This week’s Parsha, is chock full of numbers and activity. For a mathematician, it is a delight.
When Yaakov is tired and needs a pillow, he takes a bunch of rocks and puts them under his head. How many rocks did he use? Rabi Yehuda says there were twelve, alluding to the twelve Shevatim. Rabi Nechemya says there were three, a reference to the three basic tenets on which the world exists: Torah, Avoda, and Gemilut Chasadim.
Additionally, we learn from the words ˜Vayifga Bamakom Vayalen Sham” that Yaakov established Tefillat Arvit. There is an easy way to remember which of the Tefillot were established by the Avot. The second letter in each Av’s name indicates the Tefilla he founded: Avraham has a Bet for Boker (Shacharit); Yitzchak has a Tzady for Tzohorayim (Mincha); Yaakov has an Ayin for Erev (Maariv). There is also a hint to the Tefillot in Shema. Shin is for Shacharit, Mem is for Mincha, and Ayin is for Maariv.
Elsewhere in the Parsha where numbers play a prominent role is in Pasuk 12 where the Torah talks about the ladder, or Sulam, in Yaakov’s dream. In the Torah, the word Sulam is written without a Vav, and its Gematria is therefore 130, which is equivalent to Sinai (spelled Samech Yod Nun Yod). If one does a great deal of Gemilut Chasadim and has fine Ben Adam Lachavayro skills, he can ascend Sinai to receive the Torah. However, if, Chas Vishalom, a person is concerned only with himself, the Sulam may be written with a Vav, thereby having a Gematriah of 136, which is equal to Oni, poverty. Therefore, a ladder can be used to go up to receive the Torah or to descend to a level at which one is poor in his dedication to Hashem.
The final word of our Parsha lends itself to a nice Gematriah as well. Rashi says that the word Machanayim, camps, refers to the two camps of angels that traveled with Yaakov. The first camp of angels traveled with Yaakov outside of the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael while the second camp of angels traveled with Yaakov within the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael. The Gematriah of the word Machanayim is 148, the same as the number of Pesukim in Parshat Vayetzei.
Although these four insights on this week’s Parsha may seem separate from each other, they are rather closely connected to each other. Using numbers and hints in the Torah in order to find a deeper meaning in the text is a skill that is valuable for one’s understanding of the words of Hashem. The Gemara occasionally utilizes hints and numbers to clarify various Halachot and meanings of Pesukim. Therefore, when you encounter a Pasuk that contains numbers, try to discover an additional aspect of what the Torah is teaching.