As we have discussed in the previous section, the most fundamental of all cycles are those based on the number seven. Whether counting days, weeks, months, years, series of years, or millenia the cycle of seven appears again and again in the Jewish tradition. In fact, there are seven such time periods.
The first cycle is comprised of the six days of creation that culminated in Shabbat, the seventh day of rest. This weekly cycle underlies all of reality and orders time itself for the observant Jew. The second cycle is manifest in the counting of seven times seven weeks during the period between Pesach and Shavuot. The very act of taking the time to count every day for seven weeks out loud makes the counter supremely aware of the importance of this cycle. The third cycle is manifest in the cycle of the three Pilgrimage Festivals – Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot – which take place over a seven month period. These three holidays create their own cycle, which has practical ramifications in the application of Jewish law in a number of fields including oaths and the obligation to return lost objects.
The fourth cycle is manifest in the counting of years, the Sabbatical years discussed in the previous section. This cycle forms the basis for the larger fifth cycle, where seven times seven years culminate in the fiftieth – the Jubilee – year. The sixth cycle counts thousands of years, dividing the world’s existence into seven thousand years: six thousand pre-Messianic years followed by the Messianic era, the seventh millennium, referred to as a time that is “all Shabbat.”
The seventh and last of the cycles of time based on seven is referred to as “fifty thousand Jubilees,” a term denoting the infinite level of consciousness that will be reached after the Messianic era is reached, the resurrection of the dead takes place, and the World to Come is fully revealed. The phrase “fifty thousand Jubilee years” symbolizes an eternal realm of ongoing revelation and spiritual advancement and ascent. (See Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, The Hebrew Letters, p. 220.)
All seven cycles of seven place our lives in a certain context. It is obviously easier to relate to the cycles based on days, weeks, or months than to those based on years and millennia, but in reality all of them form concentric circles surrounding and guiding our consciousness. The more we meditate on these cycles of time, the more we are capable of orienting our lives according to the Divine cycles of time that God set in motion at the time of creation.