Significance of numbers in Judaism

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Numbers play an important role in Judaic ritual practices and are believed to be a means for understanding the divine. A Mishnaic textual source, Mishnah (Pirkei) Avot 3:18, makes clear that the use of gematria is documented to at least the Tannaic period. This marriage between the symbolic and the physical found its pinnacle in the creation of the Tabernacle. The Hebrew word for symbol is ot, which, in early Judaism, denoted not only a sign, but also a visible religious token of the relation between God and man. It is largely held by Jewish leadership that the numerical dimensions of the temple are a "microcosm of creation ... that God used to create the Olamot-Universes."[1]


  • The gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew letter א
  • One is our God, in heaven and on earth - אחד אלוהינו שבשמיים ובארץ


  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter ב
  • Two are the tablets of the covenant - שני לוחות הברית
  • The two of every unclean animal in Noah's Ark
  • There are two inclinations - good (yetzer hatov) and bad (yetzer hara)
  • The Torah begins with the letter Beth, which has the numerical value two. This is because the first book of the Torah, called in Greek Genesis, is known in Hebrew by its opening word בראשית (Bereishit), which means "In the beginning".


  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter ג
  • Three are the Fathers (Patriarchs - שלושה אבות (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)
  • The three sons of Noah (Ham, Shem and Japheth)
  • Number of aliyot on a non-Yom Tov Monday and Thursday Torah reading and number of aliyot in Shabbat Mincha


  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter ד
  • Four are the Mothers (Matriarchs) - ארבע אימהות (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah)
  • The number of aliyot on Rosh Chodesh


  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter ה
  • Five are the books of the Torah - חמישה חומשי תורה
  • The ten commandments were written as five on the left stone and five on the right (2nd. Rashi on Num. 7:23)
  • The sections of the book of Psalms
  • The number of knots in the tzitzit
  • Number of aliyot on Yom Tov that does not coincide with Shabbat


  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter ו
  • Six are the books of the Mishnah - שישה סידרי משנה
  • The six working days of the week
  • The six days of Creation


  • The number 7 is the Divine number of completion
  • The general symbol for all association with God; the favorite religious number of Judaism, typifying the covenant of holiness and sanctification, and also all that was holy and sanctifying in purpose
  • The Seven Laws of Noah
  • The menorah in the Temple had seven lamps
  • Acts of atonement and purification were accompanied by a sevenfold sprinkling
  • A full week of shiva is seven days; the term "shiva" refers to the seven-day period
  • The number of weeks of the counting of the Omer from the second day of Passover until the festival of Shavuot
  • Number of blessings in the Sheva Brachot[2]
  • A woman in niddah following menstruation must count seven "clean days" prior to immersion in the mikvah
  • Number of days of Sukkot[2]
  • Number of days of Pesach (Israel)[2]
  • Blessings in the Amidah of Shabbat, Yom Tov, and Musaf (except Rosh Hashanah)
  • Number of aliyot on Shabbat[2]
  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter ז
  • The seven of every clean animal in Noah's Ark
  • Seven are the days of the week - שיבעה ימי שבתא
  • The sabbath year (shmita; Hebrew: שמיטה, literally "release"), also called the sabbatical year or shǝvi'it ( שביעית, literally "seventh"), is the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the Land of Israel and is observed in contemporary Judaism.[2]





  • Eleven are the stars of the Joseph's dream - אחד עשר כוכביא


  • Twelve are the tribes of Israel - שנים עשר שיבטיא
  • The high priest's breastplate (hoshen) had twelve precious stones embedded within them.
  • The Temple Mount, located in Jerusalem, can be accessed through twelve gates
  • Twelve is the age at which a Jewish female becomes obligated to follow Jewish law, or age at which Bat Mitzvah is attained (Orthodox tradition)
  • There were twelve loaves of show-bread on the shulchan (table) in the Beit Hamikdash
  • Sons of Jacob
  • Number of springs of water at the Israelites' encampment following the incident at Marah




  • One of two numbers that is written differently from the conventions of writing numbers in Hebrew in order to avoid writing the name of God.[3] The other is 16. Also, the number of words in the "Priestly Blessing" = 15.


  • One of two numbers that is written differently from the conventions of writing numbers in Hebrew in order to avoid writing the name of God. The other is 15.



  • Gematria of "CHAI" חַי, the Hebrew word for life. Multiples of this number are considered good luck and are often used in gift giving.





  • Total number of books in the Tanakh
  • twenty-four kohanic gifts
  • 24,000 people that died in the plague that Pinchas stops (Numbers 25:9)
  • 24,000 students of R Akiva that died
  • 24 questions that Reish Lakish would ask Rebbi Yochanan (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Bava Metzia, Folio 84a)
  • 24 benedictions recited in the Amidah on fast days


  • Date in the month of Elul on which creation began
  • Date in the month of Kislev Chanukah begins



  • Value associated with "Koaḥ" meaning strength, commonly used in the saying "Yasher Koaḥ"



  • The Tzadikim Nistarim (Hebrew: צַדִיקִים נִסתָּרים, hidden righteous ones) or Lamed Vav Tzadikim (Hebrew: ל"ו צַדִיקִים, 36 righteous ones), often abbreviated to Lamed Vav(niks)[a], refers to 36 Righteous people, a notion rooted within the more mystical dimensions of Judaism. The singular form is Tzadik Nistar (Hebrew: צַדִיק נִסתָר). The source is the Talmud itself, explained as follows:

