There are no numerals in ancient Hebrew. Therefore, numerical values are represented by letters. (This is similar to Roman numerals, which use letters instead of numerical symbols to express numbers.) Every letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a corresponding numerical value:
Thus every word in Hebrew has a numerical as well as a linguistic value. And so in Jewish tradition, in addition to looking for linguistic connections between Hebrew words we look for numerical connections as well. This form of interpretation is known as Gematria. Since the Hebrew letters have intrinsic numeric value, Gematria looks for words and terms that share numerical values, and then playfully derives additional meanings and connections between the numerically equivalent words and phrases.
For example, one of the Hebrew names for God, Elohim אלהים, has a numerical value of 86. (You can use the chart above to figure it out!) The Hebrew term for “the natural world”, Ha’teva הטבע, is also 86. Hence our tradition teaches that “the natural world” is also a name of God, or that God and the Natural World (i.e. Creation) are one!
Following this Jewish practice, while in English we write the incoming Jewish year as 5775, in Hebrew we write it as תשע׳ה: ת=400 + ש=300 + ע=70 + ה=5, totaling 775. (The 5,000 column is usually not notated, but when it is it is represented by a the letter ה again. More on that below.)
The letters that represent the Jewish year also combine and permute to make many different words and phrases. Perhaps, inherent in any given Jewish year are directives and reminders to us about the important values upon which to focus in that year.
This has been my seriously playful assumption for the past 30 years, and every year I seek gematria connections that will help guide me as I prepare for the New Year. Below you will find some of the words and phrases that are the numerical equal of the incoming Jewish Year. If you wish, take time and reflect on them, letting the implication of each phrase unfold for you. Choose one or more words and phrases that speak to you, and carry them with you as intentions to carry forward into the new year.
The letters that make up the incoming Jewish year happen to also spell an actual word, “Tish’eh”, which means “turn towards, gaze at, regard, pay heed, consider, observe, notice, look about.” It is in the second person singular, as a command: “hey you, pay heed!” or as future tense: “you will pay heed.”*
The other way the Jewish year is written is ה’תשעה. The additional ה represents 5,000. The word these letters form is “Ha’tish’eh”, which is interrogative: “Will you pay heed?”
If we rearrange the letters, this year spells “Ta’aseh”, which means “make, do”. It too is in the second person singular, as a command, e.g. “Ta’aseh shalom!” – “Make peace!”, or as future tense, “You will make peace.” “Ta’aseh” – “you will make” – appears over 100 times in the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, from “Noah, make an ark” to “Moses, make Me a sanctuary” to “Do what is right and good.”
“Ha’ta’aseh?” means “Will you do?” or “will you make?”
Yet another anagram yields “Sha’atah”, which in Aramaic means “at that very moment.”**
I am especially taken with these words as instructions for how to live: תִשְעֶה – pay attention, תַעֲשֶׂה – take action, שַעֲתָה – at this moment. This year, I want to pay attention thoughtfully and carefully to what is going on around me, choose my actions accordingly, and act without procrastinating.
Here are some other words from Tanach with the value of 775:
Tishkona means “will take shelter” or “will dwell in safety”
Here is the entire verse from Ezekiel 17:23:
“I will plant [this twig] in Israel’s lofty highlands, and it shall bring forth boughs and produce branches and grow into a noble cedar; Every bird of every feather shall take shelter under it, shelter in the shade of its boughs.”
L’hitro’ayah (Proverbs 18:24) means “to befriend”, or “keep company”.
V’nishtachaveh (Genesis 22:5) means “we will worship” or more literally “we will bow low”, or “we will prostrate ourselves”.
V’hoshovtim (Zecharia 10:6) means “I will bring them back” or “I will restore them”.
The entire phrase is “V’hoshovtim ki ri-cham-tim” – “I will bring them back, because I have compassion upon them.”
And some phrases:
כִי בְחֹזֶק יָד הוצִיאָנו יהוה מִמִצְרָיִם=775
Ki b’chozek yad hotzianu YHVH mimitzrayim (Exodus 13:16)
With a mighty hand Life Unfolding freed us from Mitzrayim
These are the very last words of Parshat Bo, which instructs us to celebrate our liberation at Passover.
He’elah neroteha (Numbers 8:3)
He raised the lights or He lighted the lamps
Aaron the High Priest is instructed to light the seven-branched menorah
הִיא נִפְלָאת בְעֵינֵינו=775
Hi niflaat b’eyneynu (Psalm 118:23)
It is wondrous in our eyes
“All this is YHVH’s doing – it is wondrous in our eyes! This is the day that YHVH has made, let us be glad and rejoice this day.”
*”Tish’eh” appears in Job 7:19 in the negative form, as he rails against God: “Kamah lo tish’eh mimeni?” – “Will you not look away from me for a while?” As in, “Just leave me alone!”
**In the Book of Daniel we encounter “sha’atah” during two separate famous episodes: when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to bow down to an idol and are thrown by King Nebuchadnezzar into a fiery furnace, which they miraculously survive unscathed; and when a human hand mysteriously appears and writes words on the wall of the king’s throne room, declaring his impending doom. (Hence the saying “the handwriting on the wall.) Interestingly, the Gematria search turns up another famous Daniel reference: “L’shayzavutech” – לשיזבותך – equals 775, and means “to save you.” The King has sent Daniel to spend a night in the lions’ den, and in the morning the king calls out to Daniel “Was your God able to save you?” Of course, Daniel has been saved.