> GEMATRIA (From Gr. gewmetria, one of the aggadic hermeneutical rules for 
>interpreting the Torah (Baraita of 32 Rules, no. 29). It consists of explaining a 
>word or group of words according to the numerical value of the letters, or of 
>substituting other letters of the alphabet for them in accordance with a set system. 
>Whereas the word is normally employed in this sense of manipulating according to the 
>numerical value, it is sometimes found with the meaning of "calculations" (Avot 
>3:18). Similarly where the reading in present editions of the Talmud is that Johanan 
>b. Zakkai knew "the heavenly revolutions and gematriot," in a parallel source the 
>reading is "the heavenly revolutions and calculations" (Suk. 28a; BB 134a; Ch. 
>Albeck, Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, 4 (1959), 497).

> The use of letters to signify numbers was known to the Babylonians and the Greeks. 
>The first use of gematria occurs in an inscription of Sargon II (727–707 B.C.E.) 
>which states that the king built the wall of Khorsabad 16,283 cubits long to 
>correspond with the numerical value of his name. The use of gematria (tO Isoyhfon) 
>was widespread in the literature of the Magi and among interpreters of dreams in the 
>Hellenistic world. The Gnostics equated the two holy names Abraxas (Abracaj) and 
>Mithras (Miqraj) on the basis of the equivalent numerical value of their letters 
>(365, corresponding to the days of the solar year). Its use was apparently introduced 
>in Israel during the time of the Second Temple, even in the Temple itself, Greek 
>letters being used to indicate numbers (Shek. 3:2).

> In rabbinic literature numerical gematria first appears in statements by tannaim of 
>the second century. It is used as supporting evidence and as a mnemonic by R. Nathan. 
>He states that the phrase Elleh ha-devarim ("These are the words") occuring in Exodus 
>35:1 hints at the 39 categories of work forbidden on the Sabbath, since the plural 
>devarim indicates two, the additional article a third, while the numerical equivalent 
>of elleh is 36, making a total of 39 (Shab. 70a). R. Judah inferred from the verse, 
>"From the fowl of the heavens until the beast are fled and gone" (Jer. 9:9), that for 
>52 years no traveler passed through Judea, since the numerical value of behemah 
>("beast") is 52. The Baraita of 32 Rules cites as an example of gematria the 
>interpretation that the 318 men referred to in Genesis 14:14 were in fact only 
>Eliezer the servant of Abraham, the numerical value of his name being 318. This 
>interpretation, which occurs elsewhere (Ned. 32a; Gen. R. 43:2) in the name of Bar 
>Kappara, may also be a reply to the Christian interpretation in the Epistle of 
>Barnabas that wishes to find in the Greek letters tih, whose numerical value is 318, 
>a reference to the cross and to the first two letters of Jesus' name, through which 
>Abraham achieved his victory; the Jewish homilist used the same method to refute the 
>Christian interpretation.

> The form of gematria which consists of changing the letters of the alphabet 
>according to atbash, i.e., the last letter T is substituted for the first a, the 
>penultimate S for the second b, etc., already occurs in Scripture: Sheshach (Jer. 
>25:26; 51:41) corresponding to Bavel ("Babylon"). The Baraita of 32 Rules draws 
>attention to a second example: lev kamai (Jer. 51:1) being identical, according to 
>this system, with Kasdim. Another alphabet gematria is formed by the atbah system, 
>i.e., t is substituted for a, H for b, etc., and is called "the alphabet of Hiyya" 
>(Suk. 52b). Rav, the pupil of Hiyya, explained that Belshazzar and his men could not 
>read the cryptic writing because it was written in gematria, i.e., according to atbah 
>(Sanh. 22a; cf. Shab. 104a).

> Gematria has little significance in halakhah. Where it does occur, it is only as a 
>hint or a mnemonic. The rule that when a man takes a nazirite vow for an unspecified 
>period, it is regarded as being for 30 days, is derived from the word yihyeh ("he 
>shall be") in Numbers 6:5, whose numerical value is 30 (Naz. 5a). Even in the 
>aggadah, at least among the early amoraim, gematria is not used as a source of ideas 
>and homilies but merely to express them in the most concise manner. The statements 
>that Noah was delivered not for his own sake but for the sake of Moses (Gen. R. 
>26:6), that Rebekah was worthy to have given birth to 12 tribes (ibid. 63:6), and 
>that Jacob's ladder symbolizes the revelation at Sinai (ibid. 68:12), do not depend 
>on the gematriot given there. These homilies are derived from other considerations 
>and it is certain that they preceded the gematriot.

