Names & Numbers
This week’s Parsha opens with the words “And these are the names of the children of Yisroel that came to Mitzrayim…” Rashi comments even though they were counted in their lifetime by name (in parshas Vayigash) the Torah counts them even after their death to show how beloved they are. They are compared to the stars that Hashem brings out and in with number and their names as it says (Yeshaya 40): “He takes their multitudes out by number and all of them He calls by name”. What is so great about stars? Why do stars need a number and name and why is that what shows how special they are? There’s an incongruence between the number and names in this week’s Parsha. There are only 12 names mentioned but the Torah says that 70 descendants of Yaakov came to Mitzrayim. There should be 70 names like in parshas Vayigash! How do we reconcile the number 70 with only 12 names mentioned?
What do stars do? There are more stars than we could ever see or count. There must be a purpose for all the trillions of stars. Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah) say: “For every blade of grass there is a star that hits it and commands it to grow”. This may explain why we need so many stars, but we still need to understand why it’s necessary to have one for every blade of grass and the rest of the creations. The Ramchal in Derech Hashem (sec 2 chap 7) tells us that the function of the Stars in the hierarchy of reality is to be the conduits that bring Spiritual energy into the Physical Realm. Everything starts with Hashem’s emanations which we would call “Spiritual”. What causes the transition from being a spiritual energy in the Spiritual realms to be an energy in physical realm that would affect the physical? That transition happens through the stars. This explains why there are trillions (or more) of them. There needs to be a star for every type of emanation Hashem wants to send down to us! Even pagan astrologers observed that all different types of power come down from the Stars. However, they mistakenly thought the power is that of the Stars. It isn’t! The stars are merely conduits to bring Hashem’s power into the physical Realm. Why do stars need numbers and names to fulfill this function?
Numbers & Mathematics
What are numbers? What is mathematics? In Lashon Hakodesh the word for mathematics is “Cheshbon”. The root of the word is “chashav”- to think. Mathematics is the language of pure thought. Numbers do not exist in physical reality. They are concepts! If I say “3”, your question will be “3 what?” 3 km? 3 lbs.? 3 light years? 3 degrees below zero? “3” is a concept that could be applied for the sake of making measurements, but it in of itself is an idea. This is the secret of the ‘poem’ that we read at the end of the Haggadah of Pesach: “Who knows one? who knows two? who knows three?” We say “’3’ is our three forefathers”. What we’re saying is that the greatest manifestation that plays out the full conceptual meaning of “3” is our three forefathers. “3” is a concept that represents two poles and one in the middle. Avraham’s attribute was “Chesed”- kindness, the “right Pole”. Yitzchak’s attribute was the opposite pole of “Din”- judgment. Yaakov’s attribute is “Rachamim”- Mercy which navigates between kindness and judgement. The Avos are the greatest representation of the concept of “3”. This is the secret behind that whole poem. A mathematical formula describes how these concepts interact with each other. There is no action or event that cannot be abstracted and described mathematically. In advanced physics, where there are no good words to describe what’s going on, we use math.
“Order” means things arranged in a pattern. To have “order” you need ideas like: first, Second, third, fourth, and so on, in other words: numbers and math. With this we can get a small glimpse as to why Hashem’s pattern of governing us is called the 10 Sefiros. The root of the word “Sefira” is “Safar” which means ‘count’ and it is also the root of “Mispar”- number. There are 10 Sefiros and that is the real reason why we have base 10 mathematics. The “10 Sefiros” are Hashem’s thought out orderly pattern for creation and destiny.
Thought alone is not a complete system. A “system” is when there are actual entities integrating in an orderly pattern. This is where “names” come in. We find by the Genesis Hashem said: “Let there be light and there was light”. Speaking the name of the entity caused the entity to emerge into actuality. Before it was ‘just’ a thought, giving it a name gave it actual existence! Putting numbers into words means making thoughts into actual entities!
Back to the Stars
The Ramchal in his sefer Kinas Hashem Tzivakos explains in greater depth and says that the Hebrew word for star is “Kochav” which is spelled chaf vav chaf beis. This is to be divided up into two different symbols. Chaf vav has a numerical value of 26 which is the numerical value of Hashem’s ‘special Name’ which represents all 10 Sefiros. That’s why it’s called “THE NAME” per se, because it encompasses the entirety of the systematic thought with which he governs us. Chaf beis has a numerical value of 22 representing the 22 letters of the “Alef Beis” from which names are constructed. The stars are the portals that facilitate a transition from Divine thought to Divine utterance. That is why stars have numbers and names!
