I have watched a nice movie back in the day that deals with numbers.

In one of the scenes. A Jewish man comes to The Mathematician and tells about how the Hebrew uses the same "letters" as letters for words and numbers and goes on to theories about relations between words and numbers. (Its better watched than listened)

In a later scene. It becomes even weirder where some of them start to think the 216 word number is the name of The Creator.

How much is this true? Are there devoted Jews that tries to find the relations of numbers in Torah? I am personally more interested in the hebrew alphabet.

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    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 11:14
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    Related discussion; same film (thought more related to the Fibonacci sequence thought).
    – Oliver
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 12:20
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    Also related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/28385/…
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 13:52
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    There are various books written about Torah "codes". Some of these have been published fairly recently. Much of it is based on "math" pattern using, e.g. every 7th letter; the beginning sof each word in various groups and such. Is that an idea that you are seeking?
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 16:40
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    The concept of numerology is an authentic part of Judaism. For most Jews today, numerology is just an interesting thing. Only for mystics is it a serious consideration for anything or practical or theological importance. Some people are particular about serving an even numbers of foods (e.g. don't put three items on the plate- have 2 and then get another after or put four on to begin with). The extra orange is like an "unpaired electron" and a spiritually electronegative demon could interfere with your meal. This has some basis in Gemara from when people believed in demons. Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 18:47

4 Answers 4


As many of the commentators here already pointed out, gematria plays significant role in various aspects of Jewish thought, especially in kabbalah and hasidism. Of course the idea of interpreting letters as numbers can be found in many cultures (say, Pierre Bezukhov in Leo Tolstoy's "War and Piece" uses gematria to find out his own future). It is also true though, that as a hermeneutic tool it has been much more popular among Jewish scholars comparing to, say, European culture, especially in last 500 years. May be this is so because Jews didn't use much arabic numerals, or because the sanctuary status of Hebrew alphabeth, in which Torah has been given.

Although I need to say that both gematria and "biblical codes", which are often based on it, use mainly arithmetical operations only and do not have much to deal with mathematics in the modern sense. But some truly mathematical concepts also pop up in Oral Torah sometimes! Here is an example which is close to your question:

In Sefer Yetzira (2:4-5) it says:

These twenty-two letters, the foundations, He arranged as on a sphere, with two hundred and thirty-one modes. If the sphere be rotated forward, good is implied, if in a retrograde manner evil is intended...

(עשרים ושתים אותיות יסוד קבועות בגלגל ברל"א שערים וחוזר הגלגל פנים ואחור וזהו סימן לדבר אין בטובה למעלה מענג ואין ברעה למטה מנגע:)

One can ask himself -- where does the number 231 come from? Why 231? Well, the answer is in the next lines:

For He indeed showed the mode of combination of the letters, each with each, Aleph with all, and all with Aleph. Thus in combining all together in pairs are produced these two hundred and thirty-one gates of knowledge. And from Nothingness did He make something, and all forms of speech and every created thing, and from the empty void He made the solid earth, and from the non-existent He brought forth Life.

כיצד שקלן והמירן אל"ף עם כלם וכלם עם אל"ף, בי"ת עם כלם וכלם עם בי"ת וחוזרת חלילה) נמצא כל היצור וכל הדבור יוצא בשם אחד:)

Indeed, 231 is the number of possible choices of pairs of two letters from the 22-letter alphabeth. This is a special case of a binomial coefficient, which are widely used in contemporary mathematics. From mathematical point of view it is still some ad hoc computation, but comparatively non-trivial and extremely interesting from historical point of view


It is well-known that the Hebrew alphabet has a unique feature known as gematria in which every letter is assigned a numerical value. With the advent of easily available powerful computing devices and software, and the internet, the gematria can become an incredibly powerful tool of biblical interpretation that is based on numerical associations and sound theological reasoning. After all, since God is a perfect God (Psalm 18:30), there has to be consistencies in the messages of God (Malachi 3:6). And consistency is the heart of classical deductive logic. Hence, a collaboration between a professional mathematician and someone trained in Jewish theology is an ideal team that can use gematria meaningfully.

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    Is this feature really unique to Hebrew? Don't think so. For example Greek has it too. Even Katakana are used as cardinal numbers sometimes. Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 13:43

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Mind-boggling stuff


First, to clarify, the movie you reference is simply a movie. It is entertainment. Nothing more.

Addressing the two questions you ask which are 1: Is it true that the Hebrew alphabet has both a linguistic function corresponding to sounds and speech and also a mathematical function relating to numbers and values? Does traditional Jewish teaching make equivalencies between those two functions and develop teachings from them?

The short answer is yes. This is discussed at length in Sefer Yetzirah which is attributed to Avraham Avinu and also Sefer Raziel which is attributed to either the angel, Raziel or Adam HaRishon. There are many others.

2: Is there a traditional Jewish teaching that one of G-d’s names has 216 letters?

The short answer is yes. There is a tradition attributed to Moshe Rabbeinu regarding a specific name of G-d which is derived from three posukim that occur in series within the Torah and each contain 72 letters. This name is sometimes referred to as the name of 72 or 72 triplets.

According to some traditions, this is the name which was pronounced aloud by the Kohen Gadol in the Temple on Yom Kippur. It is also the name associated with the miracle of converting Moshe’s staff into the serpent and back again as well as the Reed Sea to dry land.

It is noted in regard to this name that when viewed as individual letters the total is 216 which is the numeric value of the word Gevurah (גבורה) which is related to harsh judgment.

But when viewing it in terms of the triplets, an allusion to the three Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov, you find 72 triplets. It is worth noting that Hebrew words and verbs generally contain 3 letters. 72 is the numeric value of the Hebrew word Chesed (חסד) which is kindness, the inverse of harsh judgement.

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