate, a new beginning or new creation.
Together, this can be taken to mean “From the waters of chaos I have rescued you and brought you into a new life.”
It refers to the waters from the beginning of time – when “God moved over the waters” to create the world. It refers to the waters of the Red Sea, through which God sent Israel to escape from slavery in Egypt. It refers to the waters of the womb, where God creates us by dividing us, dividing the cells into their individual roles – an eye here, a stomach there…
God separates us, divides us to form us, to make us unique. God “hooks” us, grabs us, takes us into the tent, the house of God. The tent can be seen as the tabernacle, the same temporary house of Sukkot, the temporary dwelling of our bodies.