What’s in a number? 32

What’s in a number? 32

Rabbi Naftali Schiff picks out a significant digit and explains why it's important for Judaism

Thirty-two is the most passionate of all numbers, because in Hebrew it is written lamed bet, meaning “heart”.

While it’s true that emotions are centred in the brain, nonetheless, when we experience a powerful emotion such as fear, anger, grief or love, adrenaline pours into the blood, increases the blood pressure and accelerates the heart.

It is this feeling that motivates us and pushes us onwards and is therefore referred to as the seat of our emotions.

The Torah is emphatic that intellectual clarity, while vital, is not enough to create an authentic religious experience.

Rather, we are told to “know this today and take to your heart, that Hashem is the only God” (Devarim 4:39).

This concept is so important that it takes centre stage in the Aleinu prayer
on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and is part of the conclusion of our daily prayers.

Religious emotions do not have to be a rush of euphoric revelation and the “slow and steady” approach actually plays a crucial part in our daily lives.

When we read the Shema we say: “Let these matters that I command you today be on your heart.” (Devarim 6:6).

It is not enough for them to be in our hearts, rather the words are meant to sit on our hearts, slowly penetrating drip by drip as we go about our business.

Over and above everything, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 06b) teaches us that God “wants” a relationship of the heart.

He does not desire, cold, dry or stale service. Rather, we are offered the opportunity to develop a relationship with the Almighty, and relationships are fuelled by passion, energy, excitement and warmth.

The choice to inject passion and “heart” into our Jewish lives is up to us. The effects of such decisions can impact our Jewish connection and those of our families for generations.

  •  Rabbi Naftali Schiff is founder and chief executive of Jewish Futures


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