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I will be blogging about numbers this month, dealing with systems that are new to me, such as Pythagorean or Western numerology, and those I am somewhat more familiar with (Hebrew Gematria). I thought that it might be interesting to comment on the difference between these two very important systems as I understand them.

First of all, what do Western numerology and Gematria have in common? They are both numerical, of course, associating predefined key concepts with specific numerical values. Both are also frequently spiritual or metaphysical in their interpretations. Number values are arrived at through reduction (adding) in each system, though three difference methods of calculation (absolute, ordinal and reduced) may be employed in Gematria.

Western numerology, as I understand it, has a somewhat less direct association to language than is found in Gematria. In Hebrew, letters are numbers and numbers are letters. There is no separation or difference in characters. And while Western numerology assigns numbers to the letters of the alphabet, there seems to be less emphasis on the numerical value of words than in Gematria or this is my observation at the outset of this series.

There are individual differences in assignment of numbers to the respective alphabets as well. The Hebrew alef-bet (alef and bet are the first and second letters of the Hebrew alphabet) employs both different numerical assignments to letters, as well the addition of special values for final or soffit letters (which do not occur in the English alphabet). Additionally, Gematria traditionally focuses on religious associations while Western numerology focuses on various interpretations, many of which relate to individual character or destiny.

Specific Hebrew words have relatively well known numerical significance and context. The word ahava (אהבה ) or love for example has a value of 13. Kabbalah speaks of the 13 petalled rose. Maimonides, an important Jewish religious thinker, formulated 13 principles of faith and Judaism identifies 13 qualities of divine compassion. 13 is also the Gematria of the Hebrew word echad (one) which is closely associated with God. The name Micha’el (מִיכָאֵל), as in the archangel Michael, appears only 13 times in the Tanach or Hebrew Bible. Micha’el is the angel of loving-kindness. Synchronicities such as this abound.

Jews may employ Gematria in naming and while this may occur in Western numerology I suspect it is less prevalent. I choose the name Miriam for my Hebrew name because it has a value of 13 and because I felt a special affinity to the number 13 due to an experience of this number in dream.

Gematria has, for me, a mostly religious application while Western numerology seems especially well suited to personal contemplation, prediction and an understanding of individual life path and character. The number of my birth date in Western numerology reduces to seven which is an important number in terms of metaphysics and learning and I consider these associations not only accurate but validating (as I feel a strong tie to both metaphysics and study). I have never calculated the Gematria of my Hebrew birth date of Av 25, 5717, however, and am not entirely sure how to do so. Dates in the Hebrew calendar are more frequently associated with history than numbers in my experience.

I find both these systems and their differences fascinating and will be exploring each, separately, in upcoming articles.

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  1. I know the hebrew numerology also is tied to data mining by some tora study institutes that employ powerful computers to find patterns in the scripture and derive meaning from it.

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  2. I have read a little about this - specifically about how Michael Drosnin (the author of The Bible Code) evidently did warn Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin of a possible attack on his life shortly before Rabin fell to an assassin's bullet in 1995. I have not read the book and don't know a lot about this line of study but it does sound interesting. Thanks for commenting!

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