In the Torah. 1

In Pesach. 1

Who knows four?. 4

An Essay. 4

In Creation. 5

Exiles. 7

“Ma’aseh Avot siman l’banim”. 9

An essay - by HaRav Shammai Zahn, zt”l 10

Four and Five. 11

In Succoth. 11

In The Temple. 11

Fasts. 12

Torah Interpretation. 12



In this paper I would like to explore the number four (4) as it thematically affects Succoth and Pesach. In the process, we will discover the meaning and significance of the number four.


Four is the value of the Hebrew letter dalet:  ד.

Dalet means door.


According to Chazal, our Sages, the number four signifies completion, wholeness, or fullness, as we shall see.


The Maharal indicates that four:


  1. Indicates place because a “place” extends in the four directions. This is why we have expressions like, “the four corners of the earth”. We also indicate all directions by saying: North, East, West, and South. As it is spoken by the Prophet:


Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 11:11-12 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. 12  And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.


  1. The number four symbolizes diversity, as the four directions are independent of each other and have no part in common.


The number four is a number of separation, and represents dispersal in all four directions. We see scripture describing division and separation as: 


Zechariah 2:10 ...for I have scattered you like the four directions of the heavens.  


Four is the number representing exile, as we shall see shortly.


In the Torah


The first use of the number four, in the Torah, is found in connection with the water that flowed out of Gan Eden:


Bereshit (Genesis) 2:10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.


The four matriarchs; the four wives of Jacob: Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpa.


Bereshit (Genesis) 47:24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.


In Pesach


The number four, more than any other digit, plays a significant part in the Passover celebration. The Haggada is replete with things that number four:


Y There are the four sons,

Y four glasses of wine,

Y four questions.

Y Four mitzvot: Matza, maror, haggada, and four cups.

Y Three matzot which become four.


Pesach is preceded by four special Shabbats: Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zakhor, Shabbat Parah, Shabbat HaChodesh.


The holiday itself even has four names: Chag HaPesach (the Festival of Passover), Chag HaMatzot (the Festival of Matza), Chag Ha’aviv (the Festival of Spring) and Z’man Cheiruteinu (the Time of our Freedom).


There are four categories of persons who must thank HaShem for deliverance from danger: sea voyagers, desert travelers, released prisoners and people who have recovered from sickness. The Gaon of Vilna  indicates that the deliverance from Egypt symbolizes rescue from all these four hazards.


The Torah uses four expressions to describe our redemption from Egypt: HaShem said to the Jews in Egypt:


Shemot (Exodus) 6:6-7 Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I [am] HaShem, and


1. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and

2. I will rid you out of their bondage, and

3. I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And

4. I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I [am] HaShem your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.




“I am HaShem and I will separate you from Egyptian bondage,




I will deliver you (through plagues),




I will redeem you with an outstretched arm,




I will take you as My own people and

I will be your God.”



Our Sages teach us that the four statements speak to four exiles of Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome:


I will bring you out


I will rid you out of their bondage


I will redeem you


I will take you to me for a people

Rome (Edom)


Midrash Rabbah - Genesis LXXXVIII:5 On what grounds did the Sages institute the four cups of Passover? R. Huna said in R. Banayah’s name: [They instituted them] in allusion to the four expressions of redemption which occur in connection with Egypt: I will bring you out... and I will deliver you... and I will redeem you... and I will take you (Ex. VI, 6 f.). R. Samuel b. Nahman said: In allusion to the four cups mentioned in our text: AND PHARAOH’S CUP WAS IN MY HAND; AND I TOOK THE GRAPES, AND PRESSED THEM INTO PHARAOH’S CUP, AND I GAVE THE CUP INTO PHARAOH’S HAND... AND THOU SHALT GIVE PHARAOH’S CUP INTO HIS HAND (XL, II, 13). R. Levi said: In allusion to the four empires. R. Joshua b. Levi said: In allusion to the four cups of fury which the Holy One, blessed be He, will make the nations of the world to drink, as it says, For thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto me: Take this cup of the wine of fury, etc. (Jer. XXV, 15); Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord’s hand (ib. LI, 7); For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup (Ps. LXXV, 9); And burning wind shall be the portion of their cup (ib. XI, 6). Corresponding to these the Holy One, blessed be He, will give Israel to drink four cups of salvation in the Messianic future, as it says, O Lord, the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup, Thou maintainest my lot (ib. XVI, 5); Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over (ib. XXIII, 5); I will lift up the cup of salvations, and call upon the name of the Lord (ib. CXVI, 13): it does not say ‘The cup of salvation,’ but ‘The cup of salvations’--one in the days of the Messianic future and one in the days of Gog and Magog.


Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XV:6 THIS MONTH SHALL BE UNTO YOU (XII, 2). Another interpretation: It is written: Who is she that looketh forth as the dawn? (S.S. VI, 10). Four eulogies of Israel are mentioned here, corresponding with the four exiles, throughout which Israel did not deny God. How do we know that this was so in the Babylonian exile? Because it is said: ‘ Who is she that looketh forth as the dawn?’ Nebuchadnezzar used to worship the sun, as it says: How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning (Isa. XIV,12), but Daniel used to rise early and pray unto the Omnipresent, for it says: Now his windows were open in his upper chamber toward Jerusalem (Dan. VI, 11), evening, morning, and noon. Why did he get up early and pray? So that God should have compassion on Israel. Concerning him does Solomon say: He that early [E.V. ‘diligently’] seeketh good seeketh favor (Prov. XI, 27). For this reason was God with them in the time of their trouble, as it is said: I love them that love me (ib. VIII, 17).6 And so we find that when Daniel was cast into the lions’ den, he was not harmed, for it says: My God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me (Dan. VI, 23). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were cast into the fiery furnace but were not harmed, for it says: Nor was the hair of their head singed... nor had the smell of fire passed on them (ib. III, 27).7 Instead of which they gave light to the world, like the dawn which gives light to the world; therefore does it say: ‘ that looketh forth as the dawn.’ Moreover, they made idol-worshippers recognize God and praise Him; for when Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah emerged from the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar said: Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, the servants of the God on High (ib28). So, too, Darius, when Daniel fell into the lions’ den, said: Let men tremble and fear the God of Daniel; for He is the living God (ib. VI, 27). Hence does it say:’ Who is she that looketh forth as the dawn?’


‘Fair as the moon’ (S.S. loc. cit.)--during the Median [i.e. Persian] captivity. You find that if the moon does not appear in the sky at night, the world is so dark that a man cannot walk about even within the city, but as soon as the moon appears in the sky, all rejoice and walk about. So it was in the days of Ahasuerus who decreed that Israel should be destroyed, slain, and made to perish; but Esther came and brought light to Israel, for it says: The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor (Est. VIII, 16). ‘ Fair as the moon ‘refers, therefore, to the Median captivity. Should you inquire why Esther is compared to the moon, the answer is that just as the moon renews itself every thirty days, so did Esther say: But I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days (ib. IV, 11). ‘Fair as the moon’ refers, therefore, to the Median captivity. ‘Clear as the sun’ (S.S. Ioc. cit.) refers to the Greek kingdom. Alexander the son of Helios was his name, and the Sun is called a hero, as it is said, He rejoiceth as a strong man to run his course (Ps. XIX, 6). During the summer cycle all flee from it [the sun], for who can endure its scorching rays, as it says: And there is nothing hid from the heat thereof (ib. 7)? Thus it was with the Greek kingdom; all were afraid of it. But Mattathias the priest and his sons stood firm in their faith in God, with the result that the Greek legions fled from before them and were all slain. Hence God said unto them: Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears; let the weak say: I am strong (Joel IV, 10), the verse: So perish all Thine enemies, O Lord; but they that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might (Judg. v, 31) corroborating the words, ‘clear as the sun.


They were terrible as an army with banners (S.S. VI, 10) in Edom; and why is she [Israel] called ‘terrible ‘? Because she was placed in a kingdom which inspired awe; for it says: And behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly (Dan. VII, 7).


The Shulchan Aruch[1] explicitly says that it is possible to add more cups[2]. The one exception is that it is forbidden to add cups of wine between the third and fourth cups.[3] The Maharal explains that this halacha is connected to the four stages of redemption. It is possible to “interrupt” between the first three stages. But it is forbidden to interrupt between the third and fourth stages. The national independence of the Jewish people, “I will redeem you”, has meaning only in context of our identity as HaShem’s nation as the recipients of His Torah: “And I will take you to me as a nation, and I will be to you as G-d”, when we accept the Torah.[4]


The four expressions of the Egyptian Passover have their counterparts in the Messianic redemption:


Yehezekel (Ezekiel) 34:13-14 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.


The number four signifies the completion of our exiles. The nation of Israel became full and complete upon the fulfillment of the fourth utterance of redemption, this fourth and final stage in their development.


Who knows four?


During the Pesach seder, we sing several times. One of the songs found in the Haggada speaks about the numbers from one to thirteen. In the song “Echad mi yodei’ah?” when you get to “Who knows four?”, the participants vie to answer with the following words:


I know four. Four are the mothers of Israel…


The answer is “four are the mothers, three are the fathers, two are the tablets, one is G-d…”


The four mothers are the four matriarchs: Sarah, Rivka, Leah, and Rachel.


An Essay

by Rabbi Yehudah Prero


At the Seder, we drink four cups of wine, we ask four questions, and we read about four sons. What is the significance of the number four ?


