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The significance of the number 40 Judaism

Introduction to Gematria

Numbers play a very significant part in Torah interpretation. As we know,

the numerical value of words (called “Gematria”) establishes connections

between them and their verses, and teaches us incredible depth in understanding

Torah. It’s written in the Zohar that the entire Creation is codified in the Torah

very much like a computer software uses a programming language to run.

For those who don’t know, the letters in the Hebrew Aleph Beit (alphabet)

have each a numerical value as the table below (from Wikipedia) shows:

Each number represents a measure of a creative force that’s present in the letter. When combined with other letters, it forms the life essence of the object the final word presents. And that force becomes manifested here in the physical world after the Kabbalistic process known as “Tzimtzum” (constriction).

So this opens up worlds upon worlds of insights we’d never have thought of before as we shall soon see.

The Number 40 in Gematria

The number 40, in particular has a truly special meaning and has been extensively used when it comes to praying. Many segulot consist of praying or reciting a certain text for 40 consecutive days. Why so?

Our sages teach us in the Talmud (Yevamot 69b) that up until 40 days from conception an embryo is considered “mere water”. After this period, it is resembling a human and can even be recognized as being male or female. Based on that, they also teach that 40 days is the time limit couples have to pray that it will be this or that gender. After that, every prayer in that regard is considered a “vain prayer.”

Other important events are also related to the number 40. For example, Moshe Rabbenu also stayed 40 days in Mount Sinai to receive the Torah and a Mikvah must contain the measure of 40 Se’ah in order to be valid to purify a woman from her Niddah state.

As you saw in the table above, 40 is the numerical value of the letter “Mem”, which is representative of the word “Mayim” (Water). We can have a better grasp of why the sages say that up until 40 days the embryo is considered mere water.

40 is thus associated with transformation and building up of a new reality, from the flowing state of water to concrete formation.

A Primer on How Prayer Works

The effects prayers have in the higher worlds have a similar structure to the development of a child. In essence, what we are trying to achieve is the same thing: to “give birth” to a new reality. As we covered in previous articles, Hashem created the world in such a way that requires our Prayer. Prayers can be strong or weak and can depend on a variety of factors in order to achieve the effect we want.

This dispels a very common misconception people hold. Prayers need power to be heard. True, Hashem obviously knows what each and everyone prays and could, in all technical sense, fulfill it… without us even praying!

But our world is structured in such a way that we need to make an effort into building up this new reality. So the merits of the person praying, his concentration, the merits of his forefathers, of the time, of the year, of his company, the place he’s praying in… literally everything has an effect, either positive or otherwise, in the impression this prayer is supposed to make! Hashem makes it so because, as our sages teach, Rachmana Liba Ba’ei (the Merciful one desires the heart), which obviously also means that we need to pour down our soul to Him. And the more we do, the stronger the impression.

But there’s more!

R’ Natan of Nemirov, the main disciple of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov already revealed to us that anyone who wants any of his prayers to be heard, should endeavor to say them straight for 40 days. When this happens, there’s a very powerful impression done in Heaven and the chance that Hashem will hear your prayer increases by a lot.

Based on this, many segulot, such as Tikkun Haklali, Perek Shira and Shirat HaYam (Az Yashir) have throughout the ages been prayed for 40 days straight by people in need of salvation. These segulot and prayers have been tried extensively and proven true, helping people in the most difficult of situations.

It’s unclear though the precise reason why 40 days of prayer work better. Some say it can be attributed to Noach. When the waters had ceases to pour down from Heaven after 40 days, Noach peeked out of the Ark to see what the world had been transformed into. In this case, the waters have ceased purifying the polluted earth and completed their process.

The Zohar explains to us that the holy divine name Y-H-V-H has 4 main expansions, in different Gematria values, corresponding that enliven the 4 spiritual worlds Assiyah, Yetzirah, Beriyah and Atzilut. The respective value of them are 52, 45, 63 and 72. The highest one (of 72) is יוד הי ויו הי , corresponding to the world of Atzilut, and as one can see, it has 4 Yods which correspond to Chokhmah (Wisdom). These 4 Yods are the life force of that name as the verse in Proverbs teach: And Wisdom will enliven its owner.

We see then that transformation comes from these 4 Yods, which together has numerical value of 40. We derive from this a powerful lesson that transformation comes only with true wisdom and starts from within.

And that’s what what Emuna Builders is looking to do: to help people all over the world through our Prayers! Join Emunah Builders in one of our 40-day challenges for Tikkun HaKlali, Perek Shirah, Az Yashir, Nishmat Kol Chai, Song of Songs and see for yourself the wondrous impressions we can cause!

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This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue in spreading emuna!

Help us spread Emuna in Israel and throughout the world by becoming a partner!

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