The Meaning Of The Number Nine (Tet - ט)

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)


In this study I would like to study the significance and meaning of the number nine.


The ninth letter in the Hebrew alefbet is tet - ט. The letter tet - ט has the numerical value of nine. The least common letter in the Torah is a Tet. Tet ט, represents the 9th sefirah, yesod - יסוד (meaning foundation).


The first tet - ט that appears in the Torah is in the word tov of Genesis 1:4, normally translated as good, but a better meaning is beneficial. When it appears in the Torah for the first time, the first letter tet of tov has a very unusual feature. The letter tet, like many other letters in a Torah scroll have tiny crowns extending from them (which kabbalists teach is a hidden language of its own). What is unusual about this letter here is that it has four crowns instead of the usual three. According to the Kabbalist, the B’nei Yissachar, when the four is multiplied by the number nine (the value of the “tet” itself), the total is thirty-six. The word in the Torah used to describe the Hidden or Primordial Light is tov meaning beneficial or good. This demonstrates that the letter nine and the tet - ט represent beneficence. Tov is like the pain of child birth. No one believes that it is good. But everyone believes that it was beneficial because through that pain we receive a new life.


The tet - ט represents hidden, inverted beneficence.


The Talmud teaches that one who sees the letter tet - ט in a dream, it is a beneficial sign:


Baba Kama 55a R. Joshua said: He who sees [the letter] teth in a dream [may regard it as] a good omen for himself. Why so? If because it is the initial letter of [the word] ‘Tob’ [‘good’] written in Scripture, why not say [on the contrary that it is also the initial letter of the verb ‘ta'atea’ commencing the Scriptural verse] And I will sweep it with the besom of destruction?[1] — We are speaking [here of where he saw in a dream only] one teth [whereas ta'atea contains two such letters]. But still why not say [that it might have referred to the word ‘tum'ah’ as in the verse] Her filthiness is in her skirts?[2] — We are speaking of [where he saw in a dream the letters] ‘teth’ and ‘beth’. But again why not say [that it might have referred to the verb tabe'u as in the verse], Her gates were sunk in to the ground?[3] — The real reason is that Scripture used this letter on the very first occasion to express something good, for from the beginning of Genesis up to [the verse] And God saw the light[4] no teth occurs.[5] R. Joshua b. Levi similarly said: He who sees [the word] hesped[6] in a dream [may take it as a sign that] mercy has been exercised towards him in Heaven, and that he will be released [from trouble].[7] provided, however, [he saw it] in script.


The first use of the Hebrew word for nine - תשע, tesha, is found in:


Bereshit (Genesis) 5:5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine (תשע) hundred and thirty years: and he died.


Tisha - תשע is defined by Strong’s as:


08672 תשע tesha` tay'- shah or (masc.) תשעה tish`ah tish-aw'


perhaps from 08159 through the idea of a turn to the next or full number ten; TWOT-2550; n m/f


AV-nine 45, ninth 6, nineteenth + 06240 4, nineteen + 06240 3; 58


1) nine, nonad

1a) nine (as cardinal number)

1b) ninth (as ordinal number)

1c) in combination with other numbers


The fact that we see the number nine associated with the creation of Adam (man) suggests more than just a passing relationship.


Mispar katan[8] is a form of gematria that pursues the "root" of an idea by reducing a gematria to a number less than ten. This form of gematria is called small values; with all tens and hundreds reduced to 1 - 9 by summing the digits.


Consider that the summing the digits of the numbers represented by the Hebrew letters of the name “Adam” (אדם), results in the number nine. Nine is called the mispar katan (literally, "small number") of Adam, which alludes to the essential quality of man:


א = 1

ד = 4

ם = 40


Total: 9


The Gemara[9] teaches us that whoever prays on the eve of Shabbat and recites vayechulu, it is as if he is a partner with HaShem in the act of creation. It is noteworthy that the word vayechulu in mispar katan equals nine. Shabbat in mispar katan equals nine, and the word emet, truth, in mispar katan equals nine. Thus, one who recites vayechulu is testifying to the truth that HaShem created Adam and the world in six days and that HaShem rested on Shabbat.


Unbelievably, we find that any number times nine equals nine (18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63 etc), in mispar katan. The reason being that the pasuk says


Mishlei (Proverbs) 12:19 The lip of truth (Emet) shall be established for ever; but a lying tongue is but for a moment.


