The 36th Word

During my first year of rabbinical studies, my colleagues and I spent many evenings trying out the various eateries in Jerusalem. I had one job at the end of all of the dinners – to split the bill appropriately. In Jerusalem, restaurants seemed to frown upon the idea of “separate checks,” so, since I had been in finance before starting at HUC, I got the honor of splitting the bill. I did not mind it. Numbers, finance, math, accounting, economics have always been enjoyable for me. It is no surprise, thus, that biblical numerology has always been an exciting cross-section of my love for Judaism and my interest in numbers.
There are so many numbers in Judaism that play an essential role in our Torah, our mysticism, and our teachings. Thus, as we turn to a new semester, we also turn to a new way for students to connect in a new theme. Just as last semester started with a thematic election, this semester will always start with the sharing important Jewish numbers. Stemming from our upcoming Double Chai anniversary at Temple Beth Or, Makor students, teachers, parents, and the entire community will come together at the beginning of every Sunday morning to count up our blessings and count out our history.
Naturally, our first day back will start with the number 36, acknowledging the years of hard work of so many in our community to build our Temple Beth Or family. How appropriate it is to look at an exciting coincidence for us about this number. In the book of Bamidbar (Numbers), in the 36th chapter, the 36th word of the chapter, we find the word “achinu” which means our kinsman. As Temple Beth Or has continued to grow into the warm and caring place that it is, it has been because of the inherent sense of kin, of family, that fills the walls of the building and the hearts of those who walk through its doors. Double Chai represents an affirmation of life, as we look to each other to continue the traditions which have blossomed over 36 years. Rachel and I send our heartfelt congratulations on this momentous milestone. May the 36 years of kindness, compassion, and kinship fuel the next 36, and may we all go from strength to strength. Ken Yehi Ratzon.
B’bracha (in blessing),
Rabbi Benjamin G. Azriel