Throughout Jewish history various numbers have played important symbolic roles — the Three Patriarchs, the Four Matriarchs, the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and so on.
The big numbers this week were 618 and 2,197,813.
Those are, respectively, the numbers of people who took part in a dreidel-spinning event at Yeshiva University that set a Guinness-certified world record, and the number of times a Chanukah video by the school’s Maccabeats a capella group was viewed on YouTube since it was posted last month.
The purpose of “Dreidelpalooza,” sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Students Helping Students organization, was to promote school spirit and raise money for undergraduate scholarships, said Fiona Guedalia, who attends YU’s Stern College for Women and serves as the organization’s co-president. Achieving a world record, surpassing the 541 set five years ago at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, N.J., was a byproduct.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the wider Jewish community were invited to spin dreidels — little plastic ones, provided by the organizers — on the school’s basketball court in Washington Heights the night before Chanukah started. In the end, 618 people showed up.
The number is five more than the traditional number of mitzvot contained in the Torah, leading the organizers to joke, “Why don’t we kick five people out?”
For the Guinness-required 10 seconds, everyone spun, to the background music of “We Are The Champions.”
“People were excited,” Guedalia said.
Then the crowd socialized over doughnuts. At the same time, someone somewhere was probably watching the Maccabeats online.
Their “Candlelight” song, a parody of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” that tells the Chanukah story with music and professional editing, quickly became a surprise hit on YouTube. The 2,197,813 figure was current as of Jewish Week press time.
“It’s exceeded our wildest imaginations,” said Julian Horowitz, the group’s musical director. “The numbers are crazy — I’m getting e-mails and phone calls every five minutes,” he told the NewsCore website.
The song by the 14-member group was intended as a publicity stunt, Horowitz said. It worked — such newspapers as The Jerusalem Post, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal wrote about the Maccabeats. Who are counting their blessings. That number, they don’t know.