The Divrei Negidim (which is attributed to the Maharal of Prague) discusses the number four initially in the context of the four cups of wine. The four cups correspond to four expressions of redemption that HaShem uttered. The Divrei Negidim explains that the nation of Israel was subjugated threefold. Firstly, they were in exile, as strangers in a strange land. Secondly, not only were they in exile, but they were enslaved in exile. Lastly, not only were they enslaved, but they were tortured, physically and mentally. HaShem first told us that he would take us out from under the burdens which Egypt placed on us. HaShem then told us that we would be saved from the slavery. Finally, we were told that we would be redeemed. This would bring the nation to a point where they would not be persecuted slaves in exile. But what would they be? That is the point of the fourth expression, “And I will take them to Me as a nation”. The nation would now be a just that, a nation, with a purpose, with a common bond unifying the nation. We were taken out to be the nation of HaShem. This fourth expression brings us to a level of fullness and completion. The Jews were no longer just a large group of people. They were a true blue nation.


The number four signifies completion or fullness.


The number four signifies this completion, this fullness. The nation of Israel became full and complete upon the fulfillment of the fourth utterance of redemption, this fourth and final stage in their development.


The four questions known as Mah Nishtaneh, according to the Abarbanel, are meant to set the tone for the evening. The questions (or expressions of bewilderment, as some explain) are meant to point out the inherent contradictions in the evening. When the four questions are read, we are saying - Look at what will be going on tonight: We eat Matza and Maror, which remind us of the bread we ate as slaves and the bitter life we had as slaves. We then dip our food and recline, which are actions of the aristocracy. Is this night a reminder of the bitter experience we had in Egypt, or is it a celebration of freedom?


We know the answer: Yes, we were slaves, and yes, HaShem freed us. Why four questions? Perhaps because it is these very four questions which encapsulate the Seder. The questions focus on freedom vs. slavery. How can we have both in one night? These four questions are enough to set the very tone we need on this night. They are a perfect summation of all that needs to be said in order to get the ball rolling at the Seder. They point out four practices that are unique to this evening, and that do not all fit into the same logical category. They are a set of questions that are complete and full. Nothing more needs to be asked. Only answers are needed.


The Divrei Negidim explains that the four sons are also a ‘complete set’. The Hakham, the Wise Son, wants to know. He researches. He inquires. He pursues knowledge and wisdom. He becomes wise. For this reason, he is called the Wise Son. The Tam, the Simple Son, is neither intellectually superior nor inferior to the Wise Son. However, he does not pursue intellectual growth. He does not strive for greatness. When he sees something out of the norm, he will inquire. However, unless there is an impetus to inquire, no query will be forthcoming. For this reason, he is termed Simple. The She’aino Yodai’a Lish’ol, the One Who Does Not Know How To Ask, is simply not as smart as the other two. Even when he sees something that is unusual, he will not inquire about it. Oddities are no inspiration for education. He just does not know how to ask even when questions are most definitely appropriate. The Rasha, the Wicked Son, is on par with the Hakham. He is smart. He does have a drive for the bigger and better. However, his drive is motivated by a desire to do evil. He has no urge to do good. Any knowledge gained is used for the pursuit of the amoral. His wisdom is not put to ‘good’ use. For this reason, he is called Wicked.


These four sons represent all the elements on the intellectual spectrum. There are those who are highly motivated, minimally motivated, and those who need more than motivation to bring them to a level of understanding. The Torah addresses the needs of each of these children by instructing a father how to tell each of these children about the departure from Egypt in a way that best suits their level of understanding. But what about that child who knows just fine what is going on, but could care less? What about that son who is not using his knowledge for good, productive purposes? The Torah has an answer for him as well.


These four sons and their respective responses are all the Torah needed to cover any situation. They are complete. They satisfy all options. Again, the number four signals a whole, a fullness, and a completion.


In Creation


Creation consists of four stages, alluded to in the verse:


Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 43:7 “All that is called by My Name,

(1) for My glory,

(2) I have created it,

(3) I have formed it,

(4) and I have made it.”


