In today’s reading, Berakhot 8a-8b, we find many sources of creativity and decision-making with a wide variety of results. Among the tools employed is Gematria, interpretation based on numerical equivalents of Hebrew letters.
In a wide-ranging, scripture-laden discussion about “the time of finding” [לְעֵת מְצֹא, l’eit m’tzo],” a few words are quoted from Psalm 68:21: “issues of death [לַמָּוֶת תֹּצָאוֹת, lamavet totzaot].” This additional teaching is then offered:
It was also taught in a baraita: Nine hundred and three types of death were created in the world, as it is stated: “Issues [totzaot] of death,” and that, 903, is the numerical value [gimatriya] of totzaot.
— Berakhot 8a [Sefaria.org]
Here, just for the record, is the calculation:
ת + ת = 400 + 400
90 = צ
6 + 6 = ו + ו
א = 1
903 = total.
Virtual Jewish Learning mentions a few of the Talmudic teachers who employed Gematria and cites a few examples. My Jewish Learning notes that Gematria “was not central to rabbinic literature,” adding: “The rabbis occasionally employed gematria to help support biblical exegesis, but did not rely on it heavily.”
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