What’s in a number? 24
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What’s in a number? 24

Rebbetzen Dina Golker helps figure out why 18 is so significant to the Jewish tradition

The number 24 is significant in Judaism for several reasons.

First, it is the total of the number of books comprising the Tanach.

There are five books of the Torah, eight of the Prophets and eleven of the
Hagiographa.

The Talmudic sages regarded all the prophetical books, besides Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, as a single unit, owing to their relative brevity. Ezra and Nehemiah were also regarded as one book, presumably because of their similarity of content.

Twenty-four was also the total number of the ‘priestly watches’, or groups of Kohanim, performing the Temple sacrificial service in ancient times.

Each group served for two weeks at a time, in a strictly rotational system. This covered 48 weeks of the year, all the groups joining together for the remaining four weeks.

During their service periods, the members of each group had exclusive rights to enjoy the Mattnot Kehunah – the 24 portions of the sacrificial offerings to which the Kohanim were halachically entitled.

Finally, Maimonides famously states in his Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuva, that there are 24 distinct impediments to an individual doing teshuva.

The first case given by Maimonides is of someone who causes the general public to sin.

Such an individual’s teshuva is not accepted and this includes one who impedes the public from doing teshuva (repentance).

The reasoning behind this is that it would be extremely unfair if those misled would stand condemned, while the individual ultimately responsible for their falling into sin were to escape punishment.

Case number three in Maimonides’ list is one who sees his son developing evil traits and refrains from rebuking him or setting him on the right path.

Again, such an individual cannot be allowed to do teshuva, because of the irreparable damage he has done to his
own son.

Dina Golker is assistant rebbetzin of St John’s Wood Synagogue

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