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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q11.9.5 TOC Q11.9.7 >

Question 11.9.6:
Symbols: What is the significance of the number 5?

Answer:

Well, the number10 denotes a complete set, because we have (assuming we're healthy, thank G-d) 10 fingers. Five is therefore representative of half of a set. The 5th letter, with a gematria of 5, is the letter hei. Hei denotes an outcry; that is, the letter is literally named "Hey!"

In kabbalistic understanding of the Tetragrammaton, the letter "hei" represents the spreading of G-d's beneficience from a point outward. It it therefore composed of a point-like yud and a dalet showing orthogonal axis, 4 (the gematria of dalet) compass points. We find in Genesis 1 that creation can be described through the metaphor of speech. "And G-d said 'Let there be light!'" So, this permeation of G-d's Goodness through the universe is very much an outcry. The Talmud sees in the shape of the letter the theme of repentence -- the choice of descending or finding that small window near the top. They too touch on a theme related to outcry -- but not G-d's call to man, but man's cry to G-d.

The song toward the end of the seder asks "Who knows one?" and makes its way up to 13. For 5, the answer is "5 are the books of the Torah". Which is why there are 5 books of the Torah -- because only with including the Oral Torah with the written text are we dealing with a complete set. This idea, of two halves crying out for each other, is what the symbology of five revolves around in Judaism.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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