The Y6K Bug

It recently occurred to me that the representation of years in the Hebrew calendar using gematria (aleph=1, bet=2, etc.) will be seriously challenged by the next Hebrew millennium in 240 years. Using gematria, 5743, for example, is tav (400) shin (300) mem (40) gimmel (3), forming the acronym "tashmag." The thousands digit is not included, on the grounds that it doesn't matter and would take up much more space (thirteen more letters, since the maximum value in gematria is 400). This year, 5760, is tav shin samech.

This system breaks down in the year 6000; there is no representation in gematria for zero (at least, to the best of my knowledge). If we stick to the convention that the thousands digit is excluded (let's assume that we know that it's 6000 and not 5000 or 7000), we have no alphabetic representation for the year at all. Our descendants will be forced to use "Arabic" numerals (which are of Indian origin, and are not the way in which numbers are written in traditional Arabic) such as 6000 to describe the date.

Of course, since there is no year zero, the millennium actually begins in 6001.

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