What’s in a number? 2
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What’s in a number? 2

Rabbi Garry Wayland helps figure out why 2 is so significant to the Jewish tradition

If a number can define Judaism, it is One: “Hear O Israel; Hashem is our God, Hashem is One” – a simple mantra that has almost come to define our history.

Whether as a central part of the daily pulse of our liturgy, on the lips of those prepared to sacrifice their lives in God’s name, or as the focus of innumerable philosophical debates, the Unity of God – “One, Alone, Unified” – was the value that gave us a connection to the past, confidence in the present and hope for the future.

No wonder the second day of Creation – the move away from a Universe of Oneness – was so utterly terrifying. It was the day of separation: Heaven and Earth became distinct realms.

Heaven – shamayim – is so-called according to our Sages as it is the coming together of two Hebrew words – “Esh v’mayim” – fire and water, justice and kindness, destructive energy together with the basis for life.

The Zohar describes the terrifying nature of the day of division: “It is the day rooted in the powers of limitations: the day on which Hell was created, that was formed from the fires of limitations…”

Astonishingly, we find that two is also the source of blessing: the Torah itself begins with Beit, the second letter.

The very word for blessing – Beracha – is comprised of beit, which represents two, chaf, which represents 20 and reish, which represents 200. All the twos: a multiplicity of multiples, the conduit of Divine Blessing that graces our existence.

Duplicity is the very paradox of existence: rooted in Divinity, yet with a space that God makes for us.  This space can feel very empty – torn from God, separate, alone. Yet this space allows us to be – and in being we can dedicate our being to others.

In living for others – and the Ultimate Other – we can reveal the Ultimate Unity in everything.

Rabbi Garry Wayland is a teacher and educator for US Living and Learning

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