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Vayechi: The Mystery of the 153 Fish

Updated: Jul 4

“If the Evangelist has some symbolism in mind connected with the number 153, he has hidden it well.” D.A. Carson, Biblical Commentator

2000 year old boat discovered in the Sea of Galilee
2000 year old boat discovered in the Sea of Galilee

In 1986, there was a severe drought in the Sea of Galilee. When the water levels dropped significantly, two fishermen, Moshe and Yuval Lufan discovered something incredible: the remains of a fishing boat from the 1st Century. After days of excavation and careful treatment, the 27 foot long, 7.5 foot wide was unveiled to the world. Gazing at this ancient boat fills one with wonder, and inspires the inevitable question: Was this Shimon Kefa’s boat? Did Yeshua board this vessel? It is impossible to know who the boat belonged to, and there is no evidence connecting it to Yeshua. However, its discovery is of incredible importance to Jews and Christians alike, as it opens a window into the life of first century Israel, and perfectly matches the New Testament’s description of ancient fishing life.

At the end of the Gospel of John, an incredible account of a post-resurrection appearance of Yeshua is described. The disciples were fishing all night without success. As the light began to shine over the eastern mountains and reflect onto the sea, a mysterious stranger stood upon the shore. He instructed them to cast their net to the right side of the boat, and a miracle occurred,

“Shimon Kefa went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fish, one hundred fifty-three, and even though there were so many, the net was not torn.” John 21:10-11

Believers throughout the ages have been puzzled by the meaning of the 153 fish. As the biblical commentator D.A. Carson has said, “If the Evangelist has some symbolism in mind connected with the number 153, he has hidden it well.” Various theories have been proposed to explain the symbolic meaning of this passage, and most of the interpretations fall short because modern readers do not read the Gospel of John as an ancient Jewish mystical commentary.

Individuals who are unfamiliar with Jewish principles of understanding the Torah will comment that its interpretation is relative – up to the reader’s discretion and subject to his or her own cultural and linguistic biases. The Western World is primarily limited to two levels of hermeneutics: exegesis and eisegesis. In other words, scriptural analysis is essentially confined to a literal and an allegorical level [1]. Oftentimes, passages that should be interpreted as literal are exchanged for allegorical meanings to suit a particular theological purpose, and vice versa.

The ancient Jewish approach to understanding the Bible is far more sophisticated. We must first acknowledge that the Bible was not written in King James English, nor in the United States of America. Not only must we travel thousands of years into the past, but thousands of miles around the globe to the land of Israel. In addition to the barriers of time and space, we must also peel away the layers of English, and Greek, and return to the Lashon HaKodesh, the Holy Tongue, the Hebrew Language. We must see the Bible through Jewish eyes. [2]

The Torah Has Seventy Faces

According to the rabbis, scripture has seventy faces, or facets, like that of a diamond. When light enters a diamond, it is reflected and refracted throughout its carbon atom matrix, revealing an array of dazzling colors. However, if the diamond is not cut properly, the refraction of light is greatly diminished. Within the framework of the Torah, there are boundaries, principles and guidelines our interpretations must adhere to. According to ancient Jewish principles of interpretation, scripture has four levels, which was called by the acronym PaRDeS [3], meaning Paradise.

While the principle of Pardes provides the overall structure of Jewish hermeneutics, there are detailed principles of interpretation. The 7 Principles of Hillel are as follows:

  1. Kal v'Chomer - קל וחומר - Light and Heavy

  2. Gezera Shavah - גזירה שוה - Equivalent Expressions

  3. Binyan Ab Mi-Katuv Echad - בנין אב מכתוב אחד - Building a Family from a Single Text

  4. Binyan Ab Mi-Shene Ketuvim - בנין אב משני כתובים

  5. Klal u'Perat - כלל ופרט - General and Specific

  6. Ka-Yotze Bo Mi'Makom Acher - כיוצא בו ממקום אחר - Analogy Made from Another Passage

  7. Davar Hilmad Me’Anino - דבר הלמד מעניינו - Explanation Obtained from Context

The rabbis did not invent these principles, but merely codified them in an organized format. They can be found throughout the Tanakh and the New Testament uses them extensively. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to examine each of these principles in detail, we would like to draw attention to the second principle, gezera shavah or “equivalent expressions,” which allows passages to be linked with one another via similar phraseology. As one Jewish commentary beautifully explains,

“If a [seemingly superfluous] word or phrase appears in two disconnected passages, it may indicate that these passages are to inform each other and become sources for information – filling in the gaps, as it were – for each other.” Yitzchak Etshalom, Parashat Balak,

However, in utilizing gezera shava, one must be aware that there are restrictions and cautions needed, lest invalid connections are made. Another key is that a deeper understanding of the text does not violate the p’shat, or straightforward meaning of the text.

