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Pirkei Avot 5:1: The Secret of Ten

The world was created with ten utterances. What does this come to teach us? Certainly, it could have been created with a single utterance. However, this is in order to make the wicked accountable for destroying a world that was created with ten utterances, and to reward the righteous for sustaining a world that was created with ten utterances. (Pirkei Avot 5:1)

The number ten holds significant importance. Aside from the tens mentioned in this mishnah, there are many other instances of ten in the Torah, such as the Ten Commandments and the principle that "the tenth shall be holy." It is said that "where ten sit and study the Torah, the Divine Presence rests among them," and therefore "nothing holy is constituted with fewer than ten." In the inner dimension of the Torah, the most fundamental structure is the ten sefirot. The number ten also appears in the human body (created "in the image of God") in the fingers and toes.

The "Torah of Numbers" is a fundamental aspect of creation. God created the world using numbers (which is the 'language' of the natural sciences), with the numbers from one to ten being the foundational elements. Numbers are not just a quantitative matter; each number has its own unique quality. It is no coincidence that we count using the decimal system, as explained in the Torah. This is not an arbitrary invention to enable counting on fingers… On the contrary, since God created His world with the number ten, like the ten utterances, that is why we have ten fingers!

The phrase "בעשרה מאמרות נברא העולם" (the world was created with ten utterances) forms an acronym from the first letters of each word spelling "מבנה" (structure) and from the last letters spelling "האמת" (the truth), signifying that the number ten is the 'structure of truth' of the entire reality[1]. As "there is no truth but the Torah"—the truth of the world is found in the Torah, for "God looked into the Torah and created the world."

The number ten represents completeness and unity, as ten returns to one—a single unit composed of ten parts. However, while one represents simple unity, ten symbolizes the culmination of numbers that return and unite. Thus, one becomes ten, one hundred, and one thousand. The numerical allusion is in the full spelling of ten, "עשר" (ayin, shin, reish) which equals 1000, or 10 raised to the power of 3.

The tenth letter is yud (י). In its form, yud expresses unity as it appears as a 'point.' It constitutes the beginning of the drawing of all letters. Yud is the first letter in the Tetragrammaton (י-ה-ו-ה). There are four letters in this Name, but the four becomes ten: one plus two plus three plus four equals ten ("a simple song, a double song, a triple song, a quadruple song"). Similarly, when 'filling' the name of God, it develops into 10 letters: יוד הא ואו הא.


[1] The phrase "מבנה האמת" (structure of truth) equates to "אהיה אשר אהיה" (I Am That I Am), which represents both God’s Name of redemption and the Name associated with the birth of the nation of Israel. The mathematical square of "אהיה" (Ehyeh) equals "אמת" (truth), as is known.

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