Who knows four?

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5 Responses

  1. Dovid Gross says:

    I believe your interpretation of Eched Mi Yodayah is ALMOST correct. You state correctly that the answer to the later numbers does in fact INCLUDE the earlier numbers (i.e., they are not merely sing-song repetitions). However, you say that is only because the later numbers build on the earlier numbers. It is is more than that. The answer to each is two fold, singular and unified. The singular answer is that the epitome of four is the Imahos. The unified answer is that there are four things that together represent the fourth level: 1) the Imahos, 2) the Avos, 3) the luchos, and 4) Hashem. That Hashem is last is because “shebichlal devorov divreichem” – the epitome of 4 is Hashem, because all four are merely further derivations of what we should see in Hashem.

    • micha says:

      I am not awake enough to think about the question of cardinal vs. ordinal numbers to see if I would agree.

      But it seems from what you’re saying that “arba imahos” wouldn’t require their actually being 4 imahos. Most see the set being counted is { Sarah, Rivqah, Racheil, Lei’ah }. You’re seeing it as { Hashem, Luchos, Avos, Imahos }. That set is of size four regardless of how many mothers the Jewish people had. The whole song no longer derives meaning from the number of each item.

      I was trying to play both sides of the fence. That Hashem made us via 4 imahos because the imahos represent 1 step beyond what the avos represent. Thus, the size of both sets, { Sarah, Rivqah, Racheil, Lei’ah } and { Hashem, Luchos, Avos, Imahos } are the same not through coincidence. And similarly for the number of chumashim matching the size of the set { Hashem, Luchos, Avos, Imahos, Chumashim }. It’s not coincidence, but because chumashim derive their meaning by being one step in a progression beyond imahos (redemption), which is one step beyond avos (free willed action), which is one step beyond luchos (realms of action), which is one more than HQBH (since until He created, there were no multiplicity of realms).



  2. Dovid Gross says:

    I think you misunderstood me. Broadly we agree, that there are two levels to each answer. For 11, we have the stars unto themselves, as an 11-count (cardinal) reference, or what I call the singular aspect of the answer. And there’s the ordinal aspect that the answer 11 includes 11 references – to stars, commandments, …, and Hashem. But you frame it as the ten predecessors being a precondition to the eleventh, while I frame it as a second set. Or, using set notation, you have cardinal {star1, star2, …, star11} and ordinal {11-stars-that-rest-upon{10-commandments-that-rest-upon{9-….}}}}}}}}}}}, whereas I have cardinal set {star1, star2, …, star11} and ordinal set {11-stars, 10-commandments, …, 1-Hashem}.

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