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Lucky Number 7 -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 07/06/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

July 6, 2023 17 Tammuz 5783 PinchasTomorrow will be the 7th day of the 7th month. Furthermore, the digits of our year 2023 add up to 7. And tomorrow evening, we will welcome in the 7th day of the week – better known as Shabbat. So, I started thinking about some of the number 7’s which appear in the Torah.

  • 7 days of creation (Genesis 1)

  • 7 pairs of pure animals on Noah’s Ark (Genesis 7:2)

  • 7 – total number of matriarchs and patriarchs (Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaakov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, v’Leah)

  • 7 ewes given to Avimelech by Avraham as sign of their pact – Name of place: Be’er Sheva, which translates to “The Well of Seven” (Genesis 21:39ff)

  • 7 years that Jacob worked for his bride (Genesis 29:20)

  • 7 fat cows, 7 skinny cows = 7 healthy sheaves, 7 sickly sheaves = 7 years of plenty, 7 years of famine in Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41)

  • 7 daughters of Yitro the Midianite – oldest was Tzipporah who married Moshe (Exodus 2:16)

  • 7 indigenous species of the Land of Israel – Deuteronomy 8

  • 7th year – fallow year; after 7 fallow years – Jubilee year (Deuteronomy 15)

And then, there is the Biblical calendar, which appears in this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas:

  • Passover and Sukkot – each 7 days long

  • 7 weeks between Passover and Shavuot

  • 7th month contains the most holidays – Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot

  • Total of 7 special occasions mentioned – Shabbat, Rosh Hodesh, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot

And this list is NOT exhaustive. So what is it with the number seven?? Why is it “Lucky” number seven? Some suggest the origin of this number as lucky goes back to the number of stellar objects in the solar system visible to the ancients’ naked eyes — the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets: Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. Some suggest that it goes back to Pythagoras, who believed that the triangle and the square were perfect figures. Thus 7 (3+4) was the perfect number. Perhaps it is related to the number of openings into the human head -- mouth, two eyes, two ears, two nostrils. Others have suggested that it is because the ancient world used a base-six counting system. Each hand has six positions – one hand keeps track of ones; one hand keeps track of sixes. One can count to 36 with one’s fingers instead of only 10. Think about the way in which we count the hours of the day and the months of the year – all based on the number six. Six represents the known, the natural. Seven comes to represent that which is beyond the known, the supernatural. And I think that the answer to the significance of the number seven lies in this concept. It represents the unknown. It represents an artificial structure placed on or over the natural world. There is nothing seemingly natural about seven (like six). It represents our God-given power to impose our will on the world around us. As Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote in his book The Sabbath, “Technical civilization is man’s conquest of space (p. 1).” He went on: “The meaning of the Sabbath [however] is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time (p. 10).” In other words, sometimes we need to reach beyond the objects that clutter our lives from Sunday through Friday. When we use our objects to celebrate special times (as opposed to using our time to celebrate special objects), we discover the ‘luck’ – or better yet, the ‘good fortune’ – of the number seven. During those sacred times, we have the opportunity to recognize the blessings in our lives. We have the opportunity recharge our batteries for future endeavors. May we all make our own good fortune by imposing a structure on our lives that emphasizes time more than space or objects. And in so doing, may we discover the blessings that are already a part of our world. Shalom, RAF.

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