Judaism & Numbers

Jewish tradition values some numbers more than others.

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Reprinted with permission from the Encyclopedia of Magic, Myth, and Mysticism (LlewellynWorldwide).

The practice of gematria, or the spiritual interpretation of numbers, is an important hermeneutic technique for understanding sacred Scripture and tapping the powers.

The following are considered important symbolic and/or sacred numbers in Judaism:

1-One indicates unity, divinity, and wholeness, as exemplified by God.

3-Three signifies completeness and stability, as represented by the three Patriarchs and the three pilgrimage festivals--Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot (I Kings 17:21; Daniel 6:10).

3+1-This is a number cluster that signals the fulfillment of God's plans (Amos 1; Daniel 7:25).

4-Four is a recurrent number in both exoteric and esoteric Jewish traditions. The Passover Seder isparticularly structured around fours: the Four Questions, the Four Sons, and four cups of wine. There are four cardinal directions and there are four Matriarchs. Four is also a common factor in esoteric interpretations: four angels surround the Throne of Glory, there are four kingdoms of the eschaton, and the famous four Sages who enter Paradise.

5-There are fivebooks of Moses and five divisions to the Psalms. Magical/mystical texts arealso sometimes separated into divisions of five. Five is the number of protection, as symbolized in the hamsa,the talismanic hand.

jewish numbers7-Seven is one of the greatest power numbers in Judaism, representing Creation, good fortune, and blessing. A Hebrew word for luck, gad, equals seven in gematria. Another Hebrew word for luck, mazal, equals seventy-seven.

The Bible is replete with things grouped in sevens. Besides the Creation and the exalted status of the Sabbath, the seventh day, there are seven laws of Noah and seven Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Several Jewish holidays are seven days long, and priestly ordination takes seven days. The Land of Israel was allowed to lie fallow one year in seven. The menorah in the Temple has seven branches. The prophet Zechariah describes a strange celestial stone with seven eyes (Chapter 4).

This emphasison seven continues post-biblically with seven wedding blessings, seven circuits performed about a groom, and seven days of mourning after the death of a close relative.

Events, prayers,and esoteric observances that involve multiples of seven are also common. Entities both natural (gold) and supernatural (angels) are often grouped by sevens (I Enoch 20; II Enoch 19). Seven is a factor in many occult elements andevents.

The first verse of the Torah consists of seven words and seven is the recurrent number in Pharaoh's divinatory dreams in Genesis. The walls of Jericho fall after the Israelites encircle it seven times. In the Zohar, the seven lower sefirot are those aspects of God that are present in asiyah, our world of action. Seven is also the preferred number in spells, magic squares, amulets, and the like (Genesis7:2; I Kings 18:43; Deuteronomy 16:9; Pesahim 54a; Sotah 10b).

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Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis

Geoffrey Dennis is rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound, TX. He is also lecturer in Kabbalah and rabbinic literature at the University of North Texas.

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