Parshat Hashavua

Parshat Pekude

Devar Torah – 03/05/2022

The Motif of One-Third (1/3) in Judaism

Tefillin, mezuzah, and tzizit

The Gemara in the tractate Minchot (Offerings) on page 43 describes how Rabbi Eliezer, son of Yaacov, said: every person who wears Tefillin on his head and upon his arm, and fixes a Mezuzah at the doorpost of his home, and adorns his garment with Tzizit – will be strengthened by these Mitzvot to not to transgress. As it says in reference to these three Mitzvot:

“A three-fold cord is not easily broken”.


We clearly see the motif of a third (1/3) between the three Mitzvot. Tefillin is placed on the third upper part of the arm. The knots in a Tzizit are located at the top third section of the string. The same is true for the location of the Mezuzah on our doorpost.

Another thing we learn from the Tefillin, Tzizit and Mezuzah is that there is one-third that is more important and the key to the two remaining thirds. For example, the Tefillin is placed on the upper third of the arm and without this part of the arm, the arm cannot exist. Similarly, with the Mezuzah, without the upper part of the door post, the remaining two thirds would not exist either. The same idea applies to the knots in the upper third of the Tzizit, while remaining strings are at two-thirds. 

The cherubs in the tabernacle and in the temple

The height of the Ark of The Covenant was 9 hand-breadths tall with another hand-breadth accounting for the atonement object resting upon the Ark, equaling 10 hand-breadths in all. The Succah tractate explains that the Tabernacle had been sixty hand-breadths tall. Yet, the Cherubs had been positioned twenty hand-breadths high in the Tabernacle, a third of the Tabernacle’s total height.

Our sages learn this rule from the large Cherubs that King Solomon had made for the Temple in addition to the smaller Cherubs upon the Ark. The smaller Cherubs stood at 10 arm-lengths high in the Kodesh haKodashim, a room that had been 30 arm-lengths high. Here too, the Cherubs had been at the ratio of one-third, in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.

ma’aser (tithe)

We also read in the Jerusalem Talmud this verse:

“You shall surely tithe all the increase of your seed, that which is brought forth in the field year by year”


Rabbi Zeirah explained this verse as meaning: “that which is sown and brings forth less than one-third than that which is not sown yet, is deemed successful.”  In other words, when the crop reaches one-third of its final growth, only then does the tithe becomes due.

This is a crucial phase in the development of oats, for in this stage the seeds are ripe enough to be sown in the ground for the next crop. This botanical secret points to a shocking principle: the turning point in the growth of vegetation is a critical point in its life, it is the stage that allows continuity for the next generations at one-third of its growth.

Rabbi Yitzḥak explains that a person’s money should always be found in his possession. One should not invest all of his money, leaving him with no money available for expenditures. As it is stated: “And you shall bind up the money in your hand.” Rabbi Yitzḥak adds: A person should always divide his money into three; he should bury one-third in the ground, invest one-third in business [bifrakmatya], and keep one-third in his possession.

age and sanhedrin

Men are in a development stage till the age of 40 – life’s midpoint. One third of 40 is 13, the age of Bar-Mitzvah. Women typically bear children without complications until they are of 36 years of age; one-third of which is 12 – Bat-Mitzvah. At 3 months (a third of 9 months of pregnancy), the embryo stage is recognized, as it was written about Tamar, daughter-in-law of Yehudah.

Additionally, Rabbi Zeirah said one should glorify a mitzvah up to one-third. And the Sanhedrin required a minimum of 23 judges out of 70 members, and they could not leave the Temple. 

Learning, earning, and yearning

We can must learn also to divide life into thirds; one-third for Learning and one-third for Earning and thirdly – Yearning.

The third stage is the most important one for us to focus upon, for it will bring forth the other two thirds, since Learning and Livelihood require Yearning. The important Yearning rule is that yearning is stronger than that which we want to do or achieve, as the old saying goes: Desire makes everything blossom; possession makes everything wither and fade.

In every person, whether a Jew or non-Jew, a believer or non-believer, there is much longing, Yearning, which is expressed with the pleasures of this world. However, the truth is, we have a constant Yearning derived from our powerful soul, and until the soul is satisfied, we will continue to Long and Yearn and desire all sorts of things, never to be content.

The Longing of the soul is to cleave onto Hashem Blessed is He.