The number seven is particularly significant in the Bible and in Judaism.
Not only does it represent creation of the world itself (“On the seventh day Hashem finished the work that He had been doing. Genesis 2:2), it also relates to holidays, blessings, the Land of Israel, Jewish traditions and luck. In fact, mazal-מזל=luck has the Hebrew numerological value of 77!
“It is well known that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh,” said Roni Segal, academic adviser for the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, an online Hebrew language and Biblical studies organization, to Breaking Israel News. “What’s fascinating to note is that the entire world functions on a seven day week, whether they are Bible believers or not. Many people don’t realize that a seven day week is a Godly creation.”
For over 3,000 years, the seven-branched menorah-candelabrum has been a symbol for Judaism and is now an emblem for the State of Israel. Used in the Holy Temple in ancient Jerusalem, the menorah represents the mission of the Jewish people to be a “light unto the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6)
Though the Jewish people have 613 Biblical commandments, non-Jews are meant to live by what are commonly known as the seven laws of Noah. These are: not worshipping idols, not cursing God, not murdering, not committing adultery or sexual immorality, not stealing, not eating the flesh torn from a living animal and establishing courts of justice.
There are seven patriarchs and matriarchs from which the Jewish people were formed: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.
Two Jewish holidays each last seven days, the Feast of Tabernacles-Sukkot, as it says, “You shall live in booths seven days.” (Leviticus 23:42) and Passover, as it says, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.” (Exodus 12:15)
On Sukkot, there is a custom to symbolically invite seven important Biblical “guests” into your sukkah: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David.
The holiday after Passover is Shavuot, which actually means “weeks,” as in the Feast of Weeks. It is a Biblical commandment to count each day and each completed week for seven weeks, from Passover to Shavuot, to demonstrate the anticipation of the day when God gave the Jewish people the Bible.
In ancient times, part of the Shavuot celebration was for farmers to bring the seven special species the Land of Israel is praised for to the holy temple in Jerusalem. They are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (Deuteronomy 8:8).
In contradistinction, it is a Biblical commandment to let the Holy Land lie fallow every seven years for one entire year. Called “shemittah-שמיטה”, it is also referred to as the sabbatical year, shvee-it-שביעית, which means “seventh.” The Bible states, “In the seventh year, the land shall have a Shabbat of complete rest, a Shabbat of Hashem: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.” (Leviticus 25:4)
At Jewish weddings, the bride encircles the groom seven times to symbolically demonstrate that her husband is the center of her universe.
In addition, seven blessings are said under the wedding canopy. Following the wedding, each night for seven days, parties are made for the new bride and groom. These parties are called “sheva brachot-שבע ברכות” (seven blessings), and the same seven blessings said at the wedding are repeated at this celebration.
The significance of the number seven not only relates to worldly matters like holidays and agriculture but is also connected to a mourner. When any one of seven close relatives dies – father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister and spouse – the mourner sits in his or her home for seven days and accepts condolences from visitors. This is called “shiva-שבעה” after the number seven. Shiva is considered an important process for an individual to begin to confront and overcome his or her grief.
“Not only does seven play a particularly meaningful role in Judaism, but also several other numbers have Biblical and historical significance,” said Segal to Breaking Israel News. “Many ritual practices are related to numbers and numbers help us better understand God and the purpose of creation. Studying the Hebrew view of numbers is important to better understanding the Bible and Divinity.”
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Written in coordination with the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies.