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As was already noted before on MiYodeya,

  • the longest parasha (Naso) has 176 verses
  • the longest Psalm (119) has 176 verses
  • the longest tractate of Talmud Bavli (Bava Batra) ends on daf 176

Is there any significance to this coincidence?

(of course there is no coincidence, in Hebrew the letters for MiKReH, coincidence, also spell out Rak Me Hashem - only from God).

One very nice explanation I heard (and now found here and here) is that 176 equals 22 times 8. 22 is the number of letters in the Alef Bet (the complete Hebrew alphabet), 8 symbolizes "one beyond the natural" or "completeness beyond nature".

The product of two complete numbers is therefore the ultimate completeness and demonstrates completeness and perfection of Torah.

Are there other explanations or relevant sources?

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  • 7
    Bava Batra only has 175 pages. (Not that the whims of the Romm brothers are actually at all significant.)
    – Double AA
    Jan 13, 2016 at 5:24
  • 3
    IIRC Re'eh Shoftim KiTetze and KiTavo (ie the contents of the Brit beEretz Moav) have 176 combined Mitzvot as counted in the Chinuch. Go figure.
    – Double AA
    Jan 13, 2016 at 5:25
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    So Kol Shekein it should be irrelevant. I hereby declare a function f which maps words in this comment to numbers in consecutively increasing order such that the final word maps to 176. Who cares?
    – Double AA
    Jan 13, 2016 at 5:26
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    FYI, Bava Batra is considerably shorter than Berakhot, but while the former has innumerable tosafot, the latter has virtually none.
    – Shimon bM
    Jan 13, 2016 at 6:15
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    Bava Basra isn't even really a mesechta; it is the "Final GateFirst Gate" (to translate the name) of what was originally Mes' Neziqin. As for whether or not there is such a thing as miqreh, see the Kuzari 5:20. In this translation, starting at "Effects are either of divine or of natural origin, either accidental or arbitrary." en.wikisource.org/wiki/Kitab_al_Khazari/Part_Five Jan 13, 2016 at 11:01

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According to Beis Moshiach magazine:

The parsha Naso, which follows the Festival of Shavuos, distinguishes itself as the longest parsha in the Torah, comprising no fewer than 176 verses.

It has been pointed out that Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms, also has 176 verses (eight verses, each beginning with the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet).

It has also been noted that the longest tractate of the Talmud, Bava Basra, contains, you guessed it, 176 pages!

The Baal Shem Tov, whose yahrtzait we just observed on the first day of the Festival of Shavuos, taught that nothing happens by chance. If a leaf flutters in the wind and lands in a particular location it is by Divine providence. However, the Divine plan in nature is not easily discernable. The word for nature in Hebrew is teva, which actually means “submerged.” That is so because the truth and reality of G-d’s plan for every detail of the universe is submerged beneath the surface. It takes a spiritual “deep sea diver” to discover this Divine truth.

But Torah is different.

The word Torah is related to the word for light. In Aramaic the word for Torah is Oraisa, which means “that which brings light.” Furthermore, the Torah is described in the book of Proverbs as a source of light. This metaphor suggests that those things which may be concealed and submerged within nature are clear and exposed in Torah.

The fact that these three distinct Torah texts share the same number of verses/pages is no coincidence and conveys a profound message.

What is it about these three texts that convey a uniform message related to the number 176?

On the level of remez, the hints that are associated with gematria, the number 176 is the numerical value of the word l’olam-forever.

RAISING OUR HEADS

The parsha of Naso is always read in conjunction with the Festival of Shavuos, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It begins with the words “Naso es Rosh,” which is translated as “take a census” or “count the heads.” However, a more literal rendition yields the following translation: “Lift up the heads.”

This has been interpreted as an allusion to the Torah, which uplifts our heads. Without Torah, our minds engage the world of natural wisdom, science, philosophy, history, business, etc. In short, this is the level of knowledge within human reach. With Torah, however, our minds are elevated and allow us to grasp G-dly knowledge which transcends nature. Every time we engage in Torah study our minds are elevated, and through the elevation of our minds our bodies and personalities are uplifted as well.

The Talmud (P’sachim 68b) records a statement of the sage Rabbi Yosef concerning the virtue of the Holiday of Shavuos:

“If not for this day that caused it, there would have been many Josephs in the marketplace.”

Rashi explains that what he meant was that, as a result of this special day in which the Torah was given, he became uplifted and exalted.

Why did Rabbi Yosef feel uplifted because of Torah?

The answer, of course, is that Torah doesn’t just inspire and guide us; its unique aspect is the manner in which it raises our intellect to a higher plane.

What is it about Torah that makes it so unique in relation to other disciplines, that endows it with this power to elevate the one who studies it?

L’OLAM-FOREVER!

The answer lies in the word l‘olam, which conveys a double message based on two possible translations of this word.

The first translation is “forever,” as we say in the Boruch shem prayer after the Shma, “Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom l’olam-forever.”