> Gematriot, however, do occupy an important place in those Midrashim whose chief 
>purpose is the interpretation of letters, such as the Midrash Haserot vi-Yterot, and 
>also in the late aggadic Midrashim (particularly in those whose authors made use of 
>the work of Moses b. Isaac ha-Darshan) such as Numbers Rabbah (in Midrash Aggadah, 
>published by S. Buber, 1894), and Bereshit Rabbati (published by H. Albeck, 1940; see 
>introduction, 11–20). Rashi also cites gematriot that "were established by Moses 
>ha-Darshan" (Num. 7:18) and some of the gematriot given by him came from this source 
>even if he does not explicitly mention it (Gen. 32:5, e.g., "I have sojourned with 
>Laban"—the gematria value of "I have sojourned" is 613, i.e., "I sojourned with the 
>wicked Laban but observed the 613 precepts," is the interpretation of Moses 
>ha-Darshan, Bereshit Rabbati, 145). Joseph Bekhor Shor, one of the great French 
>exegetes of the Torah, made extensive use of gematriot, and nearly all the tosafists 
>followed him in this respect in their Torah commentaries (S. PoznaGski, Mavo al 
>Hakhmei Zarefat Mefareshei ha-Mikra, 73). A wealth of gematriot occur in Pa'ne'ah 
>Raza, the commentary of Isaac b. Judah ha-Levi (end of 13th century), and in the 
>Ba'al ha-Turim, the biblical commentary of Jacob b. Asher. The Kabbalah of the 
>Hasidei Ashkenaz also caused gematriot to enter the halakhah. In his Ha-Roke'ah, 
>Eleazar of Worms uses gematriot to find many hints and supports for existing laws and 
>customs; with him the gematria at times embraces whole sentences. Thus he establishes 
>by gematria from Exodus 23:15 that work which can be deferred until after the 
>festival may not be performed during the intermediate days (Ha-Roke'ah, no 307). 
>Gematriot of the Hasidei Ashkenaz occupy a prominent place in their commentaries on 
>the liturgy and on piyyutim. Abraham b. Azriel incorporated the teachings of Judah 
>he-Hasid and Eleazar Roke'ah in his Arugat ha-Bosem, and followed their lead. These 
>gematriot, which were part of the Kabbalah of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, established the 
>definitive text of the prayers, which came to be regarded as sacrosanct. Some 
>authorities forbade it to be changed even when the text did not conform with the 
>rules of grammar. Nahmanides, on the other hand, tried to limit the arbitrary use of 
>gematriot and laid down a rule that "no one may calculate a gematria in order to 
>deduce from it something that occurs to him. Our rabbis, the holy sages of the 
>Talmud, had a tradition that definite gematriot were transmitted to Moses to serve as 
>a mnemonic for something that had been handed down orally with the rest of the Oral 
>Law... just as was the case with the gezerah shavah [see Hermeneutics] of which they 
>said that no man may establish a gezerah shavah of his own accord" (Sefer ha-Ge'ullah 
>ed. by J. M. Aronson (1959), Sha'ar 4; see his commentary to Deut. 4:25). 
> [Encyclopaedia Hebraica]
> In Kabbalah
> The use of gematria was developed especially by the Hasidei Ashkenaz and circles 
>close to them in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is possible that traditions of 
>gematriot of Holy Names and angels are from an earlier date, but they were collected 
>and considerably elaborated only in the aforesaid period. Even among the mystics 
>gematria is not generally a system for the discovery of new thoughts: almost always 
>the idea precedes the inventing of the gematria, which serves as "an allusion 
>asmakhta." An exception is the gematria on the Holy Names, which are in themselves 
>incomprehensible, or that on the names of angels whose meaning and special aspect the 
>German Hasidim sought to determine via gematria. Often gematria served as a mnemonic 
>device. The classic works of gematria in this circle are the writings of Eleazar of 
>Worms, whose gematriot are based—at any rate partially—on the tradition of his 
>teachers. Eleazar discovered through gematria the mystical meditations on prayers 
>which can be evoked during the actual repetition of the words. His commentaries on 
>books of the Bible are based for the most part on this system, including some which 
>connect the midrashic legends with words of the biblical verses via gematria, and 
>some which reveal the mysteries of the world of the Merkabah ("fiery chariot") and 
>the angels, in this way. In this interpretation the gematria of entire biblical 
>verses or parts of verses occupies a more outstanding place than the gematria based 
>on a count of single words. For example, the numerical value of the sum of the 
>letters of the entire verse "I have gone down into the nut garden" (Songs 6:11), in 
>gematria is equivalent to the verse: "This is the depth of the chariot" (merkavah). 
>Several extensive works of interpretation by means of gematria by the disciples of 
>Eleazar of Worms are preserved in manuscript.