These four stages are represented by the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, HaShem’s Name Yod Hay Vav Hay. The first stage is “HaShem’s Glory”, where things exist conceptually, but not in actuality. The next stage is “creation“, which represents creation ex nihilo, “something out of nothing”. Then comes “formation” where the primeval substance attains the first semblance of form. Finally comes making,” where the process is completed and yields a finished product. Our sages also teach us that the world was created with ten sayings. These are the ten times that the expression “and HaShem said” appears in the account of creation:


Midrash Rabbah - Bereshit (Genesis) XVII:1 1. AND THE LORD GOD SAID: IT IS NOT GOOD THAT THE MAN SHOULD BE ALONE (II, 8). We learnt: By ten commands was the world created, and these are they: In the beginning God created (Gen. I, 1); And the spirit (ruach) of God hovered (ib. 2); And God said: Let there be light (ib. 3); And God said: Let there be a firmament (ib. 6); And God said: Let the waters be gathered together (ib. 9); And God said: Let the earth put forth grass (ib.11); And God said: Let there be lights (ib.14) And God said: Let the waters swarm (ib. 20); And God said: Let the earth bring forth (ib. 24); And God said: Let us make man (ib. 26). Menahem b. R. Jose excluded, ‘And the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters,’ and included, AND THE LORD GOD SAID: IT IS NOT GO0D THAT THE MAN SHOULD BE ALONE. R. Jacob b. R. Kirshai said: A separate command was devoted to the wind.


These “ten sayings” enter into each of the four stages of creation, the total number of elements of creation is forty. The number forty is therefore very intimately related to the concept of creation.


In enumerating the categories of “work” that are forbidden on the Sabbath, the Talmud teaches us that there are “forty less one”. As we know, these thirty-nine categories of “work” parallel the types of activity that went into creation, just as our own Sabbath rest parallels the Sabbath of creation. There is one type of “work,” however, that we cannot duplicate, and that is creation ex nihilo - creating something out of nothing. This is the one category that is not included among the types of work forbidden on the Sabbath. Otherwise, the categories of “work” represent the elements of creation, “forty less one”. The four basic stages that we mentioned earlier are also alluded to in the “four branches” of the river from Eden. As we have discussed, this river is very intimately related to the concept of mikveh. The forty Seah of the mikveh represent the basic elements of creation. The primeval stage of creation was basically one of water. Therefore, when a person passes through the forty seah of water in the mikveh, he is passing through the initial steps of creation.


Rashi says on the pasukShema Israel”, listen Israel, the “HaShem Who is our G-d”, in the times of Mashiach, He will be accepted as “HaShem Echad, “the only one and true G-d.”, the unity of His existence, that all is HaShem. Then it says, everyone will worship the oneness of His existence.


So until those days, just before Mashiach comes, it’s written: we taste this divine manifestation of truth and revelation of HaShem’s unity. As it says, the heavens reflect the signature and imprint of its maker. This we see today, more than ever.


For this taste and awareness of HaShem in all of creation, we have always seen the number four, which is the name of HaShem, Yod Heh Vav Heh, through which everything was created, reflected in so many essential areas of creation.


Four components that pair into two. Exactly like Yod & Heh, Vav & Heh, the source of all creation and the potential for all. By the way, Torah already tells us: Everything at all levels, comprises of a pair,  a giver and receiver.


* * *


A key tenet of Chasidic thought is that the microcosm emanates from and reflects the macrocosm. So we also find many other sets of fours reflected in nature. For example, Chasidut speaks of four categories of being in the natural world: the inanimate (domem); the vegetative (tzomeach); the animal (chai); and the speaking (medaber). These four types of natural existence levels also exist within each person, so to speak. Or, there are four seasons of the year and four directions of the compass. Indeed, the traditional understanding of the physical world as composed of four elements -- fire, air, water, earth -- could also be translated into the language of modern science: the matter of our physical world assumes one of four states: solid, liquid, gas, active combustion; or the four elements can be said to correspond to the four basic chemical elements of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen; or to the four elements of subatomic phenomena; or to the four forces known to modern physics (gravity, electromagnetic, strong, weak).


On a spiritual plane, there are numerous fours: the four types of sons mentioned in the Haggada; the four components of a Torah text (cantillations, vowels, crowns, letters); the four basic levels of Torah interpretation (Pshat - literal, Remez - allusion, Drash - allegory, Sod - secret), etc.


Jewish mysticism also explains that each of the four higher spiritual worlds possesses the entire spectrum of the so-called ten sefirot. The sefirot are HaShem’s creative attributes or characteristics which emanate to, structure, and are reflected in all existence, including the spiritual powers of the human soul. (Materially, each thing in the world also reflects this ten-ness; it can be said to have nine sides or dimensions: width, length, height; beginning, middle, end; and the tenth aspect is the thing itself taken as a whole).




According to our Sages, Edom is one of the four great exiles: Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Edom. The pattern for these four major exiles is found in the account of the four kings versus the five kings:


Bereshit (Genesis) 14:1-9 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations: [That these] made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar. All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea. Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that [were] with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim, And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto El-paran, which [is] by the wilderness. And they returned, and came to En-mishpat, which [is] Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezon-tamar. And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same [is] Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim; With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.

