The Significance of The Number Six

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


Six and The House of David. 2

Six In Space. 2

Six In Time. 3

Sixth In The Torah. 3

Six In Torah Shebaalpeh, the oral Torah: 4

Six In Thirty-six. 4

Six in 666. 4

Six In Megillat Ruth. 4

Six / Vav – Past and Future. 5

Miscellaneous Sixes. 5

 

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

 

To understand the number six, we need to understand the vav - ו, which is the Hebrew letter representing six. The sixth letter of the alef-beit is the vav. The vav is shaped like a hook (ו). A hook is something that holds two things together. This property of the letter vav, in its Hebrew usage, is referred to as the vav of connection. It is normally translated as and which is used to hook words together.

 

The first vav of the Torah is found in:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:1 In the beginning G-d created the heavens and [vav] the earth.

 

This vav, the first letter of the sixth word, serves to join spiritual and physical, heaven and the earth, in creation. This teaches us a very significant lesson regarding the meaning of six.

 

The connectivity of six and the vav is illustrated in the design of an alef - א. The alef is actually made up of three different letters: the letter yud - י above; a yud - י below; and a diagonal vav – ו, or line suspended in between. The upper yod represents the upper world and the lower yod represents the lower world. The vav connects these two worlds.

 

Six represents connection, exemplified by the angels in Yeshayahu’s vision, whose six wings enabled them to soar to unite and connect with HaShem:

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 6:1-3 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2  Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3  And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is HaShem of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

 

Six also represents the six orders of the Mishna. Through learning Torah, one connects with HaShem. The six orders are:

 

Zeraim ("Seeds"), dealing with prayer and blessings, tithes and agricultural laws.  

Moed ("Festival"), pertaining to the laws of the Sabbath and the Festivals.  

Nashim ("Women"), concerning marriage and divorce, some forms of oaths and the laws of the nazirite.  

Nezikin ("Damages"), dealing with civil and criminal law, the functioning of the courts and oaths. 

Kodashim ("Holy things"), regarding sacrificial rites, the Temple, and the dietary laws.

Tohorot ("Purities"), pertaining to the laws of purity and impurity, including the impurity of the dead, the laws of ritual purity for the priests, the laws of "family purity" and others.

 

Lets examine some examples of six.

 

Six and The House of David

 

Six is a number that is uniquely associated with the Jewish people, in the star of David (Magen David – The Shield of David), a six pointed star:

Y

There seems to be an intimate connection between the number six and the house of David.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XCVII in connection with the offering of Nahshon of the tribe of Judah it is written, And his offering was one silver dish (Num. VII, 13); whereas in connection with all the others it states, ’his offering.’ Thus a vav was added to Nahshon, hinting that six righteous men would come forth from his tribe, each of whom was blessed with six virtues. Thus of David it is written, That is skilful in playing, and a mighty man of valor, and a man of war, and prudent in affairs, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him (I Sam. XVI, 18). Of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah it is written, Youths in whom was no blemish, but fair to look on, and skilful in all wisdom, and skilful in knowledge, and discerning in thought, and such as had ability to stand in the king's palace (Dan. I, 4). Of Hezekiah too six virtues are recorded: And his name is called, Wonderful, Counselor, Prince, Mighty, Everlasting father, Prince of peace (Isa. IX, 5).4 Of Daniel it is written, Forasmuch as a surpassing spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and declaring of riddles, and loosing of knots, were found in the same Daniel (Dan. V, 12). Finally, of the royal Messiah it is written, And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isa. XI, 2).

 

Midrash Rabbah - Numbers XIII:11 Another reason why ‘attudim’ is written in full and the other word with a superfluous vav. It alludes to the six sons descended from Nahshon who were possessed of six blessings. They are the following: David, the Messiah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

 

As we shall see, Ruth, as the progenitor of David, is also intimately bound with six and it’s multiples.

 

Six In Space

 

We do know that the number six represents the physical world. The Torah describes the creation of the universe as a six part, six day, process.

 

The Maharal indicates that six: Connotes being one in the sense of being whole and all encompassing, rather than being part of something else. The concept is illustrated by the six sides of an object (right, left, front, back, top, and bottom) that fully encompasses it:

 

 

Our sources describe the universe as emanating in six directions: north, south, east, west, up, down, from a central point. All physical space and all physical objects have these six dimensions. Six represents completion, because something that is surrounded on all six sides: north, south, east, west, above and below, is complete.