The Gospel of John

From the first sentence of John, it is immediately obvious it is on a different level than the Synoptic Gospels. Mark begins his account at the beginning of Yeshua’s ministry, proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew traces the genealogy of Yeshua to Abraham, the beginning of the nation of Israel. Luke’s genealogy digs to the very root of the human family tree to Adam HaRishonֹ, the First Man. John begins with B’resheet, the Beginning, the very origins of the Universe, revealing Mashiach as the embodiment of the Living Torah, the Instrument of all Creation.

While all of the events in John are true, and literally happened, he did not write his Gospel on a literal level. Like the Torah itself, it is not even chronological. John arranged his book to explore Yeshua through the Sod Level. In John 21, the disciples are fishing on the “sea of Tiberius.” In the Bible and in Rabbinic literature, ‘sea’ refers to the nations, or gentiles, as the book of Revelation (also written by John), illustrates,

“He said to me, “The waters which you saw… are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.” Revelation 17:15

It then states that the disciples have been fishing in the darkness, as it says “That night, they caught nothing.” In the morning, Yeshua was revealed upon the seashore. Light represents Messiah,

“God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was evening and there was morning, day one.” Genesis 1:5

Yeshua then told them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat.” Why the right side and not the left side? The “right side” in the Jewish thought mindset represents mercy, while the left represents judgment. In the Midrash, when HaShem created the Garden of Eden it was on His right, while Gey-hinnom was on his left. The net was then full of fish being drawn out of the waters to the land,

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea, and gathered some fish of every kind, which, when it was filled, they drew up on the beach. They sat down, and gathered the good into containers, but the bad they threw away.  So will it be at the end of the world. The angels will come forth, and separate the wicked from among the righteous. . .” Matthew 13:47-51

The net represents the Kingdom of Heaven, drawing his people out of the nations to the land – that is Israel. One of the missions of Mashiach is to gather the exiles. Yeshua said to the disciples,

“I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Ephraim and Menashe

In Parashat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28 – 50:26), Jacob says a blessing over Ephraim and Menashe, which forms the basis for the blessing spoken over children on every Erev Shabbat, Shabbat evening,

For the Boys: Yesimcha Elokim k’Ephraim v’khi Menashe "May G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh."

For the Girls: Yesmeich Elokim k’Sarah, Rivka, Rachel v’Leah "May G-d make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah." 

Jacob recounts his history to Joseph,

“Jacob said to Joseph, “G-d Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful, and multiply you, and I will make of you a congregation of peoples, and will give this land to your seed after you for an everlasting possession.’ Genesis 48:3-4

The phrase in Hebrew for a “congregation of peoples” is the word קְהַל עַמִּים (kahal amim). The Septuagint renders word as συναγωγὰς ἐθνῶν (sunagoge ethnos), a synagogue of peoples. The word kahal was later translated into Greek as ekklesia, which today is often translated as ‘church.’ Today, with theologies based on translation, the “church” has become a separate entity from Israel, and it is even taught that the “church” was born in the book of Acts, chapter 2. Yet, the “church,” that is the mystical body of Israel, existed far before this. Even the King James translation speaks of Moses, being “in the church,”

“This is [Moses], that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.” Acts 7:38, King James Version

Jacob continues and makes a remarkable declaration,

“Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you into Egypt, are mine. Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simeon, will be mine. Your issue, whom you become the father of after them, will be yours. They will be called after the name of their brothers in their inheritance.” Genesis 48:5-6

Jacob adopted the two sons of Joseph, to be counted among the tribes of Israel.  While in Egypt, Joseph married Osnat, the daughter of Poti-phera. Like the wives of Moshe and Boaz, Joseph’s wife was raised in a Gentile world. Ephraim and Menashe were raised in Egypt apart from Israel.

“Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head… “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked...the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads, and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac. Let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” Genesis 48:14-16

The phrase “let them grow into a multitude” in Hebrew is the word  וְיִדְגּו (v’yidgu). This is etymologically related to the word for fish, דָּג. The visual picture that the Hebrew is communicating is that the Ephraim and Menashe will teem like a gigantic school of fish. Jacob then speaks of Ephraim that he “shall become a multitude of nations” (Gen 48:19). This phrase translates the Hebrew, מְלֹא־הַגֹּויִם  – m’lo hagoyim. This is the same exact Hebrew phrase that Paul uses when he says,

“For I don’t desire you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery, so that you won’t be wise in your own conceits, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and so all Israel will be saved.” Romans 11:25-26

It is our opinion that Ephraim symbolically represents the non-Jewish believers on a deeper level, and not necessarily a literal bloodline via the Ten Lost Tribes. Taken this way, this passage beautifully illustrates the relationship of Jews and non-Jews in the body of the Mashiach, which may be the most controversial topic in the Messianic movement today, dividing it between Two-House and Non-Two House movements. Attempting to connect oneself via genetics to Israel diminishes the work of the Messiah, who has made the non-Jewish believer an adopted son or daughter of Israel. Like Ephraim and Menashe, Gentile believers have a special connection to Israel though Yosef (that is, Mashiach ben Yosef). Isaiah 56 says,

“Neither let the foreigner, who has joined himself to HaShem, speak, saying, ‘Hashem will surely separate me from his people; neither let the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says HaShem, ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and hold fast my covenant: to them I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to HaShem, to minister to him, and to love the name of HaShem, to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath from profaning it, and holds fast my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Ad-nai HaShem, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, ‘Yet will I gather others to him, besides his own who are gathered.’ Isaiah 56:3-8

Yeshua quotes this passage,

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own, and I’m known by my own; even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice. They will become one flock with one shepherd.” John 10:14-16

Paul explains this in Ephesians chapter 2. It appears that Ezekiel prophesied of this,

“It shall happen, that you shall divide it by lot for an inheritance to you and to the aliens who live among you, who shall father children among you; and they shall be to you as the native-born among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. It shall happen, that in what tribe the stranger lives, there you shall give him his inheritance, says Ad-nai HaShem.” Ezekiel 47:22-23

Paul explains these ideas in Ephesians 2,

“Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision, (in the flesh, made by hands); that you were at that time separate from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Messiah. For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition…” Ephesians 2:11-14

He also explains to the adopted children, the non-Jews, not to boast against the natural branches (Romans 11:8), but to support them. Unfortunately, throughout history Christianity has done just the opposite, and many in the Two-House movement have followed suit. Non-Jewish believers should support the Jewish people and have nothing but gratitude and honor for them, as they are brothers, but also as Yeshua said to the Samaritan woman,

“You worship that which you don’t know. We worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” John 4:22

The Carpenter

“Moshe said to the children of Israel, Behold, HaShem has called by name Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of workmanship; and to make skillful works, to work in gold, in silver, in brass, in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all kinds of skillful workmanship.” Exodus 35:30-33

Betzalel was the builder of the Tabernacle on earth. He was of the Tribe of Judah, and filled with the Spirit of God. This verse connects with a prophecy regarding the Messiah,

“A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of HaShem will rest on him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of HaShem.” Isaiah 11:1-2

Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE – 40 CE) makes this statement regarding Betzalel,

“…God also calls Betzalel by name, and says that “He will give him wisdom and knowledge, and that He will make him the builder and the architect of all things which are in his tabernacle” . . . Now, Betzalel, being interpreted, means God in his shadow. But the Shadow of God is his Word, which he used like an instrument when he was making the world. And this Shadow, as it were, is the archetype of all other things. . . . “And God made man according to the image of God,” as the Image was modeled according to God, man was modeled according to the Image, which thus received the power and character of the model.” Philo, Allegorical Interpretation, II:31:95

Betzalel the son of Uri (My Light) was a shadow (tzal) of things to come. The Talmud makes the observation:

“Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: Bezalel knew how to combine the letters by which the heavens and earth were created. It is written here, And He hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom and in understanding, and in knowledge, and it is written elsewhere, HaShem by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens, and it is also written, By His knowledge the depths were broken up.” Berakhot 55a, Soncino Press Edition

It is fascinating to note that the Messiah is called a “carpenter” in Judaism,

“And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” And he said to me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” Then HaShem showed me four craftsmen. And I said, “What are these coming to do?” He said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.” Zechariah 2:13 (Hebrew), 1:19-21 (English)