The narrative, in Bereshit 14, describes the battle between the four kings and the five kings. Who were these kings and their subjects? The five kings were kings of cities in the Jordan Valley plains. The four kings were kings of cities in Babylon and Assyria. The armies of the five kings lost to the armies of the four, and subsequently served the strongest of the victors, Chedorlaomer.[5]

It is worth noting that the Amalekites are mentioned in the above pasuk long before Amalek was even born! Concerning this anomaly, the Midrash writes:


Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XLII:7 AND THEY TURNED BACK, AND CAME TO EN - MISHPAT-THE SAME IS KADESH (XIV, 7). R. Aha said: They came only in order to attack the eyeball of the world; the eye which executed judgment in the world they desire to blind! THE SAME (HI) IS KADESH: R. Aba said: This is written hu (he): it was he [Abraham] that sanctified (kiddash) the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, in the fiery furnace.1 AND THEY SMOTE ALL THE COUNTRY OF THE AMALEKITES. Amalek had not yet arisen, yet you say, AND THEY SMOTE ALL THE COUNTRY OF THE AMALEKITES! But, He declareth the end from the beginning (Isa. XLVI, 10). AND ALSO THE AMORITES, THAT DWELT IN HAZAZON--TAMAR: this means, in En-gedi of the palm-trees. AND THERE WENT OUT THE KING OF SODOM... FOUR KINGS AGAINST THE FIVE (XIV, 8 f.). Four kings waged war with five and defeated them.


Alternatively, this was not a battle between two alliances of cities. Rather, this was a battle between a coalition of five cities and a confederation of four countries. The four kings joined forces in order to conquer the world. The reason, therefore, that the five kings paid tribute to Chedorlaomer, wasn’t because he was the strongest of the four kings, but rather because the territory of their five cities fell out in his lot of the world.[6]


The war was fought over only one thing, money.


It was midnight, we are told, when Avraham reached northern Israel and battled the four kings. Avraham’s deliverance came at midnight, as we read in the haggada. The idea of midnight is the that this is a time for prayer to be heard and redemption to be accomplished. Night time also alludes to the galut, the exile.


Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XLII:2 R. Abin said: Just as he commenced with four kings, so will he conclude with four kings. [He commences with four kings, viz.]: With Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar (Gen. XIV, 9); so he ends with four kingdoms: the kingdom of Babylon, the kingdom of Media, the kingdom of Greece, and the empire of Edom [i.e. Rome]. R. Phinehas quoted in R. Abin’s name: But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they His counsel, for He hath gathered them as the sheaves to the threshing- floor (Micah IV, 12). Thus, why Came all these as allies (Gen. XIV, 3)? In order that they might come and fall by the hands of Abraham; hence it is written, AND IT CAME TO PASS IN THE DAYS OF AMRAPHEL, etc.


Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XLII:4 AND IT CAME TO PASS IN THE DAYS OF AMRAPHEL. He was called by three names: Cush, Nimrod, and Amraphel. Cush, because he was indeed a Cushite; Nimrod, because he incited the world to revolt (himrid) Amraphel denotes: he made a declaration (amar imrah), ‘ I will cast down (appilah).’ [Another interpretation is] that he made sport of (amar we-afle) the world, also that he made sport of Abraham; again, that he ordered Abraham to be thrown (amar we-hippil) into the furnace. ARIOCH KING OF ELLASAR. R. Jose of Milhaya said: Why are they [hazel-nuts] called elsarin? Because [they grow in the territory] of Ellasar. CHEDORLAOMER KING OF ELAM, AND TIDAL KING OF GOIIM. R. Levi said: There is a place which is so called there [sc. in Babylon], and [its inhabitants] took a certain man and made him king over them. R. Johanan said: And his name was Tidal. Another interpretation: AND IT CAME TO PASS IN THE DAYS OF AMRAPHEL KING OF SHINAR: this alludes to Babylon; ARIOCH KING OF ELLASAR: that alludes to Greece; CHEDORLAOMER KING OF ELAM: that is Media; AND TIDAL THE KING OF GOYIM [lit. ‘nations’]: this alludes to the wicked Power [i.e. Rome] which levies troops from all the nations of the world. R. Eleazar b. R. Abina said: When you see the Powers fighting each other, look for the coming [lit. ‘ feet ‘] of the King Messiah. The proof is that in the days of Abraham, because these Powers fought against each other, greatness came to Abraham.


“Ma’aseh Avot siman l’banim”


The actions of the father are a sign for the children.


The four kings represent a world-view where everything in creation is subsumed under the “forces of nature.” This view holds that there is nothing else in this world, except this world. Four always denotes completion or fullness in this world.


