What’s in a number? This week: 5

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

What’s in a number? This week: 5

Rabbi Naftali Schiff delves into the importance of a certain number for the Jewish faith

To depict the number five on a die, the four directions of space, which would otherwise remain separate, connect around a central point.

Five conceptually is the ability to bring disparate parts to coalesce and stand together. It is where individuals become a group.

In fact, in Hebrew a group of five is called an agudah, a unified bundle.

This idea is expressed by the five fingers that we have on each hand; the hand unifies the fingers to work as one.

Perhaps this is why we have five books of the Torah. Each one stands alone, but join together to make one Sefer Torah.

The number five is of particular significance to me as one of my teachers, Rabbi Noach Weinberg, always used to talk about what he termed ‘five finger clarity’.

By this, he meant that the theoretical concepts we were studying need to be as real to us as our five fingers.

Just as we live with the reality of our hands and make use of them constantly, so too should we live with the reality
of the principles and faith around which we live our lives.

In Sephardi culture, it is popular to display an open hand termed chamsa (Hebrew for five) as a way of warding off the ‘evil eye’.

One explanation for this is that the evil eye comes as a result of jealousy of other people’s belongings.

A way to mitigate against this is to remember that the day will come when we will depart from this world with open palms, with our five fingers stretched out.

This is a reality check to remind us that we can’t take with us any of our possessions. When we have our priorities clear with five finger clarity, there is no room for either confusion or jealousy.

  •   Rabbi Naftali Schiff is founder and chief executive of Jewish Futures
Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: