Academic journal article Jewish Bible Quarterly

The Numerical Expression of Two Fundamental Ideas in the Torah

Academic journal article Jewish Bible Quarterly

The Numerical Expression of Two Fundamental Ideas in the Torah

Article excerpt

The importance, even the holy character, which the number seven had in the ancient Near East is well known and has been the topic of studies and papers. It is not surprising, then, that it also has this same character in the Torah.

According to Rashi on Exodus 31:13-14, the seventh day of the week, Shabbat, has first priority and even interrupts the construction of the Tabernacle, Its observance is not interrupted by any other festival. The seventh year frees the slave (Ex. 21:2) and extinguishes all debts (Deut. 15:1). Accordingly, each seventh year the farmer is forbidden to sow or reap or do any other farm labor (Ex. 23:11-12). The festivals of the deliverance (Pessah) and of the last harvest (Succot) each lasts seven days (Ex. 13:7, Deut. 16:13). The menorah in the Tabernacle and later in the First and Second Temples had seven candles (Ex. 25:37).

Far and wide in the Scriptures, in poetry and tales, there are many examples of ideas that reflect a special significance of the number seven which finally became part of the mentality of Occident in general. Obviously, this number seven symbolizes the idea of "completed" or "perfect."

Much less attention has been given to the number that follows seven, the number eight. …

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