Sevens

By RABBI JOSEPH PROUSER

In certain games of chance, the number seven is considered particularly lucky. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the number seven is a recurring feature. God rests on the seventh day, the culmination of creation. Noah brings seven pairs of pure animals onto the Ark. The Menorah at the heart of the Tabernacle (and, later, Temple) had seven branches.

The seventh year is marked as a Sabbatical; seven sabbatical cycles lead to the Jubilee year. Joshua led seven Israelite priests with seven blaring Shofars in seven circuits around Jericho before “the walls came tumbling down.” The central verse of Kaddish (sometimes thought of as the congregational response) is a seven-word statement of Divine praise. Seven suggests wholeness, thoroughness, holiness.

The fast of Tisha b’Av, the most doleful of days in the Jewish year, is followed by a series of seven Sabbaths punctuated by the Shva d’Nechemta: seven haftarot conveying messages of comfort… and leading directly to Rosh Hashanah.

We respond to the brokenness and tragedies represented by our darkest days by embracing the compassion and moral challenges of the prophetic tradition. Only then are we worthy… wholly and thoroughly prepared for our holiest season. Only then can we consider our hopes for atonement — and our aspirations for a fresh start — to be a good bet.

(Rabbi Joseph Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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