The numeral seven has multiple associations in biblical and talmudic literature, and in Jewish culture in general. The Hebrew rootword for seven, (sh-v-´┐Ża), works its way into countless familiar Hebrew expressions and terminologies.

* At the Jewish wedding ceremony (sheva berakhot), seven blessings, are recited under the marriage canopy, and repeated for seven evenings;[1]
* The Talmud refers to the seven commandments which comprise the universal moral code as (sheva mizvot bnei noah), the seven commandments of the sons of Noah;[2]
* The Talmud refers to the seven commandments which comprise the universal moral code as (sheva mizvot bnei noah), the seven commandments of the sons of Noah;[2]

* The prayer recited Friday evenings in the synagogue which includes the seven principal blessings found in the lengthier weekday Amidah prayer is known as (mei'in sheva);[3]

* The seven species of produce with which the Land of Israel are blessed are known as (shivat ha-minim).[4]

* The seventh sabbatical year, during which the land must lie fallow and at the end of which all debts are remitted, in known both as shemittah and as (shenat ha-sheva), the seventh year.[5]

Jewish tradition calls for a seven-day mourning period beginning immediately after the funeral. This period is known a(shiv'a), literally seven. We say that a mourner (yashav shiv'a), he sat [at home mourning] for seven days; the popular English usage, "he sat shiva", is based on the Yiddish. According to Jewish religious law, one observes shiv'a for only(shivat kerovim), seven relatives: spouse, father, mother, sister, brother, son and daughter.[6]

The expression (shiv'a medorei geihinom) refers to the seven stages of hell through which (according to legend) sinners must pass, suffering a different punishment in each.[7] In describing the intense hardship or many troubles someone has been suffering, one might say in Hebrew that that person has been through (shiv'a medorei geihinom), the seven stages of hell.

In many Hebrew expressions, "seven" is used in exaggeration:

(al ta'amen bo, ki sheva to'eivot b'libo), "Do not trust [an enemy], for seven abominations are in his mind"[8]; or, (Be'sheva aynayim tabit, v'titbonen el kol ha'nasah bah), "With seven eyes, look and observe all that is being done..."[9]

Rabbinic literature favors categorizing things by number ("upon three things the world stands..."). In the "seven" department, we have such expressions as:

* (shiv'a devarim b'golem, v'shiv'a be-haham), Seven things characterize a boorish man and seven a wise man..."[10] (curious?)

* (shiv'a devarim mekhusim mi'bnei adam), Seven things are hidden from man..."[11] (curious?)

* (shiv'a shemot yesh lo la'yezer hara), The evil inclination has seven names..."[12] (curious?)

In conclusion we bring you a challenge: Can any of our readers write the two-letter Hebrew word "Noah" incorrectly – SEVEN different ways incorrect?? The expression (hu kotev "noah" b'sheva she'giot), He writes the word "Noah" with seven errors, is a humorous description of a person whose writing is filled with the grossest of errors.

Wishing you all a wonderful Festival of the Seven Weeks --
Shavuot of course.

footnotes [1] BT Keubbot 8a [back]
[2] BT Sanhedrin 66a [back]
[3] Rashi, BT Shabbat 24b [back]
[4] Mishnah Bikkurim 1:3 [back]
[5] Deut. 15:9 [back]
[6] BT Moed Katan 20b [back]
[7] BT Sota 10b [back]
[8] Proverbs 26:25 [back]
[9] S.Y. Agnon, Bride [back]
[10] Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) 5:10 [back]
[11] BT Pesahim 54b [back]
[12] BT Sukkah 52a [back]
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