Gematria and the 12 names
The significance of “Gematria”, where we seek to learn from the numerical value of a word, the numerical value tells us something about the Divine thoughts that were invested in the construct of that entity. The name for a single entity could have a large numerical value, for even though it’s just one entity, much Divine thought went into that entity. 70 individuals came to Mitzrayim but only the names of the 12 tribes are mentioned. The tribes were not being mentioned as individuals, they represent major events! As the Midrash Rabbah explains, these 12 names were singled out for all the different Divine Revelations that are revealed in course of sefer Shemos. Just to give an example: Yehuda means “thanks”, his name is mentioned because the Jews gave thanks to Hashem upon their redemption. These 12 names are 12 Divine Revelations that are to be revealed in course of the Exodus and the thoughts behind them are 70 as each name is a complex concept that was woven out of many units of thought.
The stars in Hashem’s show
the Jewish people are the real stars in Hashem’s show! Before the Jewish people were chosen the celestial bodies had an even greater role in passing down the energies to the Physical Realm, as if they are governing the Physical Realm, even though really, they’re just executing Hashem’s commands. The non-Jews remained under the influence of the stars and cannot bypass, and therefore make the mistake of worshiping them. As the posuk says (Devarim 4:16) “Hashem has apportioned them to all the nations under the heavens”. But the Jewish people are actually above the Stars! They are the real stars in Hashem! Rashi says at the beginning of the Torah: “‘Bereishis” – for the sake of the Jewish people who are called the first”. We are the number one thing on Hashem’s minds and like the Posuk says in Tehillim (40:6) “…your wonders and your thoughts are all geared towards us” we are really the central focus of Hashem’s thoughts for reality. The whole world was created for our mission! This explains why the Jewish people are not under the influence of the stars. Not only do they not have dominion over us, we can even rewire them! Therefore, the very first Mitzvah we got as a nation was “Kidush HaChodesh” setting up the calendar. We measure time by the movement of celestial bodies, but the Jewish people call the shots as to when the celestial bodies have power or don’t. We declare the new moon; the New Moon does not declare itself. We alter the powers of the zodiac. Because of our sins we unfortunately made the month of AV a bad month for us, which we are destined to fix. We merited to convert the month of Adar into a great month for us! We are controlling and putting spins on how the Stars will distribute energy and they are in our hands to override or rewire. Therefore, the Jewish people have names and numbers. It is through us that Hashem’s inner most thoughts and plans for reality are revealed and executed! Whether we teach it to the world or demonstrate it through the events that befall us. The system of reality emerges through us, that is our history and destiny!
The upcoming parshas of Shemos Vaera Bo Beshalach Yisro Mishpatim are a time for repentance, particularly for ‘waste.’ Waste happens when things aren’t systemized. In a system there is a closed circuit of cause, effect, and final desired goal. Waste is when the goal isn’t achieved. This can happen either because there is no known goal or for lack of a system. Without a system efforts and resources don’t add up and don’t connect with the end goal. Before The Exodus from Egypt and the emergence of the Jewish peopled the world was living without a system! There was ‘trickle down’ from Heaven to Earth but no one could see what the real inner system is. Why did Hashem create the world? Where is Destiny headed? The real system of the world was revealed with the emergence of the Jewish people who are the players, the real stars of the show. The world finally got its system and was no longer a waste during these weeks therefore the individual should do repentance for all waste that never connected to the goal.
The Rambam – a man of systems
This Motzei Shabbos the 20th of Teves is the yahrtzeit of the Rambam. The Jewish people have a saying: “From Moshe(Rabbeinu) to Moshe (ben Maimon) there was none like Moshe”. There is one outstanding thing that could be said about the Rambam that is a common denominator in all his life’s work, he was a man of systems. The Talmud and its interpretations were expanding out of control. The Rambam systemized it! As the Magid Mishneh says in his introduction to hilchos Shabbos: The Rambam was a master of order! The Rambam was always seeking systems. This explains why he always assigns numbers, to show that it’s a thought-out system! His 13 principles of Judaism, his 14 criteria what qualifies as a Mitzvah, his 14 philosophical categories for mitzvos, his 14 books that comprise the Mishneh Torah and the list goes on and on. He saved us from wasting our lives swimming aimlessly in the sea of knowledge and gave us order and clarity by giving us a handle on the system of the Torah
Zechuso Yagen aleinu