 

This teaches us that the number six befits the Jewish nation, which is one nation and one of many nations.

 

There were six cities of refuge:

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 35:6 And the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites, they shall be the six cities of refuge, which ye shall give for the manslayer to flee thither; and beside them ye shall give forty and two cities.

 

Six In Time

 

Shavuot occurs on the sixth day of the month of Sivan. Chazal teach that the creation narrative alludes to Shavuot in the use of the wording: The sixth day. In the creation narrative, the days are delineated with specific terminology:

 

One day.

A second day.

A third day.

A fourth day.

A fifth day.

The Sixth day.

The seventh day.

 

Thus we see that during the six days of creation, the sixth day is different from the preceding five days. In is only on the sixth day that the Torah uses the definite article the. Rashi suggests that the use of this terminology is a remez, a hint to Shavuot which is the only festival to occur on the sixth day of the month.

 

The sixth day of creation was also Rosh HaShanah (Yom Teruah). It was the focus of creation because on this day man was created. The creation was finished with the creation of man on the sixth day. On the sixth day Adam and Chava left Gan Eden. They no longer had a connection to this special world. They had damaged the unity they had with HaShem.

 

On the sixth day, six things were created:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XI:9 R. Phinehas said: In the sixth He created six things: Adam, Eve, creeping things, cattle, beasts, and demons.

 

Finally, the world in its current state will exist for six thousand years:

 

Sanhedrin 97a The Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation;[1] two thousand years the Torah flourished;[2] and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era[3], but through our many iniquities all these years have been lost.

 

Sixth In The Torah

 

The sixth Commandment is do not murder. This is a fundamental commandment that entails the respect for humanity. However, the principle of murder is not limited to physical murdering of another’s physical body. We are commanded not to embarrass or shame our neighbor in any way:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:18 You shall not go as a talebearer among your people; neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbor …

 

From this verse, the rabbis proclaimed that gossip or any means of publicly embarrassing someone else is likened to murder.

 

The world was created in six days, the six days of crea­tion. The first word in the Torah is Bereshit (In the beginning) which itself is composed of six letters - בראשית. Furthermore the Torah clearly states: G-d created six days[4]. There are also six alefs – א, in the first verse of the Torah. The first letter vav in the Torah is found at the beginning of the sixth word (v’et). So creation is connected to the number six.

 

The sixth day of creation was yesod, which means both building a foundation and bonding. This was the day that Adam, the foundation of the human race, was created. HaShem first fashioned the entire world and then brought man into it. From this we learn that it is man’s obligation to form a connection between the physical and the spiri­tual realms by using every aspect of the physical world in the service of HaShem.

 

Six In Torah Shebaalpeh, the oral Torah:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis I:4 IN THE BEGlNNlNG GOD CREATED. Six things preceded the creation of the world; some of them were actually created, while the creation of the others was already contemplated. The Torah and the Throne of Glory were created. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord made me as the beginning of His way, prior to His works of old (Prov. VIII, 22).3 The Throne of GIory, as it is written, Thy throne is established of old, etc. (Ps. XCIII, 2). The creation of the Patriarchs was contemplated, for it is written, I saw your fathers as the first-ripe in the fig-tree at her first season (Hos. IX, 10).4 [The creation of] Israel was contemplated, as it is written, Remember Thy congregation, which Thou hast gotten aforetime (Ps. LXXIV, 2). [The creation of] the Temple was contemplated, for it is written, Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning, the place of our sanctuary  (Jer. XVII, 12). The name of Messiah was contemplated, for it is written, His name existeth ere the sun (Ps. LXXII, 17).R. Ahabah b. R. Ze'ira said: Repentance too, as it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, etc.  (ib. XC, 2), and from that very moment, Thou turnest man to contrition, and sayest: Repent, ye children of men (ib. 3). I still do not know which was first, whether the Torah preceded the Throne of Glory or the Throne of Glory preceded the Torah. Said R. Abba b. Kahana: The Torah preceded the Throne of Glory, for it says, ’The Lord made me as the beginning of His way, ere His works of old,’ which means, ere that whereof it is written, ’Thy throne is established of old.’

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis LXXIX:7 The Temple: So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold  (I Chron. XXI, 25).

 

Six In Thirty-six

 

Six times six is thirty-six.

 

The number six, and the number thirty-six, both allude to the incomplete state of creation that mankind is expected to rectify and bring to fruition.

 

Six in 666

 

Mosad Hayesod cites the Vilna Gaon's commentary on the Zohar that "the number 666 contains hidden within it exalted and lofty messianic potential." No other explanation is offered there.

