Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Number Thirteen in Judaism

Question: An ecumenical organization in our community is planning a Spring holiday event on April 13, and the Jewish part of the program will be a model seder. They would like to mention the significance of the number thirteen in connection with Passover, since the event is taking place on the 13th of the month. What should I tell them? Answer: The number thirteen has few connections to Passover and the seder. A notable exception is the Ehad Mi Yodea (Who Knows One) song traditionally sung at the end of the Seder. This song has thirteen stanzas and the thirteenth stanza proclaims there are thirteen attributes of God. The full text of God's thirteen attributes are recited during specific prayers over the course of the year, including during Yom Kippur, other fast days, and on the three Pilgrimage Festivals (Passover being one of these festivals). The number thirteen has a few other connections to Judaism in general, not specifically Passover: A boy becomes Bar Mitzvah at age thirteen. Maimonides summarized Jewish belief in his Thirteen Articles of Faith. In Ashkenazi tradition, the Yigdal hymn of 13 verses (based on Maimonides' Thirteen Articles of Faith) is recited during daily prayers. The ancient sage, Rabbi Ishmael, organized Biblical analysis into 13 Rules of Interpretation.

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