Emet, truth, lasts for ever. Therefore every multiple of nine remains a nine. Truth always remains the same and can never be altered. Similarly, HaShem is true from beginning to end.


Adam is also in mispar katan gematira nine, for he alone from the entire universe was graced with the seal of truth from his Creator.


Adam was crowned with glory and honour (Psalms 8). Which could be interpreted as tefillin (which are imprinted with the Shin)--convert the word "Shin" to its mispar katan and you also get nine! (shin=300 yud=10 nun=50 combined sum is 360 = sum of the digits is 9!). tefillin are kept in the form of the faithful and loyal dove, symbolic of emet=441 sum of digits is nine!


* * *


According to Jewish law, once something is done three times it is considered a permanent thing. This is called a chazakah. Once we have done something three times, we have connected to it and connected it to this world. A threefold sequence associated with strength and permanence[10] as in the continuum of three holy days (Rosh HaShanah and Shabbat) with which some years began. Nine is three times three, i.e., a chazakah in regard to this chazakah.


* * *


In the ninth blessing of the amida we ask HaShem to bestow upon us the goodness He invested in creation:


Bless us, our Father, in all the work of our hands, and bless our year with gracious, blessed, and kindly dews: be its outcome life, plenty, and peace as in the good years, for Thou, HaShem, are good and does good and blesses the years. Blessed be Thou, HaShem, who blesses the years.


* * *


The clear Torah demarcation that marks nearly every seder in Torah is nine spaces, or more. I am unable to see any exceptions in the sederim for the septennial cycle (two triennial Torah cycles of three and half years.)








א - Alef

ת - tav

ב - Beit

ש - shin

ג - Gimmel

ר - reish

ד - Dalet

ק - kuf

ה - Hei

צ - tzadik

ו - Vav

פ - pei

ז - Zayin

ע - ayin

ח - Chet

ס - samech

ט - Tet

נ - nun

י - Yud

מ - mem

כ - Kaf

ל - lamed






נפש (nephesh - soul) is an ATBASH of תוב (tov - good). So, in HaShem’s world, the male world of creation, you have tov, good. This intangible male word is given concrete, female, reality in the nephesh, the soul of man. A nephesh, a soul, is the ability to connect, as we have seen before. That nephesh which connects with HaShem is tov, is good. That soul which burns and makes the connection, is tov, is good. This נר, this ner – this flame, this nephesh ruach, when it becomes lit up, it becomes tov, good. Where does the flame of connection between us and HaShem burn? It burns in the Beit HaMikdash, HaMakom, The Place of connection. Thus our nephesh connects with HaShem in The Place of Daat, the place of connection, the place of knowledge. That is what the menorah signifies!


To transform the oceans of blood and tears into joy and elevation is surely an innermost desire of every Yid. Nevertheless, when the proposed solution is a Beit HaMikdash, we immediately disconnect, unable to comprehend the slightest notion of such a reality. The actual date of Tisha B’Av subtly hints at this idea. Tisha, the number nine, represents birth (as we know from the Pesach Seder —“Tisha mi yodeia?…tisha yarchei leidah” – Who knows nine? Nine are the months of child-bearing.). The concept of birth is a recurring theme on Tisha B’Av. The chant for Shacharit begins: When you give birth to children and grandchildren…” In fact, Chazal tell us that Mashiach’s birth will take place on Tisha B’Av. Furthermore, the pains of exile are constantly compared to the painful pangs of childbirth. It is, thus, fitting for this day to be on the ninth of the month.


* * *


Bamidbar (Numbers) 34:13 And Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying, This is the land which ye shall inherit by lot, which HaShem commanded to give unto the nine tribes, and to the half tribe: 14 For the tribe of the children of Reuben according to the house of their fathers, and the tribe of the children of Gad according to the house of their fathers, have received their inheritance; and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance: 15 The two tribes and the half tribe have received their inheritance on this side Jordan near Jericho eastward, toward the sunrising.


* * *


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.


* * *


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


Return to The WATCHMAN home page

Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address:


[1] Isa. XIV, 23

[2] Lam. I, 9

[3] Lam. II, 9

[4] Gen. I, 4

[5] And since the first teth in Scriptures commences the word denoting ‘good’ it is a good omen to see it in a dream.

[6] Which denotes an elegy and a lamentation.

[7] As the word hesped could be divided thus: has pad [ah]. i.e. mercy has been exercised and release granted.

[8] HaMeugal Gematria

[9] Shabbat 119b

[10] Bava Metzia 106b