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I've always wanted to do an analyses of the Torah based on the numbers given and their midrashic meanings. Specifically, I'm looking for symbolic, midrashic numbers: that is, which are symbolically meaningful. The list of numbers I'm looking for, would then be found to be combined to create other symbolic numbers.

To explain by example consider the following numbers: 12, 40, and 480.

480 is the number given for the number of years since Israel left Egypt, until the First Beit Hamikdash was built. 480 is a combination of 12 ( the twelve tribes) and 40 (great change, or coming out through trials.. . i.e. weeks of pregnancy) The number 480 comes to tell us something about the building of the first beit hamikdash, but the number itself is not symbolically meaningful.

The number 12 is a product of 3x4, or the addition of 6+6, or 2x6. However, in the Torah and midrash, it very clearly is its own symbolic number, and is not meant to be interpreted as a combination of numbers.

Is there a known list of these numbers, to be able to tell when a number is meant to be understood on its own as being symbolic, and when a number is intended to be seen as a composite of other symbolic numbers?

Through the years, the numbers I have become aware of are as follows, to further illustrate my point, and to perhaps help one locate a book which covers them.

  • 1 Hashem or Unity
  • 2 Pairs which have a negative connotation, or opposites
  • 3 Chazakas, stability
  • 4 Not something I fully understand, but something about humility, the elements and winds of the earth, and something very "natural" but which has a divine cause or basis.
  • 6 work
  • 7 The entire natural cycle or cycles in general.
  • 8 Spirituality or one beyond the cycle, a restart.
  • 10 Total completeness
  • 12 The nation of Israel
  • 13 Mercy
  • 26 The loving relationship between Gd and the Jewish people. (possibly a combination of opposites and Mercy)
  • 40 A complete growth (possibly the complete outcome of the natural world with a divine basis?)
  • 60 A very large number of something.
  • 70 Diversity of the world (Possibly the complete set of natural cycles??)
  • 248 the bones and sinews in the body
  • 365 the days of the year
  • other numbers I might be missing.

Be aware that most google search results are christian based, and not what I'm looking for.

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1 Answer 1

Let me share what I managed to understand (or misunderstand) from the Maharal (mainly in Derech Chaim Chapter 5). He bases his exposition on the physical properties of shapes as well as some basic math:

1 - unity

2 - disparity

3 - The smallest closed plane (triangle) meaning the connection of disparate points, the connection or sum between opposites.

4 - the four directions - the types available, very often 2 permutations of 2. For example, 4 directions, personality types, elements, etc.

5 - the square with the center, a unifying force in disparity.

6 - six faces of a cube or any object, represents physicality

7 - six faces + the internal (or the object itself) representing the full mundane world touched by purpose, meaning, spirituality, a complete world of mundane and spiritual in sync, also, a natural-yet-spiritual unit (such as a week)

8 - one above seven, the supernatural, "l'maaleh min hateva"

9 - The greatest disparity (10 is unity again), also, 1 short of 10, representing incompleteness, mourning, tragedy, "not the whole picture"

10 - Sanctified unity, disparity coming together to form unity, meaningful unity

12 - Our six-faced cube has 12 lines. Representing a structure, a house, something strong, meaningful, diverse, yet stable

15 - the number of steps from inception to completion (steps of the Temple, the moon, historical generations till Solomon)

49 - 7x7

50 - 7*7+1 - just past the full spectrum of physicality. Also, independence.

70 - 7*10, or ten (complete) sets of 7 (the whole spectrum) used in Chazal as a general way of saying "lots and lots"

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