Who knows 10? The author of the 5th chapter of the Book of Avos certainly does!
The chapter opens with an impressive list showing how the number 10 recurs throughout the first two books of the Torah, setting the foundation of the Jewish people. The list includes:
Additionally we know that the number 10 makes many more appearances in Jewish life, such as:
What is the significance of the number 10? Why is it so prevalent? And what did the author want us to learn from this?
The mystics explain that the number 10 and the corresponding letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the letter Yud (which looks like this: י) represents the hidden spiritual dimension that permeates all of the physical world. While the single digit numbers represented the separate parts of the physical world, the number ten represents the uniting of separate parts into a single unit with a single purpose.
One can in fact see from the very shape of the letter Yud, that it is almost invisible, yet it is present in every single letter of the alphabet, just as the spiritual dimension is always there yet not always noticeable. The Hebrew letter yud has no separate parts; it is nothing more than a dot, since it represents absolute unity and harmony within a system.
With this in mind we can understand why the number 10 recurs in all of these instances:
One can truly appreciate, based on this, that Jewish people, whose task is to elevate all of mankind, are referred to as Yehudim (in Hebrew) or Yiddin (in Yiddish) which sounds awfully similar to the word YUD. It is through the spiritual service that we contribute to the world, that allows us to bring unity and harmony and ultimately reveal the hidden spiritual dimension that permeates the entire physical world.
So no matter where you are, who you are with, or how many people are around you, don’t forget, always be the number 10!