Biblical Numbers: The Secret of Sefirat Ha-Omer

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The Counting of the Omer, also known as Sefirat Ha-Omer, is an imperative verbal counting of each of the 50 days between the two Chagim (feasts) of Pesach and Shavuot.

“And you shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the Shabbat, from the day that you bring the omer [offering] that is raised, seven complete weeks there shall be until the morrow of the seventh week you shall count fifty days.”Vayikra [Leviticus] 23:15-16.

Every nightfall from the second night (16th of Nissan) of Pesach until Shavuot (6th of Sivan), observant Jews perform this Mitzvah (commandment). Kabbalah teaches us that these 50 days parallel a spiritual rectification and ascent towards the 50th Gate of Binah (Understanding). This spiritual process is symbolic of the personal characteristics and traits (the emanations) every individual holds.

I propose a Chidush (personal innovation) to perceive Biblical numbers from a kabbalistic point of view by transposing the Sefirat Ha-Omer as a guide. This will offer a glimpse of how every number in the Tanakh holds a hidden revelation.

The Method

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In order to understand my Chidush, three rules need to be accepted:

  1. Each day of Sefirat Ha-Omer can be read as a day, week, month, or year. For example, 1 day of the omer can be equal to 1 year of a person’s life. This will make more sense later.
  2. The individual/entity can only attain the level of the Sefirah AFTER they have completed that year. For example, if someone is 21 years old, they would have completed all the combinations of Chesed, Gevurah, and Tiferet despite beginning their 22nd year.
  3. The number “0” and every subsequent “50th” milestone (e.g. 50, 100, 150, etc.) resets the count just like the Yovel (Jubilee) resets every 50th year (Vayikra [Leviticus] 25:8-16). Adding weight to this is the Maharal (Netivot Olam, Netiv HaTorah 1) who noted that the 50th is uncountable, as it belongs to the ethereal, elevated world that is beyond time itself. Furthermore, the 50th day specifically is also said to encompass all of the previous 49 days’ Sefirot, rather than represent one specific Sefirah.

When applying this formula to the lives of people, an additional optional rule is to take the age of the father when the subject was born to determine their purpose in life. If we then take the age of the person at the time of their death it tells us whether or not the person achieved their life purpose. As you will see, biblical genealogies will begin coming to life.

The 7 “Lower” Sefirot

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Kabbalistically during Sefirat Ha-Omer, we count each of the lower seven Sefirot combinations every night. Each week corresponds to a different Sefirah with each day corresponding to a different attribute within the seven lower Sefirot of Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malchut. Thus each day encompasses a unique combination of Sefirot.

  • Chesed: Chesed is the fourth of the ten Sefirot. Chesed most frequently translates to “loving-kindness” or the love or kindness between people or that of the creator towards humanity. Avraham is identified with the Sefirah of Chesed.
  • Gevurah: Gevurah is the fifth of the ten Sefirot. Gevurah is “the essence of judgment and limitation”. It represents “strength”, “judgement”, or “restraint”. Yitzhak is identified with the Sefirah of Gevurah.
  • Tiferet: Tiferet is the sixth of the ten Sefirot. Tiferet means “beauty”, and “mercy”. Ya’akov is identified with the Sefirah of Tiferet.
  • Netzach: Netzach is the seventh of the ten Sefirot. It generally translates to “eternity”, and in the context of kabbalah refers to “victory”. Moshe is identified with the Sefirah of Netzach.
  • Hod: Hod is the eighth of the ten Sefirot. Hod means “splendor” as well as “humility”. Aharon is identified with the Sefirah of Hod. How appropriate it is that the Kohen Gadol (high priest) represents the majesty, splendor, and glory of the Almighty on Earth through his service in the temple.
  • Yesod: Yesod is the ninth of the ten Sefirot. Yesod means “foundation”. It is seen as a vehicle allowing movement from one thing or condition to another (the power of connection). Furthermore, Yosef is identified with the Sefirah of Yesod. Interestingly, Yosef (יוסף) has the same gematria value as Tsiyon (Zion | ציון) which is 156. Tsiyon was, of course, the centralized location where statewide decisions would be made.
  • Malchut: Malchut is the tenth and final Sefirah of the Sefirot. Malchut can be translated or identified as “positive communication”, “sovereignty”, or “kingdom”. It is also identified as the Shekhinah (Divine Presence). It is the tenth and final of the Sefirot. This Sefirah has the symbol of the Bride which relates to the sphere of Tiferet, symbolized by the Bridegroom. David is identified with the Sefirah of Malchut. Malchut is also identified with Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). In gematria “the kingdom of my servant David” (Malchut Avdi David | מלכות עבדי דוד) = Yerushalayim (Jerusalem | ירושלים) which is 596.

The 7 Generations Preceding Avraham

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When applying this formula to the genealogies from Shem’s son, Arpakhshad, through to Terach, Avraham’s father, it becomes apparent that every father begat their son during the Sefirah of Hod, as they were each aged between 29 to 35 years old (Beresheet [Genesis] 11:10-26):

  1. Arpakshad begat Shelach aged 35 years. 35 is Malchut within Hod.
  2. Shelach begat Ever aged 30 years. 30 is Gevurah within Hod.
  3. Ever begat Peleg aged 34 years. 34 is Yesod within Hod.
  4. Peleg begat Re’u aged 30 years. 30 is Gevurah within Hod.
  5. Re’u begat Serug aged 32 years. 32 is Netzach within Hod.
  6. Serug begat Nachor aged 30 years. 30 is Gevurah within Hod.
  7. Nachor begat Terach aged 29 years. 29 is Chesed within Hod.

