Our sages tell us that there are שבעים פנים לתורה (Bamidbar Rabbah). Does this mean that every word, or verse, or some unit, has 70 interpretations, and there are theoretically billions of combinations of explanations of the Torah, or are there 70 approaches to learning the Torah, and each one would yield a single approach to the entire Torah?

Even if one were to take this number to represent it being many, and not an actual number, the question remains: Are the many different approaches to Torah specific to each idea, or are they different approaches of how to view the entire Torah, with one consistent theme or attitude?

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    I'm not sure the midrash is to be taken literally; often numbers like 70 (or 7, 400, 600,000 etc) are used to mean "a lot".
    – Ypnypn
    Jan 22, 2014 at 2:24
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    So let's say it means "many" or pick a number that you really like a lot. And then re-read the question that way. But I think there are those who take it literally. Jan 22, 2014 at 2:25
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    @YEZ If you think it means a lot then your question fails. "Does it mean a lot, or a LOT?" is essentially what you are asking. So editing in a source for someone who takes the number 70 uber-literally would validate your question greatly
    – Double AA
    Jan 22, 2014 at 5:34
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    @Ypnypn +1, moreover, I believe that every Ben-Tora has he's own legitimate viewpoint
    – Alaychem
    Jan 22, 2014 at 8:43
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    @ray it doesn't seem like that is any more indicative of if that is a verse by verse basis or a broader approach, just a different number given Jan 26, 2014 at 2:43

1 Answer 1


According to Osiyos D'Rabbi Akiva, it would seem like there's 70 interpretations to each of the sections of Torah (Torah, Nevi'im, Kesuvim, Halachot, etc.):

עד שלמדו בארבעים ימים כשהיה עומד בהר תורה בשבעים פנים של שבעים לשון, נביאים בשבעים פנים של שבעים לשון, כתובים בשבעים פנים של שבעים לשון, הלכות בשבעים פנים של שבעים לשון, שמועות בשבעים פנים של שבעים לשון, הגדה בשבעים פנים של שבעים לשון, תוספות בשבעים פנים של שבעים לשון.


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