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Meah Shearim

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Topic: Jerusalem Neighborhood: Meah Shearim

Stephanie from Tomelilla, Sweden wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What is Meah Shearim?

Dear Stephanie,

Meah Shearim is the name of a Jerusalem neighborhood about a ten minute walk from where I am sitting!

"Meah Shearim" means "a hundred-fold" or "a hundred gates." It is one of the oldest Jerusalem neighborhoods outside the walls of the old city, founded by devoutly orthodox Jews in the 19th century.

It was originally settled by just over 100 families who signed up to be part of the new "colony," and they took the name "Meah Shearim" from the weekly Torah reading. The signing occurred during "Parshat Toldot," the week when the Torah portion read in synagogues tells of Isaac's great success: "He planted in that land and found in that (famine) year a hundred-fold (of the estimated produce), for G-d had blessed him." (Genesis 26) Thus, the place was named Meah Shearim, indicating Divine blessing 100 times the expected.

This name was also chosen due to the founders' awareness of kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. The numerical value of the words Meah Shearim equals 666, which has esoteric and kabbalistic meaning in Judaism, as indicated by the Vilna Gaon in his commentary to the Zohar.

Stephanie, thank you for your question! Because of it, I was able to learn some fascinating new insights into a neighborhood which I can see from my window.

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