Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Nasso/Shavuot

In his D’var Torah this week, the Chief Rabbi asks us the question: What’s so special about the number 176?

176 is a special number. Why do I say that?

This week’s Parasha of Nasso is the longest of the year and it has 176 verses in it.

Out of the 150 Psalms, the longest is Pslam 119, with 176 verses. And the longest Masechet of Shas, of the Talmud, is Masechet Bava Batra, which has, well you guessed it, 176 pages. Actually, there are only 175 and that is because every book of the Talmud starts on page 2 – there is no daf aleph. That’s in order that no person should ever claim that he or she knows it all.

So what is so special about 176? Well, it is because it’s 22 x 8. And what’s special about that?

Well, as you know there are 22 letters in the ‘Aleph-Bet’. Therefore, from ‘Aleph’ to ‘Taf’, all 22 represent completion and perfection. And in Kabbalistic teachings, the number 8 represents the connection between ourselves and Hashem.

‘There are 22 letters in the ‘Aleph-Bet’. Therefore, from ‘Aleph’ to ‘Taf’, all 22 represent completion and perfection’

The number 6 represents ‘perfection in nature’ – the 6 days of the week. The number 7 symbolises the perfection that we can attain – ‘Holiness on this Earth’ – that is why Shabbat is on the 7th day and 7 is the prime number of all key elements on earth.

The number 9 represents the ‘divine’. Indeed, the seal of God is truth. And at the end of the Shema, we say, ‘Hashem Elokeichem Emet’. And ‘Emet’ in Gematriah is 441; 4 + 4 +1 = 9 and indeed, the essence of God is truth – represented by that number 9.

So, 7 is the perfection we can attain, 9 represents God, and 8, therefore, is the bridge that connects us with our creator.

‘The power of the number 22, representing everything which is complete and perfect, combined with the power of the number 8 which represents our connection to Hashem – they blend together through the Festival of Shavuot’

And that is why a ‘Brit’ is celebrated on the 8th day of a baby boy’s life; that is why the Festival of Chanukah, which represents a miracle form God is 8 days long. This is too, the essence of the Parasha of Shemini. All that which transpired on the 8th day, when fire came from heaven to consume the alter that we had prepared with holiness, here on earth.

So, therefore, the fact that Nasso has 22 x 8 verses is of particular relevance to us right now because nearly every year, Nasso is read immediately after the Festival of Shavuot, it is a celebration of the beauty and relevance of Torah in our lives. The power of the number 22, representing everything which is complete and perfect, combined with the power of the number 8 which represents our connection to Hashem – they blend together through the Festival of Shavuot which marks the revelation of Hashem to our people at Mount Sinai. Enabling us now, from Parashat Nasso onwards, to celebrate how central, meaningful and relevant the Torah is in our lives. Enabling us to strive for perfection and to celebrate that wonderful covenant we have with our creator.

Shabbat Shalom

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