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Seven Heads, Seven Dead

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 8/12/2019

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Seven Heads, Seven Dead

The Gemara[1] tells of a story of a dangerous demon that was in the Beis Midrash of Abaye. R’ Acha Bar Yaakov was in town and no one invited him thereby forcing him to sleep in this Beis Midrash. The demon appeared to him as a seven-headed snake.[2] With each of his seven bows, a head fell off. We are left to wonder how he knew to bow seven times to kill the seven-headed snake?


Yitzchak gave eight Brachos.[3] The number 26 represents Bracha since this is the numerical value of Hashem’s name י-ה-ו-ה. If we multiply 26 by 8 (Brachos) our result is 208. This is the numerical value of יצחק, alluding to the eight Brachos he gave. Yaakov received seven of those Brachos and Esav received one. If we multiply 26 by 7 (Brachos) we arrive at 182, the same sum as [4]יעקב, as this is how many Brachos he received.


Corresponding to Yaakov’s seven levels of Kedusha, Esav had seven levels of impurity (טומאה). This is in accordance with ואלכה לנגדך, I will go alongside you[5]—what Yaakov possessed in Kedusha, Esav had in impurity. With each time Yaakov bowed, one level of impurity was removed was Esav. How many times did Yaakov bow to Esav? Seven.[6]


The sum of the word טמא is 50. Multiplying 7 by 50, we come to 350. Esav received one Bracha from his father. Therefore, 350 and 26 gives us a total of 376—the same Gematria as עשו. The Pasuk tells us Yaakov bowed seven times עד אחיו, until he reached his brother. Another interpretation is that through these bowings, Esav was now like a brother to him, since with Yaakov bowing seven times, the seven levels of impurity of Esav were removed.[7] This now left Esav with that one Bracha. It comes as no surprise that the Gematria of אחיו is 26 (symbolizing the one Bracha that remained).[8] In light of this we can understand why in the next Pasuk Esav ran toward Yaakov and hugged and kissed him,[9] since all that remained in Esav was love because his impurity was removed. Now we can appreciate the wordsשבע יפול צדיק וקם-[10] Yaakov bowed seven times to Esav (שבע יפול צדיק) and then overcame him (וקם)!   


R’ Acha Bar Yaakov learned from Yaakov how to kill the seven-headed demon. He is hinted to here inיש לי רב אחי,[11] as this is a reference to ר' אחא. Is it any coincidence that his name was ר' אחא בר יעקב, as he learned this from Yaakov.

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Kidushin 29b.

[2] The Maharsha there says these are the seven powers of impurity that the Nachash brought to the world.  

[3] See Breishis 27:37, Rashi.

[4] Moreover, Yaakov lived until 147. 147 is 7 multiplied by Hashem’s name אהי-ה.

[5] 33:12. See Chagiga 5b. This follows the concept of זה לעמת זה עשה האלה-ים (Koheles 7:14)—Hashem created each thing and its contrast.

[6] Breishis 33:3.

[7] Sefer Hamakneh, Kidushin 29b. The seventh Bracha wasהן גביר..., I have made him a lord over you… (Breishis 27:37, Rashi)—Malchus. With this we can graspועלו מושעים בהר ציון...המלוכה, and saviors will ascend Mount Tzion to judge the mountain of Esav, and the kingdom will be Hashem’s (Ovadia 1:21). ציון, which has a Gematria of 156,  is 6 multiplied by י-ה-ו-ה. Then והיתה לה' המלוכה, the seventh Bracha, Malchus.

[8] With the Kollel (including the word itself). The reason why we can include the word itself in Gematria is it is just as a product has different ingredients and once we have all those ingredients together it forms something new—the product itself. Similarly, a word is composed of letters and once we have the letters put together we have something new—the word itself (Shabbos Malkisa, p. 24).

[9] The Pasuk states ויאמר הכי קרא שמו יעקב ויעקבני..., it is because his name was called Yaakov that he outwitted me twice—he took away my birthright and my blessing (Breishis 27:36). The first letters of these words spell וישקהו, he kissed him (Breishis 33:4). This is because the reason Esav didn’t kiss Yaakov with a full heart was due to that Yaakov took the Bechora.

[10] Mishlei 24:16.

[11] Breishis 33:9.

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