The Talmud comments on this unusual passage,

“And the L-rd showed me four craftsmen. Who are these ‘four craftsmen’? — R. Hana b. Bizna, citing R. Simeon Hasida, replied: “The Messiah the son of David, the Messiah the son of Joseph, Elijah and the Righteous Priest.” Sukkah 52b, Soncino Press Edition

Rashi comments,

ארבעה חרשים. נגרים היודעים לנסר את הקרנות ורבותינו פירשו במסכת סוכה מי הם

Four craftsmen: Carpenters who know how to saw the horns. And our Rabbis explained in Tractate Sukkah (52b) who they are.” Rashi on Zechariah 2,

In the Gospels the question is asked,

“Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Miriam, and brother of Yaakov, Yosi, Yehudah, and Shimon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were offended at him.” Mark 6:3

The Gospel of Matthew adds an interesting detail,

“Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?” Matthew 13:55

Yeshua is revealed to be the carpenter, the son of the carpenter. The Greek word for carpenter in the Gospels is the word tekton, which literally means ‘builder’, and is related to the word, “architecture” and “architect,” the ‘master builder.’

Primordial Torah

Proverbs chapter 8 reveals a secret about the nature of the Torah:

“HaShem possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his deeds of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed. When there were no depths, I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was brought forth; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the beginning of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there; when he set a circle on the surface of the deep, when he established the clouds above, when the springs of the deep became strong, when he gave to the sea its boundary, that the waters should not violate his commandment, when he marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was the craftsman by his side. I was delighted day by day, always rejoicing before him, rejoicing in his whole world.  My delight was with the sons of men.” Proverbs 8:22-31

Based on this remarkable passage, Chazal [4] say that the name of the Torah is רֵאשִׁית  Reisheet, or Beginning, as it states,

יי קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכֹּו

“HaShem possessed me, the Beginning of His Way” Proverbs 8:22

Using the Jewish principles of interpretation, the word “Beginning” links to Genesis 1:1,

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹקים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ

“In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

The letter beit, which begins B‘resheet, can mean “in” or “with.” In fact, this is exactly how the Jerusalem Targum renders the passage,

“In wisdom (be'hukema) the L-rd created.” Jerusalem Targum

Therefore, the interpretation follows that if name of the Torah is “Beginning,” then the passage may be interpreted,

‘With the Torah, G-d created the heavens and the earth.”

This statement is source for the Johannine Prologue,

“In the beginning (בְּרֵאשִׁית) was the Word, and the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d. The same was in the beginning with G-d. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1

In the Zohar, based on the Midrash, a statement is spoken by the Torah,

“The Torah proclaims: I was by Him an architect, through me He created the world!” Zohar II:161a, Soncino Press Edition

The Torah is the Instrument of creation. Here in Proverbs 8, the Torah describes itself as the “Uman”, or Craftsman,

וָאֶהְיֶה אֶצְלֹו אָמֹון

“…then I was the craftsman by his side.” Proverbs 8:30

The Midrash Rabbah describes this multifaceted word אומן (amon) as a nursling, covered, hidden, great, and craftsman. The Artscroll commentary to Proverbs comments on the word ‘nursling,’

“I was a nursling beside him. The Torah was like God’s beloved child, nurtured by Him and His source of constant delight (Metzudos).” Artscroll Commentary to Proverbs 8:30, Volume I, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pg 156

Genesis Rabbah says,

“R’ Hoshayah the Great opened his discourse on our passage with the following exposition: The Torah describes its relationship with God before the advent of Creation: I was then His “amon”…The word “amon” is to be understood in the sense of “uman” אומן, a craftsman…Thus in this verse the Torah declares, “I was the craftsman’s tool, so to speak, in the hands of the Holy One, blessed is He, through which He created the world.” Artscroll Genesis Rabbah 1:1, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pg. 3

R’ Aryeh Kaplan comments,

“The Torah is Wisdom, and is therefore the “head” of creation . . . It might be thought that the Torah was created only to rectify creation as it already exists. If this were so, the Torah would have been created after the earth. But actually, the Torah was the blueprint of creation, and therefore preceded it.” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Bahir, pg. 96

Michael Munk elucidates the concept of the Torah in the Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet,

