#23 Jewish Numerology – How Jews Count Time

#23 Jewish Numerology: How Jews Count Time

Shalom! In this session, you will learn the unique way in which Jews count time and use numbers to suggest something more. . . You’ll learn about numbers, the meaning of the annual year (ex: 5777), and the meanings of “biblical time.” You’ll learn all this and:

  • What does “may you live to be 120 years old mean?”
  • Why does “18” mean “life?”
  • It’s 2016 in the English calendar but it’s 5777 in the Hebrew calendar. What’s the difference?

#1 WATCH: Counting from 1-10

#2 TEXT STUDY: Numbers in biblical time

FACT: The bible does not speak about time in calendar years, rather only in reference to people’s lives. We might assume stories in history should refer to calendar time but not in the bible.

Example: Abraham’s life:
MODERN TIME: “Diane moved away from home in 1986.”
BIBLICAL TIME: “Abraham left his father’s house when he was 75 years old.”

Example: The flood and Noah:
MODERN TIME: “The great flood started in 1671 and lasted 40 years until 1711.”
BIBLICAL TIME: “The flood waters lasted 40 days and 40 nights.”

Example: The Desert Journey:
MODERN TIME: “Their overland journey from New York to California began in 1819 and took 3 years.”
BIBLICAL TIME: “The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.”

FACT: The Jewish year might be 5775 but the English year might be 2014. This teaches there are different ways of counting time and counting years. The Jewish year counting system was started by Rabbi Yossi ben Halafta, a second century C.E. sage. who suggested that the world began 5775 years ago according to the Torah. Modern scientists would suggest that the world began 4.54 Billion years ago according to science. 

#3 WATCH: How old was Moses?

#4 STUDY: How old was Moses?

“God decrees, “Let the days allowed him be one hundred and twenty years.”
-Genesis 6:3

“God decrees, “Moses was 120 years old when he died.”
-Deuteronomy 34

#5 WATCH: The Chai Music Video

#6: Numbers Study: “Chai is for life”

 Every number in Judaism can be written two ways. As digits or as letters. For example, the number “one” could be written as a “1” or as “alef” since alef is the first letter of the alef-bet. Similarly, the number two can be written “2” or “bet” since bet is the second letter of the alef-bet.

chai18Special combinations of letters can create fun words. For example, Chet is the 8th letter and yod is the 10th letter in the alef-bet. Put them together and you have 8+10 which is “18” but also “Chet-Yod” which spells the word “Chai.” In Hebrew, the word “chai” means “life.” Therefore, 18 is a very important number in Judaism because it symbolizes “life.”


# 7 Review and Response

1. Do your best to count from 1-10 in Hebrew.
2. Why do Jews say, “may you live to be 120 years old?”
3. What is the Hebrew number for “life?”
4. Did you know that Jewish people often make tzedaka donations in multiples of 18? 18-36-72 and so on . . .Why do you think this is?

Need some help? We’re here for you. At any time, if you have any questions, please contact one of our teachers so we can help you. Also, at the end of the session, remember to review your responses in your Tamid Workbook so you can get credit for this lesson. Behatzlacha (Hebrew for good luck)! You can reach Sarah at (646)360-0689 or connect@tamidnyc.org