G-d is eternal. As He created the laws of nature, G-d is not bound by them. So while created beings are, by definition, ephemeral because they have a beginning and must therefore have an end, the Creator, who has no beginning, also has no end. Whereas creation exists because of the act of creation, G-d just exists because He must exist. His existence is absolute; he must exist. Our existence is circumstantial; we just happen to exist.

The same is true of the Torah, which is Divine wisdom. It too must be eternal because, as Maimonides writes, “G-d and His wisdom are one,” inseparable.

Thus, the number 176, which is equivalent to the word l’olam, is associated with the parsha that speaks of the elevating character of Torah. What elevates us above the rest of the world of knowledge is that Torah is inherently eternal because it springs from the Eternal G-d.

Thus, Parshas Naso with its 176 verses highlights the power of Torah to elevate us.

This is further buttressed by the fact that it consists of eight verses for each letter of the alphabet. The number eight is a transcendent number, because it goes beyond the number seven, which represents the cycle of nature. The number eight is connected to Moshiach, in whose time the harp in the Beis HaMikdash will have eight strands as opposed to King David’s harp. The letters of the alphabet correspond to all of our faculties, “from a to z,” as they say. By repeating each letter/verse eight times we elevate ourselves to a higher transcendent level.

L’OLAM – TO THE WORLD

The word l’olam also has an alternate meaning: “To the world.” In other words, the same Torah that is so other-worldly, was directed to and relates to our very temporal and limited world. Torah, by contrast, is both divinely eternal and eminently relevant.

This is in contrast to all other areas of knowledge; the more abstract and ethereal the knowledge, the less it can relate to everyday, mundane and quotidian life.

This duality of Torah is expressed in Psalm 119.

Psalm 119 is unique. It is the most powerful, passionate and lengthy expression of King David’s love for the Torah. In this psalm, King David speaks simultaneously of the wondrous and infinite nature of Torah and how the Torah was so relevant to his life; indeed, life-saving.

This psalm thus expresses the dual nature of Torah and of the word l’olam-ethereal and ephemeral, infinite and finite, elusive and accessible.

Incidentally, the word l’olam appears nine times in Psalm 119, more than in any other chapter in the entire Tanach (except for Psalm 136, where the same phrase “ki l’olam chasdo” is repeated 26 times).

L’OLAM-THE ETERNAL BOND WITH THE JEWISH PEOPLE

There is another manifestation of the Divine power of eternality. It is the relationship G-d has with the Jewish people and, through them, to the entire world. This relationship is expressed by the Beis HaMikdash-the Holy Temple. We see this in the initial commandment of G-d to build a Sanctuary: “Make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in them.” The word “them” here refers to the entire Jewish people, who were betrothed to G-d for all eternity through the medium of the Beis HaMikdash.

This relationship is described by the prophet Hoshea (2:21): “And I will betroth you unto Me l’olam-forever.”

In general terms, this relationship began at Sinai. It was advanced when the Mishkan was built and further enhanced through King Solomon’s construction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When G-d chose Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in particular as the site for the Temple, it was established from above as the eternal city and location for G-d’s special home. No other place could ever be designated as G-d’s dwelling place and the place to which we bring all our offerings. Indeed, since the construction of the Beis HaMikdash, all of our prayers are directed there and ascend to heaven through that site.

The eternal nature of the Holy Temple was restricted to the spiritual realm. Since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, we do not have a physical structure in which heaven and earth come together.

This will be remedied with the coming of Moshiach, who will build the third, final and permanent Beis HaMikdash.

BAVA BASRA: THE THIRD TRACTATE AND BEIS HAMIKDASH

Where is this notion of a permanent dwelling place in the Third Beis HaMikdash hinted?

According to a talk of the Rebbe (Seifer HaSichos 5752 – Parshas Mishpatim) it is in the Tractate called Bava Basra.

The section of the Mishna and Talmud called Nezikin-Damages contains one long tractate that has been divided into three parts, which deal with torts, theft, commerce, partnerships, neighbors, inheritance, contracts, etc. In short, this three-part tractate deals with Jewish criminal and civil law involving property.

The three sub-tractates are called, Bava Kama-first section, Bava Metzia-middle section and Bava Basra-last section, respectively.

According to the Zohar, the three tractates correspond to the three Temples. Bava Basra represents the third and final Temple that will never be destroyed because it will be built by Moshiach, about whom the prophet Ezekiel writes that he shall be the nasi-leader l’olam forever.

Collectively, these tractates, called Nezikin-damages, deal with conflict and damage which are obvious symbols of the division and dysfunction of Galus-exile. Study of each tractate that focuses on how to repair our broken and conflicted relationships brings us closer to the Messianic Age and the Final Redemption. It follows that the final section of this “trilogy” deals and provides us with the final blow to exile that enables Moshiach to build the third Beis HaMikdash. In addition, Bava Basra contains many of the sages’ teachings concerning the events to transpire in the Messianic Age.

Thus Bava Basra, dealing as it does with the ultimate Redemption and the final and permanent Beis HaMikdash, has 176 pages; the numerical value of the word l’olam-eternal.

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