Teves – a month of unity

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According to the Book of Creation [1], (an ancient kabbalistic book written by the patriarch, Abraham) every month of the Hebrew calendar has a Hebrew letter associated with it. Teves, the month that lasts until January 25th this year, is associated with the letter “ayin,” the sixteenth letter of the alef-bet, which has a numerical value of seventy. [2] What is the meaning of the number seventy?

Ayin = 70

Those who read a weekly Torah portion in the synagogue find that Genesis chapter 46 is always read around the month of Teves, and includes the verse which mentions that seventy “souls” went down to Egypt. [3] These souls were the children and grandchildren of Jacob. It is not merely coincidence that this group was seventy; as with many numbers in Judaism, the number seventy has a special significance.

Earlier in Genesis, at the incident with the Tower of Babel in Chapter 10 the Torah lists seventy nations who were the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Noah. In Jewish writings, these are known throughout history as the Seventy Nations of the world, indicating that they were stamped into creation at the time of the Tower, and something of those original seventy mindsets and personalities are the roots of all the nations of the world for all time. Even their spiritual significance is carried on throughout the ages. Seventy, therefore, symbolizes the entire spectrum of human perspective.

We are all different yet unified

In this light, the seventy souls who descended to Egypt represented the entirety of the Jewish nation, and the experience in Egypt would be engraved on the national consciousness for all time. What they experienced still lives inside the souls of Israel today. Similarly, the sages say that there are seventy facets to the Torah, seventy ways to interpret each point.

In Numbers 11:16 we find another example of this. God asked Moses to gather a group of seventy sages to be the High Court of Israel. With seventy judges on hand we expect their judgments to have included all the possible perspectives on any court case in question. Amongst those seventy judges there was also a requirement for each of the seventy languages of the seventy nations to be understood by at least one of those sages. In other words, their judgment shouldn’t be based on a translator, but on a direct understanding of the litigants involved.

This High Court, known as the Sanhedrin, was seated at the Temple in Jerusalem, and was called the “eyes” of the people. With wisdom, a person can see the future. A wise person also thinks through the potential outcome of an act before proceeding, as it says in Ecclesiastes 2:14, “A wise man has eyes in his head.” To come full circle, the word “ayin” that we started with is not only the name of the sixteenth letter of the alef-bet but it also means “eye”.

Diversity and Unity

Tying this into the month, Teves focuses us on the Temple from two angles. First, the end of Chanukah celebrates of the return to the Temple. And secondly, the fast day on the 10th of the month marks the siege against Jerusalem. These are intense opposing reminders of our national unity, and the Temple in Jerusalem. In order to be a united people we have to appreciate all of the different perspectives we have amongst us. In order to have the benefit of the Torah we have to appreciate all of its facets. When we will appreciate every facet of the Torah we will be connected with the source of all power. When we will appreciate every personality found amongst our people, we will have God’s blessing to be at peace in our land with the holy Temple in Jerusalem. And when we appreciate the seventy nations of the world we will appreciate the love the Almighty has for all humanity.

This is the power that’s inherent in the month. Diversity and Unity. While we should always be thinking about diversity and unity, this month is particularly special and you may find Divine Assistance in your efforts to unify diverse people.

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[1] Sefer Yetzira (the Book of Creation) is a very cryptic kabbalistic work that deals with kabbalistic astrology, among other things.

[2] As we’ve mentioned before, each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value. The system of using the numerical value of the letters is called Gematria.

[3] Genesis 46:27 “And Joseph’s sons who were born to him in Egypt numbered two people. All the people of Jacob’s household who came to Egypt were seventy.”

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