Avraham and the five kings were focused on an existence beyond this world. This is the world view represented by the number five. Five in Hebrew is represented by the letter v heh. If you look at the letter v heh, you will see that it is composed of the letter s dalet (which stands for four) plus the letter h yod. h Yod is a unique letter. It is the only letter which doesn’t touch the line on which you write. It is no more than the smallest dot floating above the line, representing intangible, spiritual existence. The written letter v heh, then, is a pictogram of this world focused and revolving around that which is above this world — the s dalet (the “four” of this world) with the h yod of spirituality at its axis. Avraham fought on behalf of the five kings against the four kings. Avraham was the first person to look at this world and see an existence beyond. If there was a creation, there had to be a Creator. After Avram fought the war against the four kings, HaShem added a letter to his name. Not surprisingly, that letter was the letter v heh. For Avraham stood for all that the v heh represents, that this world revolves around a Higher Existence.


The number five thus represents the perfection of the natural order (the number four), with the addition of one: HaShem Himself.


Bereshit (Genesis) chapter 14 contains the Torah account of a cosmic battle which will reverberate till we hear the footsteps of the Mashiach. This was the cataclysmic battle of ascendancy of the great forces of the world.


The battle of the four kings against the five kings leads to victory for the four kings. These four kings, in turn, are defeated by Avraham and his trusty servant, Eliezer.


The Torah is foreshadowing Jewish, and world, history. There will be four kingdoms that will rule the world. These four will ultimately be conquered by Avraham’s descendants.


In the end of days this battle will occur again. As in the beginning, so it will be in the end. The kings of the world will fight against each other and the redeemer of the Children of Israel will defeat the victors. The captives will be set free and a tithe will be paid to the King of Righteousness.


In this next pasuk we see one of the keys to understand Edom:


Bereshit (Genesis) 25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac [was] threescore years old when she bare them.


The final exile is called ‘Galut Edom,’ the ‘Exile of Edom’. The exile of Edom, who descended from Esau, coincides with the last 2,000 years of history referred to by the Talmud as, the ‘Footsteps of Mashiach!’


Sanhedrin 97a [Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord,’ wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.] it has been taught, R. Judah said: in the generation when the son of David comes, the house of assembly will be for harlots, Galilee in ruins, Gablan lie desolate, the border inhabitants wander about from city to city, receiving no hospitality, the wisdom of scribes in disfavor, God-fearing men despised, people be dog-faced, and truth entirely lacking, as it is written, Yea, truth faileth, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey. What is meant by ‘yea, truth faileth [ne’edereth ]’? — The Scholars of the School of Rab said: This teaches that it will split up into separate groups and depart. What is the meaning of ‘and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey [mishtollel ]’? — The School of R. Shila said: He who departs from evil will be dubbed a fool by his fellow-men.


Thus we see that the Mashiach will come at the end of the galut Edom.


The present exile is seen as an extension of the Roman exile (Edom is Rome), since culturally and legally, Western civilization shares the values and worldview of ancient Rome. A subset of this exile is that of Ishmael, the Arabs, who are seen as an antithesis of Roman civilization and values, and who will rule over the Jewish people for a time concurrently with the exile of Rome.


An essay - by HaRav Shammai Zahn, zt”l


Shemot 6:6 Therefore, say to the Bnei Israel all, I am HaShem, and I shall take you out shall take you out from under the burdens of Mitzrayim, and I shall rescue you from their slavery, and I shall redeem you with an outstretched Arm and with great judgments, and I shall take you to Me as a Nation.


Chazal teach us that these four terminologies of redemption which HaShem used to spell out His salvation to the Jewish People, correspond to the four empires which ruled over us during our history as a Nation. The four kingdoms are: Bavel, Porat Umodai, Yavan, and Edom.


The first exile began with the Churban Bayit Rishon (the destruction of the first Temple). Nevuchadnetzar burned the Bet HaMikdash (Temple) and waged war against the Bnei Israel in Eretz Israel. Then he ruthlessly killed thousands, R”l. However, for those remaining, it was a relatively light exile during which there were no persecutions, and no mass killings. They were brought to Bavel as slaves, yet enjoyed a peaceful life. They only bemoaned the fact that they could not return to Eretz Israel all, as stated, “Al naharot Bavel, shom yoshavnu gam bochinu!”[7]


Regarding this first exile, HaShem promised us “and I will take you out; I promise you that you will return to Eretz Israel, and there will be an end to this exile”.


The second kingdom, the Persian empire of Porat Umodai who conquered the Babylonians, was the kingdom of Achashverosh. The wicked Haman “sought to wipe out, destroy, and annihilate all the Jews”. Regarding this decree came HaShem’s promise of “I will rescue you from the danger of death and annihilation”. This was the miracle of Purim.


The Greek empire -- Malchut Yavan -- ruled during the second Beit HaMikdash (Temple). The Jewish Nation then dwelled in Eretz Israel, but we were not independent. The Greeks decreed terrible laws to cause us “to forget Your Torah, and remove us from the laws of Your Will”. Regarding these decrees, HaShem promised us “and I will redeem you”. We would triumph over the Greeks, succeeding to be free once again to keep the Torah as we wished.


