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In the meditations before putting on the tallit and tefillin in the morning, there are three numbers — 248, 365, and three instances of 613. They’re written out in standard Hebrew letter notation in the siddur, but what confuses me is that they have vowels:

248: רְמַ׳׳ח
365: שְׁסָ׳׳ה
613: תַּרְיַ׳׳ג

How should one pronounce these numbers when davening? Is it by the names of the letters (“resh mem het”) as is done with other numbers written in letter notation? Is it as a word, using the vowels that are in the siddur (“re’mach”), which is how acronyms are pronounced? Or is it as a regular Hebrew number (“matayim arbaim v’teishah”)?

  • Don't we say "Too BiShvat" and not "Tet vav BiShvat"? And "Lag B'omer", not "lamed gimel b'omer"? – Charles Koppelman Jan 22 '15 at 22:28
  • We sure do, that’s a good point. And Lag Ba’Omer. But years are read out as letter names. – Jon Mitchell Jan 22 '15 at 22:30
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    Every minyan I have ever been to has pronounced them as words ("ramach/rimach", "shisah", "taryag") – הנער הזה Jan 22 '15 at 22:30
  • @ablaze I've heard years pronounced – Charles Koppelman Jan 22 '15 at 22:35
  • sigh I knew this one was just going to turn out to be a case of little daily details omitted from my Conservative education. :) – Jon Mitchell Jan 22 '15 at 23:22
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The Wikipedia list of Hebrew abbreviations has the following entries:

רמ״ח (ramach) - 1) The 248 positive mitzvot. 2) The 248 limbs of the human body. See also תרי״ג and שס״ה

שס״ה (shesah) - 1) The 365 negative mitzvot or prohibitions (Makkot 23b, end). 2) The 365 veins and sinews of the human body (Zohar I, 170b). 3) The 365 days of the solar year (Makkot 23b). See also תרי״ג and רמ״ח

תרי״ג (taryag) - 1) The 613 mitzvot. 2) The 613 corresponding organs and veins of the human body. See also רמ״ח and שס״ה

It seems that Wikipedia provides the transliteration to indicate how to pronounce the abbreviation. This would indicate that when the vowels are provided it is so that the abbreviations are pronounced as words. The Wikipedia pronunciation differs from the vowels that are in the siddur only in having ramach instead of remach.

  • I'll buy that. Funny, I looked on Wikipedia for an answer before I asked here, but the article explaining Hebrew abbreviations doesn't list these. – Jon Mitchell Jan 22 '15 at 23:15
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Like Matt said, every minyan I've been to has pronounced these as they sound (ramach, sh'sa, and taryag); the gabbai in my shul (a very learned rabbi) included*.


* In the Mi Shebeirach for cholim.

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