Tag Archives: Number 10

The Kabbalah of Solar

This Friday evening, we usher in the new year 5784 of the Hebrew lunisolar calendar. Our calendar follows lunar months, but is synchronized to the sun over the course of a 19-year cycle. Since a lunar month is 29.5 days, each month on the Hebrew calendar is either 29 or 30 days, resulting in a year that is typically just 354 days long. The solar year is a bit over 365 days long, meaning that a strictly lunar calendar will fall behind 11 days each year. To avoid this problem, we add an entire leap month, a second Adar, seven times in 19 years. This ensures that we stay in synch with both moon and sun. The upcoming year will be such a leap year, with 13 months instead of 12.

Although our calendar is lunisolar, and Jewish holidays, rituals, and halakhot generally follow this calendar, there are exceptions to the rule. In fact, there are a handful of Jewish laws and principles that follow not the lunisolar calendar, but the solar calendar of 365 days! We will explore some of the major ones below, and then look at the Zohar’s incredible revelations about the secrets of the solar calendar. Continue reading

Secrets of Pi

This week’s conjoined Torah portions of Vayak’hel and Pekudei conclude the description of the Mishkan’s construction. The Haftarah for Pekudei is a passage from the seventh chapter of I Kings (the exact verses vary by community) describing King Solomon’s construction of the Jerusalem Temple. One of the most breathtaking structures standing in front of the Temple was the “Molten Sea”, a large bathtub for the kohanim to immerse in (as per Rashi and II Chronicles 4:6). The Tanakh describes that the bath was circular, sitting upon a base of twelve oxen statues, and had a total depth of five cubits, roughly ten feet. It held a volume of alpayim bat, “two thousand baths” of water (I Kings 7:26). In fact, the Hebrew bat (בת) is likely the etymology for the English word “bath”!

Illustration of the First Jerusalem Temple, or Solomon’s Temple, with the Molten Sea on the right.

What’s most perplexing in the description is that we are told the diameter of the circular tub was 10 cubits, yet its circumference was 30 cubits. Throughout history, many have pointed out that this seems to be an error! We all know that the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is π or Pi, which is 3.1415926 (and so on). So, the Tanakh should have said that the diameter was 10 cubits and the circumference was 31 or 31 and a half cubits. How do we solve this puzzle, and what deeper significance does Pi hold in the Torah?

Continue reading

Ten Sefirot: A Brief History

The Sefirot of mochin above (in blue) and the Sefirot of the middot below (in red) on the mystical “Tree of Life”.

This week, in parashat Yitro, we read the Ten Commandments. As with all other things that are ten in the Torah, the Ten Commandments correspond neatly to the Ten Sefirot. Just as the first three of the Sefirot are on a higher plane, referred as the mochin, the first three of the Commandments are also distinct and relate directly to God (to know there is a God, to have no other gods or idols, and not to take God’s Name in vain). We saw a similar division of ten into groups of three and seven in the Ten Plagues, where the first seven are read in parashat Va’era, and the final three in parashat Bo. Likewise, we find a division of ten into three and seven in the very first case of ten: the Ten Utterances of Creation.

As our Sages famously teach, God created the entire universe through Ten Utterances (Avot 5:1). When we look in the first chapter of Genesis at the account of Creation, we find the expression “And God said” exactly 10 times. It was through these Ten Utterances that God brought the entire cosmos into existence. It is important to note that the last instance of “And God said” (1:29) is really just a continuation of the ninth instance (1:28). The actual remaining Utterance is the first word of the Torah: Beresheet. This word itself was the First Utterance, and was the initial burst of energy that brought a dark universe into existence. The Second Utterance was “Let there be light”, and the Third was “Let there be a firmament”. While the first three clearly involve grand cosmic developments, the remaining seven Utterances all relate specifically to Earth.

Of course, all of the above tens correspond to the Ten Sefirot, the first emanations that emerged out of God’s Infinite Ein Sof. The Ten Sefirot permeate all of existence, which is why we find so many patterns of ten in the Torah and all around us in Creation. The notion of Ten Sefirot is a foundational and inseparable part of Judaism, yet few are aware of where all the information about the Sefirot came from! It is commonly thought that the Sefirot were first revealed by the Zohar, but this is highly inaccurate. Discussion of the Sefirot dates back centuries before the first publication of the Zohar. So, let’s take a brief trip back in time to explore the historical revelation of the Sefirot. Continue reading