Numbers in the Seder

Numbers have special significance in Judaism. Nowhere in our tradition is this clearer than in the Seder ritual.
In the Seder we have one, two, three, four, and five. Why? What do these numbers mean to us? What else could they mean?


One baby goat or kid (Cha Gad Ya) to be sacrificed
One God

What else might “one” represent?


Two hand washes during the Seder
Dipping vegetables twice in the salt water
Two bodies of water, the Red Sea and the Jordan River. Israelites crossed two bodies of water, Red Sea and Jordan River, during the story of Exodus

What else might “two” represent?

Could dipping vegetables twice in salt water suggest that the first “dip” is to cleanse yourself of Slavery to reach the Wilderness, and the second, cleansing in the Wilderness to prepare for Freedom in the Promised Land?


Three pieces of Matzo
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, The Three Patriarchs.
Isaac was to be Abraham’s sacrifice (like the Affikoman)
Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel, the three Matriarchs
Past, Present, and Future

“Past is History, Future is Mystery, All we have is now, which is why it is called a Present”

Slavery, Wilderness, and Freedom in the Promised Land
(Mitzraim, Midbar, Eretz Zavat Chalav U’dvash)

What else might three mean?


Four Cups of Wine
Four Questions
Four Sons
Four Seasons
Four holidays: Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, and Succoth
Four Directions “Seeing in 360 degrees”

When God spoke to Abram and made a covenant with him, he asked him to look in all four directions, North, South, East, and West.

North, South, East, West
Genesis 13:14, p. 23 JPS

And the Lord said to Abram, “Raise your eyes and look out from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west for I give all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever.”

North – Ziphon (Hidden)
South – Negbah, (Dry Parched) came from slavery
East – Kedem, Beginning
West – Yama, Sea Full of life
The Four Rivers of the Garden of Eden: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates

What else might four mean?


Five books of Torah
Five women prophetesses

Miriam – Exodus 15:20, p. 146 JPS
“Then Miriam the Prophetess”

Deborah – Judges 4:4, p. 520 JPS
“Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was a prophetess; she led Israel at the time”

Huldah – 2 Kings 22:14, p. 832 JPS
“And Asaihah went to the Prophetess Huldah…”

Isaiah’s Wife – Isaiah 8:3, p. 861 JPS
“…with the Prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son, and the Lord said to me (Isaiah)”

Noahdiah – Nehemiah 6:14, p. JPS
“Noadiah the prophetess…”

What else might five mean?

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