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< Q12.32 TOC Q12.34 >

Question 12.33:
Is numerology part of Jewish Mysticism?


The Torah is studied on four general levels:

Gematria is not only used by Kabbalists, but is also useful as a hint or mnemonic, as a means of associating some idea with the text of the Torah. People who enjoy these things tend to be the same people as those who study kabbalah. Neither will appeal to the strict rationalist; even if one gives them a rationalist basis. However, that's just a psychological tendency. The Tosafist movement (12th and 13th cent CE) wasn't particularly kabbalistic (in fact, the competing pietists movement, Chassidei Ashkenaz was), yet their commentary is rife with gematria.

Kabbalah teaches that everything is an intentional act of G-d. Which implies that there are no coincidences. Such synchronicisties and other "coincidences" are potential learning experience, since G-d made them that way for a reason. Numbers are used as symbols, so that the number of elements in some commandment, or planets in the sky, letters in the Hebrew alphabet or letters of a given type, or whatever, are assumed to be chosen by G-d to indicate more about their significance. So, for example, it is deemed significant that there are the same number of days in the week as colors in the rainbow, both of which are one less than the number of days in the harvest festival of Succos and the number of strings in a tassle of tzitzis. Seven represents the totality of creation, eight is therefore striving to go beyond the limitations of this world. Sometimes, gematria is used here as well. A tool that is useful as a mnemonic device when studying Torah is a source for finding meaning for these coincidences.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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