There’s a popular Passover song called, “Who Knows One?” I’ve been hearing it sung a lot lately due to the many “Model Seders” that are happening at The Davis Academy in anticipation of the upcoming holiday. In that spirit, I want to offer a quick glimpse at the meaning of the song.
The song itself is a list. It goes from 1 to 13. Each number is matched with an appropriate concept or theme from Jewish tradition which makes sense for that particular number. It begins at 1 and adds a number each time, growing in length until all 13 concepts are recited. Here they are:
1. God 2. The Tablets of the Covenant. 3. The Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). 4. The Matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel). 5. The Five Books of the Torah (Pentateuch). 6. The Six Orders of the Mishnah (early collection of Jewish law and teaching, 2nd century CE). 7. Days of the week. 8. Days from the birth of a baby boy until circumcision. 9. Months from conception until birth. 10. The Ten Commandments. 11. The stars in Joseph’s Dream (see Genesis 37:9). 12. The Twelve Tribes of Israel. 13. The Thirteen Attributes of God (See Exodus 34:6-7).
On the one hand, these 13 different items may have been chosen simply because they lined up numerically. On the other hand, they may have been chosen with great care, intention, and maybe even some subtle spiritual significance. I’ll leave it to you to reflect on whether you think it’s more about the numbers or whether there are other, less visible, threads that weave these 13 different concepts together.