Malchut Edom, the Roman Empire, is the one who destroyed the second Beit HaMikdash. Thereafter, began our long and difficult exile of close to two thousand years! We have been dispersed among the nations, to all four corners of this earth. As a result, many became assimilated, forgetting their priceless heritage as the children of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Many have gravitated terribly towards the ways of the Gentiles!


In regard to this exile, HaShem promised us “and I will take you to Me for a Nation”. The Ba’al HaTurim explains that this means even if it is against our will. HaShem will return assimilated Jews to the fold, to once again become a nation apart, even if it is against their will. Time and again, the anti-Semitism, which has arisen throughout the generations, served as a reminder, that nothing would work to bring us to be like “all the rest”. We are a separate people, and will remain that way forever.


In our present-day Edom exile, which is typified by assimilation, we have additionally tasted a bit of all the previous exiles combined. At times, our exile was relatively easy, with hardly any persecutions and almost no troubles, as was the Babylonian exile. Yet as we were threatened during the Media-Persian exile, we have undergone terrible mass killings, ruthless pogroms, and the previous generation suffered the destruction of Europe at the hands of Hitler yemach shemo.


In Spain over five hundred years ago, we suffered laws against the Torah similar to the Greek exile. We have undergone so, so much, yet we have always emerged to see the salvation of HaShem. As we recite in the Haggada of Pesach.


The Eitz Yosef,[8] explains the following: The paragraph “Tzur Israel” immediately preceding the morning Shemoneh Esrei is recited specifically then, in keeping with Chazal’s adage to mention the exile in our prayers. This means that there is an attempt to refer to redemption immediately prior to praying the Shemoneh Esrei. In this paragraph, the word “Israel” is mentioned five times. Four times, is a reference to the four empires which HaShem redeems us from. The fifth one refers to the geulas hanefesh, the spiritual redemption of our souls, which is up to us. We request the help of Heaven for this, so that we are successfully redeemed from our bondage in this area as well.


Four and Five


Four is always associated with five. As the four fingers are associated with a thumb, so four is always associated with five.


We have four sons at the seder, where is the fifth? The fifth son is the father who is also someone’s son. We have four questions, where is the fifth? The fifth is the answer provided by the “fifth” son. The father of the four sons is himself also a son. The father is the fifth son.


We drink four cups of wine at the Pesach seder. Where is the fifth cup? The fifth cup is the cup of Elijah. And so it goes that wherever we see four, we will also see five.


In Succoth


The holiday of Succoth has many special commandments, one of these is to take four species (ארבעת המינים), hold them together, and wave them. These species are:


Etrog (אתרוג) - an unusual citrus fruit

Lulav (לולב) - a frond from a date palm

Hadas (הדס) - myrtle and

Arava (עַרְבֵי) - the water willow.


The Etrog is a beautiful yellow fruit, with both a pleasant taste (especially when made into jam after the holiday!) and pleasant smell. Therefore Chazal tell us that this fruit represents a Jew who has both Torah knowledge and good deeds. The Lulav, by comparison, has no smell, but dates do have a pleasant taste, representing Torah knowledge. The Hadas, myrtle, has only a pleasant smell, while the Arava, the willow, has neither. So these four species, which we bring together on Succoth, encompass all types of Jews.


One of the rules concerning performance of the commandment to take four species is that all four are critical, meaning that even if one lacks only the lowly Arava, it is impossible to fulfill this commandment.


‘At four junctures of the year the world is judged... and on the Festival of Succoth they are judged for the water (i.e., the rainfall)’ - Rosh Hashanah 1:2.


In The Temple


A ceremony of Succoth, the illumination of the Temple, also had it’s source in Jewish tradition. According to the Mishna, at the end of the first day of the feast of Tabernacles, the priests and Levites went down to the court of the women. Four enormous golden candlesticks were set up in the court (fifty cubits high) with four golden bowls placed upon them and four ladders resting against each. Four youths of priestly descent stood at the top of the ladders holding ten-gallon pitchers filled with pure oil, which they poured into each bowl.[9]


