Who knows two hundred thirty-one?

Please cite/link your sources, if possible. At some point at least twenty-four hours from now, I will:

  • Upvote all interesting answers.

  • Accept the best answer.

  • Go on to the next number.


Sefer Yetzirah (2:4 passim) speaks of 231 "gates," each with an obverse and a reverse, formed by the letters of the Alef-Beis - i.e., the number of possible combinations of two different letters.

(There are 22 letters, so combining each of them with each of the others yields 22 x 21 = 462 combinations. Half of these, 231, are the reverses of the other half - e.g., אב and בא.)

  • Nefesh hachaim speaks about this in the fourth chapter, IIRC. – Adam Mosheh May 4 '12 at 17:47

Siman 231 in S.A. O.C. is about the halachic obligation that everything a person does should be l'shem shamayim (for the sake of Heaven). That means that eating, drinking, sleeping, etc. (anything that is neither obligatory nor forbidden by the Torah) should only be done if it will help one better serve Hashem (i.e., be healthy in order to do mitzvot). If one eats only because the food tastes good, or to fulfill sinful gluttonous cravings beyond that of normal hunger, then it is forbidden to eat. Eating food that tastes good can also be l'shem shamayim because it will put you in a good mood.

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    And Siman 231 in SA CM is about who defaults to having won an argument about price depending on who made a kinyan on what first. – Double AA May 4 '12 at 18:17
  • @DoubleAA - Why don't you make that an answer? – Adam Mosheh May 4 '12 at 18:45
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    @AdamMosheh, because every siman is about something. It's not like the baal haTurim chose certain numbers as his simanim (skipping others), so we can say "oh, 231 is a siman in Tur, look at that". 231 is a siman in OC (and CM) simply because there happen to be at least 231 simanim in OC (and CM). Why is that interesting? – msh210 May 4 '12 at 18:48
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    @AdamMosheh, I wouldn't say it follows that "of course he chose certain numbers" for topics. But even if we grant that he did (for every siman no less), that only means that there is some connection between the number 231 and the subject matter of doing everything l'shem Shamayim. Until we know what that connection is, all we have is that the chapter number for that subject is 231, which is not inherently interesting (IMO). Now, if you'd add in some reasoning re why 231 relates to that subject, that would be an answer! – msh210 May 4 '12 at 18:53
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    Allow me to even say that it does not follow that "of course he chose certain numbers" for topics, and certainly not for every siman. Until you bring a source saying he did, I feel very comfortable believing he did not. – Double AA May 4 '12 at 19:58

231 are the perakim in the sefarim we read in their entirety during the course of the year (Bereishis - 50; Shemos - 40; Vayikra - 27; Bamidbar - 36; Devarim - 34; Ovadiah - Haftaras Vayishlach, 1; Yonah - Haftaras Yom Kippur, 4; Shir HaShirim - Shabbos Pesach, 8; Rus - Shavuos, 4; Eichah - Tishah B'av, 5; Koheles - Shabbos Sukkos or Shmini Atzeres, 12; Esther - Purim, 10).

  • What do these numbers have to do with Judaism? – Double AA Dec 9 '16 at 6:57
  • @DoubleAA Is that better, as per Shavuos? And how isn't this related to Judaism? Of all of the sefarim of Tanach we read in their entirety during the year, it happens to come out perfectly to 231. Are you asking why I shouldn't take into account the sefarim we don't read in their entirety, or why perakim matter since they were a Christian invention? (con't) – DonielF Dec 9 '16 at 15:49
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    As you said, Perakim clearly have nothing to do with Judaism. This would be like saying "9 is the Gregorian Calendar dates which contain parts of Chanukkah". Obviously, that fact has nothing to do with Judaism, or at the very least is as non-significant as you can get IMO. We're looking for significant numbers. – Double AA Dec 9 '16 at 15:55
  • For the latter, let me direct you to this answer. The daf counts are also printing conventions, and yet nobody had an issue with Bava Basra. Likewise, how about this one which counts from CE years? As for the former, what's the problem with making limitations on what I'm counting? How is it different than discussing the orphans absorbed into Winnipeg - what about the ones absorbed into other places? – DonielF Dec 9 '16 at 15:59
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    @DoubleAA Not my kehillah. One ba'al korei, and the flourish is at each parshah break, not each perek break. But that's besides the point. I hear what you're saying. – DonielF Dec 9 '16 at 16:08

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