“The sum total of human knowledge derives from the Torah because the universe is a product of Torah which is the blueprint of the world…When His Ineffable Word took physical form, heaven and earth became the clothing for the word of God which infuses Creation, and without which Creation would not continue to exist. The spiritual Torah which preceded the world became clothed in ink and parchment…the wisdom of God took the form of the 613 commandments. But the precepts are not isolated phenomena; they are all interrelated aspects of a single Torah, like the organs and vessels of a single human body to which the totality of the commandments are likened.” The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet, Artscroll, Michael L. Munk, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pg. 47

John says,

“The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

The Zohar says explains the unity between HaShem and the Torah,

“…the Holy One and the Torah are one.” Zohar, Shemot, Section 2, Page 60a, Soncino Press Edition

The Zohar also explains that the Torah is the Name of HaShem, and “He and his Name are one,”

“For the Torah is the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He. As the Name of the Holy One is engraved in the Ten Words (creative utterances) of Creation, so is the whole Torah engraved in the Ten Words (Decalogue), and these Ten Words are the Name of the Holy One, and the whole Torah is thus one Name, the Holy Name of God Himself. Blessed is he who is worthy of her, the Torah, for he will be worthy of the Holy Name. Said R. Jose: “This means that he will be worthy of the Holy One Himself, as He and His Name are one. Blessed be His Name for ever and ever. Amen.” Zohar, Shemot, Section 2, Page 90b, Soncino Press Edition

Yeshua says,

“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

The word “Torah” is one of the titles given to Zeir Anpin,

אָמַר רִבִּי אֶלְעָזָר, אִינּוּן נָפְקוּ לְמַדְבְּרָא לְאִסְתַּכְּלָא, קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא נָטַל זִיוָא יְקָרָא דִּילֵיהּ מִתַּמָּן, וְאִינּוּן אָזְלוּ לְאִסְתַּכְּלָא בֵּיהּ, וְלָא אַשְׁכְּחוּהוּ. וְאוֹלִיפְנָא דְּקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא תּוֹרָה אִקְרֵי, וְאֵין מַיִם אֶלָּא תּוֹרָה, וְאֵין תּוֹרָה אֶלָּא קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא

“Rabbi Elazar said, ‘They went out into the wilderness to gaze and perceive, but the Holy One, blessed be He, removed His precious splendor from there. They went in order to conceive Him, but did not find Him. We have learned that the Holy One, blessed be He, is called ‘Torah’. Therefore, water is Torah, and Torah is the Holy One, blessed be He.” Zohar, Shemot, Beshalach,

The Tabernacle of The Universe makes a startling observation in regarding the Universe and its relationship to the Mishkan, the Tabernacle,

“No less than 13 chapters in the Book of Exodus are filled with the details of the Sanctuary’s construction, from the dimensions of every pillar to the colors in every tapestry. In contrast, the Torah devotes one chapter to its account of the creation of the universe and three chapters to the revelation at Mount Sinai.”, The Anatomy of a Dwelling [6]

The Midrash understands the Mishkan as a microcosmic universe. Numbers Rabbah 12:13 brilliantly weaves the two together with the following verses:

The Torah does not need to elaborate the details of creation in Genesis, because using gezera shavah, the details are hidden in the Tabernacle. As Betzalel oversaw the construction of the Tabernacle below, he and the Tabernacle are a shadow of what happened above.


Exodus 31:1 says that Betzalel built the Aron HaBrit, the Ark of the Covenant,

וַיַּעַשׂ בְּצַלְאֵל אֶת־הָאָרֹן

“Betzalel made the Ark…” Exodus 31:1

The Baal HaTurim comments,

“The name Betzalel is not mentioned in conjunction with any of the furnishings [of the Mishkan], except regarding the Ark. This teaches us that he was [as his name implies] בצל אל, in God’s Shadow, i.e. he knew the secret of the Ark and of the Chariot, for the Ark corresponds to the Throne of Glory.” Artscroll Baal HaTurim Chumash Exodus 37:1, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pg. 948

On earth, the Tabernacle was built by Betzalel just as the universe was built by God through the Torah. Betzalel was the tekton of the earthly Tabernacle, and he is the earthly shadow of the heavenly reality. The Zohar makes the fascinating statement commenting on “Betzalel”,

