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Who knows thirty-eight?

Please cite/link your sources, if possible. After about one business day, I will:

  • Upvote all interesting answers.

  • Accept the best answer.

  • Go on to the next number.

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these are getting tricky. is there some mi.yodeya number theory that proves the density of relevant Jewish numerical references asymptotically approaches zero for large N, like the density of primes in the sequence of integers? –  Jeremy May 14 '10 at 15:52
    
I think Isaac will keep going until the answers thin out for a few days. He's an empiricist. –  Shalom May 14 '10 at 16:04
    
When the answers thin out, I may slow down and let people have more time for each one. I'm not sure what it'll take to make me stop altogether. You're right that I'm an empiricist, and the technology under this site is built on a similar philosophy. –  Isaac Moses May 14 '10 at 17:23

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

38 are the years during which the Jewish People were "nezufim," under a Divine ban (from the 9th of Av 2449, after the sin of the Spies, to the 15th of Av 2487).

During this time, too, Hashem's communications with Moshe were not with the same degree of closeness as before and after. This teaches us that all prophets, Moshe included, have the Divine Presence rest on them for the sake of the Jewish People, not because of their own personal merits. (Rashi, Deut. 2:16-17)

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Thirty-eight are the categories of forbidden labor on Sabbath for which the death penalty can be given, according to R' Yosei. (Shabbos 70a)

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which one is omitted? hoza'ah? If I recall correctly, R' Yosei held that the only melacha d'oraita was that done exactly like it was done in the mishkan. e.g. extinguishing a flame to make charcoal. –  Jeremy May 14 '10 at 16:15
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R' Yosei's view of מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה is a separate matter. My reference here was to הבערה ללאו יצאת , the Torah's separate prohibition on burning means it's a generic "don't-do", not a capital sin. –  Shalom May 14 '10 at 16:27
    
That is, according to R' Yosei. –  Shalom May 14 '10 at 16:27
    
And according to Rabi Yosei, one who does Hav'ara gets lashes. –  Yahu May 14 '10 at 16:46
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Thanks for clarifying. Yes, lashes as befits most generic "don't-do"s in the Torah. –  Shalom May 14 '10 at 17:06

38 is the gematriah of wet. (lah)

(I'm running dry on number associations!)

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The next two should be pretty rich veins. –  Isaac Moses May 17 '10 at 15:40

38 is the age to which the Arizal lived. (He was born in 5294/1534, and passed away on the 5th of Av 5332/1572.)

And look how much he accomplished in that short amount of time!

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