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Jews at the Speed of Light

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Topic: Light, Speed of & Count Under Banner of Judah

Michael Sultan from Alexandria, VA wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

In the Book of Numbers (2:9) the total census for the tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun is given as 186,400. It is said that this group will "set forth first." I'm sure that someone somewhere has pointed out that 186,400 is approximately the speed of light in miles per second.

This almost makes too much sense. The Torah speaks of us being a "light unto the nations." In a way, it makes sense for the lead tribes to be likened to "light." I'm not sure what my question to you would then be. I suppose I should simply ask, "Well? What's up with this?"

Dear Michael Sultan,

It was certainly bright of you to notice this. (It's no wonder your parents called you "sun.")

Allow me to add to your brilliant comment: The Torah says that this group be positioned "mizracha," eastward. Literally, mizracha means "in the direction of the rising sun," from the root "zorayach" meaning "shine" and "give light."

Your comment brings to mind a thought I once had: Light from the sun takes eight minutes to reach us. When you look at the sun, you're not really seeing it; rather, you see light that left the sun eight minutes ago. So when you look at the setting sun, the actual sun has already sunk below the horizon, and you continue to see its light for eight minutes.

Now, here's my thought: The last eight verses of the Torah describe Moshe's death. Who wrote these verses? The Talmud gives two opinions: Moshe wrote them, in tears, or Joshua wrote them. So (poetically speaking) just as the sun shines for eight minutes after it sets, similarly, the "Five Books of Moses" enlighten us for eight verses after Moshe dies.

The above all having been said, my feeling is that -- although G-d is "multi-lingual" -- He "prefers" Hebrew, both in language as well as regarding weights and measures. If He wanted to "jockey" history to make the number of this group reflect (no pun intended) the speed of light, He would have done so in terms of "amot per rega," or something like that.

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