    As a mystical concept, the number 36 is even more intriguing. It is said that at all times there are 36 special people in the world, and that were it not for them, all of them, if even one of them was missing, the world would come to an end. The two Hebrew letters for 36 are the lamed, which is 30, and the vav, which is 6. Therefore, these 36 are referred to as the Lamed-Vav Tzadikim. This widely held belief, this most unusual Jewish concept is based on a Talmudic statement to the effect that in every generation 36 righteous "greet the Shechinah," the Divine Presence (Tractate Sanhedrin 97b; Tractate Sukkah 45b).[4]

    The Lamed-Vav Tzaddikim are also called the Nistarim ("concealed ones"). In our folk tales, they emerge from their self-imposed concealment and, by the mystic powers which they possess, they succeed in averting the threatened disasters of a people persecuted by the enemies that surround them. They return to their anonymity as soon as their task is accomplished, 'concealing' themselves once again in a Jewish community wherein they are relatively unknown. The lamed-vavniks, scattered as they are throughout the Diaspora, have no acquaintance with one another. On very rare occasions, one of them is 'discovered' by accident, in which case the secret of their identity must not be disclosed. The lamed-vavniks do not themselves know that they are one of the 36. In fact, tradition has it that should a person claim to be one of the 36, that is proof positive that they are certainly not one. Since the 36 are each exemplars of anavah, ("humility"), having such a virtue would preclude against one’s self-proclamation of being among the special righteous. The 36 are simply too humble to believe that they are one of the 36.[4]

  • The term lamedvavnik is derived from the Hebrew letters Lamed (L) and Vav (V), whose numerical value adds up to 36. The "nik" at the end is a Russian or Yiddish suffix indicating "a person who..." (As in "Beatnik"; in English, this would be something like calling them "The Thirty-Sixers".) The number 36 is twice 18. In gematria (a form of Jewish numerology), the number 18 stands for "life", because the Hebrew letters that spell chai, meaning "living", add up to 18. Because 36 = 2×18, it represents "two lives".


  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter מ
  • The number of days the spies were in the land of Canaan
  • Years in the desert—a generation[5]
  • Days and nights of rain during the flood that occurred at the time of Noah
  • Isaac's age at marriage to Rebecca
  • Esau's age at marriage to his first two wives
  • Number of days Jonah prophesies will pass before Nineveh is destroyed. They repent in the interim.
  • Number of se'ah (volume measurement of water) in a mikveh (ritual bath)
  • Number of years of the reign of David, Solomon, and the most righteous judges in the book of Judges
  • Number of lashes for one who transgresses a commandment
  • Number of days which the Torah was given
  • Number of weeks a person is formed in their mother's womb
  • Number of curses on Adam
  • Minimum age at which a man could join the Sanhedrin



  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter נ
  • The 50th year of the land, which is also a Shabbat of the land, is called "Yovel" in Hebrew, which is the origin of the Latin term "Jubilee", also meaning 50th.


  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter ס
  • Is the "venerable / old age [of people]" as Rashi calls it in his comment on Leviticus 27 verse 7


  • The gematria of the Hebrew letter ע
  • The 70 nations of the world (Noah had 70 decedents)
  • Members of the Sanhedrin
  • Life of King David
  • Years between the destruction of the first and construction of the Second Temple
  • Year (CE) of the Destruction of the Second Temple
  • Number of scribes who translated the Septuagint
  • Number of date-palms at the Israelites' encampment following the incident at Marah
  • Number of people who went to Egypt with Jacob
  • Number of the Jewish elders led by Moshe







  • The gematria of the word Ladder in the Hebrew סלם (Sulam) [6]
  • The gematria of the word Sinaj (hill or desert) in the Hebrew סיני (Sinai) [6]
  • The gematria of the word Easy in the Hebrew קל (Kal) [Karol Sidon]
  • The age of Jochebed (Moshe's mother) when she gave birth to her youngest son Moshe.[6]
  • The 130 shekels of silver was offered during the dedication of the altar. Jochebed



  • Gematria of Lion[7] (אריה) and Gevurah (גבורה)


  • Gematria of Abraham (אברהם)
  • Number of positive commandments
  • Number of limbs (איברים) in man's body



  • The gematria of the Hebrew word שדי (Shadai) once name of the G-d [6]
  • The gematria of the Hebrew word מטטרון (Metatron) name of the G-d's angel [6]


  • Length of the solar calendar (which has significance in Judaism)
  • Number of prohibitive commandments
  • Number of arteries in the body











See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kaplan 1990: p. 57
  2. ^ a b c d e Gabriella Samuel, The Kabbalah Handbook: A Concise Encyclopedia of Terms and Concepts in Jewish Mysticism, New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2007. p. 242. ISBN 1-58542-560-5.
  3. ^ Dosick 1995: p. 155
  4. ^ a b Zwerin, Rabbi Raymond A. (September 15, 2002). "THE 36 - WHO ARE THEY?". Temple Sinai, Denver: Archived from the original on January 18, 2003. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  5. ^ Numbers 14:18–35
  6. ^ a b c d e Rashi (1999–2001). Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg (ed.). Perush Rashi ʻal ha-Torah [Rashi : the Torah with Rashi's commentary] (Student size ed.). Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications. ISBN 1-57819-325-7. OCLC 50076178.
  7. ^ "Hebrew Gematria - A Lion's Might". 2010-01-29. Retrieved 2011-04-28.