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Topic: 20, Symbolism; Reader Responses

Final Edition of
"Who Knows . . . ?"

For several weeks, we've asked:
"In the song at the end of the Pesach Seder we describe the significance of the numbers from one to 13 as they relate to Jewish life and thought: "Three are the fathers, Four are the Mothers...12 are the Tribes of Israel..." What about the next 13 numbers? And after those? What significance do they have in Jewish tradition?"

Here is the "final" installment of readers' answers:

13 are the midot (attributes) of Hashem. Being that Hashem is omniscient, omnipresent, etc., His midot seem to be inclusive of everything beyond what is part of the song. Furthermore, the song begins with Hashem ("One is Hashem") and ends with Hashem (the 13 midot) so the whole song seems to be balanced well. As for the number 20 which you asked about, it says in Pirkei Avot that 20 is the age at which one begins to pursue (a career).

Hinda Kaplan, Brooklyn, NY

A complete set of Talmud is usually published in 20 volumes. Although a person becomes legally liable at 12 or 13 years of age, he is not really held fully accountable by G-d until age 20. If I remember correctly, Yaakov lived with Lavan for 20 years (7 years for Leah, 7 for Rachel, and 6 to earn his livelihood).

Haim [Howard] Roman, Jerusalem

20 planks on both the north and south sides of the Mishkan; 20 pieces of silver that Joseph was sold for by the brothers; 20 is the number at which people began to be counted for military service; 20 is the age at which a person suffers heavenly punishment.

Stephen Friedman

20 amot is maximum height for Chanuka menorah, succah, and mavoi.


The Public Domain
Comments, quibbles, and reactions concerning previous "Ask-the-Rabbi" features.

Re: MACHINES AND MASHIACH: (Ask the Rabbi #280)

In the Parshas Korach issue, you responded to a reader that in messianic times you hope that the internet will be used for good things. I strongly take issue. You are implying that today, in pre-messianic times, the internet is not used for good things. That is patently false. You should be informed that there are many excellent sites on the web today, and if you don't believe me you have obviously never heard of a web site called "Ohrnet." Indignantly,

Peretz Moncharsh

Ohrnet Responds: Thanks for the mean the compliment!

Re: HAVA NAGILAH: (Ask the Rabbi #280)

You wrote: "Hava Nagilah was composed by Klausenberg Chassidim."

This isn't accurate. It was a Radomsker version of Yismichu B'malchuskha, a Shabbat song. It was composed by an unknown Radomsker Chassid between 100 and 150 years ago.

Ron Silver

Written by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer, Rabbi Reuven Subar, Rabbi Mordecai Becher, Rabbi Baruch Rappaport, Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, Rabbi Moshe Yossef and other Rabbis at Ohr Somayach Institutions / Tanenbaum College, Jerusalem, Israel.

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