Columns - 2015

    By any other number

    Numbers are integral to Judaism. The times that they come up as significant in Jewish tradition have no equal. Additionally, there's even a book of the Torah called "Numbers."

    It's no surprise how important they are to a people who so often find themselves divided.

    When Judaism gets self-interested in numbers -- outside of accounting offices -- it often circles around certain Greatest Hits numbers. Almost several of you can name numerous significances attached to seven, ten, twelve, thirteen, eighteen, forty, seventy, one hundred twenty, and 1969 (#LetsGoMets).

    However, it is timely to explore the Judaic importance of the oft-ignored number twenty-five.

    Judaism sometimes enjoys the multipliers of significant numbers along with the numbers themselves. For example, eighteen is significant as the numerical equivalent of "chai" (the life, not the tea), but people often denote (or donate) in double-chai, triple-chai, or chai plus zeroes at the end.

    With that in mind, twenty-five has two significant multipliers: Holidays. Add up all major, minor, and modern Jewish holidays, and add one day for all the Rosh Chodeshes. The result is fifty (twenty-five times two) holy days in the year.

    Similarly, take the forty-nine days of the Omer, add the first day of Shavuot (which the Omer leads up to)... fifty. (Still twenty-five times two. Hasn't changed since the last paragraph. Even using Common Core math.)

    Ignoring the multipliers, there are three significant significances of twenty-five in Judaism today.


    No, the world was not created in twenty-five days. 25 is the day in the month of Elul upon which Creation began. Falling nearly a week before Rosh Hashanah, most people don't notice this day every year, because they're too busy cramming in transgressions so they'll have something for which to atone on Yom Kippur.

    How can we know that this was really the day when Creation started? It was recently confirmed when archaeologists unearthed a well-preserved sheet evidently torn off from an ancient calendar on which was printed "Elul 25" along with a handwritten notation of two words, "heavens" and "earth," each followed by a checkmark.

    Of course, it's ironic that Creation began on a Sunday, but the sun was created later, and that starting on Sunday meant Tuesday was actually day three, and not day two.

    But why didn't Creation start on the first day of the month? In the history of the universe, no construction project is known to have started on schedule.


    No, Chanukkah does not last twenty-five days. Though if it did, counting the number of candles needed would be a good lesson in factorials. 25 is the day in the month of Kislev that begins the festival of Hanukkah, a holiday with 25 different spellings in the English language. (See if you can figure out all 25!)

    This festival of lights and of light gift-giving involves the eating of, on average, twenty-five latkes every December. It sometimes also leads to the eating of twenty-five sufganiyot, which is followed by a twenty-five percent boost in Krispy Kreme stock, and the consumption of roughly twenty-five Alka Seltzers per person.

    Twenty-five is also the average number of dreidels purchased over the years by the average Jewish household, due to some being chewed, chased under couches by pets, broken, or thrown at siblings who obviously cheated at the game.


    No, there are not twenty-five square yards of branches covering a typical sukkah. 25 is the number of years that Southern Jewish Life (nee The Southern Shofar, then re-nee'med Deep South Jewish Voice) has covered Jewish news, both local and abroad, in the Deep South region.

    Twenty-five years since the creation of this gift to the region brings together these three twenty-fives in their Judaic significance. Tying them together in this way, in this column makes perfect sense because, as many Jewish comedians will attest, comedy works in threes.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who has written for Southern Jewish Life since 1996. In six years, this column will catch up to being just as old as the magazine. In unrelated news, his high school is revisiting his math grades. For past columns, other writings, and more, visit For exclusive online content, follow

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.