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Prayer #7 - Hear O Israel Part II

May 8, 2009 | by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

If we look at the Sh'ma, the quintessential Jewish prayer, through the eyes of gematria, we can see encoded the mission of Jews in world history.

Sh'ma Israel, Adonai Elohainu, Adonai Ehad.
"Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One."

If we count the Hebrew letters of the first line of the Sh'ma -- we find that there are altogether twenty-five letters contained in six words. From a Kabbalistic point of view, especially in terms of world rectification, the number twenty-five and six are very significant.


For example, it is pointed that the twenty-fifth word in the Torah is the word ohr, which means "light." As mentioned in the previous essay, one of the prime missions of the Jewish people in history is to be a "light unto nations," and, if the Sh'ma is the "Jewish Creed," it would not be surprising to find such an allusion to that mission encoded in the words themselves.

This is also why the holiday of Chanukah, which is called the "Holiday of Lights," is the only Jewish holiday to fall on the twenty-fifth day of a Jewish month (Kislev). During the course of holiday, we light thirty-six candles in total, the number of times the word ohr, "light," occurs in the entire Torah.

Furthermore, when God came to Adam after he had broken the command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, He asked Aiyekah? "Where are you?" No where else in the Hebrew lexicon does the word aiyekah appear.

In effect God asks Adam: "Where is the light of creation which you were created to reveal?"

This word can be considered an amalgam of two words: aiyeh and koh, meaning, "Where is twenty-five?" This implies an underlying meaning of the question God is asking Adam: "Where is the light of creation (represented by the number twenty-five) which you were created to reveal, but have, instead, hidden through your sin?"

This makes even more sense when one realizes that the total numerical value of the word aiyekah itself is thirty-six, the other number that alludes to the primordial light of creation, which humanity was fashioned to bring forth.


The significance of the number six is even more Kabbalistic. In fact, the following discussion requires more explanation than provided here, but will, in any case, provide the beginning of an appreciation of just how profound the words of the Sh'ma actually are.

We have touched on the concept of Sefirot in previous essays, and have mentioned that, of the Ten Sefirot, or, Holy Emanations that govern our natural world, six specifically correspond to our world -- chesed (kindness), gevurah (strength), tifferet (beauty), netzach (domination), hod (glory), and, yesod (foundation). It is these six Holy Emanations that were the cosmic "DNA" for the six days of creation, and, subsequently, the six millennia of history that have followed (of which we are still a part).

These six Holy Emanations were the cosmic "DNA" for the six days of creation.

Each of them are destined to have their own subset of Ten Sefirot, and, once they do, physical creation will finally achieve a tremendous level of spiritual perfection. Until such time as they do, intellectual and spiritual darkness will prevail from time to time, and these six sefirot will only possess six of the Ten Sefirot they are destined to attain.

Six times six is thirty-six.


Hence, the number six, and the number thirty-six, both allude to the incomplete state of creation that mankind is expected to rectify and bring to fruition. We do this by incorporating the intellectual and spiritual light of the Sh'ma into our lives, and then by spreading that light to the rest of the world. All of this is included in the intention behind the Sh'ma.

In fact, as had already been pointed out, the Name of God, Elohim, which has the same numerical value of the Hebrew word teva, "nature" -- eighty-six is made up of two parts: the first with the numerical value of thirty-six and the second with the numerical value of fifty.

The first part symbolizes the six sefirot (each of which has six sefirot of its own) mentioned earlier.

The second part alludes to "The Fifty Gates of Understanding." These "gates" correspond to the sefirah of binah (understanding), which is above the six sefirot of our world.

It is explained in Kabbalah that exile is the result of the sefirah binah being spiritually "pushed" away from the lower six sefirot through our sins.

This phenomenon is symbolized by the first part of the word Elohim being separated, at least intellectually, from the second part. Practically-speaking, this has the result of a world short in understanding of who God is, and how He runs His world.

We are short in understanding of who God is and how He runs His world.

When we learn Torah and perform mitzvoth, our learning and actions have the affect of unifying both of parts of Elohim -- of bringing the light of binah (understanding) into the lower sefirot and actualizing the Messianic era.

Thus we see that embodied in the Sh'ma is a daily reminder of the goals of history and the purpose of creation, and of the role of the Jewish people within that history.

This is why, as we will see next issue, why this concept is also embodied in the names of the Jewish tribes of Israel.

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