In Season 7 of Seinfeld, George Costanza tells his fiancée, Susan, that he wants to name his firstborn child “Seven.” “It’s Mickey Mantle’s number. So not only is it an all-around beautiful name, it is also a living tribute.” Beyond well-known pop-culture references, the number seven is also very important in Judaism. It is even possible that George’s declaration was a deliberate Judaic reference by Jerry Seinfeld, although probably not. I generally try to stay in my (very narrow) lane, which does not include Jewish teachings or commentary. Thus, the forthcoming list is merely illustrative and not exhaustive:
The menorah, a symbol of the seven days of creation, is the emblem of Israel.
Shabbat falls on the seventh day of the week, and on Shabbat, seven people are called up to the Torah for aliyot.
Each of the plagues is Egypt lasted seven days.
Traditionally, during a Jewish wedding, the bride circles around the groom seven times; there are seven blessings and seven days of celebrations.
In Israel, Passover and Sukkot are celebrated for seven days each.
On Simchat Torah, the Torah scrolls are paraded around the sanctuary in the synagogue seven times.
Seven signifies fullness or completion, and the consonants of the Hebrew word for seven are the same as the consonants of the Hebrew word for completeness. Thus, the two words look exactly the same.
I recently returned from my seventh trip to Israel. My first trip was a two-week family trip back in 1982 when Israel was at war with Lebanon. I could not understand how my overprotective and before-their-time helicopter parents were taking us to a country at war. I understood once we got there. The following summer, I spent six weeks on a teen tour to Israel; I spent a few days on Kibbutz Nachal Oz picking watermelons and cotton and getting to know the residents. In January of 1988, during the first intifada, I spent five months studying at Hebrew University during a semester abroad program. I had rocks thrown at me by young Arab children; I could not visit the Kotel for one month due to safety concerns. My fourth trip was in 1990 when I visited a friend who was living and working in Israel. My fifth trip was in 1993 when I traveled with friends on a UJA mission.
My sixth trip was in 1996 when I wanted my then-boyfriend and now-husband to experience Israel for the first time. Despite a suicide bus bombing just before our trip, I assured him that it was safer than New York. There was another suicide bombing while we were in the air, and our first full day in Israel, while we were in Jaffa, there was a suicide bombing not far from us at Dizengoff Center. My husband immediately spiked a high fever, and within a day or so, we were on our way home. I had not been back since. I wanted to go, but it was difficult to convince my husband that it was safe. In the meantime, I raised three children and made sure that the oldest travelled to Israel on Birthright as soon as he had the chance. A family trip to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday was scheduled for December 2020, and my husband had agreed to go. Like everything else that year, the trip was cancelled.
After October 7th, like so many others, I felt a physical need to be in Israel. I wanted to volunteer; I wanted to bear witness and hug people and offer support in any way I could. I found the right trip for me. I stayed in an apartment in Tel Aviv, right on King George Street, very close to Dizengoff Center.
On this, my seventh trip, I did feel a certain sense of personal completeness. I felt so lucky and grateful to be back in Israel after 28 years. I was exactly where I was supposed to be. However, how could I feel complete when so many Israeli families will never feel complete again? I do not think anyone in Israel, where every citizen is going through incomprehensible continuous trauma, feels complete. The entire country is waiting – for the hostages to come home; for the war to end; for grief to lessen; for so many things.
While we wait, we do whatever we can to help. Before I went, people wished me a “meaningful” trip. I myself described the trip as “meaningful.” There is a dearth of adjectives to appropriately describe a journey to Israel right now. I will not wait 28 years before I go again. The next trip will be number eight for me. I will have to study what the number eight means in Judaism, but I know that it can symbolize new beginnings, and that Hanukkah celebrates a miracle that lasted eight days and that brings light.