Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Wilderness, the Torah and Elvis

In this week's Parsha we are taught about the 42 travels of Klal Yisrael as they followed Hashem in the Wilderness. Interestingly enough, if one discounts the starting location, Rameses, and counts the seven travels that were repeated (not mentioned directly in the Parsha, but mentioned by Rashi Bamidbar 21:4) then he will have a total of 48.

This is interesting because most Rishonim are of the opinion that the minimum amount of lines in a Sefer Torah is 48, but some maintain it is 42. Both opinions are predicated on the number of travels of Klal Yisrael. (Keses HaSofer 13:3 and Lishkas HaSofer 13:6) Essentially what also can be gleaned from this discussion is that one can calssify the travels into 48 total with 7 being a subcategory. This confluence of 48 and 7 happens many times throughout the Torah (often with a perceptible 42).

The Levi'im were given a total of 48 cities in Eretz Yisrael, of which 42 were regular and the rest were designated cities of refuge. There were also 7 main Levite positions in the Beis HaMikdash. Once again, 48, 7 and an idea of 42.

The Torah contains a minimum of 48/42 lines as mentioned above, and is also acquired via 48 methods of acquisition. (Avos 6:5) Interestingly enough, if one divides the books of Moshe into the most possible ways of division he will have 7, Bereishis, Shemos, VaYikra, Bamidbar up until VaYehi BiNsoa, VaYehi BiNsoa, Bamidbar afterwards and Devarim. (I will mention later how the 7 can sometimes be divided into a primary 5 and a secondary 2 which is certainly applicable here.)

There were 48 male prophets and 7 female prophets whose prophecies are pertinent for all generations. (Megillah 14a) While I suspect there is some element of 42 that can be seen regarding this, unfortunately I do not know what it is. There is dispute as to who is included in this list and some Rishonim (i.e. Rashi) state that they only know of 46 and do not know who the other two are. Perhaps, if we were more aware, definitively, of the list, we would figure out a way to segment it into 42 and 48.

Also, there are 48 constellations and 7 planets whose influence is considered to affect this world. (Ibn Ezra Shemos 33:21) Interesingly, the numerical value of the word for star, כוכב, is 48. When taking out the 3 northern polar constellations and the three southern (as they appear to be moving the celestial sphere) one has 42. As mentioned before, sometimes the seven can be divided into 5 and 2. In this case, the Sun and Moon are in a class of their own; Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the other planets, are not nearly as bright or large (from our perspective).

I believe the common factor that all these items contain is that they are vehicles through which Hashem's glory is displayed. As such they all have similarities in number (why 48, 42 and 7 might be another post). Klal Yisrael's travel through the Wilderness, and subsequent (and current) exiles have been to express Hashem's glory unto the world. The Torah is the ultimate expression of Hashem's grandeur. The Levi'im help Klal Yisrael attain a relationship with Hashem in the Beis HaMikdash and by working the Mikdash they allow Hashem's kingship to be seen. The prophets directly bring forth the word of Hashem and instruct the people how to spread forth the glory of Hashem. The constellations were created in order to display Hashem's glory unto the world. (Braisa D'Mazalos) I do not find it coincidental that in order for a rainbow to shine (the Gemara in Berachos mentions that this is a display of Hashem's glory) the Sun must be hitting the droplets of water at a 42 degree angle. Although I do find it coincidental that the king, Elvis, died at age 42.


Unknown said...

We can also add to this list the menorah, which has 7 branches and 42 ornaments - 11 knobs, 9 flowers and 22 goblets.

Ari S. said...

Great point! You got me wondering if there is a connection with a 48. Perhaps if one discounts the flower at the base as it was different from the rest since it stood alone (in size it was equal as the Rambam mentions in his Peirush HaMishnayos Menachos) and then included the 7 branches. That would be similar to not counting Rameses and then counting the extra 7. I am open to other suggestions if you have.