> In the beginnings of Sephardi Kabbalah gematria occupied a very limited place. The 
>disciples of Abraham b. Isaac of Narbonne and the kabbalists of Gerona hardly used it 
>and its impact was not considerable on the greater part of the Zohar and on the 
>Hebrew writings of Moses b. Shem Tov de Leon. Only those currents influenced by the 
>tradition of the Hasidei Ashkenaz brought the gematria into the kabbalistic 
>literature of the second half of the 13th century, mainly in the work of Jacob b. 
>Jacob ha-Kohen and Abraham Abulafia and their disciples. The works of Abulafia are 
>based on the extensive and extreme use of gematria. His books require deciphering 
>before all the associations of the gematriot in them can be understood. He 
>recommended the system of developing power of association in gematria in order to 
>discover new truths, and these methods were developed by those who succeeded him. A 
>summary of his system is found in Sullam ha-Aliyyah by Judah Albotini, who lived a 
>generation after the Spanish expulsion (Kirjath Sefer, 22 (1945–46), 161–71). A 
>disciple of Abulafia, Joseph Gikatilla, used gematria extensively as one of the 
>foundations of the Kabbalah in Ginnat Egoz (Hanau, 1615; the letters gimmel, nun, tav 
>of Ginnat are the initials of gematria notarikon, and temurah—the interchange of 
>letters according to certain systematic rules). This work influenced considerably the 
>later Zohar literature, Ra'aya Meheimna and Tikkunei Zohar.

> Two schools emerged as the Kabbalah developed: one of those who favored gematria, 
>and another of those who used it less frequently. In general, it may be stated that 
>new ideas always developed outside the realm of gematria; however, there were always 
>scholars who found proofs and wide-ranging connections through gematria, and 
>undoubtedly attributed to their findings a positive value higher than that of a mere 
>allusion. Moses Cordovero presented his entire system without recourse to gematria, 
>and explained matters of gematria only toward the end of his basic work on Kabbalah 
>(Pardes Rimmonim). A revival of the use of gematria is found in the Lurianic 
>Kabbalah, but it is more widespread in the kabbalistic works of Israel Sarug and his 
>disciples (mainly Menahem Azariah of Fano and Naphtali Bacharach, author of Emek 
>ha-Melekh) than in the works of Isaac Luria and Hayyim Vital. The classic work using 
>gematria as a means of thought and a development of commentative ideas in the 
>Kabbalah in the 17th century is Megalleh Amukot by Nathan Nata b. Solomon Spira, 
>which served as the model for an entire literature, especially in Poland. At first 
>only the part on Deut. 3:23ff. was published (Cracow, 1637) which explains these 
>passages in 252 different ways. His commentary on the whole Torah (also called 
>Megalleh Amukot) was published in Lemberg in 1795. Apparently Nathan possessed a 
>highly developed sense for numbers which found its expression in complex structures 
>of gematria. In later kabbalistic literature (in the 18th and 19th centuries) the 
>importance of the methods of commentary via gematria is well-known and many works 
>were written whose major content is gematria, e.g., Tiferet Yisrael by Israel Harif 
>of Satanov (Lemberg, 1865), Berit Kehunnat Olam by Isaac Eisik ha-Kohen (Lemberg, 
>1796; complete edition with commentary of gematria, 1950), and all the works of 
>Abraham b. Jehiel Michal ha-Kohen of Lask (late 18th century).

> In the Shabbatean movement, gematriot occupied a place of considerable prominence as 
>proofs of the messianism of Shabbetai Zevi. Abraham Yakhini wrote a great work of 
>Shabbatean gematriot on one single verse of the Torah (Vavei ha-Ammudim, Ms. Oxford), 
>and the major work of the Shabbatean prophet Heshel Zoref of Vilna and Cracow, Sefer 
>ha-Zoref, is based entirely on an elaboration of gematriot surrounding the verse 
>Shema Yisrael ("Hear O Israel"; Deut. 6:4). In hasidic literature gematria appeared 
>at first only as a by-product, but later there were several hasidic rabbis, the bulk 
>of whose works are gematria, e.g., Igra de-Khallah by Zevi Elimelekh Shapira of Dynow 
>(1868), Magen Avraham by Abraham the Maggid of Turisk (1886), and Sefer Imrei No'am 
>by Meir Horowitz of Dzikow (1877).

