25 March 2016

What is the significance of the number “thirteen?”

“May the light of the moon be like the light of the sun and like the light of the seven days of Creation, as it was before it was diminished.”

The Number Thirteen

I was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in a world of elegant apartment buildings. The doorman greets you and then you board the elevator. Up you go! And what do you find after the twelfth floor? It is obvious! After twelve comes ... fourteen! What else could it be? As we learned in school: “11… 12 … 14”!

Wait! What happened to thirteen?

Well, it doesn’t exist! No one wants to live on the thirteenth floor! In the fantasy world of Esau, there is “no thirteen!” Untold thousands of people indulge in the remarkable fiction of calling the thirteenth floor “fourteen.” This is the world of lies in which we live!

What is so frightening about “thirteen?”

Thirteen is the number which reveals the eternal existence and spiritual grandeur of the Jewish People! The nations of the world will do anything to pretend that it doesn’t exist!

The essence of the Jewish People transcends this world and extends into the Next. This is all alluded to by the number “thirteen”. 

 This Truth so frightens the other nations that they actually pretend there is no number “thirteen” at all, just as they want to pretend that there is no Nation of Israel, no Land of Israel and no Holy City of Jerusalem bequeathed eternally to us by the Creator of the Universe.

I saw a fascinating analysis from a great sage on this subject, which relates to the month of Adar II, our current month, which occurs in every “ibbur yor,” the “Leap Year” in the Jewish calendar. This analysis discusses the relationship of Israel to Ishmael. Both nations descend from twelve tribes, but Ishmael’s tribes descended from Hagar, a slave woman (see Genesis 25:16 and the Maharsha on Sanhedrin 12a), as opposed to the tribes of Israel. We share one common father with Ishmael, but that is where the similarity ends. The Jewish People descends from all three Patriarchs and from Matriarchs of the highest spiritual level.

But there is more. In fact The Jewish People does not in fact descend from twelve tribes! We descend from thirteen, because Yosef is comprised of two tribes! As Jacob says, “Ephraim and Menashe shall be mine like Reuven and Shimon!” (Genesis 48:5) Therein lies our key to preeminence over all other nations: the number thirteen, which denotes eternity.

The number “thirteen” is also reflected in our calendar. Just as our twelve tribes are actually thirteen, so our twelve months are actually thirteen. We are currently in the thirteenth month.

What is the significance of the number “thirteen?” The sage refers to Sefer Yetzira, which mentions the twelve borders of a cube. This physical world resembles a cube. It has six directions: east, west, north, south, up and down. A cube has six sides, which means that it has twelve edges, where the sides meet. These correspond with the twelve tribes and the twelve months. This cube corresponds with the life of the other nations. They are bounded by the physical world, in which they are trapped.

There is an expression: “think outside the box.” This means to be open to concepts outside the usual parameters, concepts previously assumed to be beyond what others may think possible. The Jewish People has always lived “outside the box.” We have attached ourselves to the Master of the Universe; our entire existence transcends the limits of time and space. Our existence today as a nation which lives by Torah, even as a nation which exists at all, is literally miraculous and points to the existence of the Creator Who is by definition outside the limits of space and time. Our very existence transcends what is considered possible, and it is clear that we only exist by virtue of the special kindness which the Master of the Universe showers upon us, giving us life where other nations could never have survived. This is the meaning of the thirteenth tribe or the thirteenth month. We live by rules that are beyond this world, outside “the box.”

Why do we need an “ibbur yor,” a year with an added Adar? We add an extra month of Adar seven times in every 19-year cycle because the solar year is longer than the lunar year and we need to adjust the calendar periodically in order to keep Passover in the “month of spring” (Deuteronomy 16:1), which is identified as the month of Nissan, the first month of the year. The added month of Adar II serves to correct a discrepancy between the lunar and solar cycles.

But why do we need to correct the discrepancy between the sun and the moon? Did G-d create the universe with a discrepancy? Impossible! We learn from our sages that the moon was diminished at the beginning of history when it “complained” to G-d that there cannot be “two kings utilizing the same crown” (Chulin 60b).

. . . at the end of history that discrepancy will be corrected, as we say in the Kiddush Levana prayer. . .

I wonder whether the diminution of the moon which took place at the beginning of history also resulted in the discrepancy between the cycles of the sun and moon. We know that, at the end of history that discrepancy will be corrected, as we say in the Kiddush Levana prayer, “May the light of the moon be like the light of the sun and like the light of the seven days of Creation, as it was before it was diminished.”

At that time, thirteen will be the “normal” condition of mankind because it will be normal to live a life which is completely connected to G-d. No longer will mankind be trapped in the cube, surrounded by materialism and ensnared at the end by the Angel of Death. “And may there be fulfilled upon us the verse … ‘Afterward the Children of Israel will return and seek out the L-rd their G-d and David their king’” (Hosea 3:5; Kiddush Levana).

The world will have returned to its perfect state, unseen since our ancient parents left the Garden of Eden. May we see it soon in our days!
© Copyright 2016 by Roy S. Neuberger

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen! Shavua Tov and thank you for such a beautiful and inspiring post.

Roy Neuberger always writes so beautifully.