The willow branches that had been brought by the Kidron procession were used to build a Succah over the altar, and as soon as that was done the morning sacrifice was offered, followed by the special festival sacrifices. On the first day of the festival, the sacrifices would be thirteen bullocks, two rams, fourteen lambs, and a goat, as a sin offering. During the sacrifices, the Levites would chant the Great Hallel. At three points during the chant, the people would wave their lulavs toward the altar: once when the Levites reached the phrase “Hodu L’Adonai Ki Tov” (“Thank HaShem, for he is good” Psalm 118:29), once when they sang, “O work then now salvation, HaShem,” and at the end when they sang again “O give thanks unto HaShem.” When the chant was over, the priests marched around the altar chanting “Hosanna, HaShem, deliver us, HaShem, let us prosper”.[10] Finally, there came the benediction, and the people were dispersed, amid the exclamation, “How beautiful art thou, O altar!” or “To HaShem and thee, O altar, we give thanks!” At night, the Court of Women was illuminated by four giant oil lamps, in which the cast-off breeches and girdles of the priests were used for wicks. In order to burn all night, the lamps required tending, so against each lamp was a ladder, and on each ladder a boy from the tribe of Levi, whose job it was to keep the fire burning. The light from these lamps is said to have illuminated the entire city. Distinguished men would dance around the lamps, carrying lighted torches and singing praises to HaShem. On the fifteen steps leading into the court stood the Levites, singing psalms and playing musical instruments. This holy merriment continued until dawn.


The priests and Levites used their own worn-out liturgical clothing for wicks. The light emanating from the four candelabra was so bright that the Mishna says, “There was no courtyard in Jerusalem that was not lit up with the light at the libation water-well ceremony”.[11]


Yochanan (John) 8:12 When Yeshua spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”


* * *


Heart = The base of the altar.


The sacrificial blood was dashed against the altar and then poured out at the base of the altar. As the altar has four corners, so too does the heart have four chambers. As the heart has a higher and lower part, so too does the altar have a red line that marks the upper and lower parts (some offerings had their blood dashed above and some had the blood dashed below).


* * *


Midrash Rabbah - Vayikra (Leviticus) X:6  AND THE GARMENTS (VIII, 2). R. Simon said: Even as the sacrifices have an atoning power, so too have the [priestly] garments atoning power, as we have learnt in the Mishnah: The High Priest officiated in eight garments, and an ordinary priest in four, namely in a tunic, breeches, a mitre, and a girdle. The High Priest wore, in addition, a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, and a head-plate




Zecharyiah (Zechariah) 8:19 Thus saith HaShem of hosts; The fast of the fourth [month], and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace. 


Four fast days are mentioned in this pasuk.


Torah Interpretation


The Torah is understood and interpreted according to the level being discussed. The Torah can be understood on four levels, while other writings may be confined to only one level. For example, Bereshit (the book of Genesis) can be understood on all four levels, while the Midrash and sefer Matityahu (Matthew) can only be understood on the drash level. The following chart details these four levels.















Explore - Ask


Literary level





Audience level

Common People


(Lawyers, Judges, Scientists)


(civil servants, political scientists)



Hermeneutic level[12]

7 Hillel Laws

13 Ishmael Laws

32 Ben Gallil Laws

42 Zohar Laws

Rabbinic level






Marqos (Mark),

1 & 2 Peter

I and II Luqas (Luke)

Matityahu (Matthew)

Yochanan (John) 1, 2, 3, and Revelation


HaShem’s Servant

Son of Man

The King

Son of G-D

Principle Concern

What do we have to do?

What is the meaning behind what we have to do?

How do we go about establishing HaShem’s Kingdom on earth?

What metaphysical meaning is there to what is happening?






















Outside Chatzer



Kodesh Kodashim


Mikrah Megillah

Matanot L’Evyonim

Mishloach Manot

Seudas Purim





* * *



* * *


The Arizal explains that numbers have their origins in the supernal spiritual worlds. Single digit numbers correspond to the physical realm Asiyah, the sefirat Malkhut. Tens correspond to the angelic realm Yetzirah, the sefirat Tiferet. Hundreds correspond to the Neshama realm Beriah, the sefirat Binah, Imma. Being that hundreds emanate from the realm of Imma, they are the source of blessing. Therefore, all offerings are the rectification of 100% of the produce offered.

This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:


Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501


Internet address:

Web page:


(360) 918-2905


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[1] The Shulchan Aruch (Hebrewשׁוּלחָן עָרוּך, literally: “Set Table”) also known as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most authoritative legal code of Judaism.

[2] SA OC 473:3

[3] SA OC 479

[4] Based on Gevurot HaShem chapter 60

[5] Abarbanel

[6] Malbim

[7] Tehillim (psalm) 137:1

[8] Printed in the Otzar Hatefillot siddur.

[9] Succah 5:2

[10] Psalm 118:25

[11] Succah 5:3

[12] The Hermeneutical Laws for the first and second levels of Rabbinical Hermeneutics you will find in the Siddur. In the ArtScroll Siddur (Nusach Sefard), pp. 53-54, which are found in the Morning Service on the “Offerings Section” before the “Kadish D’Rabanan” (The Rabbi’s Kaddish) and which are a quote from the Sifra. The laws of Hermeneutics for this second level are recited every single day of the year by all Torah Observant Jews!