 

666 is six repeated three times. Repeating a concept three times represents the affirmation and strength of that concept. The number 666 could thus represent the strength and perfection of the physical world, which Judaism teaches will occur in the messianic era, when the physical world will reach its ultimate purpose, to be a vehicle through which the created experience the Creator.

 

Six In Megillat Ruth

 

There is a proliferation of the number six (and its multiples) in the Megillah of Ruth:

Shuv (return) occurs twelve times in chapter one.

6 times: “Shuv” indicates a return to Beit-Lechem (vv. 6,7,10,21,22,22).

 

6 times: “Shuv” indicates a return to Moav (vv. 8, 11,12,15,15,16).

 

M'lak'tot (gleaners) occurs twelve times in chapter two.

 

In Ruth 3:14 and 3:16 we see six measures of barley.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Ruth V:6 AND BOAZ SAID UNTO HER AT MEAL TIME: COME HITHER, AND EAT OF THE BREAD, AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR. AND SHE SAT BESIDE THE REAPERS; AND THEY REACHED HER PARCHED CORN, AND SHE DID EAT AND WAS SATISFIED AND LEFT THEREOF (II, 14). R. Jonathan interpreted this verse in six ways.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Ruth VII:2 Simon said: The meaning is that as a reward for, AND HE MEASURED SIX BARLEYS AND LAID [THEM] ON HER,1 he was vouchsafed that there should arise from her six righteous men, each one of them possessing six outstanding virtues, viz. David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, Daniel, and the Messiah. David, as it is said, Skilful in playing, and a mighty man of valor, and a man of war, and prudent in affairs, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him (I Sam. XVI, 18); Hezekiah, as it is said, That the government may be increased, and of peace there be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it, through justice and through righteousness (Isa. IX, 6). And his name is called Pele- joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom (ib. 5). Some observe that l'marbeh (be increased) is written with a closed mem. Josiah, as it is said, For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out its roots by the river, etc. (Jer. XVII, 8). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, as it is said, Youths in whom there was no blemish, but fair to look on, and skilful in all wisdom, and skilful in knowledge, and discerning in thought, and such as had ability  (Dan. I, 4). Daniel, as it is said, A surpassing spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and declaring of riddles, and loosing of knots, were found in the same Daniel (ib. v, 12). The Messiah, as it is said, And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, etc. (Isa. XI, 2).

 

The name Boaz appears three times six times in sefer Ruth.

 

The name Ruth appears two times six times in sefer Ruth. (Both of these counts ignore the genealogy at the end of the Megillah which is not, properly, part of the story).

 

Six / Vav – Past and Future

 

The letter vav attached to a verb converts that verb from either the past to the future tense, or from the future to the past tense. For example, the word hoiya in Hebrew means “it was.” The word v’hoiya means “it will be.” By merely attaching the letter vav, the past is transformed into the future. In reverse, consider the word yehi, which means “it shall be,” as in “Yehi or[5], “Let there be light.” Place a vav in front, vayehi, and the meaning becomes, “There was light”, in the past tense.

 

Miscellaneous Sixes

 

The six Sephirot represented by the vav: Chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod.

 

The number six also represents the six hundred thousand Jew­ish men aged 20-60 who left the land of Egypt. It additionally represents the Torah because the word ישראל, Israel, is an acronym meaning “יש ששים רבוא אותיות לתורה - There are six hundred thousand letters of the Torah,” and if one letter of the Torah is missing or broken or cracked, G-d forbid, the entire Torah scroll is declared not kosher, it is unfit to be read. Similarly, if one Jew strays from the path, or is missing or defiled, the entire Jewish nation is likewise lacking or defiled. We are rendered incomplete.

 

Thus six and the vav teaches us the monumental effect we have on the physical world by being connected on high and bringing the Torah down to earth in our thoughts, speech, and actions.

 

Y Y Y

 

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:  gkilli@aol.com

Web page:  http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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[1] I.e., no Torah. It is a tradition that Abraham was fifty-two years old when he began to convert men to the worship of the true God; from Adam until then, two thousand years elapsed.

[2] I.e., from Abraham's fifty-second year until one hundred and seventy-two years after the destruction of the second Temple. This does not mean that the Torah should cease thereafter, but is mentioned merely to distinguish it from the next era.

[3] I.e., Messiah will come within that period.

[4] Shemot 20:11

[5] Bereshit 1:3