However, this peculiar chain of seven generations is broken with the birth of Avram and his brothers:

  • Terach begat Avram, Nachor, and Charan aged 70 years. 70 – 50 = 20. 20 is Yesod within Tiferet.

The fact that Avram and his brothers were born when their father was 70 years old, Yesod within Tiferet, implies the kabbalistic significance of “foundation within spirituality”.

Interestingly, all three of Terach’s three sons, Avraham, Nachor, and Charan, each contributed to the genealogy of the Children of Yisrael. Avraham, of course, is the progenitor of the Jewish people, being the father of Yitzhak. Charan meanwhile married Nachor’s daughter, Milka, thereby creating a link. Together they were thus the grandparents of Rivka, as well as the great-grandparents of Ya’akov, Leah, and Rachel.

Avraham & Sarah Foreshadow Mashiachs ben David & ben Yosef

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Avraham, who symbolizes the Sefirah of Chesed, was instructed to leave Charan at the age of 75. 75 – 50 = 25 is equal to Netzach within Netzach, symbolic of Moshe who received the Torah on Mount Sinai.

Sarah was 91 years old when she was told about the birth of Yitzhak. 91 – 50 = 41 is Yesod within Yesod, symbolic of Yosef who symbolizes Mashiach ben Yosef.

Likewise, when Avraham was 99 years old he was told he would become the father of Yitzhak. 99 – 50 = 49 is Malchut within Malchut, symbolic of David who symbolizes Mashiach ben David.

Taking the age of Avraham when he was instructed to leave Charan, as well as the age when he was told about the birth of Yitzhak, we understand the promise of Yisrael becoming a royal priesthood for HaShem hinted hundreds of years prior to Matan Torah. As it says in Shemot (Exodus) 19:6, “…but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Furthermore, the Torah tells us that Levi’im originally served in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) from the age of 25 to 50 (Bamidbar [Numbers] 8:24-25). If we again take the age at which Avraham left Charan, 75 years old, to the actual birth of Yitzhak, 100 years old, it beautifully parallels the service of the Levi’im in the Mishkan, as 50 – 25 = 25, just as 100 – 75 = 25 Netzach within Netzach.

Yishmael: Rasha or Tsadik?

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Rashi’s ambiguous commentary (Beresheet [Genesis] 21:17 and 25:17) on Yishmael leaves us with an age-old question: Did Yishael complete his life as a Tsadik (righteous person), or as a Rasha (wicked person)?

We know that Avraham was 86 years old when Yishmael was born (Beresheet [Genesis] 16:16). 86 – 50 = 36 is Chesed within Yesod. This could be considered Yishmael’s life purpose, to continue in the legacy of his father, that being loving-kindness.

However, we learn Yishmael died at the age of 137 years (Beresheet [Genesis] 25:17). 137 – 100 = 37 is Gevurah within Yesod. Thus Yishmael lived his life in the complete opposite manner to his father. Thus, we could state he failed his life’s purpose and tragically died a Rasha. A bold claim, indeed.

Yitshak, Ya’akov & Yosef: All For One & One For All!

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Yitzhak became the father of Ya’akov at the age of 60. 60 – 50 = 10 is Tiferet within Gevurah. Yitzhak, of course, symbolizes the Sefirah of Gevurah, while Ya’akov symbolizes the Sefirah of Tiferet. This highlights the natural passing of the legacy.

Ya’akov, in turn, became the father of Yosef at the age of 91. 91 – 50 = 41 is Yesod within Yesod, the Sefirah of Yosef, which is his life purpose.

The gematria of Yitzhak (יצחק) and Yosef (יוסף) equals 208 and 156, respectively. The sum of which is 364. The middle point (or average) of these two numbers is then 182 (as 364 / 2 = 182). This is the numerical value of Ya’akov (יעקב).

We know Yosef died aged 110 years old. 110 – 10 = 10 is Tiferet within Gevurah or Ya’akov within Yitzhak. Thus it confirms how Yosef successfully carried on the legacies of both his father and his grandfather.

David: The Beauty of Prose

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In Divre Hayyamim Alef (1 Chronicles) 23, we learn that David lowered the age Levi’im began their service from age 25 to age 20. This was due to them no longer being required to transport Aron HaBrit (the Ark of the Covenant) and other holy instruments. The number 20 is Yesod within Tiferet, kabbalistically known as “the power of communication within beauty”.

Appropriately, at this age, Levi’im began singing praises (communicating) to HaShem in the presence of the Shekhinah inside the Beit HaMikdash (Temple), the most beautiful building on Earth.

Interestingly, David died at age 70. 70 – 50 = 20. It comes as no surprise that David is renowned for his poetry and song, particularly those found in Tehillim (Psalms).

Sefirat Ha-Omer Every Day

These are, of course, mere snippets within an epic. If you were able to follow this Chidush all the way through, I encourage you to use this formula to continue studying biblical numbers. You’re bound to find all kinds of hidden gems. At the very least I hope you now understand that there is much more to biblical numbers than meets the eye.

Here’s an added bonus: The State of Israel was founded in 1948 in the Gregorian calendar. 48 is Yesod within Malchut or foundation within kingdom. Better yet, perhaps it signals the power of reconnecting to the kingdom?

About the Author
Jude Aravind Abraham is a Jewish convert from Christianity. Born in Sri Lanka. Raised in New Zealand. Living in Eretz Yisrael. An idealist by fate and an optimist by choice, Jude looks at every action, inaction, and reaction as part of a master plan. His greatest love is his Israeli wife, while his greatest accomplishment is his entertaining children. Plying his trade as a copywriter, to him every experience is simply another colorful page in life's unexpected journey.
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