> The systems of gematria became complicated in the course of time. In addition to the 
>numerical value of a word, different methods of gematria were used. In Ms. Oxford 
>1,822, one article lists 75 different forms of gematriot. Moses Cordovero (Pardes 
>Rimmonim, part 30, ch. 8) lists nine different types of gematriot. The important ones 

> (1)   The numerical value of one word (equaling the sum of the numerical value of 
>all its letters) is equal to that of another word (e.g., hrvbg (gevurah)=216= hyra 

> (2)   A small or round number which does not take into account tens or hundreds (4 = 
>T; 2 = k).

> (3)   The squared number in which the letters of the word are calculated according 
>to their numerical value squared. The Tetragrammaton, h"vhy = 102+52+62+52=186=Mvcm 
>("Place"), another name for God.

> (4)   The adding up of the value of all of the preceding letters in an arithmetical 
>series (d(dalet)= 1+2+3+4= 10). This type of calculation is important in complicated 
>gematria that reaches into the thousands.

> (5)   The "filling" (Heb. millui); the numerical value of each letter itself is not 
>calculated but the numerical values of all the letters that make up the names of the 
>letter are calculated (T"yb=412; T"ld= 434; d"vy = 20). The letters h and v have 
>different "fillings"—vh, hh, ah, and vv, vav, vyv; millui de-alefin (alef "filling"), 
>millui de-he'in ("he filling"), or millui de-yudin (yod "filling"), respectively. 
>These are important in Kabbalah with regard to the numerical value of the Name of God 
>(h"vhy), the Tetragrammaton, which varies according to the four different "fillings" 
>ah, vav, ah, dvy (= 45, in gematria Mda (Adam), symbolizing the 45-letter Name of 
>God); hh, vv, hh, dvy (= 52, in gematria N"b, representing the Holy Name of 52 
>letters); yh, vav, yh, dvy (= 63, in gematria g"s, the 63-letter Name); yh, vyv, yh, 
>dvy (= 72, in gematria b"A, representing the Holy Name of 72 letters).

> Other calculations in gematria involve a "filling" of the "filling," or a second 
>"filling." The gematria of the word itself is called ikkar or shoresh, while the rest 
>of the word (the "fillings") is called the ne'elam ("hidden part"). The ne'elam of 
>the letter y is dv = 10; the ne'elam of y"dS is Ny, Tl and dv = 500.

> (6)   There is also a "great number" which counts the final letters of the alphabet 
>as a continuation of the alphabet (500 = M; 600 = N; 700 = X; 800 = P; 900 = K). 
>However, there is a calculation according to the usual order of the alphabet whereby 
>the numerical values of the final letters are as follows: K = 500, M= 600, N = 700, 

> (7)   The addition of the number of letters in the word to the numerical value of 
>the word itself, or the addition of the number "one" to the total numerical value of 
>the word.

> Criticism of the use of gematria as a justified means of commentary was first voiced 
>by Abraham ibn Ezra (in his commentary on Gen. 14:14) and later by the opponents of 
>the Kabbalah (in Ari Nohem, ch. 10). But even several kabbalists (e.g., Nahmanides) 
>warned against exaggerated use of gematria. Joseph Solomon Delmedigo speaks of false 
>gematriot in order to abolish the value of that system. When the believers in 
>Shabbetai Zevi began to widely apply gematriot to his name (shaddai (God) and its 
>"filling" = 814), those who denied him used mock gematriot (ru'ah sheker = ("false 
>spirit") = 814). In spite of this, the use of gematria was widespread in many circles 
>and among preachers not only in Poland but also among the Sephardim. To this day the 
>homiletical and allegorical literature according to the method of Pardes (the four 
>levels of meaning of a text), expecially of the North African rabbis, is full of 
> [Gershom Scholem]
avigdor horovitz wrote:
> Dear Edmund,
> There is a well established system of numerical values assigned to Hebrew
> letters. It's referred to as Gematria, so aleph=1, bet=2, etc. There are
> Victor
> On Tue, 25 Jun 2002, Edmund Esterbauer wrote:
> >
Be-ahavah oo-ve-shalom oo-ve-emet, Ethel Jean Saltz
Mac(hiavelli)-Niet(zsche)-Spin(oza)-Gal(ileo), 392 A.G. (after Galileo)
For private reply, e-mail to ethel jean saltz <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
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