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馃敆 Gematria

馃敆 Judaism 馃敆 Writing systems 馃敆 Kabbalah

Gematria (; Hebrew: 讙诪讟专讬讗 or gimatria 讙讬诪讟专讬讛, plural 讙诪讟专讗讜转 or 讙讬诪讟专讬讗讜转, gimatriot) is the practice of assigning a numerical value to a name, word or phrase by reading it as a number, or sometimes by using an alphanumerical cipher. The letters of the alphabets involved have standard numerical values, but a word can yield several values if a cipher is used.

According to Aristotle (384鈥322 BCE), isopsephy, based on the Milesian numbering of the Greek alphabet developed in the Greek city of Miletus, was part of the Pythagorean tradition, which originated in the 6th century BCE. The first evidence of use of Hebrew letters as numbers dates to 78 BCE; gematria is still used in Jewish culture. Similar systems have been used in other languages and cultures, derived from or inspired by either Greek isopsephy or Hebrew gematria, and include Arabic abjad numerals and English gematria.

The most common form of Hebrew gematria is used in the Talmud and Midrash, and elaborately by many post-Talmudic commentators. It involves reading words and sentences as numbers, assigning numerical instead of phonetic value to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. When read as numbers, they can be compared and contrasted with other words or phrases聽鈥 cf. the Hebrew proverb 谞讻谞住聽讬讬谉聽讬爪讗聽住讜讚 (nichnas聽yayin聽yatza聽sod, lit.'wine entered, secret went out', i.e. "in vino veritas"). The gematric value of 讬讬谉 ('wine') is 70 (=10; =10; =50) and this is also the gematric value of 住讜讚 ('secret', =60; =6; =4)鈥.

Although a type of gematria system ('Aru') was employed by the ancient Babylonian culture, their writing script was logographic, and the numerical assignments they made were to whole words. Aru was very different from the Milesian systems used by Greek and Hebrew cultures, which used alphabetic writing scripts. The value of words with Aru were assigned in an entirely arbitrary manner and correspondences were made through tables, and so cannot be considered a true form of gematria.

Gematria sums can involve single words, or a string of lengthy calculations. A short example of Hebrew numerology that uses gematria is the word 讞讬 (chai, lit.'alive'), which is composed of two letters that (using the assignments in the mispar gadol table shown below) add up to 18. This has made 18 a "lucky number" among the Jewish people. Donations of money in multiples of 18 are very popular.

In early Jewish sources, the term can also refer to other forms of calculation or letter manipulation, for example atbash.

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