This past Saturday we observed “Shabbat Shuva”, and now we are about to observe “Yom Kippur”, the day of Atonement. Yom Kippur begins with the beautiful prayer “Kol Nidrei”, a prayer recited in unison by the congregation. Kol Nidrei means “All my Vows” and we are asking God to pardon us for vows we have made to Him but that we haven’t fulfilled.
Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah. , all occur in Tishrei which is the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. The number seven often appears in our texts and in our observances. Our new year, Rosh HaShana is celebrated on the first day of the seventh month, the first month being Nisan.
Rosh HaShana occurs after the Seven Weeks of Consolation following Tisha B’Av. In the haftarot during the Seven Weeks of Consolation there are repeated reference to God as a groom and the Nation of Israel as a bride. Following a wedding there are seven days of “sheva brachot” (seven blessings) at which we make seven special blessings over the bride and groom.
And where else do we find 7…
Between Pesach and Shavuot there are 7 weeks. We count the “Omer ” for 49 days- 7 weeks of 7 days.
Every seven years the land in Israel must lay fallow, the shmitta year.
Our gold menorah, the menorah rededicated on Hannukah, and the menorah wreathed with olive leaves used as the emblem symbol of Israel, has seven branches.
And of course, as we will read in a few weeks, the world was created in six days and on the seventh God rested. Our week is based on that model, a model of seven days. Interestingly the entire world seems to have taken the seven day week as a framework for their rhythm of life.
We can play all kinds of gematria with words and letters. For instance, this year is 5779. If you add the 5 and the 9, the first and last numbers of the year , you get 14. Divide 14 in 2 (because you added two numbers together) you get 7. Now we have 3 sevens in the counting of our year.
After we read the story of creation we will read the story of Noah and the destruction of the world. God made a promise never to destroy the world again. The symbol of the promise is the rainbow that we see after a rainfall. And the rainbow, interestingly, is identified as 7 colours. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple.
At the beginning of this I mentioned Kol Nidrei, when we speak to God about our vows, promises and oaths we have made. Neder is the word for vow. Another is sheva, like Be’er Sheva- the well where Abraham made an oath with Avimelech. And sheva is also the Hebrew word for seven. If sheva means oath and means seven, maybe that’s why we have so many time patterns of seven in our observance. Seven is creation and it is retrospection. This seventh month we are attempting to forge a stronger and better bond with haShem through action and thought. that bond will be an oath between us and ourselves to be better and do better.
May we all have a Yom Kippur that is meaningful, and full of good and strengthening thought, prayer and retrospection. May we all reflect well, and have a g’mar tov.