“The son of Uri – the son of primeval light (ohr) . . . The son of Hur – the son of absolute freedom (herut); or the son of the whitest (havra) of all colors. And he is appropriately of the tribe of Judah.” Zohar, Vol II:152a, Soncino Press Edition

The numerical value (gematria) of Betzalel equals 153. Interestingly, there are 153 verses in parashat Noach. The Artscroll Chumash comments on the Masoretic note:

קנ”ג פסוקים. בצלאל סימן. אבי יסכה לוט סימן

“This Masoretic note means: There are 153 verses in the Sidrah, numerically corresponding to mnemonics, בצלאל , Bezalel, and אבי יסכה לוט, father of Iscah and Lot. The name alludes to the Sidrah of Noach in two ways: (a) The name בצלאל  compounded of  בצל אל, in the protective shelter of God, an allusion to Noah and his family in the ark (R’ David Feinstein); and (b) just as Noah was ordered to build a ark, to house his family and thus preserve humanity from the ravages of the flood, so was Bezalel the son of Uri instructed to build a תבה ark, to house the Tablets of the Ten Commandments.” The Stone Edition Chumash, Mesorah Publications, ltd., pg. 52

The secret of the 153 fish is revealed in the King Messiah, who is calling the fishermen (the disciples) to cast the net (the Gospel of the Kingdom) to bring the fish (the exiles, Jews and non-Jews) back to the Land (Israel), out of the seas (nations), to be together on the seashore amidst the grains of sand (the sons of Abraham), to inherit the land, as it is written,

“…Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is advantageous for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish. Now he didn’t say this of himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Yeshua would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that he might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad..” John 11:49-54

Yeshua therefore is the Heavenly Betzalel, who is gathering the exiles of the Jewish people, and inviting the non-Jews to grasp onto the tzitzit of the Jewish people and follow him to the Land. He is calling us all up to His Holy Mountain, that every person who desires the Kingdom of Heaven will become a supernal stone within the Heavenly Temple, as He is the Tekton, the Architect, the Builder of the Tabernacle assembling all the stones to fit together whose purpose is to bring Heaven to earth.

“Putting away therefore all wickedness, all deceit, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow there by, if indeed you have tasted that HaShem is gracious: coming to him, a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God, precious. You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah.” 1 Peter 2:1-5

When He calls us be the stones of the Heavenly Temple, this also means He calls to become His sons,

“… as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

We have only scratched the surface of the mystery of the 153 fish, but the mysteries are beginning to unroll like a scroll that has been hidden, like a prophecy unsealed. Eleven times throughout the Torah, the number 153 connects to the word HaPesach, the Passover.

The Heavenly Torah, the Architect, is not only revealed as the Instrument of the Builder, but also the Restorer. Through his merit, he has accomplished and will complete the ultimate tikkun olam, the repair of the world. He prepares a place for us, that is PaRDeS, the Paradise of HaShem. The exile is coming to an end, and redemption is about to be revealed. We must open our eyes, and look as Yochanan the Immerser proclaimed,

הִנֵּה שֵׂה הָאֱלֹקים הַנֹּשֵׂא חַטַּאת הָעוֹלָם

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

The light shines from the east onto the Galilee
The light shines from the east onto the Galilee


  1. This is the basis of Replacement Theology.

  2. One may argue that reconstructing the viewpoint of a first century Jew belongs in the realm of speculation. This point would be valid if it were not the incredible wealth of extant literature and Biblical interpretation, ranging from Philo, Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Talmud and Midrash. In the case of Talmud and Midrash, one may contend that these texts are anachronistic, since they post-date the first century. However, they preserve many traditions that were in circulation during the Second Temple era.

  3. Cf. Song of Songs 4:13, Eccles 2:5, Neh 2:8, Luke 23:43 (Peshitta), 2 Cor 12:4, Rev 2:7 (Peshitta), b.Chagigah 14b

  4. חז”ל – An Acronym for Chachameynu Zikronam Livrakha – Our Sages of Blessed Memory

  5. An alternate rendering of amon would be “nursling,” cf. Numbers 11:12-13. The Zohar I:134b, Soncino Press Edition states, “the word amon (nursling) may also be read oman (architect, designer).” Cf. Zohar II:164a.

  6. Anatomy of a Dwelling,


Appendix 1. The Alefbet and Gematria Values


Appendix 2. 153 As a Triangular Number


Appendix 3. Torah Words with the Gematria of 153

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