Numbers have always held a significant role within the Hebrew language. As the language for the Jewish people, it is knit to their religious practices as well as their everyday habits such as small talk or shopping. Thus, numbers in Hebrew have a far greater purpose than just ordering and paying for falafel and hummus at your favorite gyro stand.
Numerology within Judaism ––or Gematria as it is better known as ––is used a key to unlock the secrets of the Scriptures. To begin the journey of understanding the importance of numbers in Hebrew, one might first take a class on the basics of the Hebrew language itself right here on Udemy, as its numbers are an alphabetical, numerical system based upon the Hebrew alphabet. With a foreknowledge of the Hebraic language, one could better grasp Hebrew numbers.
An Overview of Numbers in Hebrew
As previously stated, numbers in Hebrew are originally based on the Hebrew alphabet itself. Though modern Israel the Arabic numerical system is used ––e.g., 1, 2, 3, etc. ––it is still essential to have a knowledge of the original, alphabetical system for Hebraic numbers as it is still used for the Hebraic calendar. This is especially true if one desires to further their understanding into Hebraic numerology.
Much like the Ancient Roman numerals, each Hebrew letter has a numerical value. When speaking or writing ––as there is a masculine and feminine form of each word for each Hebrew letter ––the gender of the number must match the subject it is describing. The default gender if there is no subject is the female.
For numbers with a greater value than 10, cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.) are used instead of ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.). Both ordinal and cardinal numbers must agree in gender with each other as well as with the subject. As with other adjectives, ordinal numbers must also agree in definite status in addition to number.
This numeric system operates on an additive principle, which constitutes as all the numbers and their values being written or spoken together to form the sum total. There are, of course, exceptions to this, as the Hebraic language is considered sacred by the Jewish people.
One example of this is with the numbers 15 and 16. Since the numeric system is an additive one, the simple way to speak or write the aforementioned numbers would be to add either 6 (ו) and 9 (ט), or 7 (ז) and 9 (ט). However, as it is also an alphabetical system, the Hebrew letters to speak or write 15 and 16 would consequentially spell out alternate Names for G-d, which if one has a basic understanding of the Hebrew language and the Jewish religion it is intimately associated with, they would know traditionally the Jewish people are forbidden to speak or write the Name of G-d in full.
If you are quickly trying to learn a foreign language, such as Hebrew, you might consider checking out this Udemy course. Another course offered by Udemy is this great option that services as an introduction to conversational Hebrew, though it is still thorough and does include a lesson on Hebrew numbers and counting.
A Brief Introduction to Gematria, Hebraic Numerology
Another element of Hebrew numbers is that of the Jewish numerology, Gematria, attributed to it. Within Jewish mysticism, numbers are seen as playing a vital role in Judaic, religious practices, and are a tool to understanding the divine. As in the basic Hebrew language, numbers are assigned to different letters. In turn, these letters and their numerical value become knit together in such a way that it is almost a marriage between the physical and the spiritual. Thus, within Judaism, each number gains a significant, spiritual meaning.
One well-known example of this is the word Chai חַי which means “alive”or “living”. It is spelled by the Hebrew letters Chet (ח) and Yod (י ), and their corresponding numerical values are 8 and 10 respectively adding up to 18. Consequentially, the number 18 in Jewish tradition is associated with life. The word of Chai and its value of 18 according to system of Gematria have become a sort of symbolic amulet for the Jewish people. Necklaces are worn with the Chai symbol in a somewhat similar way the Star of David is worn. Giving money in multiples of 18 is also suggested for gifts or charities, as it is called “giving chai”.
It is also believed in Jewish tradition that numbers themselves can unlock secret messages within the Scriptures. This is known as the Bible code, made famous by a book of the same name and the movie, “The Omega Code”. However, Gematria is considered to be more than a controversial, superstitious numerology, though history has sometimes painted it that way. If studied correctly, it could prove to be fascinating to the student.
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