In the following passage (Eruvin 21a in William Davidson edition) the sages try to determine the size of the Torah scroll that Zachariah saw in his prophecy:

In order to determine the measure of God’s cubit, the Gemara cites a verse that describes the size of the span between God’s thumb and little finger (in a manner of speaking). And it is written: “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure” (Isaiah 40:12). If the entire world measures one square span, which is a quarter of one square cubit, we find according to this calculation that the entire world is one part in three thousand and two hundred of the Torah.

What does it mean G-d's cubit, G-d's span (זרת) and how the universe is measured?

  • You may want to clarify that when the Gemara references the Torah here, it's referring to a particular Torah scroll discussed in Zechariah's prophecy cited in the previous lines.
    – DonielF
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 20:21
  • @DonielF Thank you, corrected - please review
    – Al Berko
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


Ben Yehoyada, in his explanation of the Gemara, understands the references to cubits and spans metaphorically. He begins by citing various teachings of Chazal's that one should verbalize his Torah learning, and with that foundation, he explains the Gemara as follows:

והנה נודע פה פתוחה מספרה שמונה מאות, ולכן לימוד ד׳ חלקים פרד״ס בפה פתוחה - הנה המספר עולה שלשה אלפים ומאתים. ועל זה רמז זכריה הנביא ע״ה במידה זו שנתן לתורה שבעל פה שלשה אלפים ומאתים זרתות. והא דנעשה החשבון בזרתות שהוא חצי אמה לרמוז שהעוסק בתורה לא יראה עצמו חכם שלם, אלא יחשוב תמיד שהוא עודנו כחצי.‏

Behold, it is known that פה פתוחה ["open mouth," his expression for verbalizing one's learning; he uses it here as a play on words for a final ף, which] has a value of 800,1 and therefore learning the four sections of PaRDeS with an open mouth - behold, the value rises to 3200[=800x4]. Regarding this did Zecharia the prophet, peace be upon him, hint with this measure which he gave to the Oral Torah - 3200 spans. That which he made this calculation in spans, which are half-cubits, is to hint that one who toils in Torah should not see himself as a complete sage; rather, he should always consider [himself] as if he is still like a half.

  • And in his typical style, Ben Yehoyada gives a bit of an estoretic, Remez-based explanation of the Gemara that raises more questions than it answers. It definitely has issues that need to be worked out, but it does directly address the question at hand.
    – DonielF
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 20:41
  • 1
    He means that ף has a value of 800. The letters ך ם ן ף ץ have values of 500-900 respectively
    – b a
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 21:57

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